I was in the supermarket last month and a man was speaking on his mobile phone. Amongst
the expletives, he was saying that he couldn’t wait for 2011 to end – it had been
a really *!∆#§ year. If it was a difficult year for you as well, I do hope that 2012
will be better.
At St. James we have had a good 2011. Our 75th anniversary year was full of activity
and many highlights. However, after a period of activity, you usually need a rest!
In the bible, specific periods of ‘rest’ were offered; the Sabbath was a day’s rest
after the activity of the week. The fallow year was the agricultural response when,
after years of sowing and reaping, a field was allowed a year’s rest. This year,
I will be benefitting from a sabbatical study leave for three months starting in
May. For me, the sabbatical will be an opportunity to think about ‘Is there something
distinctive about the mission of the Church of England?’
As a Church Council we spent a day in November reflecting on what we have been learning
about St. James and its part in God’s mission through the 75th anniversary preparations
and events. We pondered on our strengths and weaknesses. We shared our dreams for
the future. We studied the passage in Mark’s gospel where Jesus asks blind Bartimaeus,
‘what do you want me to do for you?’ (Mark 10 verse 51) We spent some time dreaming
of what we wanted to God to do at St. James.
One of the things we recognised through the 75th anniversary year was that we had
shared ‘our story’ in a variety of ways, but we still had more to do in listening
to the story of people in the neighbourhood if we are to shape a new future for this
This led us to frame the coming year as ‘The Year of Ear’! This year will be an opportunity
to listen in four different ways; to ourselves, to others, to the neighbourhood,
and to God. But listening is not an absence of activity – it is a different kind
of activity. We will be trying to make sure that there is priority space for God
and people in our services and in what we do through the years’ events.
Our theme verse this year is ‘If anyone who has ears to hear, let them hear’ (Mark
4 verse 23). It reflects this desire to listen rather than speak. We debated having
a verse from Proverbs, which said ‘Speaking without listening is both stupid and
rude’. We rejected it because it could have been seen as a challenge to others rather
than to ourselves. We are humbly seeking to listen, and this potential theme verse
didn’t hit the right note.
We have written a new prayer for the year, which we are using at the beginning of
our services which we hope you will find helpful. It is;
Holy God, Father, Son and Spirit,
We have come together to worship you,
And listen to your Word.
Shut out the voices that shout for our attention.
Still our hearts and settle our minds.
Draw us in obedience to say
‘Speak Lord, your servants are listening.’
Then transform our listening into your actions,
That your kingdom may come,
In our lives, our parish, and our world,
For we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,
Why not join us in this year of listening as we seek to hear the voice of God and
others and let that listening shape our own lives and purpose? We all have a part
to play as we, along with others in the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham, ‘join
together in the transforming mission of God.’