What another week!
Recently, I wrote about a week in my life as a bishop in Lincolnshire and am writing again about one working day I have just enjoyed because, once more, it demonstrates the rich variety we experience and also the continuing significance of the Church’s presence in our land and communities.
In one day, last week, I began by attending a meeting at Lincoln Prison with their priest and a group of supporters who want to create a system of community chaplaincy. Simply put, goodly numbers of men emerge from the relative security of prison life into the outside world without family, friends, permanent accommodation, sufficient resources or adequate support to see them through more than a few dizzying days of re-entry into society. As a result, there is an incredibly high re-offending rate in this period of re-adjustment and an inexorable, dispiriting return to incarceration. I’m delighted to say that one of the Diocese’s funds is going to offer support to set up the scheme, which will not only benefit the ex-offenders but also the society against which they may further offend.
On to the Lincoln University, to talk with a group seeking to set up a research degree into the issues surrounding the Church’s response to social justice issues and the social ills that beset some of our most deprived and marginalised communities. Born out of contact with a project on the Lincolnshire fens, in which the Church is bringing together those agencies who role it is to address social concerns such as migrant workers’ rights and such, the University is sufficiently impressed by our intervention to want to study it.
Onwards, ever onwards, to Scunthorpe to meet with three, very successful, business colleagues who wish to set up an enterprise to support community-building projects. All the profits will be ploughed back into existing a new endeavours. They thought a bishop would be a good ally to have on board, so a productive conversation ensued.
Finally that day, back into Lincoln where the School of Theology is exploring, at my request, how we can encourage people to offer themselves for ministry in the ‘urban’; areas of our largely rural County. In a part of the land where agriculture and farming are perceived to be the dominant forces, it is a surprise then to find that we have pockets of real deprivation of the sort you would normally associate with big cities. and where the social problems more commonly found in inner-cities are experienced. It was good to meet with fifteen people, mainly the right side of 40 years old, who wished to explore how they might be specially trained and equipped to minister in these areas and to address the specific needs and concerns within them. A heartening response and one which will reap great fruits, I am sure.
Just one day! And such a lot of care and compassion being shown by the people I met. I could go on about the rest of the week: about the Mental Health chaplain I was due to meet to talk about ongoing work with those who suffer from this unseen yet dreadful dis-ease, or the group of professional architects, fundraisers and consultants who band together as Living Stones, an organisation designed to help church communities who want to use their buildings to greater effect, or the dedicated parish priest who is working with other, equally dedicated, people in the heart of the city of Lincoln amongst the homeless and destitute. I could go on about them, but that would be to give the lie to those who think the Church is nonsensical, irrelevant, middle-class fantasy and, in this time when the Church is so often pilloried and undermined by the media and others, that just wouldn’t do-would it?