“Deepening our Spiritual Life” was the theme of this week’s Clergy Day with Bishop Melissa at the Synod Office. Bishop John Hannen, a familiar face here at St James’, introduced the day, speaking, as he said, on the only thing on which he is an expert, his own experience! He then gave a fascinating reflection on a lifetime’s discipleship and ministry, undergirded by a discipline of daily prayer and connection with God, rooted in the daily celebration of Morning and Evening Prayer, and, where possible, the Eucharist. It was the evident holiness of his parish priest when he was a boy which led Bishop John to explore the calling to ordination himself. He described with humility and humour his first clergy conference as a newly-arrived priest in the diocese of Caledonia: on arrival at the camp after a 500 mile drive, an old “geezer” came up to the car to greet him. The love of God radiated from this man’s face whom he had never met before: “I knew he loved me.” Bishop John asked the then Canon Hambidge who this “geezer” was. “Your bishop” was the reply.
It was good for me to be reminded of the necessity of this rhythm of prayer, which indeed we seek to offer at St James’, to sustain first our relationship with God and then the various ministries and service we offer. Sometimes we can allow ourselves to be so overwhelmed by busy-ness and the distractions of our times that we let the important things slip.
It was good too to be reminded that it is not just what we say or do which matters, which communicates the love of God; rather it is who we are. For Bishop John it was the holiness of his parish priest, and the love radiant in the face of Bishop Munn. Looking back in my own life there are one or two people who spring to mind who have shown me God’s love in this way.
We believe that each of us bears within us the image of God, obscured and tarnished though it often may be. Let us pray for grace to grow in holiness, to become more Christ-like, that we may recognise the Christ in those around us, and that, by grace, others may recognise the Christ in us.