Will a new Archbishop make any difference to us?

Expanding our horizons

Reflection on the appointment of Rowan Williams as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury - July 2002

The end of speculation
The announcement on Tuesday 23rd July 2002 at 11am from 10 Downing Street that Rowan Williams is to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury has gladly put an end to months of idle speculation. I've collected cuttings and articles over these months about who should succeed George Carey and shall be pleased to clear this inch and a half of paper into the recycle bin! I have to say most of the words written about leadership and ministry in the 21st century have lacked insight and wisdom.

Welcoming Archbishop Williams
I welcome the appointment of Rowan Williams to be the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury. There are some real challenges facing him and us. When people look at the Church of England, they don't see an altogether healthy institution. There is an odd lack of confidence about who we are and what our role is and, at times, we have seemed capable of talking (rather badly) about almost anything else but the reality of God and the meaning of life. Of course there are plenty of intelligent, wise and holy people in the Church of England - but taken together, they too often seem irresolute and lacking confidence in their ability to say anything interesting to others.

What kind of Archbishop might he be?
Rowan Williams is a theologian of great distinction. He is a man of deep spirituality and a gifted communicator. I believe people will find in him a person of integrity. He is resolutely un-spun, a refreshing attribute in this age of spin. Under his leadership I am confident that we can all work together to capture the imagination of people and to help others to make sense of the gift of God. We do need to recover a proper confidence in the leadership of the Church as a model of listening and witnessing to the truth of God's love.

What will this mean for us in Temple Balsall?
While Archbishops and Bishops must continue to exercise their leadership over the Church, there is a sense in which most individuals experience the Church not through them at diocesan or national level, but through us here at local level. In September this year I shall have completed 4 years here in Temple Balsall. They have been fascinating and challenging and demanding years. I am looking forward to a little bit of time in August to step back and explore the future phase of our life together here. We need to work together to build on our firm foundations and to strengthen our Christian witness and ministry. The message entrusted to us as a Church is one, which we are called not only to proclaim, but also to live. And so that large and spacious place into which we are redeemed must have implications for our personal and communal life. We are to a Church which both proclaims the true freedom of God's open space of salvation and which knows it in its own life.

Who are we and what are our hallmarks?
We need, therefore, to continue to build a Church whose hallmarks are the marks of Christ - the marks of grace and truth and sacrificial love; one whose spirit is one of tolerance and generosity because it is ready to receive what others have to give. I hope we can continue to build St Mary's as a Church with soft edges that can always welcome others into the broad space of God's love. And there is plenty of space both within our hearts and building to welcome many more into this way of living and journeying. We need to constantly be open to new people and search for ways of bringing new people in. This openness to others is not easy and demands much of us.

A growing Church and a healthy Church is one which is aware of the coloured grace of God, and which delights in being called into God's spacious room, where welcome and nurture is given to all ages, and all sorts and conditions of women and men.

Living in God's space
This summons to live in God's large and generous space can be challenging especially at those points where we differ or disagree. On this we need to be all willing and able to make room - indeed, more than that to provide an honoured space for those with whom we disagree. To take the analogy further - to what extent do we actually wish to be within that large - catholic - room of God's Church, or to what extent would we really prefer to opt for a semi-detached house next door?!

The Rose Window and our journey
The rose window above the west door of our Church is a very important reminder of the goal of our journey: the church is to be one, multi-coloured and large roomed, not primarily for its own sake, but for God's sake. This is what it means, I believe, when we say that we are catholic Anglicans - embracing of diversity and the rich possibilities of our tradition. The meaning of catholic is universal; at its heart is a sense of the church as a large and God-shaped room, and not a small, sanitised, private closet.

Catholic and Evangelical
And if building the Church in this place is to be catholic, then it is also to be evangelical, knowing that the Church to be part of the Gospel needs to proclaim and live out what we believe to be true about God and his redeeming love shown to us in Christ.

Looking Backwards and looking Forwards
After my induction and institution at St Mary's in September 1998, I stood rather precariously on a chair in the School hall at the reception following the service. After the polite thanks for the refreshments, I told the assembled group how much I was looking forward to my work in Temple Balsall. And I ended with these words 'expect anything'. They were greeted with a roar of laughter, but I meant it, both then and now. We should raise our expectations. We should build our confidence in the Church and what God has to offer to us through our faithful worship and service. This is our mission and our calling. I hope that we can continue to build expectations and to be ready to do what we must to proclaim the Kingdom in this place. Of course, at one level, a new Archbishop makes a difference in this, but in the end we must be ready to play our part and take responsibility as Christians in building, comforting, challenging and witnessing.

The Revd Dr James Woodward

Arms of Lady Katherine Leveson

The Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson
Registered Charity no. 213618
Temple Balsall, Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands B93 0AN

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