Bishop’s Letter: It takes the whole world to know Christ
Summer came and has probably gone! With the arrival of the warmer months many of us headed off on our hols to other areas of the world. We visited different parts of the United Kingdom and Europe and some travelled much further to other continents.
Why go to this effort? Why leave behind our homes and their comforts? Surely it’s to see so much in the world that’s different to where we spend most of our days. Different foods, different languages, different architecture, different music, different horizons, different cultures. ‘Travel broadens the mind’ it’s said and if you stood in the departures halls of Stansted or Luton this summer you’ll quickly have realised that many of us can’t seem to get enough of it.
A wise person once said ‘It takes the whole world to know Christ’. I wonder if you’ve considered how encountering other places, other people, other cultures can shape our understanding of the faith that we’ve been given? For many of us, our perspectives are deeply shaped by the traditions and practices we’ve been used to at home. If we’re not careful, we can think that our own particular experience is how Christian faith is. Yet follow a saint’s day procession in Spain, sing with the mourners at a funeral in South Africa, hear the preaching of a Baptist minister in America’s Deep South and it becomes inescapable that others’ perspectives on Christ can be very different to our own. And can add a great deal to the picture we have.
This summer I did some travelling of my own. Once again I took part in the Diocesan Youth Pilgrimage to Taizé (Do see here: www.stalbans.anglican.org/taize-youth-pilgrimage-video-released/ if you’d like to know more of what we got up to last year). Granted, getting to Taizé is not my ultimate ideal in travel (ferry and 12 hour overnight bus journey). But once there I was again excited to accompany around 35 young people from around our diocese as they encountered other Christians from a host of the different countries and cultures of the world. As well as worshipping alongside each other, they met each day in mixed country groups to study the Bible and talk together. This presents some challenges (this year my group contained 5 Germans, 2 Zimbabweans and 2 Brits) but somehow problems of translation these are always overcome. And the impact of being together is extraordinary. Through sharing different insights from different places our vision of faith grows and expands. We learn from direct experience that ‘it takes the whole world to know Christ’.
So what did you learn from your travels this summer? Whether you’re in Coniston or Kraków, Southend or the South Seas, how might your encounter with a different way of seeing the world expand and enrich the way you understand your faith – and help you appreciate that ‘it takes the whole world to know Christ’?
Rt Revd Michael Beasley, Bishop of Hertford