Throughout the weeks leading up the beginning of Lent, I am inviting members of St Mary’s to come and find out more about sharing in a St Mary’s Rule of Life.
Most of us are rather ambivalent about rules: they remind us of school and strict regimens, of punishment and failure (how are those New Year’s resolutions going now it’s February?!!). However, seen in the right context, a rule is a measure against which we can reflect on our way of life and to celebrate progress and see what the next step might be. The biblical word for ‘rule’ is canon (see Galatians 6:16 and the verses leading up to it): it’s a measuring stick for progress not an unpleasant headmaster looking to spot our rule-breaking.
So far, about 15 people have come along to explore the possibility of a rule of life, based on a simple one developed by Bishop Paul Bayes in the Diocese of Liverpool (see ruleoflife.org.uk): Pray, Read, Learn, Tell, Serve, Give. I would warmly invite many more of us to ‘come and see’ – to use a phrase from the beginning of John’s Gospel – to find out if this is something that could help you shape your Christian living more effectively and intentionally. Many of those who have attended so far have reflected on their desire for a closer walk with God – in prayer, through reading the bible etc – and for a more effective way of living to make a difference in an unjust world and to those who could know Jesus as a friend. I sense a hunger in our congregation to be just a bit better at being a Christian and being known as one. A Rule of Life could help you – and it could be a gift to others who join St Mary’s in the months ahead.
So, there are three more opportunities to ‘come and see’ before Lent begins: Sunday 10th February at our regular Parish Lunch; Sunday 17th February after the 8.30am service over breakfast; and Monday 4th March over a light supper in church. There are no strings attached to any of these sessions. Then, over the six Sundays of Lent, the preachers will focus on those six themes of the Rule that is being offered: Pray, Read, Learn, Tell, Serve, Give, and the focus will be on practical discipleship rather that much theological theory. By the time we get to Easter I hope many of us will have had a chance to discern whether a Rule of Life is for you, and how best we can support one another in following its simple but profound challenges.
One last word. St Augustine says this of the role of a bishop – take it as applying to all clergy: “with you I am a Christian, for you I am a bishop.” If we adopt a rule of life, the clergy will be adopting it too and will be willing to share our own struggles and seek your help in following a rule, just as we hope you will look to us for support as well. But if we can help you in the weeks of Lent to discern if this might be for you – and the specific individual challenges you might face in following a rule of life – we would be delighted to spend time with you.
I warmly invite you to discern in the coming weeks if this will be a help for you in the way you seek to follow Jesus Christ, alone and with others, at church and in every place you spend time.