As a child growing up, I was often amazed by the variety of weather patterns experienced during the month of March. At such times, my parents were quick to repeat the old mantra “March of many weathers” to suggest that it was a “normal” phenomena and nothing to get excited about – especially when we sometimes experienced all seasons of weather in a single day! However, this year seems to be the exception as our weather pattern over the past few weeks has been resolutely stuck in just one season – winter! What makes this more difficult for many – particularly the older among us – is that this unseasonal wintry spell is extending what has already been a particularly long winter. I have no doubt that the gardeners amongst us are frustrated by the lateness of shrubs and plants as well as the difficulty in carrying out the usual garden routines for this time of year. However, spare a thought for those whose livelihoods are largely dependent on the weather such as market gardeners and farmers. Farmers, in particular, have experienced the loss of sheep during their lambing season, and are finding it difficult to plant cereal crops and because of poor or non-existent growth, are experiencing fodder crises for their livestock.
However, we can be assured that as in all things in life, our weather will eventually change. In fact, change is what this season of Easter is all about – change in its most positive sense – as it brings hope to an otherwise hopeless world. If the story of Jesus Christ finished on Good Friday, then He would have been no more than just another Jewish prophet – even if an exceptional one! However, it is the events of that first Easter Sunday with the empty tomb and the risen Jesus that changed everything. The disciples had been devastated, scattered and frightened – but now they became transformed. They proclaimed the gospel boldly and were willing to endure hardships, persecutions and even death to ensure that as many people as possible herd the Good News. Today, in this apart of the world, it is easy to forget the courage and tenacity which the apostles employed to ensure that we too can share in the hope and Good News of Easter.
Change is something which has also been recently experienced by two of Western Christianity’s denominations. First, there was the election and inauguration of Pope Francis 1 which has subsequently been widely predicted to being major changes in both the perception and the reality of how things are done in the Vatican. Pope Francis, who was formerly Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, is noted for his humility and has genuine concern for the poor and marginalised. First indications are that he will continue these qualities in his pontificate marking a major departure from his predecessors. For example, when first elected pope, Pope Francis took a bus back to his accommodation rather than using the papal car. His first appearance as pope saw him wearing a simple white cassock rather than the more elaborate robes of recent popes and he has subsequently refused to move into the papal apartment, opting instead to continue to reside outside the Vatican.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is also faced with many challenges and brings a new perspective to that role. Again, like Pope Francis, he is an individual of great humility coupled with ability. However, the tensions of being the “established” Church of England puts it immediately on a collision course with other parts of the establishment – including the government – over many issues, not least of which are welfare reform and same-sex marriage. Coupled with this is an increasingly sceptical British public, of which according to recent polls, 69% do not see the Church as have any legitimate voice in public debates. To them, the Church has lost touch with society but it will now be the new archbishop’s role to convince society that it is they who have lost touch with the Church! However, to be convincing in that debate, he will first need to oversee the amicable resolution of many public rifts and fractures within the Church. May it be our prayer that both new leaders will be equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their roles.
With every blessing,
The Revd. John Tanner. Tel: 289 3154 / 086 302 1376