A letter from the Bishop of Grantham for March 2018


Dear Friends,

The words ‘How can this be?’ seem to me to be hovering in the air a great deal at the moment.
‘How can this be’ that we are so close to the date of leaving the EU and we don’t know precisely what is happening yet? ‘How can this be’ that I’ve paid my stamp all these years and all I hear about is hospitals and schools under huge stress? ‘How can this be’ that every year the trees seem to burst into bud a few days earlier than they did last year, but that many people cannot accept the evidence that says that this is as a result of human impact on the climate?

These and so many other versions of the question buzz around in my mind and heart – as do the very prosaic ones of human living that in different ways we each face – and in my case: ‘How can this be’ that my parents, who have been reasonably well physically to this point, suddenly seem now to be failing so rapidly?

‘How can this be?’

These are big questions and real questions. They affect different parts of our lives. They require us to draw on deep sources of strength. They can depress us or energise us. They can encourage us to reach out to others for support, and they can also make us want to hide and to turn in on ourselves. And where is God in it all?

I don’t underestimate the impact of these words and of their underlying and related questions.

However, as the words and questions gather, in the month of March at least I am comforted by the fact that as the 25th approaches, I can draw strength from the example of one amazing woman who has trodden the human path before us. The 25th of March is the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the day on which Mary was told the news that she would bear a child who would be Son of God – and not surprisingly, she exclaimed ‘How can this be?’  (Luke 1.34)

If Mary asked this question, then I think I am in good company if, on occasion, I ask it myself as well.

‘How can this be?’

And once it had been explained to Mary that if she said ‘yes’, she was to enact God’s will, then Mary did indeed summon her strength and courage and love and obedience, and having expressed her incredulity, proceeded to bring about God’s purpose for her and for the world. She could have said ‘no’. However, she said ‘let it be so’, and thus a new chapter opened in the life of God’s creation.

Can I echo Mary’s words? Can we?

Can we, having faced the questions, place our trust in God and respond with similar strength, courage, love and obedience? Can we draw strength from Mary’s example?

It is my firm conviction that we can!

With every prayer and blessing, then, for March and for the Feast of the Annunciation,

And for the coming joy of Easter,

Bishop Nicholas


P.S. – And thank you to everyone who accepted my invitation to share thoughts about Christmas. I received some wonderful contributions from across the diocese that I continue to treasure.