A letter from the Bishop of Grantham for September 2018
Earlier in the summer, one of my oldest friends suddenly died. Michael has known me since I was eighteen. He was an inspiration for me, first in becoming an active Christian, and secondly as I explored a call to ordination. He has been there for me for over twenty-five years.
It goes without saying that I will miss Michael very much.
He taught me two things above all.
The first is about the importance of praying for people, and of allowing oneself to be prayed for.
Michael was hugely disciplined in his prayer. He kept a diary so that he could make sure that he would pray for people regularly. He remembered their birthdays, and included these and other significant events in his praying. Most importantly, he was very down to earth about his prayer life. For him, it was akin to washing his face or brushing his teeth: something that he did regularly and without fuss, because it was important to do. And as he did to others, so he drew prayer from them in return.
I very much doubt that I will ever be as disciplined in my prayer as Michael was: but I try to be.
The other thing that Michael taught me was about generosity. He was generous with his time, he was generous with his hospitality, and he was generous with his money. He didn't have much, but from what he had, he gave very generously indeed. And the Church, the Body of Christ, received from his generosity. Working always in poor parishes, Michael's generosity inspired other people to be generous. His churches always paid their parish share. Not for him or his congregations an argument that ‘others aren't contributing, so why should we?', or a suggestion that ‘we need to put our own house in order before we think about anyone else'. To Michael, the diocese was a family of parishes, and in a family everyone supported everyone else. His attitude was remarkably liberating, rooted as it was in the knowledge that God had given generously to him, so it was his joy to give generously to God's people. I very much respect this unselfconscious attitude to money, and pray that I may grow in it myself.
So, uncertain though I am about the discipline and quality of my prayer, I am certain that Michael's example of generosity challenges me every time I worship: do I have the simple, gracious, generous dependence on God that he had, and am I as generous with my time, my hospitality and my money as he was with his? If I am not yet satisfied about any of these things, then here are things that I can do something about.
In September, as the harvest that began at Lammas during high summer comes to its end, I will be thinking about the different gifts that I have been given, and about my opportunities to use those gifts in the service of the gospel: gifts of prayer, gifts of time, gifts of friendship and gifts of money. And I will be thinking about Michael, and continuing to thank God for him.
Perhaps you might join me in these thoughts, substituting for Michael whomever it is who has strongly and positively influenced you in your life and in your journey of faith?
With every blessing,