The Revd Gareth J Powell
Secretary of the Conference
Email: [email protected]
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
In the wider community of the Christian Church there is currently a very particular focus on mercy in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. The ministry of Pope Francis has about it a focus on mercy and his declaration of ‘The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’ or Holy Year of Mercy as it is most commonly called, affords attention to the depths and meaning of mercy. To focus on mercy is to think about both our experience of God’s mercy and our living as if we have indeed encountered the extravagance of such mercy. For Pope Francis mercy is fundamental to God’s identity, it is, he has stated, ‘God’s identity card’. To view mercy as the first attribute of God requires that we pay a great deal of attention to it and as such understand more of God. So, when we understand the foundational nature of mercy as underpinning all that God offers us in self giving the possibilities for our own expression of mercy become a critical aspect of our thinking. Our engagement with the context and communities that we serve should be filtered through a wider vision. Detail becomes important not at the expense of the bigger picture, but because the enormity of God’s mercy finds expression in the lives of the children of God going about ordinary tasks. Zacchaeus and Matthew, Magdalene, Peter and the Samaritan woman each found mercy in the common, daily round. I suspect that is true for each of us.
Mercy must define our own identity as individuals and as a community. The consequences of being called by the merciful God are as radical as the gospel. Cheap grace and consequence free mercy are not part of our vocabulary or way of being. To have been touched by mercy transforms the view of both the bigger picture and the intricate detail of the human soul. For each of us this will have a different but no less authentic application in the places where we minister. This is more than advanced niceness, or a willingness to be more polite. To proclaim mercy, having first known it, is to challenge patterns of behaviour and assumptions that deny the sacredness of God’s creation. A failure to counter attitudes and actions that result in a child of God experiencing degradation is to fall short of our calling.
There is no shortage of opportunities to offer mercy both in our community as ministers and in our public ministry. We have at our disposal not inconsiderable resources to be deployed in this respect, not least our own knowledge of God’s mercy. We should have an even greater understanding when we listen to one another and trust the extravagant possibilities of a merciful God. Clarity in articulating what each of us requires and offers into the re-creation of a culture of mercy will inevitably require some hard choices. This is ever the case. However, the challenge of living a merciful life is not merely about the use of physical resources. The soul searching challenge that follows our knowledge of God’s mercy is because we have a responsibility to cry ‘Kyrie eleison’ in a world where mercy must be given constant expression. It is a cry that has a place as much in our public comment and prophetic action as it does in the depths of our heart when we make our daily prayer. One of our key tasks as the body of Christ is to proclaim the message that there is no situation in which the children of God are trapped. Our public theology needs to be infused with that same cry of seeking and proclaiming the mercy of a loving God. Therefore, our public ministry will have true credibility only when the proclamation of God’s mercy provides the grammar for all our worship and subsequent work.
May we know the comfort and disturbance of God’s mercy as we reflect it in our common ministry,
Gareth J Powell
Secretary of the Conference