The Suffering Servant
Writing many centuries ago, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a suffering servant who was oppressed and afflicted, yet did not open his mouth; and who was cut off from the land of the living, and stricken for the transgression of God’s people. Early Jewish theologians saw Israel as the suffering servant, journeying through the humiliation of the exile. Later Christian commentators see Jesus, the embodiment of Israel, as the one who fulfils the vision of the suffering servant most faithfully.
When we feel that God doesn’t notice what we’re going through, or that God can’t face our pain, what Isaiah’s vision reminds us is that God not only engages with our painful experiences, God goes further. In Jesus, the faithful suffering servant, God absorbs all our pain, our hurts and losses, our isolation and aloneness. In Jesus, God bears all our infirmities and carries all our diseases. God says,
“I hear you. I see you. I know what you endure. I will take it. I will release you. For you are mine. I am with you. And I will not let you go.”
May this be the voice that you hear amidst whatever challenges you and those you pray for in our world are facing at present.
Reconciling Mission programme update
We were encouraged by the final video updates from participants in the 3rd cohort of our Reconciling Mission programme, and their reflections last week during the concluding online gathering. They have appreciated a range of ideas to support a shift in their churches’ engagement with local communities, including the importance of treasure-seeking among neighbours, walking alongside and working in partnership with people of peace, exploring what God is doing in our local communities, and an openness to being interrupted by our neighbours.
Most participants have also valued the process that we’ve led them through over the last 18 months: beginning with the residential learning week at Launde Abbey, through the regular online group coaching conversations, and the in-person annual day conference at Coventry Cathedral.
You can get a sense of some of this through watching one of the videos that five of these participants have agreed to share with others.
Finally, recruitment of a Reconciling Mission 4th cohort has not been straightforward, in part because of the financial challenges facing Anglican dioceses in England, Wales and Scotland. We’ve therefore decided to postpone the start of the next cohort until October 2024, in the hopeful expectation that we will have secured a viable group before the end of July next year.
Reconciling Mission conference: 19 March 2024
We are looking forward to meeting up in person with the 24 participants in the latest cohort of our Reconciling Mission programme at Coventry Cathedral on 19 March 2024 for our third Reconciling Mission day conference. Each diocesan group will be accompanied by someone from their diocesan senior staff. On this occasion there will be an opportunity for members of the Reconciling Mission Network, graduates of earlier programmes, to join us.
Our keynote speaker will be Mary Gregory, the Canon for the Arts and Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral. Mary will be reflecting on the Cathedral’s engagement with people and groups in the city of Coventry, the Cathedral’s local neighbourhood. Discover more about Mary here.
Racial Justice Conference: 17 October 2023
We had over 30 participants from 18 different dioceses attend RI’s first Racial Justice Conference, on the theme ‘Waking up to and addressing Whiteness in the Anglican Church’. This was held at St Martin-in-the-Bullring in central Birmingham, on 17 October.
Participants appreciated the opportunity for stimulating discussion, prompted by our speakers, the wide range of participants, the chance to consider more deeply the theme of ‘whiteness’ in a constructive and facilitated manner, and the opportunity to explore how racial justice is something for white people to address.
You can watch the opening keynote presentation from Martyn Snow, the Bishop of Leicester, here.
Being White programme
We have had an encouraging response to our Being White programme: two new dioceses, Gloucester and Manchester, and one cathedral, Chichester, have commissioned us to work with groups in their locations, starting in the New Year.
The learning outcomes for participants are to:
- Build their understanding of the systemic nature of racism and key concepts;
- Increase their fluency in considering issues of race in the UK context;
- Raise their awareness of whiteness and white normativity; and
- Be better resourced to address institutional racism in their churches and diocese.
As part of accepting a commission for this ‘white work’, we are checking with those looking to sponsor a group that this programme fits as one part of wider work of addressing racial justice within a diocese, including work which prioritises the lived-experience of people of global majority heritage backgrounds, and inter-cultural work that promotes mutual respect and understanding. Our programme is one piece in a larger project.
Director on sabbatical
Our Director, Alastair McKay, is away on sabbatical from 10 November, returning to work on 12 February 2024. Alastair will mostly be in New Zealand, initially staying at Vaughan Park Anglican retreat centre, and working on chapters toward the Reconciling Mission book that he is co-writing with a North American colleague, David Brubaker.
Later his wife Sue will be joining him, and they will be travelling together, including visiting Stewart Island off the southern edge of South Island, where they will be on Christmas Day.
We welcome your prayers for Reconciliation Initiatives. In particular for:
- Recruiting sufficient diocesan groups and participants to form the 4th cohort of the Reconciling Mission programme in 2024;
- The organisation of our Reconciling Mission conference on 19 March 2024, our keynote speaker, Mary Gregory, and for all those participating;
- The groups in Gloucester, Chichester and Manchester who will be engaging with the Being White programme, and doing work of reflection and taking action to be more actively anti-racist and genuinely inclusive; and
- Alastair McKay on sabbatical, for his work on Reconciling Mission book chapters, and his reflections on the next stage of ministry.
Thank you for remembering us in your prayers. May you be blessed as you join us in God’s reconciling work.