A Reflection from Bishop Anne

5th October 2022

No shadow of turning – stability and change

We live in dizzying times. Barely have we understood the changes that the Pandemic has wrought, before we have been plunged into more uncertainty. The global political stage feels precarious and the war in Ukraine frighteningly close to home. Our own national and political life seems in some turmoil as Prime Ministers and policies change with alarming speed. Concerns with the rising cost of living, energy prices, and the climate crisis threaten to consume us. In light of all this, the recent death of her late majesty, Queen Elizabeth, has felt to many like the disappearing of our last vestige of stability. She has been repeatedly described as a kind of “still centre”.

As the family of the Church of England Birmingham, we have also seen significant change over the last few years and we continue to navigate that change in how we organise our diocesan life. We have lost some dear colleagues – amongst them just a few days ago as I write, the Revd Canon Priscilla White, who has been such a faithful servant of God. As Bishop David retires this month after 16 years as a much-loved Diocesan Bishop, and as we begin to pray even now for the person that God will lead here as a new Bishop of Birmingham, we may be wondering what lies ahead.

The world we live in is bound by transience. It’s part of its beauty as well as its fragility. We may at times be shielded from this, until change comes along in no uncertain terms. How do we respond to such change?

The letter of James urges us to remember that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17), words echoed in a well-known hymn which celebrates God’s faithfulness and declares “there is no shadow of turning with thee.”

Faithfulness is not only a quality we look to in God, but is something that we are all called to cultivate in our own Christian lives. Our own faithfulness grows as day by day we renew our “yes” to God and seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. That following is in itself very simple - doing what we can to serve others, challenging injustice where we find it, comforting the distressed, and so becoming a kind of still centre ourselves in the midst of the turmoil around. This is not through our own strength but through that simple, steady commitment to walking in the company of Jesus just one day at a time.

As we travel together through the times of change ahead, I encourage us all, in the words of Philippians, to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Right Reverend Anne Hollinghurst
Acting Bishop