A few weeks ago Bishop Steven and I, along with all the Bishops from the North, met on Holy Island, Lindisfarne for a twenty four hour retreat with the Archbishop of York to reflect on and pray about the evangelisation of the North. Holy Island has a wonderfully rich history with the monastery of Lindisfarne being founded by Saint Aidan. The priory was founded before the end of 634 and Aidan remained there until his death in 651. Lindisfarne became the base for Christian evangelising in the North of England.
The challenge of evangelising in the North is something we have taken to heart in our own diocese. Our Centenary Year gives us an opportunity to celebrate the Christian heritage which has made an enormous contribution to the material and spiritual welfare of the communities we serve. However, it challenges us to consider how we might pass on our faith to others so that they come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour and experience transformed lives and transformed communities. This calling is as critical today as it was for St Aidan and it arises from the missionary mandate to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. In these few verses we see how the risen Christ sent his follower to make Christ known in every time and place so that faith might spread to every corner of the world. It was the missionary task of St Aidan – and it’s our missionary task today – in our time and place. We are called to do this together in mutual support, encouragement and nurture working across parish and deanery boundaries, traditions and practices. We are called to work together as a whole diocesan team, to be more Christ-like in our calling and responding in which there will be great joy. So my challenge in this Centenary Year is ‘What opportunities and challenges are you being offered to make Christ known to those in your community who have not yet experienced the transforming love of the risen Christ or the support of belonging to a community of faith? How can you personally, and in your parish, lead in the task of evangelisation? “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel” Evangelii Gaudium – Pope Frances).