As the New Year turned this year I found friends and contacts on my socials searching for a word for the year. Tempting as it was to choose Restoration for the easy win for some promotion I resisted. In fact I found myself wanting to resist completely. How can you find one word? Did I even want to set out any kind of stall for a new start and a clean slate. I wanted to keep on keeping on. That felt like enough and what I could offer really. But that in itself felt like something. Perhaps that was hope, but maybe a certain type of hope. Not a certain hope, but perhaps a tender hope.
The kind of hope that I was sensing was one that I would need others to help me to keep trusting in. It wasn’t a hope that was welling up in me, and out of which I would be able to offer a whole well of certainty of the many things as yet unseen.
Then I found myself chatting with Richard Passmore and he shared a phrase – suppressed potential – what if we are looking to release the suppressed potential in ourselves and others this year. A phrase that could help us speak about the oppression that means some people and places continue to be overlooked. During the week of prayer for Christian Unity this week, and as we prayed in the Restore shop in Penrith we took the time to focus on Lament, and how we must not look away from those on the margins, those excluded in anyway through our own blindness, especially to racial exclusion and violence.
But perhaps we also don’t see many of those we simply don’t want to see. Perhaps we simply can’t hear their voices. Sometimes we don’t even hear our own cries. I think that is what some of what I was sensing by being slow to name the word hope as my word for 2023. This is not just unconscious bias – but perhaps wilful blindness? What are so we uncomfortable to see and witness that we choose not to. Can we even admit this to ourselves individually and collectively.
But perhaps we can choose be tender with the parts of ourselves that are hurting as we continue to navigate this year as Winter turns to Spring and Lent is on the horizon. Not dragging ourselves into constant newness and more effort, but knowing an abundant God and responding to the call and the draw of a creative God who has given us gifts to respond. And if we know (and respect) our own limits, we will be called to find and know those who will have the gifts and skills to meet the challenges we all face. We may not know them yet, we may not even see them.
One of the greatest gifts in mission and community building, and in fact in discipleship is knowing how to ask for help. The beautiful film that was shown on BBC over the Christmas and New Year period showing the animation and drawing of Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and The Horse, ponders the question, what is the bravest thing to ask? The answer that is offered, is ‘for help’. Perhaps it is also the wisest, and most curious missional question too. Please can you help me or us, rather than how can we serve you, or how can we as churches or communities of faith help. Instead, how can you help us. Or, how can we think through these challenges, creatively, together.
Then the fabric of place, people, creativity can find their places together, and that is a beautiful thing. This may be the source of hope.
As a pioneer, it makes my heart sing, when in the Restore shops, the team of volunteers, staff, customers, those coming into visit, create or share a cuppa are all finding their place, both giving and receiving and an environment is made, even for a few moments, where we are all held by the space, and I would want to say by the love and provision of God. At times, we have light to offer, at times we need light, and if we can find spaces, places and communities where we can find both, I think we may find tender hope in times when we, oh don’t we, need it.
Chaplain and Pioneer Enabler