On the 27th of June, the Diocese of Exeter will celebrate its 1100th Anniversary. Originally, the area now covered by the Diocese's of Exeter and Bath & Wells, was the Diocese of Sherbourne. But by the early 900's Christianity had spread so far into the West Country that two new diocese had to be formed. One or two people have said to me 'why are we bothering to celebrate?' And they have a point! In fact, as early as the third century, Clement of Alexandria, a Greek Christian theologian said 'All our life is a celebration for us; we are convinced, in fact, that God is always everywhere. We sing while we work, we sing hymns while we sail, we pray while we carry out all life's other occupations'.
So, why celebrate?
The Diocesan logo for this event reads 'Heaven in Devon? Celebrating 1100 years, 909 - 2009, Embracing God's future' This is all about recognising and celebrating the work done by thousands of Christians down through the centuries as they endeavoured to bring a little bit of 'Heaven to Devon'. It's also about affirming those who are working towards the same goal today and recognising that God is calling others to the same work. Much of this work happens quietly in the background, often un-noticed but brings God's peace and comfort to those who are in need. And in today's pressurised society there is a very great need for the peace of God to be present amongst us. Unfortunately, those attempting to meet that need are few and far between and often find themselves under immense pressure. So part of the celebration is a clarion call to all Christians to consider how we might be able to offer ourselves in service to God. You may have noticed that within the logo the words 'Heaven in Devon?' end with a question mark. This is quite deliberate to
remind us that God is at work here but is in need of our help to truly bring Heaven to Devon.
There are a number of events happening in Exeter on the 27th, details of which are in the churches of the benefice. One of the key events is a Communion service on the Cathedral Green with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. Sadly the media loves having a 'character' that they can parody and put down, so he has had rather an indifferent press over the years. The truth is he is a deeply spiritual man who is working hard in the service of God, not only for the Church of England, but also the worldwide Anglican Communion, as well as promoting ecumenical relations with other denominations and faiths. Much of this work happens quietly in the background, often un-noticed and unappreciated by the world at large. Dr. Williams is an excellent speaker and it is well worth finding the time to listen to him.
So our celebrations are a recognition that God is at work here and throughout the world. But they are also about reminding people that 'All our life is a celebration for us…' and that the Christians of Devon 'are convinced that God is always everywhere'.
As I write this in the middle of May, the rain is pouring down outside. Hopefully, as you read this, summer will have arrived and we can give thanks for the beauty of Devon surrounding us - and sing praises to our God who created it and wants us to enjoy something of 'Heaven in Devon'!
With all good wishes,