New shoots and fruits

Published on: 10 January 2020

The Revd Karen Hutchinson, Archdeacon of Norwich, highlights the often necessary endings before the new can begin.

It’s extremely exciting to have our new Bishop of Norwich, at last, beginning his ministry amongst us. It feels like a long time in the waiting, but all is in God’s good time, of course.

People often ask about the vacancy process in parishes, and why there has to be a gap between vicars. Sometimes there is a longer gap than we would like, but usually, a gap is needed in order to properly let go of the person who has left and to be ready to welcome the new beginning.

A year ago, many of us were very sad to be saying goodbye to the much-loved Bishop Graham James. And it would have been very difficult for a new bishop to pitch up the next week and say, “Here I am!”

So, a year’s space has been important for us in the gradual letting go and starting to look forward. I think there is now a real sense of excitement, of looking forward to getting to know the unique person that is Bishop Graham Usher and all that he will share with us.

One verse that often comes to my mind when considering new beginnings is John 12:24. As Jesus speaks about his coming Passion, he says “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

The new beginning, the shoot and then the fruit, comes out of an act of letting go, of apparent death and ending. Often when we have a new beginning there’s been a letting go before it can happen.

Starting a new school, college or job – there has been a series of goodbyes to what has been left behind. Some who have heard God’s call to plant new churches have had to leave behind a community where they were loved and secure. It is often a leap of faith – that God goes with us in that transition and will bless the new beginning.

In churches, we tend to be quite good at starting new things, but not so good at letting things die. It is a good discipline when taking on something new, whether as an individual or as a church, to ask yourself what you will stop doing in order to make time and space for the new beginning. There is no shame in following the pattern of John 12:24, of having a proper ending to something as you release it “into the earth” and pray for the new shoot to come forth and bear fruit in due season.

As we enter this winter period where all around us the natural world appears to echo the first part of that verse, we look forward to all that the New Year will bring – the new shoots in the earth and in our lives. And may we bear much fruit!

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