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Message from Bishop Mark Ryland

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August 2011: The Rt Revd Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury

Net Practise

In cricket, net practise is essential for batsmen. For some time now, Kevin Pietersen has been having trouble facing left arm spinners. Has he given up? No. This summer he faced up to the weakness in his game and has spent long days in the nets practising, out of the public eye. Back in 2005, when Andrew Strauss was bamboozled in the first two Test matches by Shane Warne, the Australian spinner, he also went away and spent hours in the nets with ‘Merlyn’, a spin bowling machine. ‘Merlyn’ proved to be a bit of a wizard as Strauss then scored a century in the next Test match at Old Trafford, further good scores in the following Tests, and helped England win ‘The Ashes’ for the first time in 18 years. This summer, Andrew Strauss has again been struggling with his batting. As I write, he is undertaking extra practise at county level trying to regain his form in time for the Test matches against India. Sir Alex Ferguson famously said that ‘success is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration’. Natural ability is certainly necessary for success but perseverance is essential.

If perseverance is essential for a cricketer, it is crucial for a Christian. Not that we have to strive to gain God’s affection, or fight to be rescued by him. No, as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Church in Rome, ‘while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’. New life in Jesus Christ is a free gift from God. His overwhelming love for us and his Spirit within us are the pump and the lifeblood that send us out to live and work to his praise and glory in the world.

Growing as a Christian, however, – walking in the footsteps of Jesus –demands some application. Persevering to make time to be in the presence of God – the source of our inspiration- seems to be the struggle that most Christians face. A survey carried out in 2001 found that only 23% of Anglicans pray daily. Many of us struggle to keep a daily discipline of prayer and quiet when we are open to God and the direction of the Holy Spirit.  And if individually and corporately our relationship with God is weak, how can we, as a Church be guided by him and what, of substance, do we have to share with the world?

There is a difference between ‘finding time’ and ‘making time’ to be in the presence of God. ‘Finding time’ seems to be a matter of chance, ‘making time’ is a matter of will. We are being challenged to make it a matter of will. As a Church and as individual Christians we are so much in need of God’s inspiration.   Thankfully, we are not left floundering in our weakness.  Bishop Jonathan has written a ‘Rule of Life’ as a simple guide to help us look at our spiritual life in a way that helps us grow; and a group led by Philip Swan, the Director of World Mission, is introducing ‘The Order of St Chad’ which will help us go deeper in prayer, mission and discipleship. Together with these, a Diocesan- wide venture to help us find ways to pray and grow as followers of Jesus is being planned for the New Year.

Called to make a difference in the world and called to become more like Christ day by day. We can’t do the first without the second being a reality – both in our lives and that of our Church. When people meet the local church will they meet the Living God? The answer is probably: only if the local church is inspired by God.  Persisting in prayer seems to be the path to God’s inspiration. Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century French monk taught that we need to practise being aware of God’s presence: ‘whoever practices God’s presence will soon become spiritual. How can we be with him unless our thoughts are with him? How can he be in our thoughts unless we form a holy habit of abiding in his presence, asking for the help we need each moment of our life?’

If you are struggling, like me, or have fallen out of the habit then be inspired by Brother Lawrence, Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen.

Enjoy the net practise!

+Mark

August 2011

  • • The Lichfield Diocesan Clergy Cricket Team, of which Bishop Mark is a member, has made it through to the final of the Church Times Cricket Cup for only the second time in its 61-year history.  Last year the diocese lifted the cup; and they are on now on course to be the first team to retain it since 1991.Supporters are welcome at the Walker Cricket Ground in Southgate, north London for the final on Thursday 8th September, beginning at 10.00am.  Admission is free.
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