To change is to grow

Published by Giles Goddard on Tue, 31 May 2016 12:10
Vicar's Blog

This year's Waterloo Festival kicks off in less than three weeks' time. It has a new theme; we've replaced 'war' with 'transformation'. After five years of reflecting on various wars and battles, we thought it was time for a change. But why did we choose transformation as a theme?

First, because the whole of Waterloo and the South Bank is currently going through major changes. The redevelopment of the Shell Centre, the building of One Blackfriars, the new look National Theatre, the proposed move of the BFI - Waterloo must be one of the fastest moving and quickest changing parts of London.

St John's is part of the transformation. We are hoping that by 2020 the building will have been completely renovated so that it's fit for purpose and offers a tremendous home for worship and all the other activities which take place here. This year, the festival is looking at the transformation of commerce and industry, especially the hat and garment industry. Hats off, and I'll see you at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

But there are deeper reasons for our choice of theme. Cardinal Newman is famously supposed to have said 'to change is to grow, and to be perfect is to have changed often.' Saint Paul says, in the letter to the Romans, 'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.' Transformation is at the heart of Christianity - from crucifixion to resurrection, from sickness to health, from fear to trust, from hate to love.

Transformation, though, is not straightforward. It often involves discomfort and challenge. In order to rebuild, the builder must first demolish. In the process of change, something may be lost. We work hard for our status, for our money, for the things which give us pleasure - but they are often things which stop us from becoming the people we are being called to be. In spite of that, it is hard to face the idea that we may be being called to give them up.

In a world which seems more full of confusion and fear every day, when we are being assailed by contradictory ideas about Europe, where a demagogue is about to become the Republican presidential candidate, we want to hold on to the things which give us comfort. But in clinging on to things we get stuck; it's through letting go that we grow. (Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting voting to leave Europe, although that would be a transformation too. I am sure that we are better in Europe, better trying to change it from within as part of a greater whole. There's an exact parallel with the Church of England - St John's is much better off as part of it, even though it's not perfect, than out on our own!)

As Christians we are called to be in a perpetual process of discovery - within a context of constancy. The words of the eucharist are much the same each week; the words of scripture don't change - but the way we hear them and understand them changes all the time, if we're willing to allow the change to happen.

So, a question for all of us - are we open to the transformations to which we're being called? As individuals, as a church, as part of Waterloo, as a society? Are you ready for the future, whatever it brings? Let me have your thoughts, by commenting below or by contacting me at giles@stjohnswaterloo.org ... and let's see where the journey takes us!

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