In December, Downing Street announced the appointment of the new Bishop of Derby.
After a careful process of discussion, prayer, and discernment, we are thrilled that the Right Reverend Libby Lane is coming to be our bishop.
Bishop Libby was the first woman to be appointed a bishop in the Church of England when she became Bishop of Stockport.
Her roots are here in Derbyshire, and we are all very much looking forward to welcoming her home and working with her in the months and years ahead.
The arrival of a new bishop can and should be about much more than a change of personnel. It presents us with an opportunity to think afresh, about who we are and who we hope to be, about the opportunities and challenges that face us as we move forward. These are questions of identity, of purpose, of vision.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint.” More memorably, the King James Version renders the same verse, “Without vision, the people perish.”
In our day and age, almost every organisation has some kind of vision statement. That can be a helpful crystallisation of focus which aids prioritisation, although in and of itself an aspirational vision statement may not accomplish much.
And people who work for organisations that have lots of vision but not much strategy for delivery can soon find vision wearing. But I think Proverbs means more than this.
It’s not so much whether we have a vision statement. It’s more about whether we have a clear sense of who we are and where we are going, the kind of future we are working for.
And the modern translation which refers to ‘prophecy’ reminds us that as Christians our sense of purpose and direction should ultimately be discerned and discovered in God, not created by us out of our own imaginations.
The first months of new episcopal leadership will inevitably entail some kind of reflection together on these things, as we seek to discern where God may be leading us next and what kind of church he is calling us to be for the sake of his mission here. This is important work, and I look forward to seeing how that takes shape.
But the first weeks of a new year provide a spur for me to think through similar questions for myself. Who am I? and who am I becoming? What is God calling me to do and to be? Where do I sense the work of God in my life? What kinds of practices will enable me to grow in Christlikeness during the coming year?
Can I invite you to join me in giving time and prayer to these questions and others like them at the start of 2019, that we might be ready to prayerfully engage with them for our life together?
The Very Revd Dr Stephen Hance
Dean of Derby