29 do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. LUKE 12

“Good morning everyone and welcome to our Diocesan Synod, today we shall be discovering more about the excellent work of our Diocesan Board of Education; raising standards and supporting growing numbers of schools in Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly. We shall be challenged with the opportunities of working more with children and young people so often under-represented in our churches.

“We shall learn more about the work going on across all our churches to make them safe places for everyone. And the encouraging results of the external audit recently conducted.

“We shall be invited to play our part in shaping the principles which will underpin the ways in which we share our financial resources and responsibilities as the Anglican Church for all of Cornwall, the isles of Scilly and not forgetting those two missionary parishes in Devon.

“And we have some important ‘housekeeping’ to do in terms of how our work with education is organised and how the interests and experience of the whole people of God are appropriately represented here in Synod.

“We shall also hear updates on a number of initiatives which originated here in Synod and are now making real progress.

“It is a full agenda and one that I hope represents something of the breadth and depth of our mission to discover God’s kingdom and grow the church.

“But before we launch into our agenda I want to encourage us to stop and think how we might ‘graciously’ approach these issues and the many others which we face in our parishes, in our communities, and together across Cornwall.

“I had the joy last weekend of spending some time with my children and with my young grandchildren. It was wonderful! However, one or other of my granddaughters gave me more than I had bargained for and over the last few days a full-on ‘man cough’ has been brewing and reaching its peak yesterday and today.

“As a result, I am in real danger of ‘doing a Teresa’ and collapsing into paroxysms as I speak. I’m sorry about that. However, there is an upside, because knowing that my voice may not hold out I’m going to try to get to the point more quickly than I might otherwise have done.

“Our roadshows this year have encouraged us to reflect on God’s amazing Grace. For me this has been a timely and thought-provoking reminder of something which can easily become obscured as we strive to serve God and others. The growth of God’s kingdom does not depend on us. Let me say that again, the growth of God’s kingdom does not depend on us. The initiative in all that is good is with God not with us. Our calling is to respond to God’s grace and not to attempt to manufacture it ourselves.

“And yet it doesn’t always feel like that does it? As I listen to those I meet I hear the concern and sometimes anxiety that the influence and appeal of the Gospel seems to be declining, especially among those younger than us. Some of us are becoming fearful that we just cannot meet the expectations of others, of God and even of ourselves. That kind of thinking is exhausting, deadening and depressing. But this is not the gracious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“My namesake, the original St German, was sent to these islands to correct a heresy which had particularly taken root here. It was the idea that by living good lives and doing good things we could work our way into God’s good books. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. It is only by grace. ‘God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense’ that we can enjoy a new relationship and a new life with God. Of course we respond to God’s amazing grace by striving to live for God and for others but never imagine that is all about us.

“Something else I picked up from my grandchildren, as well as this bug, is that they don’t worry about always getting things right. They know they are loved and they can feel our delight as they take their faltering steps, as they gabble their mixed-up words and as they risk getting things wrong in their first attempts to try something new.

“Let us learn from these little ones as Jesus encouraged us to. For that is how our Father in heaven views our attempts to follow the example of Jesus.

“And everywhere I go I see people stepping out for the sake of the Gospel, sometimes with big and bold projects, more often with smaller initiatives, many of which are developments of what we are already doing for others. I want you to know that your Father in heaven sees what you do and he is delighted in you. That is not the end of his-story because the need for His grace is great but it can be the beginning of a new chapter for His church.

“Like my granddaughters, as we grow in confidence and trust in Him we can grow in responding to God’s grace as well. We become more accustomed to daring to take a step forward with him and with others.

“We have a significant agenda before us, not just here today, but in the years ahead as we seek to offer God’s love and presence to the people of Cornwall. Don’t let that intimidate or daunt you. The part within that great enterprise that God wants you and your church to play will be a part for which you are equipped and not some mission impossible.

“Jesus will work most fully with us when we acknowledge our fragility and failings. That is the Gospel. It is his grace in us not just our grit and determination which will grow the church. So take heart, you are loved you are not alone, and God has a plan for his kingdom in Cornwall.”