Two and half years ago Bishop Philip introduced On the Way in a video to the diocese.

And he began by suggesting that the bible story that can best help us understand the times that we’re in, is the Exodus; the great account of Israel’s journey into an unknown future, through demanding times; a journey on which they discovered more about the great, mysterious God who led them, and more about what it meant to be His people in a complex world.

And we’ve come a long way since then, and much has happened – some of it the things we expected, some of it entirely unexpected.

And today, as Exodus people who have already traveled many miles, I want to pause to look back and to notice just how far we’ve come, and then on to see what’s coming next; I want to remember and re-tell the story of the last 24 months, and then to look to the future to see where the road leads on from here.

Before that, I want to notice three paradoxes about the story of the Exodus; three ways in which the story pulls in directions that seem impossible to hold together, but which are both true. And each of these paradoxes is true for us too, as we try to travel faithfully together on our way, through a changing and sometimes difficult landscape.

And I note as I do so the original meaning of paradox. It’s made of two Greek words; para meaning ‘alongside’; doxa meaning ‘positive opinion, honour or glory’. A paradox is therefore two glories, together. Two honourable and praiseworthy things that sit alongside each other.

So here are three parallel glories from the story of the Exodus;

The first is that the Exodus is a story of both continuity and change.

Clearly, the point of the story, and the reason that it was recounted after the journey was all over, is that there was a community in Egypt who are recognisably the same community when they settle at the end of their journey. There is a clear continuity between their identity and calling before and after their travels.

And it’s also clear that much has changed. The people within the community have changed, the leaders have changed, their ways of worship and prayer and their understanding of their purpose have all changed. Both at the end of their journey and throughout it, there was both continuity and change.

All of that is true for us as well. Who we were 2 years (and 10, 20 and 30 years ago) is also who we are today; we remain the People of God, Living Stones, the temple of the Holy Spirit today, just as we have been for so many years. And we’ve also changed; we’ve welcomed new people and said farewell to others, including painful farewells to those, like Archdeacon Paul, who have died; Philip has moved to Winchester; our ways of relating and our understanding of what we’re here for has shifted and is shifting. We are the same people with the same calling, and we have changed.

The second paradox. The journey the Israelites took was both known and unknown. Setting out, they could not describe their final destination, which none of them had ever seen, but they were told how they’d know when they got there, because, famously, it would be a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’, a promise that they first receive before they even leave Egypt.

And we don’t know exactly where we’re going. We can’t know precisely what the future holds; the world is changing, and foundations that we have taken for granted for many decades are being shaken – in the world, in the economy, in creation itself, and in the church. We cannot confidently describe how the church will need to be in 10 or 20 years time. But we do know what we’re looking for. We know that we want to become a church that is growing in faith, in connection with young people and in service to the most deprived; we know that we need new ways of sharing the good news of Jesus with those who have not, for many generations, been willing to hear it from us; we know that we want to cherish creation, cut carbon and speak up; we know that we need to be fruitful and sustainable.

We cannot know the future, but we know what we’re looking for as we walk into it.

And a final paradox. This journey is one of both loss and life; of both death and resurrection. It’s there in the Exodus story and, of course, it’s the heart of the fundamental and foundational story of every Christian. Both loss – real, painful, horrible loss; and new life, new hope, new possibility. And we know, as followers of Jesus – we know better than most, that you can’t have one without the other.

The Israelites knew loss; they left everything they loved behind, and over and again they were moved on, just when they were settling – and it didn’t take much for them to resent the changes they were enduring and to long for the past they had left behind. But it was in the wilderness that they gained their new identity, and it was there that they were given a pattern of prayer and worship, and a tabernacle and the commandments, which would become the mark of their new life in Israel. Loss and new life; death and resurrection.

And we know it too. Change is hard, and many of our churches are facing real loss; the loss of security, the loss of patterns of ministry that have been known and treasured, the loss of power and status in a society that is much less interested in us than it once was. And, and we are also finding new life – we are meeting new people, discovering ways of serving our communities, becoming bolder in sharing our faith. We too know loss and new life; death and resurrection.

Three Exodus paradoxes which are ours as well:

Continuity and change; a journey that is both known and unknown; loss and new life.

So, with those three paradoxes underpinning our journey, as they did that of the Israelites, let’s imagine that we’ve paused our journey and are sat together at the top of a high hill, from where we can see the road we’ve walked so far, and where we’re heading next.

When Philip invited us to set out On the Way, it was because we faced serious challenges; two in particular. First, we were not connecting with the people and communities of Cornwall in the way we know we are called to connect. We know that the good news of Jesus is good news for everyone; young and old, rich and poor, those who have walked with Jesus all their life, those who are just taking first steps and those who have never met him – but over recent decades we have not managed to share that good news with the people and communities that we serve.

And second, we had a very significant financial deficit which wasn’t created because we had chosen to spend our money on clearly discerned plans, but which had emerged over many years to plug a massive hole which nobody had chosen or discerned.

And On the Way was designed to engage in both of those challenges. And it began with a description of what ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ would look like here in Cornwall, and instead of milk and honey, we used the words ‘fruitful and sustainable’. And Episcopal College carefully discerned 6 elements for each; 6 ways in which we are called to be fruitful, and 6 ways in which we are called to be sustainable. And, as a reminder, they’re on the screen behind me. And that remains our destination; church communities of every size, tradition, character and style that are fruitful and sustainable.

But how to get there?

Well, you know how it worked in your deaneries – how every deanery was supported to develop a clear plan, with extra resources for mission and for serving poorer communities; and how there were rules for the road, including spending time in prayer and constantly asking whose voice was missing from the conversations.

And that resulted in 12 deanery plans, each of them different in vision and detail, but with clear shared themes that became the basis of the diocesan plan for change and renewal which, for the first time, allows us to shape the whole diocesan budget and resource system towards the plans that we have discerned together; plans for the fruitful and sustainable future that we all long for.

And, through all the hard work of the last two years, we have managed to shift the massive unchosen deficit, into a clear budget focussed on the things we want to spend our money on; children and young people, new patterns of ministry, service to and with deprived communities, net zero – and in all of it mission to those that we have not previously been reaching.

And I want to thank you all – and all those that you represent, for your part in that important work.

And later on in this meeting, we’re going to be looking at the budget and the assets strategy which, for the first time, is shaped towards our priorities and plans, rather than being ‘what we did last year, but tweaked’.

And as we’ve traveled together, while much has stayed the same, there has also been lots of change. I’ve already mentioned Bishop Philip’s move to Winchester, and we continue to grieve the death of our brother Paul.

And we’re in the middle of many more transitions than is usual, and it’s a joy to welcome people to the roles they have taken up recently, and we look forward to more of that in months to come.

And your deaneries are changing too – in some places in really significant ways, in others in ways that are more subtle. But everywhere we are seeing a move towards poorer communities and towards schools and families, and new patterns of ministry.

So, there are now four CAP debt centres in the diocese and 4 parish nurses; 33 people have been through or are currently part of Sens Kernewek, discerning a call to local lay leadership; 11 priests are part of our first oversight ministry training group, and 12 more will start in the New Year; 14 people have done or are doing the CMS Pioneer course, and we have appointed our first four stipendiary Pioneer priests, plus a lay pioneer working with young people; we are starting work on a major project to connect with schools, families and young people which will launch in summer next year; we’ll start work in the new year on developing a strategy for supporting small churches, led by Bishop Graham James. We are well on our way with our plan for creation care, including for reaching Net Zero. And later on well hear from Ben about those plans.

Paper plans are becoming real, and things are happening; good, godly and holy things are happening. The good news is becoming good news to the poor, to the young and for creation.

And I know that the journey has, for some, been hard. It has been difficult to do this work of leading change, while also getting on with the ordinary life of being church. And for some people these changes aren’t just difficult, but wrong. That we are pressing on is not because we haven’t heard those voices, but because together we have listened carefully to the whole church and the communities that we are called to serve, and we are clear that this is the right direction for us to travel.

And that brings us to today, paused here at the top of our hill. And from this vantage point we can look back and see that we have come a long, long way.

So if that’s what we see when we look back, what do we see when we look at the journey that’s to come?

Well we might pick out some clear paths that we’re going to follow – the paths that lie ahead for each of you in the ongoing implementation of your plans. And sometimes there are twists and turns in those routes, and there may well be some thorny and stony ground that needs careful navigation, but we know that the paths are there and we know their basic direction.

And we can see the paths that mark out the work that we need to continue as a whole diocese; to reshape patterns of ministry, engage with children and young people and serve poorer and more deprived communities. And there are other paths that you’ll know about in your own communities – some of them clearly marked, and some tracks that haven’t yet been walked.

And in all of that there’s one major path that is starting to be laid, like a new road that is being marked out for us to travel on, and I want to mark it clearly on all of our maps. It’s the work that we are going to be doing to connect with young people and children.

Because the challenge – the key challenge – that we face isn’t about money. We’ve done much of the hard work, and the budget that we’ll look at later makes that clear – we have got money, it’s no longer filling an unchosen deficit, and we are ready to spend it.

It’s won’t be a lack of money that closes churches. It will be a lack of people.

And in particular it will be a continued disconnection from children and young people, their families and communities. We are called from the world to be the people of God, not the ‘adults of God’. Everyone has their place and role to play in the kingdom work that is the church’s ministry – everyone and of every age.

So, as we mark out this path ahead of us to connect and listen, to serve and witness to young people, we have set ourselves two ambitious goals for the work we are beginning to plan;

First, for every child and young person in Cornwall to have access to a community that meets in Jesusname, to do Jesus work, in which they can be at home and explore faith.

Second, to grow the number of children and young people in Cornwall who are active disciples of Christ by a factor of 10.

These are deliberately demanding goals – because we are not, and will not be the church that we are called to be without children and young people and their families.

There will be lots more about how we are going to work towards these goals, and please pray for the team that is starting the planning work now.

Friends, we have come a long, long way together. And there is a journey still be walked towards the fruitful and sustainable future that we can see, and which we long for. And in all of it God has gone before us and with us, and in all of it He remains faithful.

We travel a paradoxical, ‘twin-gloried’ Exodus journey of change and continuity, loss and resurrection, into a future that is both known and unknown. But there is no paradox in the One who goes before us and beside us. There is only one glory that leads us on – the glory of Jesus Christ who is the Way and in whose light we travel.

May all we do, be to His glory and for His Kingdom.