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August 15, Bishop's Chaplain George Howe: "I have called you friends..."

In a recent edition of “The Times” Archdeacon Peter Townley wrote of his experience of inter-church friendships with Christians in Germany, suggesting that such friendships have played an important role in helping to build a better Europe. I can echo his experience. As a result of church involvement in a town-twinning partnership in a former parish, Jane and I have been deeply grateful for a close friendship of close to 30 years with a couple from Hamminkeln in North Rhine Westphalia. That has certainly helped to mould my perspective on just how vital such international and cross cultural partnerships are in overcoming divisions.

Most of us have cause to thank God for his gift of friendship. Right now I’m inevitably thinking back over almost 25 years of living in Cumbria, and being part of the family of our diocese. It may seem simplistic to say it – but what I’m most grateful for are the friendships that have been such a source of strength and support; and which I trust will continue to be so in the future, even if at a greater geographical distance.

Actually, it’s not simplistic to state that at all really is it? For relationships built on trust and friendship are at the heart of our faith. Jesus said “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my father”. True friendship means total trust and openness; and as practised by and experienced in Jesus, and especially in his relationship with his heavenly father, leads to a sharing that is life-giving and life-enhancing.

That is our gift to all who live, work and seek leisure amongst us. We show that God is for all by showing open-hearted friendship to all – a friendship that is sometimes prepared to take risks or to make sacrifices in reaching out to others. It’s often been said that in Cumbria relationships really count. Well, of course, they do everywhere; but my experience locally over these past 25 years suggests that time spent in really getting to know folk, and letting them get to know you, does proportionately reap even greater rewards than it might do elsewhere. That’s why we need patience and perseverance in allowing for this essential groundwork to happen as we build friendships with fellow Christians and form Mission Communities that will demonstrate the gospel truth – “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.

Thank you so much for all you have given to me through God’s gift of friendship. Through that gift, may you continue to be a source of reconciliation, healing and blessing to your communities and to all you meet. Over and out……………………….

George Howe

Bishop's Chaplain and Chief of Staff


PS George and Jane’s new address from 1st October: 29 Forge Bank, Bosbury, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 1QU.

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