Bishop Paul's Easter Letter - 2017

Unity and our resurrection hope

People of a certain age like me may remember a simple hymn that went like this:

            We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
            We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
            And we pray that our unity may one day be restored
            And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
            Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

A key thing that preoccupies any diocesan bishop is how we can sustain unity in our Church. I don’t confess this to be anything new. Throughout the long history of the church we have held different, deep, sincere, prayerful and well-thought-through theological positions on a whole range of matters. But disagreement can feel sharper today, as our social networks and scandal-hungry media lay bare these divisions in an aggressive manner. So we need, for our mutual flourishing, to continue to seek out places of unity and commonality.

The Easter story, the Easter message gives us something to unify around. The story of hope triumphing from the jaws of despair and defeat. It is the powerful testimony at the heart of our Christian witness, the fulfilment of the promise that God has sent his Son to save the world. This is what lies at the heart of the difference we can make as Christians. It is a basic truth and hope that the world is crying out for. It is the hope we can offer.

And it is the story we want people to know because it points to the Jesus we want them to know. This story of hope is too precious to keep to ourselves, we need to share it, shout it, broadcast it to the world. That Jesus is alive, that He saves us, that he wants to know us and for us to know him.

I believe we can shout that loudest by re-pledging our commitment to Him. To make a deeper commitment to be a disciple of Christ, a follower who not only keeps the story to themselves but through their love, their actions, their quest for justice they show the world what it is like to how the transformational presence of Jesus in their lives. For the church, Easter can be a time of commitment and recommitment. At our Chrism Eucharist as many as possible across our diocese gather to reaffirm our baptism vows, and those who are ordained renew the promises of their ordination. In so many churches in our diocese and across the Communion we see faithful people rededicating themselves as Christ’s disciples at this time.

Alongside my senior colleagues, I am reflecting and praying on how we can encourage a culture of discipleship, a rule of life in our diocese. This will be something that unites us as difference-making disciples seeking to have more people knowing Jesus, more justice in the world. It is a theme I examined in my Lent Lectures at the cathedral and in my recent speech to our Diocesan Synod. I encouraged us to look afresh at that great focus of unity for the church, which we know as the Lord’s Prayer and I have been calling the Disciples' Prayer.

So as we celebrate Easter this year let me encourage you, this day and every day, to join with fellow disciples in prayer. Together with them, together with all disciples in this Diocese of Liverpool and in this worldwide Church, as our risen Saviour taught us, we are bold to say again: "Our Father…” THEN they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

May you have a joyous and blessed Easter.

Paul Bayes
Bishop of Liverpool