It is a time of significant change for the Furley-Smiths with Cameron, our eldest son, going off to university. It doesn’t seem possible that he has already reached this milestone in his life. Time really does ‘fly by’.
It is also true to say that life is constantly changing for all us, even for those who don’t realize it. The pace of change in the world can be baffling and exciting, daunting yet full of possibilities. This was recognized in the theme of the 16th International Partnership Conference: Semper Ecclesia Reformanda (the church always reforming). As we listened and discussed together in Ostrava, it was evident that the church has always been ‘reforming’. 100 years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, the Czech Reformer, Jan Hus, had been burnt at the stake for his criticisms of the church, criticisms that Luther and others echoed a century later.
Again, as we reflected in conversations with one another in Ostrava, the church needs to be ‘re-formed’ today, because life is changing. In what direction is open to argument. But change itself is a dominating factor in our lives. The inability of many to cope with change is the greatest challenge. Religion is more resistant to change than any other aspect of life. Many regard it as the only anchor left in a rapidly changing world. To some its changelessness is its most attractive quality. Nothing frightens some more than the suggestion of a changing faith. And so they react, sometimes violently, to any attempts at adapting religion to meet modern needs.
Even though we may not always welcome it, there is no turning the clock back. As a parent of a son going off to university, I may wonder how 18 years has gone by so quickly, but I also recognise that Cameron’s future awaits, full of excitement and possibilities. He will learn to embrace his independence and Nicola and I will embrace the change too.
Do you feel threatened by change, as I confess I do at the moment? If so, reflect on the well known words of Rudyard Kipling (with apologies for the non-inclusive language!):
If you can keep you head when all about you
Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you. . .
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it.
And – which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son.
Cardinal Newman gave it a religious slant:
In a higher world it is otherwise,
But here below to live is to change.
And to be perfect is to have changed often.
With love and prayers
Russell J Furley-Smith