Sue Mann

30th January 2021

Well, it’s the beginning of February and I wonder how many of us have kept our New Year’s resolutions!
I must admit I did write rather a long a list, which is probably not such a good idea, but one thing I included, was to make sure I go for a walk every day; I love walking but sometimes it is so easy to get buried in tasks which need doing that it is the walk that gets shelved.
To hold myself accountable and in order to achieve something too, I decided to sign up for a virtual long-distance footpath. As a Third Order Franciscan, I chose St Francis Way which is 312 miles (503 km) long and travels through an ancient Roman road from Florence to the Vatican, following in the footsteps of Saint Francis across the Italian countryside. I will be doing actual walking but obviously not in the original places! I have completed 8.9 miles, so have a long way to go yet. 8 weeks is the target time!! As I walk, in addition to praying for everyone here in the Benefice, I am reflecting upon the work of St Francis and what God might be saying to us today, particularly as we consider how he might be calling us to be church in the future.
Francis was born in Assisi in 1182, to the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Pietro Bernardone, and his wife, Pica. He was baptized Giovanni (John) but soon gained the nickname Francesco, because of his father’s close trading links with France. Francis’ early years were not especially religious. He was a leader among the young men of Assisi, enjoying a good social life, with singing and partying. Francis did not want to follow his father into the cloth trade; he wanted to be a knight. So, at the age of twenty he joined the forces of Assisi in a minor skirmish with the neighbouring city of Perugia. He was captured and spent a year in a Perugian jail, until his father ransomed him. This
became the first of a series of experiences through which God called Francis to the life which he finally embraced. One of these experiences, at San Damiano, led to a rift with his father. Francis, in response to a voice from the crucifix in this tiny, ruined church, began to rebuild churches; when he ran out of money, he took cloth from his
father’s shop and sold it. His father disowned him before the bishop of Assisi, and Francis in his turn stripped off his clothes, returning to his father everything he had received from him, and promising that in future he would call only God his Father.
In the story of St Francis, we see him, with his followers, physically rebuilding a church but his ‘rebuilding’ of the church became so much more than this; it drew people into a life of commitment to God and it embraced those on the margins.
There are many on the margins today and some people, for various reasons, have felt hurt or excluded by the Church and this must sadden God deeply. At the end of January, I attended a Zoom training where we, as Christian leaders, considered the necessary rebuilding in terms of the hurt that has been caused by the Church in the area of sexuality. Within the Church there are variety of opinions, depending upon a person’s interpretation of Scripture, but the way in which these views have been expressed has, at times, been insensitive. A working party has been meeting, praying, sharing and reflecting upon the best way forward, resulting in the publication of a book and short course called Living in Love and Faith. At our training day, we explored the resources and considered how these might best be used within the Church to help us all progress in a loving, compassionate way. The material has been sensitively produced and includes some very moving videos clips and I do encourage you, when this course is
offered, to take part if you are able.
Peace is born of Love
Love is born of understanding
Understanding is born of Listening
Listening leads to Justice and Peace
Take care and God bless,
PS. If anyone is interested, I have a DVD about the life of St Francis and would be very pleased to lend it to anyone who would like to watch it; it may be something to do during lockdown