Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, our outgoing Principal Officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multicultural Relations, shares our reflection of the month for October 2020. Joe retires this month after working for CTE and CTBI for 18 years…
Wisdom literature reminds us, ‘there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens’ (Eccl 3.1). I guess this includes retirement. Knowing when to leave is in my view as important as knowing when to begin. Having said that, I claim no deep spiritual insight in announcing my retirement, only a sense that after eighteen years of ecumenical ministry with Churches Together I feel now is the time to vacate this space and watch what the Holy Spirit does next.
I well recall how in 1996, sensing a new season my family left the relative safety of denominational pastoral and oversight ministry in South Yorkshire and moved back to Birmingham. It required some courage! There began for me a season of what I like to call ‘intercultural ecumenism’, first, at the Centre for Black and White Christian Partnership for six years, followed by eighteen years at Churches Together (CTBI and CTE). During these twenty-four years our daughters have grown up, grandchildren have arrived, my wife Novelette has established herself as a counsellor and psychotherapist and lately an NHS Chaplain. We did not foresee all that God had in store, but I am so glad we made that move way back then. In the word of Scripture, we with others planted and watered, God wrought abundant increase.
The image at the heart of my intercultural ecumenism is summed up in Revelation 7.9: in heaven…with the risen Christ centre stage, a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language. The “realised eschatology” implied in the Lord’s prayer, is the outworking of that heavenly picture here on earth. We are all represented there! No one is begging ‘please include me’. No one is saying, ‘your type isn’t welcome here’. This has been my assumptive approach over the years, encouraging, enabling, empowering ‘the least of these’ to take their place at God’s table, no human permission needed.
Most of all I have met and worked with some of God’s best as close colleagues, friends and associates from different ethnicities, nationalities, churches and networks who together have managed to make me better than I really am. I shall miss you all greatly, but the mission of God goes on. I am not in the habit of giving advice to my successor, and all I will say is that this job is better viewed as a vocation of loving those God first loves. Putting people before policy is a good guiding principle, or as Jesus would say, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. My personal season of work here draws to an end, but a timeless God of all seasons beckons. Amen!
Photo credit: BBC Songs of Praise