Saturday, 19 June 2021

THE new Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Dr Stephen Croft, gave a surprisingly personal address at a community Christmas carol event on Wednesday, December 7 organised by the Henley Filling Station.

The packed audience included clergy and townspeople from all walks of life and various churches who sang carols led by the Reading Community Gospel Choir.

Having fulfilled his role of Bishop in Sheffield, Bishop Stephen now supports Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. He said he was delighted to be with us for the first time and he looked forward to seeing more of Henley in the future.

As we approach the end of 2016, Bishop Stephen brought some memorable events of the year to mind, such as Leicester City winning the Premier League title, the EU referendum and the American presidential election.

He then described what had been memorable for him personally, such as the birth of his grandchild.

Then the gospel conversation between Mary and God over a very special event led the Bishop to wonder what event each of us would want to bring to God, stressing honesty, questions like “why?” in relation to suffering, calling “help!” and even “thank you”.

He then asked how we felt God himself would address us and what would He feel about us. Waiting in the intense silence quietly, we heard. Once, after a period of three months of not hearing God, finally the Bishop felt he heard God speak and then it was one word — “Beloved”. So moved, he wanted us to know we are all in God’s eyes “beloved” and forgiven.

God might show a certain path or greater intimacy and we want to respond “yes” to Him.

What a significant message for advent that we can rest within all this current shaking — trusting Him.

Generous donations of more than £1,000 were given to the Margaret Clitherow Trust, which serves local marginalised communities.

As the Gospel singers sang at the start of the evening “God Invincible”, we were not subdued but encouraged to celebrate our future together.

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