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What Does it
Mean to Flourish?

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What Does it Mean to Flourish?

by The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO | Archbishop

While it is just a few days too soon to say Happy Easter, we look ahead to Sunday when the Church around the world will remember how deep the Father’s love for us in giving us his son Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord.

The slowed down COVID months last year allowed time for us to work on some possible outcomes and details for a focus on flourishing parishes using mission 2020 as a starting point, to be explored further. There are now a couple of pilot flourishing parish projects getting underway. Pray that these pilot projects will help inform how mission in all its beauty and variety can be enhanced in concrete, living ways across the Diocese of Perth.

What does it mean to flourish? What does flourishing mean for individuals? What does it mean in community?

We are living in a time of shaking foundations, the ground shifting under us in ways we have never before experienced. Isolated, cut off from our usual supports, where established patterns are crumbling, pressing us to look inside ourselves and around us more attentively than usual. The challenges of the present leave none of us untouched, even those of us who find ourselves unexpectedly living in one of the safest places on earth. We may not be suffering as much as most, but we know this is not so much due to wisdom as good luck, being in the right place at the right time, and fortunate in federal and state governments where medical science has trumped political expediency. At present we are fairly safe, and as vaccination rolls out we will be safer, but this could yet go horribly wrong, and so much depends on caring for each other, not just ourselves.

Like so many human communities, the church in Perth is taking its own temperature, testing health in a time of sickness, of pandemic when no one is safe. We have called it the Flourishing Parishes Project, a bit risky, and possibly open to misinterpretation, but in the end this is all about healthy, inclusive, outward-looking, faith communities enriching neighbourhoods in loving service to friends and strangers, loving with no strings attached.

Slowly and quietly over the past year the senior leadership team has been working out together where Mission 2020 is pointing us. The question with which we began was ‘what is God calling us to in our ministry of oversight and shepherding for the Diocese right now?’.

It was easy to identify that our great desire and prayer is for parishes across the Diocese to flourish, acknowledge that ‘flourishing’ is not a description of a type of ‘one size fits all’.

Flourishing, of course, can and often does mean successful, but how we measure Christian communities is never easy. Does flourishing mean financially sustainable? Is this the prosperity gospel, or Jesus’ good news? Is flourishing about positive psychology, mind over matter, just keeping the show on the road, or is it about leavening the selfishness content with leaving whole sections of society behind while others succeed?

We want to be true disciples of Christ, finding him in word and sacrament and in God’s world, in the broken and lost as well as confidence and strength, in liturgy and life together. We want to be those who listen to Christ’s voice, hearing and responding when he needs us to bless and encourage, to forgive and to heal. We want to explore ways of discerning where the Spirit is at work, joining humbly in ministry, or at least not getting in the way! In other words, we want to be more adventurous, open to change, unafraid to take risks, less concerned about our own safety, more concerned about the person next to us. Flourishing means being confident, compassionate and courageous in our living; in our serving in Jesus’ name.

Anglicanism at its best is a spacious household where we have room to move while remaining true disciples of Christ, authentically ourselves within the Church’s depth and breadth, catholic and evangelical without compromise, wide open to what the Spirit desires, trusting and hopeful as we embrace God’s future.

+ Kay

Charles Sherlock, Australians Anglicans Worship : Performing Apba (Mulgrave, Victoria: Broughton Publishing Pty Ltd, 2020), p71.


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