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Viewpoint from Rt Rev Dr Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford 29/06/12

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Rt Rev Dr Alan Winton
Bishop of Thetford

The connection between church and sea is understandably strong along the east coast of Norfolk. There are many strong links between churches and the lifeboats along our coast, and it was a privilege for me to be involved in dedicating Lionheart at Sea Palling a few weeks ago, seeing the affection and admiration for those who serve their communities in this way. For someone like me who has generally managed to keep his feet firmly on dry land, the courage of those who go to sea to help people in need is deeply impressive

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At this time of year, the church around the world commemorates St Peter, himself a fisherman, before he became one of the leading apostles and founders of the church. In one of the Gospel stories, Jesus is reported to have been walking on the water towards the boat where the disciples were, and the ever-eager Peter asked Jesus to invite him on to the water. Jesus says simply ‘Come’


As Peter stepped out he noticed the strong wind and fear took hold of him so that he started to sink. It was then for Jesus to reach out his hand and pull Peter from the water to restore him to the safety of the boat


The story is a powerful picture of the need for us to step out in faith in the course of our lives, but it is also honest and realistic in the way it acknowledges the way fear and doubt can take hold of us

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However we choose to interpret the miraculous aspect of the story, it offers a compelling picture of God. It’s a story I remember sharing with the family of a dear man who had been a strong figure in the community where he lived, active in youth work all his life and someone whose faith many would have admired. As he faced the debilitating illness that was to be his last struggle, his faith seemed to waver and this shook his family


After his death, we read this story together and thought about the way that there are moments in most of our lives when we can be overcome by fear and doubt, and it is then that, like Peter, we need the strong hand of God to reach down and hold us. There are moments when we need to remember that faith is often more about the faithfulness of God in refusing to let us down, even if we struggle to stay firm, even if we can’t resist the temptation to look at the strong winds and be frightened


In the course of our lives, most of us will know moments of fear and doubt. What faith claims is that God’s concern for us is constant and, even if there are times when we waver and let him down, he will never leave us. A thought that many who have gone to sea over the years will have taken with them

Bishop Alan Thetford
Bertie (Guest) 02/07/2012 09:31
Thank you, Rev. Alan, for encouraging us and reminding us of God's faithfulness when we sometimes only see the wind and the waves around us that makes us doubt about our own faith.