‘An Oasis of Peace for All, at the heart of the city.’
As I look forward, that’s my big prayer for Bath Abbey. To be a place for both joyful thanksgiving and tender commemoration, when as a shared community we finally emerge from the pandemic. And looking further beyond, to be a beautiful ‘still centre’ for the reflection, prayer, and pastoral care that we’re going to need as much as ever.
Much has been said about the ‘new normal’ of the post-Covid world. Even before the dreadful impact of the virus, the focus of city centres has of course been changing. For our visitors, and for many locals too, the centre of Bath is a stunning heritage backdrop … chiefly for the important business of ‘just mooching around’. Long may that continue!
Many of us do our serious shopping online, or else at some out-of-town retail park with parking. But can that seriously compete with a leisurely trawl around Bath’s beautiful streets, grabbing a coffee and rating the buskers with our friends, just soaking up the gorgeous atmosphere?
City centres these days are where we love to shop not just for stuff, but for experience. And Bath has it in spades. I just pray our fantastic businesses and attractions do survive this huge pandemic challenge, for they deserve to bounce back fast.
We exist precisely to offer an experience of God’s love and gracious hospitality; to be ‘an Oasis of Peace for All’.
As for Bath Abbey, it fits perfectly into that wider city scene, just as prominently as its architecture. We exist precisely to offer an experience of God’s love and gracious hospitality; to be ‘an Oasis of Peace for All’.
Also I pray that the abbey will be a beacon of light. Next year will see, God willing, the completion of the major Footprint restoration and exciting fit-out of the abbey building for the 21st century. It means we will be equipped to serve the people of Bath, and its visitors, better than ever.
I pray that Bath Abbey may work with others across our city to offer a beacon of light
This comes at a significant and timely moment. Many of us have found lockdown and the threat of the virus to be an almighty prompt, to reflect deeply upon the true values and priorities in life. Rethinking our approach to community, consumerism, life-work balance, Black Lives Matter, climate change … these issues are huge for all of us, whatever our faith or background. The abbey will be a wonderful, revitalised space in which to explore together the deep questions in our hearts.
So I pray that Bath Abbey may work with others across our city to offer a beacon of light – a place to be enlightened by excellent public debates and lectures; illuminated by fabulous concerts and services, displays and exhibitions; inspired by godly wisdom and the shining lived examples of others around us.
One of the time-honoured tags of Bath Abbey is ‘The Lantern of the West’. May God’s light shine from the abbey, helping equip and ready our city for the many challenges, and also the joyous celebrations, yet to come.