Rt Revd, Philip Mountstephen, Bishop of Truro
I write this to you with urgency and hope. My name is Luke Hartnack, I am a young man at the age of 29 who has devoted his life to follow Christ and be as best a disicple as one can be. This devotion has led me to be sat here, six weeks into a Spirit-led pilgrimage, in the church if St Bartholomew in Lostwithiel. I came here today as God clearly spoke to me last night about making contact with the church here. It was a delight to be welcomed to an organist and also a delight to find your letter, dated 28th September 2021 that followed the first meeting of the new three-year term of diocesan Synod.
There is much concern in your letter about the future of the parish churches, I too feel this and wish to seek your company to discuss my own vision, one which I am sure will suit your own as it is laid out in your letter regarding the future ministries within the parish churches. My concern, as perhaps yours does to, extends to the future of our communities as a whole.
In the six weeks I have been traversing the Cornish landscapes, and stepping into the many churches that are numbered on the sacred soil, I have come to recognise the important role the churches (both building and congregation) have to play in ‘building back better’.
I could sit here and write about the injustices placed upon our farmers as the choke hold of the chemical manufacturers bleed them dry of profits while poisoning people and place in the process, but I don’t want to put you off with such a radical tone, although it is a tone I am sure Jesus would use if he walked among us in the flesh again today.
The vision I have for the churches (both building and congregation) is one of front line service as we fight to defend our land and strive for justice for our farmers, and for the people of this once great nation.
The buildings, magnificent in beauty, should become centralised hubs for local people to seek solice and solidarity, information and advice, direction and clarity that connects people on the common ground in which we all walk, food. This could perhaps be obtained through the Climate Emergency Centre initiative which would relieve much of the churches financial worries in the process.
The solice found in a church will be one of acceptance and comfort and could potentially take shape with a possible offering of accommodation for those truly in need. The solidarity, one of companionship and common cause. Information provided on how to help restore our communities through food growing initiatives and regenerative agriculture. Direction is offered as we signpost people to ways they can be involved in our own vision of ‘building back better’. Clarity will be delivered through sermon and song.
The congregation, as aging as it might be, will come of service and use their networks to reach out to farmers and landowners willing to play their part in our vision as we initiate long term land leases to develop the much needed regenerative agriculture and community led food growing spaces along with other environmental factors. They will also use their hands, to lay on those who need prayer in these times of uncertainty. They will also bring forth their skills and share them with people in workshops that would be ran from the churches. Their devotion to Christ would naturally shine through and bless those who would naturally gravitate to the churches once a ‘radical’ initiative such as this grew from the church.
People are seeking changes, people are demanding justice and people are ready to commit themselves to ‘building back better’, although the vision I have outlined here is certainly different from that of our failing governments. It will be these people that are ready to volunteer time and other resources to help ensure the churches (both building and congregation) don’t fall subject to ways of ‘tradition’ and ‘unchanging’ something your letter states your wary of.
I suggest the, ‘Save the Parish’ movement change its name to, ‘Save our Communities’ and from this, watch the parish be saved in the process. With all of this said, I am sure you will agree that the snapshot of the vision I have matches your desire that the ‘mission and ministry in the Cornish context must be holistic: the church needs to be good news for individuals, communities, society, for Cornwall as a whole and for the planet.’. I could finish the paragraph off, but I feel it would be unnecessary as you need only align this vision with the one placed on your heart, the same one that you know Christ came to show us.
I hope this email has stirred in you the same fire I have burning inside of me, a fire in which never dies as I keep my lamp well oiled, for the sake of Christ Jesus.
This is a call to action, a call to action perhaps you knew was approaching, a call to action that is long overdue, a call to action that lives up to the churches and their congregations and most importantly the communities in which they serve. That call is here, as now truly is the time to act, it will only be in solidarity that we will rise above the tyranny and power hungry hands that have forced us for too long, the same hands Jesus warned us against.
I have not mentioned the work I do, nor the organisation in which I founded in this letter. If you wish to bring this to your awareness, go here and discover the beautiful possibilities as I encourage people to harness the gifts of the spirit and bring forth creativity to shine lights in the spaces the masterpieces will reach.
I do hope you find this email challenging and I pray you can rise to the challenges before us and reach out to me so we can map out, together, the future of our parishes, communities, farmers and friends, for the sake of sacrifice. I recognise a similarity in this situation, Christ called on Nicodemus to follow him, however he was unable to due to the comforts of his life as it was being a highly respected pharisee with a huge family. I hope you, as the Bishop of Truro are able to go further than Nicodemus and begin following Christ in a whole new way, in a way that breaks down ‘tradition’ and redefines what it means to follow Christ in the world today, a definition that leaves space for flipping tables because we truly believe in justice and the upheaval of the inequalities that have plagued us for far to long.
You are in my prayers, as is the rest of the world, as I walk in solidarity trying to piece together a better world for us all, I walk in faith alone. Will you walk with me?
In love, respect and solidarity, through Christ Jesus.
Disciple of Christ
Brother of All
Founder of Psyche and Soul