The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu today launched his new book "John Sentamu's Faith Stories" at Bishopthorpe Palace.
The book focuses on the stories of 20 ordinary people who are making a positive difference in their local communities.
Paying tribute to the contributors the Archbishop said: “These people, through their hard work are bringing real joy and transformation where they live. It’s not revolutionary to show loving care to those in need, but it is a decency and humanity which sometimes is lacking in our society. We need to use our own skills and passions to serve others. That’s what this Faith Stories book is all about.”
His speech from the event follows in full...
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here today to Bishopthorpe Palace for the launch of my “Faith Stories” book.
I say ‘my book’ but of course I must start by paying a great tribute to those without whom the book would not be possible.
The contributors to this book, many of whom are with us today, are simply inspirational people. Through their hard work, devotion and humility they are the people that are helping to bring real joy, hope and transformation in the communities where they live.
I have been struck by how many of these individuals have said to me “I’m not special” or “I don’t deserve this recognition”– but actually this book is about how we need to stop looking for heroes in our society and start being the heroes in our society. In this age of celebrity, we always looking for celebrities, but actually every ordinary person as far as I am concerned they are the real heroes and celebrities in our communities.
Everyone is special to God, and it’s vital that we show God’s love in practical ways. If someone needs warmth, you don’t tell them to go and buy a coat – you should lend them your own.
It’s not revolutionary to show loving care to those in need, but it is a decency and humanity which sometimes is lacking in our society.
Some of you may have heard of this other little book “Love Life Live Lent”. Yesterday it was talking all about the generosity of God, about Jesus turning water into wine and how generous he was – 6 stone jars, 480 litres worth. That was a mighty booze up! The point is Jesus could have given them just what they needed, but instead he gave them a bit more. And today, the readings are from Micah 6 about caring for those in need – “what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The unhealthy “me, me, me” culture that grew up in 1980s, has threatened to poison our relationships and our sense of community ever since. The only way to build a wholesome society with a future, is for people to live differently, unselfishly and with hope in their hearts.
We are living within a community, if we like it or not – and if we want that community to be healthy and vibrant we have to contribute to it. Society and community are not things which happen separately to our daily lives – they are things which are an integral part of our daily life. We need to start living as though that’s the case. The way we live affects others.
The person who came up with the original idea for the “Faith Stories” project was a young man named Matt Woodcock. You’ll recognise his name, because he went on to contribute to this book after giving up his job as a journalist and becoming a priest – and if there are any journalists here who think that it couldn’t happen to you, I say think again – God’s love is transformative, all-encompassing and totally indiscriminate. Even journalists are not beyond hope!
Before he was a priest though, Matt was a bit of a moaner. Perhaps he was a natural journalist after all – what is it they say: politicians are the people who stand at the front of the room throwing out answers, journalists are the people at the back of the room throwing in questions!
He’d always be telling everyone how things were rubbish and should be better than they were. One day, his colleague finally snapped and said: “Matt. Why don’t you stop moaning and start doing something about it?”
Matt was shocked. But Matt was inspired by the challenge.
He hadn’t realised that it wasn’t enough to simply identify the problem, he had to go one step further and start being part of the solution – especially if no-one else was going to do anything about it.
There is such a thing as society, and we all have our small part to play in making things better. We are interdependent beings living in community. If we do not dare to contribute our talents to help the flourishing of the Common Good, who will? Stop moaning and start doing something positive.
No matter what age you are, what gender, wherever you live, whatever your job, you can make this country a better place to live. We are all one body, but each of us is a different part. We each need to use our own individual skills and passions to serve others. That’s what this “Faith Stories” book is all about.
Dare to be different. Dare to care. Dare to try. And dare to fail.
When we were learning to get up and walk as little babies, most of us did not just wake up and start walking one morning. We tried and failed, and tried and failed – but we were encouraged and encouraged, and eventually we got up and walked.
Most of all, we need to dare to be the fantastic person God created us to be.
When I go into schools, there is a chant that I give them, I get them to say “I am gorgeous!” Some of them do not say it because they do not believe it. But I get them to repeat: “I am gorgeous! I am talented! I am wonderful! I am loved!” If you get up and say that in the mirror every morning, you may begin to believe it!
We are living in a society which constantly says: “I don’t think you are good. I don’t think you are good. I don’t think you are good.” I want you to be the person God created you to be.
Every epic journey starts out with a single step. Put one foot in front of the other and start turning your aspirations into actions.
These stories you will hear today show how Christians can live out their faith through practical expressions of love. We need to seek out justice, hope for better and aspire for more – not because we are superhuman, but because we are simply ‘human’.
Endowed with the creativity by the God who created us, ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they put their mind to it. The 20 stories in this book give us an insight into the new generation of apostles – people who are going against modern culture and the received wisdom of the day, in order to serve in faith and humility.
When we ask “Who is my neighbour?”, the answer is “everyone”.
That might seem a bit overwhelming, but the only thing we can do is start living like everyone matters – step by step, day by day.
I am proud to be associated with this book and the fantastic people who in their daily lives are helping in some small way to reveal what true fellowship means in a modern context.
Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoy the book.”
“John Sentamu’s Faith Stories” will be published by Darton Longman Todd on 20th February, priced £8.99. ISBN: 978-0-232-52978-4.
To view short YouTube videos from the Faith Stories contributors, visit: http://www.archbishopofyork.org/pages/faith-stories-2013.html
Photos from the event are available here: http://www.archbishopofyork.org/gallery.php/153/faith-stories-book-launch-at-bishopthorpe-palace
For media enquires relating to the Archbishop of York, contact Kerron Cross at email: Kerron.Cross@archbishopofyork.org or mb 07738 354491