What is it, then, that helps us to enjoy life in all its fullness? Obviously, this will be different for different people. For many it includes religious faith and attending to the spiritual dimensions of being a human being.
Last Sunday we had a great celebration in Ripon Cathedral, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ordination of women as priests within the Church of England.
While acknowledging that there are those within the Church who in all conscience cannot accept that women can be priested, there is no doubt that a sense of entering into a greater fullness of life has been experienced by both those women ordained and the Church. At the same time, we still seek to be inclusive and to enable mutual flourishing for all concerned.
We don’t have to be ordained, though, to discover that being part of a worshipping community and attending to our spiritual needs is life-enhancing.
The arts, for example, open us up to the experience of a fuller reality that could otherwise be beyond us. Bishop John Pritchard, in one of his books, quotes George Melly, the jazz performer, art collector, and avowed atheist; ‘Let me say something – I feel awe, and very like religious awe, in front of certain paintings – by Piero della Francesca particularly… I cannot but be awed in front of them.’ When preaching at the Northern Aldborough Festival Service last Sunday morning, I was suggesting that music and choral works have a similar impact on many of us – including those who would not regard themselves as religious. In the last couple of weeks, we have been privileged to host wonderful concerts in the cathedral by both Harrogate Choral Society and Ripon Choral Society. This just brings home to us how much good music there is in this area.
My hope, of course, is that we might come to recognise something of the life-enriching activity of God in what we are experiencing.
This logic suggests that we can say the same about sport and taking exercise. It is enriching and life-giving, even awe-inspiring for some. Despite not always being too enthusiastic about taking exercise, I do have to admit to enjoying the recent golf match between Ripon City Golf Club and the cathedral.
I might even find it awe-inspiring when we eventually take the trophy from them!
This summer Ripon Together is challenging Ripon to cycle the distance equal to going to the moon and back.
The idea is that everyone registers how many miles thy have cycled (perhaps on an exercise bike) and that we add them all up.
We are not proud! We would be happy to receive help from residents of neighbouring villages and towns! Whether this helps us as a city to feel closer to God remains to be seen! Hopefully, it will strengthen our community and enrich those of us who get involved. Prompted by the Tour de Yorkshire and the forthcoming UCI World Championships, the project is called Ripon Cycling Together and will begin on the weekend of 28-30 June.
You can find out how to take part at the mini-cycling fair outside the cathedral on Saturday, June 29 between 10am and 2pm, or through the publicity that will be forthcoming. You can also see the cycling photography exhibition, On Yer Bike, in the cathedral from Saturday, June 29.
Sound education for our children, music and the arts, cycling and sport: they are all life-enhancing! And, I would suggest they are also gifts of the living God.