Ministry of reconciliation
Reconciliation is at the very heart of the Church's mission and ministries: we could say that reconciliation is what the Church is primarily about. In the Bible, the narrative of God's relationship with humankind describes God's initiative to bring about reconciliation between him and his people, through the Incarnation, life and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5.19)
Hear what Saint Paul says:
This saying is true, and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1.15)
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3.16)
Love is the essential dynamic at the heart of the ministry of reconciliation, summarised by Jesus in the two Great Commandments which he has given to his disciples:
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22.37-39)
Good spiritual health could be defined in simple terms as being in a loving relationship with God, ourselves and with each other.
The Church offers to help people with reconciliation in a wide range of ways, including:
the ministries of spiritual counsel and of prayer for individuals and for small groups.
sacramental ministry, of which the Eucharist is the highest liturgical expression, and the ministry of reconciliation which usually involves confession and repentance, absolution and blessing.
liturgical rites which enable individuals and communities to acknowledge the need for reconciliation and to facilitate reconciliation.
Christian centres and communities which have a special focus upon reconciliation: for example, Coventry Cathedral which is one of the world's oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation.
Christian models of mediation, conflict transformation and resolution.
Christian groups which seek to raise awareness of the need for a healthier and sustainable relationship with our environment.
From Common Worship: Christian Initiation
Reconciliation and Restoration: Recovering Baptism.
These services provide individuals with routes back into the full baptismal life of the Christian community after separation through sin or as a result of sickness. Reconciliation and Restoration are presented in such a manner that they may be celebrated in a variety of ways, publicly in the community of faith or privately with individuals. Placing this material alongside the Wholeness and Healing provision locates reconciliation firmly within the broad context of the renewal of the baptismal covenant and the prayer of the Church for healing and restoration.
Sometimes, a person's conscience is burdened with a particular sin, when a person wishes to make a new beginning in the Christian life, or as part of a regular personal discipline. The Book of Common Prayer includes the following pastoral exhortation:
...if there be any of you, who by this means [self-examination, confession and repentance] cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God's Word, and open his grief, that by the ministry of God's holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.
The aim of such a ministry of comfort and counsel is to establish an individual in the freedom and forgiveness of Christ. It can be exercised in a variety of ways at the discretion of the minister. Even so, the reconciliation of a penitent, even when celebrated privately, remains a corporate action of the Church, because sin affects the unity of the body; through the absolution the penitent is restored to full fellowship in Christ.
The Lord is loving to everyone and his mercy is over all his creatures. The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully.
He fulfils the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145. 9,19,20)