View from the Vicarage - April 2015
To the people of St Andrew’s,
I was browsing the official Church of England website - it is rather good! - and read this piece of research:
People value their local church and 68% consider it an important part of their local community.
Those who consider churches important include 45% of people with no religion and 62% of adherents of other faiths.
70% believe it provides valuable social and community facilities and 57% believe it should be more actively involved in the local community.
It set me thinking again about the role of our church in the local and national community.
The celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord rightly dominates our church life at the beginning of April, and the weeks that follow will find the attention of the nation focussed on preparations for May’s General Election. For the Christian, these two events are linked such that our understanding of the significance of the former will provide a lens through which we view the importance of the latter.
The House of Bishops’ pastoral letter to the congregations (which briefly hit the headlines on its publication in February) was an in-depth attempt to transcend party politics and help us find a way to build the kind of society that many people long for. It called for “a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be.”
The letter - 56 pages in length! - begins with emphasising the danger of isolation, both for individuals and groups, and warns of an emerging “society of strangers” favouring instead a “community of communities”. However, it does much more than that, as you might read on the CofE website.
When we consider the values we would like to see come to the fore in our country, we take as our starting point the life and teaching of our crucified and risen Lord.
Jesus teaches us to love one another; to turn the other cheek; to forgive seventy-seven times; to do unto others as you would have them do to you; and to let the sinless cast the first stone. All this teaches forbearance, forgiveness and humility.
His message had special concern for the under-trodden of the world. He applauded the example of those who did not pass by on the other side, and of those who ministered to the hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned in his name and for his sake.
His message certainly provoked a reaction from those with vested interests but - being no armchair philosopher - his ministry was characterised by the way of the cross and his words were backed up with action. In Holy Week and Easter, we rehearse again and take to heart his practical teaching on faithfulness, service and sacrifice.
The Christian values we would continue to see underpin our society are not only about seeking peace but also about pursuing justice; not only about feeding the hungry but asking difficult questions as to why they are hungry.
I pray that Jesus’ values may infuse our lives this Easter and ever influence and inspire our leaders and law-makers.