Bishop of Hereford's Article - Hereford Times 19/7/18
Do you remember 1981? For me, it’s a date that will always be a reminder of “Botham’s Ashes”, when Ian Botham’s remarkable batting and bowling enabled England to defeat Australia and retain the Ashes.
But not everyone shares my rather sad habit of linking dates to important cricketing events. What’s more, of course, some Hereford Times readers were not even born in 1981.
I recently heard the Archbishop of York comparing the state of this country in 1981 with how it is now.
From 1981 he highlighted political upheaval – the formation of the Social Democratic Party; troubles in N. Ireland; recession, poverty and record unemployment; racist violence; widespread riots across the country.
Then, he said 2018 has some striking similarities: political upheaval, uncertainty and conflict over Brexit; major difficulties with Universal Credit, and a growing need for food banks; a resurgence of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; violence in cities.
The context in which the Archbishop was speaking was one in which he was challenging the Church to get its act together. He quoted a report which referred to the Church failing to respond to contemporary challenges and identified an attitude of “We are ready to accept change – so long as it doesn’t make any difference.”
The report had actually been written in 1981, but the Archbishop’s contention was that it still applied today. “I look for a revived Church of England in a revived England – nothing less,” said the then Archbishop in 1981.
But what the current Archbishop said was a challenge to all of us, not just to the Churches. Above all, he identified the need for hope. “Most of us are finding hope difficult to sustain. The world is changing almost faster than we can bear, life is harder than it was for us, and potentially, for our grandchildren harder still.”
He asserted, “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and watching the evidence change.” As an example, he spoke of Vasco da Gama a Portuguese navigator, who first rounded the Cape of Storms, a Cape that had defeated and killed many earlier sailors in their desire to get to India. Da Gama sailed to India, to the astonishment of many, in 1497, and in doing so turned the “Cape of Storms” into the “Cape of Good Hope”.
With many equivalent Capes of Storms around, the challenge is for us to turn them into Capes of Good Hope.
Bishop of Hereford.