Parish Magazine Article - February 2019
As I write this is the opening week of the New Year. I am conscious that by the time this letter gets into print the festivities of Christmas and the New Year will be long passed. However, this season now passed has caused me to reflect on current patterns of life and the place and value of our churches within our communities. Although anecdotal, I have received from a significant number of parishes the news that attendance numbers over the Christmas period were some of the highest in living memory. From an entirely different source recently I read an interesting article that suggested that the numbers of people who were committed atheists was declining while the number who want to have some form of spiritual faith were increasing. Of course, the latter does not necessarily result in more people engaging in regular Christian worship.What I think it does suggest is that deep human desire for peace, well being and hope remain deeply embedded in our personal and community lives.
That deep desire is, I judge, set in a present context where uncertainty about the future and the instability and fragility of many communities are present realities. Where are we going and how will it all end? These are questions that if not in the forefront of our conversations are at the back on many people’s minds. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that the message of peace on earth and good will to all people has a powerful resonance. As this year progresses the uncertainly over Brexit will unfold: for good or ill we have yet to see. One of the features of recent news reports that disturbs me greatly is the rise in knife crime. The resorting to this kind of violence by one human being over another I admit to find profoundly shocking.It impacts me as being the complete antitheses of loving one’s neighbour. What is it that enables one human being to so respond to another in an act of violence that treats the sanctity of human life so cheaply?
Understanding ourselves as made in the image of God, seeing in the faces of others the same dignity we so cherish for ourselves, loving our neighbours, offering forgiveness when impacted by hurt are some of the most cherished of Christian values. More importantly, what they are not are simply platitudes. Perhaps more than ever our society needs to lay hold of these once more as medicine for our souls and that of our society. As always it can begin by each one of doing our part.