Bishop Chris invites us all to join him in working for a society built upon faith, hope and love
What are you thinking as we enter a New Year? I suspect that many of us hope it won’t be like 2017. That was a year made memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Disaster, tragedy, injustice, violence and exploitation have wrought havoc on so many individuals, families, communities and nations. And along the way we seem to be losing our ability to respect others. Too many of us now only really listen to those with whom we agree and we ignore, or worse still vilify, anyone with a different perspective. Is that a reflection of British values? I don’t think so.
Of course, many individuals and institutions we thought we could rely upon, including the church, have shown themselves to be flawed. So it’s perhaps not surprising that I meet many people who in the face of all this are anxious for themselves and for future generations. It could be understandable to want to give up and just get on with our own lives as best we can. After all, doesn’t charity begin at home?
But tempting as this is, I think it would be a mistake. Wherever charity begins, it and the other virtues do not end at our front door. In fact, now is absolutely the time to be thinking about what sort of world and what sort of society we want to live in and pass on to our children. If we have chosen to take back control, how are we going to use it?
I was in Canterbury Cathedral recently praying with other bishops and I heard about a sermon preached there by Archbishop William Temple. It was delivered to a stunned and heartbroken congregation in the midst of the Second World War. The city of Canterbury had been devastated by the Luftwaffe and all around the cathedral, homes, businesses and architectural treasures lay in rubble and ruin. And yet it was in this moment that the archbishop encouraged his hearers to look past their fears and anxieties to a world beyond the war. Victory at that point was by no means certain but still he called them to choose hope over despair. He called them there and then to work together for a future that was worth fighting for.
So, at the start of this New Year with its many unknowns and uncertainties, I am challenging myself to choose hope and do what I can to work towards a better future. Not narrowly in terms of economic prosperity, but widely and generously in every kind of human flourishing, kindness and mutual respect, especially towards those with whom I disagree.
As a Christian I believe that a society built upon faith, hope and love is worth working for and I know it has to begin with me. Will you join me?