Shortly after this magazine goes out our nation goes to the polls. Although it is only just over two years since we last filled the ballot boxes to choose our national government there have been seismic changes in our nation: Most significant is Brexit which, like it or not, takes Britain on a new course, one that has even called the continuation of our United Kingdom into question. Another is the realisation that we can only have what we will pay for and that there are fewer paying, with disparities between generations, the haves and the have-nots, and the challenge of a healthcare and social care system which was designed for another age. There is tension, and there is frustration. And now we have to make a choice.
I don’t think I am alone in wishing for a box on the ballot paper which allows me to cast a vote for “none of the above.” If there were, then on my more pessimistic days, I suspect they might just win the election. Trust in the traditional sources of authority is at an all-time low. As one of those traditional symbols of authority this also applies to the church. True, we may live in an age of cynicism, but we must also accept our share of responsibility. Just as politicians must give the public reasons to trust again in old institutions or must face up to changing those institutions, so the church needs to relearn how it might share its hidden treasures of this faith we hold, and are commanded to give away.
On Monday 22nd May we were shown just how we may do this. A man detonated a bomb outside a concert venue in Manchester, leaving over twenty dead and dozens wounded. He showed us only what a faith that dare not ask questions, and where dogma has blinded the believer to grace, might achieve. But he was only one person. Many, many, others responded. Not with violence to match his violence, but with acts of gentleness, kindness, self-control, generosity, and other expressions of love. They represented many faiths and none, and came from all walks of life. They are the hope that may be found in this sorry event, and it is no small hope. For the politicians, and some of the press, it is a message that they must stop seeking to divide, facing one group in society against another. We are tired of it, and they need to recognise that they rule for all, or they are fit to rule none. The Church needs to recognise that the work of God is out there, and not just inside four walls on a Sunday morning, or Friday afternoon, or whenever. For our faith does not own God. God will work where God will. And it is the task of the faithful to look for where God is working and to join in, giving a name to that grace that works in people to bring love where there is hate, hope where there is despair, grace where there is mistrust.
So, on the 8th June, vote. Vote well. Offer a prayer the next day for your newly elected representative, and then look for wherever God is at work, and join in.
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