In celebration of women


Marking International Women’s day on Friday, I turned to our Northumbria Community liturgy Canaire – In celebration of women and gave thanks to God for the many women who have blessed my own and many others lives.
I read about how such a day was celebrated throughout the world and probably for the first, and possibly the last time, I found myself in agreement with President Putin of Russia. He marked International Women’s Day by congratulating Russian women, “You manage to do everything: both at work and at home and at the same time you remain beautiful, charismatic, charming, the centre of gravity for the whole family, uniting it with your love…..It is hard to imagine the history and development of our country without the contribution of the great Russian women.”
Last week I was privileged to share and work with some of the women who are leaders in our Northumbria Community and was blessed by who they are and the gifts they bring.
This morning I listened and was truly blessed by a brilliant exposition of Psalm 118 by one of the many gifted women in the church we belong to. Tomorrow I shall be with some amazing women pioneers and on Tuesday with another group of gifted women who are studying for the ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham.
At a historic UN Summit in 2015 the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were adopted by world leaders. Over the next 12 years countries are mobilising their efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. In relation to women, the goals include;
By 2030, ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
These are great goals that every nation should embrace.
They also contain a challenge to the church, for there still remains a failure to recognise fully the gifts of women. An issue that was brought home to me so forcibly this morning when I received a message from an incredibly gifted woman student who is having to jump through so many hoops, meet some unrealistic expectations and incur considerable debt in order to be formally recognised as a minister, when clearly she already is one! It’s one example among many of discrimination and inequality which damages people and robs the church of those called and gifted by God who happen to be women. As the Canaire liturgy declares, “It is not God who blocks the way of women. It is not God who robs us of their gift.”

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Ash Wednesday Reflection

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. An intentional season of prayer, fasting and generosity.
Deploying and exercising some of the spiritual disciplines, this season provides us with an opportunity to be more open to God, ourselves and others. A time to reflect, refocus and re-centre ourselves.
I’m mindful of that image in Luke 15 of the Prodigal Son returning home to be welcomed by his Watching Father. An image that challenges and speaks into the busyness of our lives, of the “far country” that has taken us into a world of constantly doing and the drivenness of activism. Doing that has led us away from being held in the arms of God, we’ve wandered off into a world of frenetic activity and Lent reminds us to return home, to respond to the invitation of a watching, loving, forgiving God who longs for us to know what it is to be with him.
Lent is an invitation to come home; home to God, to ourselves and others. A time to reorder, to clean up, not just the house and exterior matters but the interior of our hearts and lives.
I appreciate symbolism and the powerful marking of the cross with ashes on the forehead as part of today’s Ash Wednesday liturgy, accompanied by the words ”remember that you are guest and to dust you shall return”, a vivid reminder of our mortality and a perspective on our life and purpose in the world.
Lent is a period of abstinence. For some, the pancakes are been consumed, the festivities of Mardi Gras are over. It’s a season to renounce, to repent – to turn around, think, feel and act differently.
I enter Lent, surveying the landscape of my own heart, seeking God with a desire to re-orientate those areas of my life where I have drifted off, been distracted or side-tracked from my true hearts bearing and calling by God. I am mindful too of the gathering storm clouds across Europe, which way heavily on my heart and am conscious of the political, economic and social chaos that threatens our own British society at this time. The European Union and the Referendum are not the causes of broken Britain; they have merely brought to the surface the underlying conflicts, inequalities, injustice, prejudices, fears, racism, increase in violence, hate and knife crimes, bigotry and other evils that have been simmering away for a long time. The Referendum and its dire consequences have only brought to the surface the brokenness of our society. I believe we are seeing in our contemporary society the first fruits of a post-Christendom culture, a society that is increasingly abandoning the Judaeo-Christian narrative that has shaped and undergirded civic society, holding it together and providing values that have informed the public domain. Education, welfare, health care, justice, work and governance, religious tolerance and race relations, all influenced by underlying Judaeo-Christian values that held things together for the common good. The longest-serving MP and ’Father of the house’ said recently that Britain is facing the worst political crisis since 1938 with the Government and Opposition parties divided and ruling over a fragmented and divided nation. Using my Voice Recognition Software, I had to train it to recognise the word ‘Brexit’. Before introducing the word to the software vocabulary it thought I was saying either ‘wrecks it’ or ‘breaks it’! Whatever side of the divide we may be on when it comes to the issue, no one can deny the wreckage and breakage we are seeing in a divided Britain.

So on this Ash Wednesday we cry out to God to show us His mercy and to lead us individually back to him and to lead us out of the dis-ease and fragmentation and all that threatens to trigger further trouble in our own and others societies.
Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer.

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Appreciation​ of things don​​e well

It’s the perfectionist bit in me, (which has its strengths and weaknesses) but I really appreciate it when things are done well. I’m reasonably relaxed when they are not so good but love when someone uses their God given gifts and demonstrate a good attitude and aptitude to do something well. Doesn’t matter what it is I appreciate when things are done well. I marvelled at the skills of the guys who erected a fence on our estate last week, the gardeners at a nearby Historic House and the art work from some pupils at our local school. Likewise I really appreciated being part of the congregation at New Life Baptist Church here in Northallerton this morning. Sadly too many church services I attend across all traditions and denominations do little to feed my soul, inform my mind, stretch my imagination, deepen my faith or increase my awareness of God’s heart for the world but it is a privilege to be part of a church that we belong to here in North Yorkshire that does just that. 

This morning was no exception. Being part of a church of all ages and backgrounds, where the services usually evidence over 90% seating capacity and often more. Worship is led by a variety of different but gifted teams. A church where welcome and hospitality is extended to friend and stranger, regular attender and guest.  For a new monastic introvert contemplative, loud action songs pose a challenge but being part of the family I swayed my arms and joined with others in worshipping God with lots of children, who are very much a part of the church. Not the church of tomorrow but every bit a part of the church today. Before many of them left for their own groups they were prayed for and blessed but not before five people were welcomed into partnership. Each shared something of their faith story and why they were joining the church. Diverse, mixed ages, men and women, each received an encouragement, word of Scripture and were prayed for as we welcomed them into the fellowship and committed ourselves to work with them in serving Christ and his Kingdom. We were then led in prayer for the world; praying among other things for the people of Yemen, Indonesia, those victims of human trafficking, for an increase in Fair trade and a respect for human rights, together with prayers for Parliament this coming week and for the local hospital under threat as a result of Government cutbacks and staff shortages, (where are the medical staff who will come and live in the north?). We prayed for those who belong to the church who are suffering or struggling at present. (I still recall with much amusement being asked as a visiting preacher to pray “for the sick of the fellowship” at a church and thought how apt a prayer for many folks I know who are sick of their fellowship!).

This morning it was so refreshing for a charismatic evangelical church to pray and intercede for the world, for those outside the walls of the church. The prayer ministry team who meet before the service to pray and wait on God share any words or pictures they receive in the service and offer pray for anyone at the end of the service. We then sang a wonderful song which has been adopted as a song for the a new series, Show Us Christ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk2Y7WoM4h4A different genre to that of our Northumbria Community’s Morning Office Declaration of Faith but in its own way a reminder that Christ holds the words of eternal life.

Glen, our Senior Pastor then opened up John’s Gospel with an inspirational exposition of John 1 to introduce the series. Good Bible teachers are gifts from God, building up believers in the faith and opening up opportunities and avenues for those new or exploring what faith can mean.

Concluding worship and blessing flowed naturally into sharing conversations over coffee with friends old and new.

A service not thrown together but prayerfully and carefully crafted that had design, order, spontaneity and no trace of manipulation or religious jargon about it. I said I liked things done well and this morning was cracking! Thanks be to God.

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Christmas Eve Reflection

I have and am blessed by many women in my life; an amazing mother, an incredible wife, two fabulous daughters, two wonderful daughters in law, three fantastic granddaughters, a soul friend, spiritual director, many companions, friends and colleagues – all of whom have been a source of great blessing. Mindful of the inspiration of women and taking a retreat at Whitby, made famous by St Hild, I have spent time thinking about Mary through this Advent season. Incredible to think that she was no more than a teenager, that she would give birth to Jesus and in such extraordinary circumstances. The words of the angel, “Do not be afraid Mary. Nothing is impossible with God“. In those words the impossible was made possible. The coming of Christ into the world, the miracles, healings and transformation he brought to peoples’ lives and above all, the reason and foundation of all hope, his resurrection – the impossible made possible with God.

Advent and the celebration of Christmas is a season for remembering what happened and for imagining what is possible. A season to hope, to realise new visions and dreams. 

And it’s the thought that nothing is impossible with God that has given hope in what is a bleak period. Winter with its darkest days and chill air echoes the bleak news pervading our daily lives. The folly of a contrived Referendum and its consequent Brexit debacle is disturbing. All that it has triggered is seen in damaged relationships, a fractured Britain, discord with our European neighbours and the fueling of partisan, nationalistic and racist popularist movements. It’s incredible that we are seeing a resurgence of extremist policies, of both the Left and Right that are undermining democracy.  We learn so little from history. What we have sown in the West, we are beginning to reap: failure to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, defend the weak, protect the vulnerable has resulted in a backlash, meted out to us in the increasing threat of global terrorism. 

History reminds us that after any economic recession, austerity measures that favour the rich and neglect the poor will result in civil unrest. It is obscene and evil that Britain, the fifth richest country in the world has inflicted hardship and misery to the most disadvantaged and poor in our society. There are 14 million people living in poverty in Britain, one in five of the population. A benefit system that is supposed to protect all of us from being swept into poverty is failing. The gap widens, the number of people living in poverty increases, all of which fuels the fires of discontent and contributes to a society conflicted, lacking in compassion and blinded to the reality of suffering behind the veneer of consumerism. The number of people using food banks has increased from 2010 from 41,000 to 1.4 million. Attitudes towards ‘strangers’ migrants, refugees and asylum seekers smacks of those prevalent within 1930s Germany. Our self-interest and protectionist policies are eroding our contribution to the shaping of European society, rooted in its Judeo-Christian values. We are giving up our place at the table where we can influence for good the shaping of an institution, that, far from being perfect and in major need of reform, has nevertheless held once warring nations together for over 60 years. Conflict is often triggered by contesting trade issues. Volatile and dangerous policies, usually announced over a twitter feed by the president in the United States, together with the rise of an increasingly powerful China, which has no checks and balances in terms of democracy, is threatening world peace. The War in Yemen has been raging for three years and has left the country in the grip of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis where children are paying the heaviest price, facing a deadly cocktail of bombs, disease and hunger.

Western consumerism is beginning to evaporate as the tangible signs of an economic downturn, the weakening of the High Street, the struggle of businesses, the stockpiling of resources, the failure of the Government and Opposition parties to exhibit any sense of serving the common good are all signs of a society that is in turmoil and signalling its decline

I do find it difficult to sing, “tis the season to be jolly“. I am disturbed by what is happening in the world. I am blessed for I represent the minority of people in the world who have a comfortable home, I don’t have to worry about having enough food to eat, I can drink fresh water straight from the tap. I am content and enjoy a comfortable life. I am blessed with a great family and lovely friends.  For the vast majority of people in the world life is hard. It is a time in world history when hope can be hard to find and dreams of a better future difficult to believe. Hope seems to be in short supply and it is in this context that we need to receive Mary’s inspiring courage and trust in the face of fear and uncertainty.

Life was uncertain for Mary. She had fears and problems to encounter. The bureaucracy of her day required her to travel some distance to Bethlehem late in her pregnancy on a donkey more uncomfortable than any packed commuter train. After the birth of her son Jesus, she had to flee with Joseph to Egypt; refugees, fleeing from an evil dictator, when their lives are in danger.

She must have been anxious at the prospect of what life lay ahead for her beloved child. The angels announcement, the shepherds arrival, Simeon’s words in the temple, “a sword will pierce your soul” left Mary pondering. 

What Mary experienced and how she responded provides us with an inspiring example of faith in troubled times, courage in facing uncertainty and above all hope. Hope that the impossible is indeed possible.

Whatever the future holds, whatever challenges, turbulence and uncertainties may lie before us, we hold on to the hope that all things remain possible with God. We once again dream and allow ourselves to be inspired by the same Holy Spirit which came to Mary, to imagine the world where Good News is heard, where God’s Kingdom breaks through and hope is born. Where the same Holy Spirit brings not a selection box but the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Fruit that makes the impossible possible.

May the hope of Christ and his inextinguishable light illumine your path throughout this Christmas and the coming year.

Bless you and take care

Roy

Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. Faith is the courage to dance to its tune today.

Peter Kuzmic, Croatian theologian

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Giving thanks for gifted women

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I sat in prayerful silence in the chapel at Saint Oswald’s in Sleights. I gazed out through the stain glass windows. Windows that portray two of my favourite and inspiring Celtic Saints, Aidan and Hild. I have prayed during Morning Office in the chapel with the sisters and other retreatments for the troubling situation here in Britain in relation to Brexit and the turbulence that we are experiencing as a nation. I am heartened and encouraged that the church that Shirley and I belong to, New Life Baptist Church in Northallerton, has called the church to prayer on Monday. Would that many churches and other expressions of Christian community would pursue a similar call to prayer. The consumerism, trivia and commercialism that pervades our society masks us from the deep and disturbing undercurrents. What we have sown in an ill-conceived referendum is now yielding a harvest of unrest, disarray and disturbance, the like of which has not been seen in British society for many years. The debacle and damage that we are now facing pose some very serious threats to our society, our relationship with other nations and our standing in the world.
I pray for Teresa May and the Government, not because I have any sympathy for the policies and decisions that they have taken but because Scripture bids me pray for those who rule over us. I am appalled at the cynical marketing ploy of sending out Government Ministers this weekend to have their photographs taken outside food banks as a backdrop to their campaign to gain public support ahead of Tuesday’s crucial vote in Parliament. Sheer hypocrisy! This present and the previous Conservative government’s policies of austerity have widened the gap between the rich and poor, caused untold suffering and hardship for those least able to withstand the consequences of the global recession. So many of the policies stand in stark contrast to the values of the kingdom of God.
Leadership in these turbulent times is incredibly challenging and complex. So much of what I see in society, including the church has trapped us in bureaucratic management policies, systems, protocols and ways of being and working that imprison the human spirit, damage the way in which we relate to our fellow human beings and provide no building blocks for a society that seeks to cohere in trust, mutual support, respect and honouring of one another. There is a place for management but there is also a great need for leadership in these troubling times. The kind of leadership that Hild and Aidan brought to bear upon their troubled world, both secular and ecclesiological. A leadership that was characterised by its peaceableness, humility and gentleness. A leadership that was not coercive, bullying or partisan but one which was seeped in serving.
I watched the funeral service of George HW Bush the other day and witnessed an occasion that spoke powerfully of someone whose life was informed and influenced by his deep faith and which gave expression in his commitment to serve with humility, courage and grace. The testimonies of family, friends, colleagues and his former political opponents bore witness to a good man. The contrast between him and other former Presidents sitting along the front row of the cathedral with that of the present incumbent could not have been starker. Pray God that the present occupant of the White House will have listened to the words of the sermon preached at the service. A sermon that was a word of challenge and encouragement to all who occupy leadership in whatever capacity.
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I couldn’t help but wonder how the USA and the world might be under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, or what is sadly now unlikely to happen, Michelle Obama. I am halfway through her autobiography which has served only to deepen my respect for a remarkable lady. It is a brilliant book and follows on the heels of a biography that I have read recently about Angela Merkel. These are great women, women of faith, women who through their lives and works have made a difference for good in the world, whose legacies will be seen in the course of history to have served and reflected the values of God’s heart and kingdom. Angela Merkel’s open door policy on refugees, (which has caused her and her nation many problems), comes from her Christian faith. She has spoken and written extensively about the motives behind why she has taken that unpopular decision, which run like a commentary on ‘what would Jesus do’.

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Former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama discusses her forthcoming memoir titled, ‘Becoming’, during the 2018 American Library Association Annual Conference on June 22, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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I sit in the chapel at St Oswalds, in a house that belongs to the Order of the Holy Paraclete, the monastic community founded by a woman suffragette and give thanks to God for her and other women pioneers. I’m mindful of Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, Emmeline Pankhurst and Dorothy Day. I give thanks to God for leaders with whom I am privileged to know and work with; Catherine Askew, Sarah Pillar, Lynn Green, Linda Donaldson, Ruth Rice,Mary Taylor, Shawna Snow-Wilbrink, Ingeborg Janssen, Kezia Robinson, Ali Boulton, Margene Vessel, Sr Janet Elizabeth, Gayle-Anne Drury and many more. They are gifts of God and the church and world is better served by such female leaders than many of their male counterparts.
I leave the chapel but not before gazing at the image of the Madonna and child. In Morning Office we prayed, “Hail Mary, full of grace and truth, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among all women. For you conceived the Son of God, the Christ, our Redeemer.” I give thanks for Mary and all those who carry Christ in their hearts and through whose lives the love of God is made known and the ways of Christ, the Servant King, are lived out in the world.

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Arriving at Nether Springs, our Community’s mother house, I ask Fiona, another gift of God along with the three Sarah’s here, Anne and Tina, Bekah, Margaret, (the place is crawling with them!) which room I am staying in. “You’re in Hild Roy”.
Maybe God is saying something……
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A Day of Contrasts

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Yesterday was such a day contrasts. Pulling back the curtains to welcome the dawn of a new day, the quiet of the early morning disrupted by the invasive noise of engineering works being undertaken on the main road near us. The delight of playing with our youngest grandchild, one-years-old and toddling around the room with joy and pleasure in her new found discoveries. The sad news of Mike Woods death a reminder of the cycles and seasons of life and death, joy and pain. The sadness of watching European ministers assembling in Brussels to witness the further steps towards Britain leaving the EU, a sombre and sad occasion, a ‘divorce’ that has enormous consequences for relationships across the continent and beyond. President of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker said “To see a country like Great Britain… leave the EU is not a moment of joy nor of celebration, it’s a sad moment and it’s a tragedy… A country leaving the EU doesn’t give rise to the raising of Champagne glasses or applause. It is a sad day and everybody who spoke today during the European Council attempted to express their sadness.”

I greatly fear the consequences of a badly conceived Referendum which has opened the door and given access and freedom for all kinds of attitudes and ‘isms’ to run riot; tribalism, nationalism, racism, sectarianism, etc. Self-interest has been prevalent and partisan and polarising stances and policies are dominating the public and political realms.

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An encouraging experience of being part of a packed church congregation worshipping God and witnessing the baptism of someone whose life has been transformed by Christ. A quiet, restful and pottering afternoon, reading and catching up on emails but as darkness descends and the curtains are drawn, an overwhelming sense of darkness in relation to political, economic and social disturbances that envelop Britain at this time. The drive to Lincolnshire begins with excitement and anticipation of meeting friends old and new but within the first half hour, the sight of blue lights flashing, police cars and ambulances racing on ahead, a road closure and the realisation that for someone, life has changed in an instant. The escapism of a football commentary and the banal ‘phone in’ conversations on the radio is punctuated by the news and as the rain pours down and the road conditions worsen and the journey seems now so long, my thoughts turn to that which we face now as a nation. Dark days ahead…..

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The evening is spent at Lindisfarne House in Bardney where the warmth of hospitality extends beyond eating and drinking.  Our hosts Pete and Kath Atkins and their praying for the village community friends meet each Sunday evening to worship and pray together. Tonight, along with other guests, Ali Boulton and Bob and Mary Hopkins we are welcomed and following a time of worship together, there is an ease in which people pray, anoint, listen to God and speak into one another’s lives. An enriching, affirming and encouraging evening, strengthening and envisioning for each of us as we face the challenges and the opportunities that lie before us, alone and together. Delight is broken by the late night news which reports on Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian navy vessels in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea.

b8c3f02e8381c0c190eb2abe58d0835f.jpeg       russia-ukraine-ship-world-war-3-1050239.jpgThe hostilities began when Russia prevented three Ukrainian navy vessels from passing beneath the bridge in the Kerch strait by blocking the way with a cargo ship. Two artillery ships and a tugboat were subsequently fired on and seized.  Disturbing developments which have caused the Ukrainian president to propose imposing martial law. He has appealed to Ukraine’s allies to protect his country and stand united against Russian aggression.

A united Europe is desperately needed now, not a divided one. This month has witnessed the 29thanniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, two events which catalysed the collapse of the communist system. Repression and oppression, under the Marxist regime of the Soviet Union, collapsed and people were set free. The walls came down and Europe celebrated. Europe is not celebrating today and for the people of Ukraine the dark, foreboding clouds of Russian intimidation and suppression, looms large.

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A day of contrasting emotions, I retired to bed with the words, “lighten our darkness Lord, may the light of your presence dispel the shadows of night“ ringing gently in my mind as I fall to sleep. “The peace of all peace be yours and mine this night”.

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Remembrance Day

Yesterday I walked part of the Dales Way and came into Kettlewell and stood for several minutes at its war memorial decked with red and white poppies, commemorating those who have died in the wars and remembering all the casualties of war including civilian and non-British casualties. War memorials are embedded into the life of every hamlet, village, town and city here in Britain. A reminder to not only remember but to stand, pray and work for peace.

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One of the most poignant moments of my presidency of the Baptist Union was standing at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. Prior to taking up our places among the ranks of church and other faith representatives, ambassadors and party political leaders I watched the assembled crowd, most of whom were from the Armed Forces and scattered among the rank and file were ex-military personnel. I was in my late 40s and as I looked out upon the elderly former soldiers, sailors and air force personnel, I realised that unlike them, I and the vast majority of people under 60 years of age had no personal memory or experience of war.
I find it hard to comprehend the fact that over 19 million people died and a further 23 million people were military or civilians casualties in the 1st World War and over 56 million people died in the 2nd World War.
Reflecting on these horrific facts and the consequences of the two world wars as I stood by the war memorial yesterday, with the storm clouds emerging down the valley, I felt a foreboding about the storm clouds that are brewing across the world today that threaten peace and could be the sparks that ignite conflict and war once again in the continent of Europe and the wider world.
The unspoken message of war memorials is a warning about the danger of living without virtue and values, about the folly that gets us into war: seeking power and control, following economic recessions, inequality, the widening gap between rich and poor, exploitation, injustice, oppression, the reemergence of tribalism, nationalism, autocratic, dictatorial leaderships and regimes, the threats and counter threats in relation to trade agreements; all incendiary devices and contributing factors that lead to conflict, violence and war.

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I’ve been at Scargill this weekend in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales to lead with good friend and partner in the gospel Phil Stone, the warden of the community here. We’ve been exploring the place of communities in our changing, turbulent world.
The monk Thomas Merton said that “Community is a completely Christian answer to questions of economic exploitation, political oppression, and today’s loneliness epidemic”.
The nature of the God whom we worship is community. The Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit reflect a unity in diversity and provide the pattern and order for humanity. We, being made in the image of God, are called to reflect the nature of God, which is community. The excessive individualism and rampant secular, consumerism of the western world has damaged the notion of community and now with the evils of tribalism, sectarianism, racism and nationalism rearing their ugly heads, the storm clouds of division, conflict, violence and war are emerging.
The current crisis that we are facing in Britain over the foolish referendum and its damaging aftermath has been dominated by economics and national, self-interest. Little attention has been paid to asking the deeper, more foundational questions as to what kind of society, nation and continent we want to live in. The European Union, for all its faults and failings, was founded on the principle of a ‘Community of Nations’. The EU, formed in the aftermath of the Second World War was the brainchild of Christian statesman from France, Germany and Italy who had a vision of a European Union that would no longer go to war. A union that would prevent a repeat of the killing fields which witnesses the death of millions across the continent in the 1st and 2nd World wars. A European Union that would not fall out over trade agreements but would find ways of working and cooperating together for the common good. With Britain’s exit from the EU, we need to employ all our energies into building healthy and harmonious relationships with our European neighbours and in our attitudes and actions given no encouragement for those who would seek to take advantage and fuel the fires of everything that leads to division and war. Popularist politicians with simplistic solutions have and are deceiving people and fuelling fear, prejudice and intolerance which can lead the nation and nations down a path of conflict and war.

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As we were gathered this morning in the wonderful chapel at Scargill to celebrate Eucharist we remembered and gave thanks to God for Jesus who died, a victim of injustice, suffering as a consequence of the worlds evil, whose body was pierced and whose blood was shed like many of those whom we remember today. His battle was with all that was evil and destructive in the world. We celebrated that Christ conquered death and the power of evil is, and will one day, be utterly defeated. Christ’s victory over sin and death and His resurrection points to new world order, a world where people are reconciled with God and one another and nations move from enmity to friendship. We prayed,”Your kingdom come, your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven” and concluded with the words,”Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.
In the light of this weekend, where we have been looking and celebrating the gift that is community, we left Scargill with a vision of community that is good news to a troubled, fragmenting, partisan, divided world. Good news for America that could hardly be described as the ‘United States’ – now so divided and conflicted, threatening and menacing, mirroring in its own way the bullying behaviour of some other world leaders.
We have a gospel to proclaim and the medium that conveys the message is that of community. Community that reflects the heart of God. Community that averts conflict and war or helps to heal and rebuild life after the ruins of broken relationships, be they in the home, family, workplace, neighbourhood, church, nation or world.
A vision of community which speaks of peace in a world of war, gentleness in a world of brutality, compassion and care in a society that is callous or indifferent, where kindness carries more weight than hatred, where hostility is countered by hospitality, where friendship conquers loneliness and isolation.
A vision of community where the whole of creation is at peace with itself and with one another.
A vision of community where justice and mercy inform all of our ways, where no one dies of starvation or lack of clean water. 
A vision of community that spurs us on, alone /together to work for peace in the world.

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A world, a continent where yesterday the President of France can embrace the German Chancellor on the site where the Armistice treaty was signed at the end of the war in 1918. A world where this evening the German President is welcomed at Westminster Abbey and reads from 1 John 4: 7f “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God….Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
Amen. So be it Lord.

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