It’s great to have the new Northumbria Community website launched http://www.northumbriacommunity.org and it has been a privilege to have been involved in its design and to offer my contribution in a number of ways, not least in this new Blog. The Northumbria Community, like life itself, is rich in diversity and full of contrasts and paradoxes, and so we’ve tried to design a website that reflects this vibrancy and diversity.
I am writing this from the heart of London where in one day I’ve probably seen more people than in the previous month.
I rose early to attend the National Prayer Breakfast at Westminster, which was a very stimulating experience. I listened to Professor John Lennox, an eminent Oxford mathematician who has invested a considerable amount of his time and philosophical expertise in conversation and debate with Richard Dawkins and other secular atheists whose militancy and vehemence towards the church and Christianity poses not only a challenge to believers but I believe a serious undermining of society.
Shirley and I were sitting around one of the breakfast tables with a Government Whip, an Anglican Dean and a delightful woman who had worked for the last 20 years in the Foreign Office in advocacy of minority groups throughout the world. She was an attentive listener and an engaging conversationalist.
There was also a very pleasant lady from the Home Counties (as there always are on these occasions!) who was doing some form of Bible study ministry. Talking to the Tory minister, we laughed at the irony of the Labour politician who before we listened to the main speaker was asked to pray, as scripture commands, for those in government. Sitting next to this woman whose party is in government, I was reminded that whilst I would disagree with her on many things and abhor some of her government’s policies, she is a sister in Christ, is clearly very well intentioned and motivated and is a thoroughly pleasant as well as strong woman. I observed how over breakfast she received several texts and also a note from one of her aides who came to the table. Meeting her and four other MP’s that morning was a reminder that these are ordinary people, who in the main are doing what they can to serve the public and make a different for the common good.
Politicians often get a bad press. They are rarely commended or acknowledged for their invaluable contribution to society. I had emailed one of them last week in the light of something I had heard them say on the radio, never expecting them to reply but was quite staggered to see them come across not only to acknowledge me but also to engage in some conversation. I had met this MP, now a Foreign Office Minister, some years ago when we as a Community team were at Spring Harvest leading the worship and he was there with his wife and family. Regrettably he is in the wrong party(!) but is a good man in a key role wrestling with some horrendous issues and to quote him “is almost overwhelmed by some of the evil and wickedness that he is made aware of nearly every day” in his present tenure.
In my email I had indicated how I had continued to remember him in my prayers and occasionally those of the Community’s and he was deeply encouraged by such news. Our conversation deepened my resolve to continue to pray for him on a more regular basis and to invite you as readers of my blog to remember politicians as indeed scripture commands us, to pray for them and for all who govern that they may know wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity in all who they are and what they do.
It was a beautiful day in London and Shirley and I went for a walk along the South Bank, sat by the River Thames and drank our iced coffees. We were served by a delightful Scouse lass who reminded us of the realities facing many people and particularly I would argue those in the North, yet again. She had lost her job earlier this year and came to London to find work which she had secured albeit on slightly more than the minimum wage and was finding it very difficult to make ends meet, living in a one roomed bedsit. It is difficult but necessary for those in the corridors of Westminster with its beautiful but rarefied atmosphere to keep in touch with those whose lives are so very different from those whom they represent.