In Staplehurst, members of Christian Churches live in ordinary neighbourhoods, work in almost every type of workplace, run youth groups, children's projects and lunch clubs, care for the sick, are engaged in building relationships with their neighbours, are involved in education and politics. The list is endless! When the women bishops' proposal was “lost” in General Synod there was a critical outcry that “The Church of England is out of touch with English society”! It is in my view self-evident that this is not the case. The Church of England, as has been reflected through the “Faith in the City” and “Faith in the Countryside” reports of the last 20 years, is often more in touch with English society than either the media or politicians!
Of course, the assumption of the media and many in our society is: that if the Church is in touch with society, then the Church will reflect so called “progress” in the society in which it lives. If the Church hesitates to “bless” the values or the ways of our society it is seen to be “out of touch”.
This is a complete misunderstanding and misinterpretation of both the Church and the Gospel. Throughout its history the people following God were constantly reminded to be in touch with its people and to touch the untouchable. God instructs prophets to warn people to change their values and practices when they were out of step with the values and practices God expected of his people. People were repeatedly asked to repent.
At Christmas, the nativity story reminds us of Jesus being born to ordinary human beings who were very much in touch with society. Jesus popularity only spread, because he was in touch with God on the one hand and human society on the other. Having effected those fundamental contacts, He sought not to make society's values and practices acceptable to God, but rather sought to encourage individuals and society to voluntarily adopt God's values and God's desired practice . Love, forgiveness, justice, and a recognition of the equal values of women, and children were at the heart of His divine enterprise.
The Christmas story reminded the Church that we must be in touch with society and its so called “social progress”. It reminds us, too, that we must be very much in touch with God- values and preferred practices. On the issue of women bishops: a church which is in touch with God-will recognise that the Scripture, the tradition of the church, and human insight together witness to the fact that this is the right way forward. This happens to coincide with modern English society - if the media are right. However it is through Biblical teaching, Church tradition, and human insight that the church makes her decision and not what society happens to believe. If English society continues to be estranged from the life of the church, we can only expect that, as time goes on, we will as a church finds ourselves increasingly at odds with the society in which we happen to live. There will be increasingly regular calls for disestablishment as the gap grows between Church and society.
Other current issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia, amongst many others, may well be issues where the church believes God's values and desired practices differ from those expected by God. The only way in which the church can decide on these issues is by reading the Bible intelligently and critically, viewing church tradition as “a river to follow, and not a stream to sit by”, and using the educated minds of its members creatively. This is not an easy path and in each case requires journeys which take time.
The recent “out of touch” criticism of the media and others should prompt us to reply that the Christmas message is a message for the future, for the New Year, that God wants the people to be in touch with him, and that people, the media included, need to get on their knees in prayer, in public worship, in reading the scripture, and then use their intellect before they have the right to criticise the Church for being “out of touch”. I look forward to sharing this NEW YEAR with people who really do want to be in touch with God and Society.
A HAPPY NEW YEAR
Yours SilkeBack to Top
“I want to be a light, which shines for everyone!”
It was the year 316 and it rained. A little boy, named Martin was born at Sabaria and then moved with his mum and dad to Italy. Martin's father wanted his son to be tough and learn to fight, so he sent him to join the Roman Emperor's guards when he was still only a teenager and would have much rather sat quietly and read a book, if he'd had one, but nobody had got round to inventing one yet, I think.
Life changing events
Over the years people felt that they really wanted to remember Martin in a special way, so first they made him a saint. To make sure nobody forgot about him, someone had the very clever idea of dedicating to him the old tradition of lantern walks. The lantern walks seem to have started when in the very, very, very olden days in Germany choirs of poor children, called the “Kurrende”, had to knock on peoples' doors and sing in return for food and clothes in order to survive. In autumn and winter it gets dark very early and in those days there were no streetlights, so what do you think the children took with them? If you said “their grandmother's poodle”, you were of course wrong, but if you said “lanterns” then you were spot on! The very first lanterns were probably hollowed out pumpkins with faces. Sound familiar? That is how the tradition started, as children continued to light up the dark autumn nights with lanterns, even when it wasn't necessary for so many to beg for food. St. Martin once said: “I want to be a light that shines for everyone!” and now he can, well sort of anyway.
I think somebody else said a similar thing - hmm .....?
Merry Christmas everyone
Dear Friends,SPELLING IT OUT
I wonder if, like me, watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics was a real test of your knowledge of geography. As I watched these wonderful sports men and women processing in to the announcement of their country, more often than not I found myself repeating the questions: Which country are they from? Where in the world is that? It's a big world with so much to learn about other countries and cultures.
This year I spent my holiday in Austria. At least I had heard of Austria! I even speak the language! But I still learned so much more about the country and its history as I was exploring the sights and reading about them. What I find very rewarding in doing so is being able to make connections between countries, their history and its people and somewhere along the time line it turns out we are all somehow, somewhere connected.
When people ask me how my holiday was, I am excited to say: great, action-packed and I had time to do this and that and so on. This year, and I put it down to age, I didn't feel like taking lots of the usual photos of the sights. I travelled with a Dorling Kindersley Travel guide, which has all the pictures of the main sights in there and much better quality than I could ever achieve. But as I was going along sightseeing I often came across some oddities in each town I visited, which made me very curious and I couldn't resist taking a few snapshots.
I often took the opportunity to ponder the beautiful countryside and rich culture of Austria over a long and liquid lunch at one of the many wonderful cafés that Austria has in abundance. At several of these cafés I noticed chalk writing above the entrance door reading 20-C+M+B-12.
At first glance I thought of Einstein's theory of relativity ,as you would, but that was far too complicated to contemplate over lunch. When I looked closer it was nothing to do with Einstein, but I didn't know what it stood for either. The proof of the café and the chalk writing is below. Have you ever seen it? Do you know what this strange equation means?
It certainly got the conversation going over lunch! We quickly spotted that the numbers were the year: 2012. After further argument over the letters we came up with the Wise Men: Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. But it required further research later on to finally solve the puzzle. The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the customary names of the Three Magi that visited baby Jesus, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, bringing the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. They also abbreviate the Latin words “Christus Mansionem Benedicat”, “May Christ bless the house”. The year is divided before and after these letters. The crosses (+) represent the protection of the Christ. The equation is written above the entrance at Epiphany to invoke blessings on the house for the coming year.
The three wise men followed a special star to Jesus, the Son who became man 2012 years ago and still blesses us wherever we are and who we are. So may God Bless you as the new term starts whoever you are and where you are in this parish.
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