- This weekend, we called for a special response in the Diocese of Lincoln to the humanitarian crisis in the Congo. You will recall that a civil war is going on here between the government and the, highly armed and organised, rebels. As with Rwanda, a neigbouring country, the conflict is being fought out between Hutu and Tutsi tribespeople. At the Lambeth Conference, the only bishop to attend from Rwanda-all others had been ‘warned off’ coming-told me that it was down to what you looked like: if you had a long nose and long face you were Tutsi, if you looked otherwise you were Hutu. Although infinitely more tragic in the Congo, one is reminded of the tribalism of football in which the colour of the shirt seems to be worth dying for. Anyhow, it’s not really about that, but about which tribal group owns the vast and unimaginably valuable mineral resources of the country. And as the gunmen fight, the people flee and become dispossessed. They do not die from the bullet, but from malaria, malnutrition, dysentry and a thousand other causes to do with homlessness and poor sanitation. If you want to know a little more and see a moving video, follow the following link. It is worth thinking about as we look forward to Christmas:
- Well news has come throught that a BNP member has been successful in the local Boston elections. The media style him ‘a Vicar’ but, of course, he is no such thing, and we can’t even find out what church he does belong to let alone whether he is legitimately ordained. The BNP have recently become ‘media savvy’ and know their way around image building a bit. Whilst they have never been able to throw off their unpleasant ‘bully boy’ reputation, it seems that they are no longer identified with the Brittania ‘love and hate’ tattoo-wearing skinheads of the past. Instead, recent newspaper photographs show them represented by normal looking nuclear families. Make no mistake, the outer jacket may have changed but the inner core of racial hatred and facile ‘knee jerk’ politics remains the same-it’s just a little more dangerous when it is dressed up in a three piece suit rather than knee length Levis and ‘bovva’ boots.
- The Credit Crunch, don’t you just hate it! We hate it, but why don’t we question it? It now seems to be accepted as the universal law that Capitalism is the only way we can organise our society in the modern world. This may or may not be true, but we then overlay this with the understanding that making profit is the other universal law. Well, if this is the case, then it has long been understood that Capitalism and the profit motive are both cyclical: they create slump and boom. So why are we so surprised? This present recession was bound to happen, it is written in the DNA of our system. And if we understand that, then we also should understand that the only way to counteract the effects of the slump is to spend, spend and spend some more-Keynes seemed to be saying this, and this is the way our governments are acting. But what I really don’t understand is this: there was just as much wealth, food, clothing, fuel, workers, and air in the world before the Credit Crunch as afterwards, and yet we are now seeing people being made jobless, homeless, cold, ill and hopeless because some virtual financial system tells us so. For goodness sake, why don’t we question the whole basis of Capitalism because, make no mistake, someone, somewhere, is making a lot of money out of the recession just as much as others are suffering. Let’s question our system: the poor of the world may thank us for doing so.
- I have just seen a television programme on Time. There was a mind boggling bit, which depicted a photograph a scientist had taken which penetrated deep into the universe: called the ‘ultra deep field’: www.apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap040309.html Now, if you imagine that light takes a considerable time to leave a stellar object and reach the Earth: the Sun’s light takes eight minutes for instance, then we are seeing the stars and planets in the photo as they were a considerable time ago: millions of years ago, in fact. In the photograph then, the stars and planets in the foreground are being viewed at a considerably younger age ( by billions of years)than those in the background: and some of these we are seeing as they were close to the Big Bang and the origins of the universe as we know it. A two dimensional photo then is actually three dimensional, and the third dimension is time. As mind bogglingly difficult as all this is, there are other theories about the universe which would tie us completely in knots. Isn’t it good then that Theology does not try to give an explanation of how things happen but instead penetrates the meaning of the things that happen and unfolds it?
- And finally, I presided at a wonderful ordination on Sunday. It is always good to see new people coming into the ministry, and one prays that the ways of the Church do not dampen the enthusiasm and vision that we see in the eyes of those committing themselves to ministry. With this in mind, I thought you may like to see the prayer I concocted and sometimes use to send the new deacons and priests on their way:
May God send you out rejoicing, and bless you in your ministry.
May you challenge the comfortably numb, and be uncomfortably alive yourselves;
May you be open to the possibilities of God and be eager for experience of Him, His world and His people;
be a humble servant to all; be courageous, and do not fear to go where God leads you, both within you and without;
resist all pressures to conform and to be ‘nice’;
love the noisy and disruptive, for they are angels from God;
drink deeply and fully from life and, above all, may you love what you do, for their truly is ‘no fun like work’.
When all around you want ‘All Gas and Gaiters’, may you be the ‘Vicar of Dibley’;
When you are asked for non-alcoholic wine, give them Champagne;
May you leave the two or three gathered together, with their blessing, to minister to the thousands.
May you be yourself, when others want you to be what they want you to be;
May you say ‘yes’ when everyone else around you is saying ‘no’;
When you are told that the Christian has no place in politics, may you be the Christ who said ‘you cannot serve God and Mammon’ to them;
And when they want safety, may you offer them risk!