A time of crisis
Readers' letter - July 2003
As we come to write this letter the Church of England is once more in the news, this time over the appointment of the next Bishop of Reading. This letter will not include a discussion of the issues involved, (there is no doubt that there will continue to be much of that!) but rather consider its effect on the Church. We realise that not all readers of this will be members of the Church of England but for those of us who are, what are our feelings as we find our church apparently being pulled apart from within and under attack from outside? Such times of crisis may make us fearful for our church, will this be the one conflict too many which will do irreparable damage to the church? Is the church sinking into heresy on the one hand or clinging to out of date prejudice on the other? Do we feel pain for what is happening to our church or are we perhaps ashamed of certain things, seeking to distance ourselves from them? What could be very fruitful for us is to ask ourselves this type of question rather than simply getting embroiled in the specific issues.
We must never forget that people in the press, radio and television are always on the look out for a 'good' story. It is amazing how creative the headline writers can be with the sparsest of facts! Make no mistake, this applies equally to the 'quality' press just as much as to the tabloids. It is said by some that all publicity is good publicity, and certainly in our everyday lives we have opportunities to draw attention to what is really important when challenged about these things.
One of the strengths of the Church of England is that it manages to hold together people of quite diverse approaches to their Christian faith. A church, just like any other organisation, has to have its rules and regulations. As a result very real struggles over the future direction the church should take will occur. When we consider that the Church of England is just one of many Christian churches in this country, that it is part of the wider Anglican Communion, that Christianity is one of many faiths which seek to take the spiritual life seriously then it is clear that conflict will always be with us.
There will always be tension between being faithful to the faith and understanding we have been given, and listening and being gracious to those who differ from us.
On a personal level we, as a couple, have worshipped at St Peter's (now St Peter's with All Saints') for three years. It was in October 2001 that we were both licensed as Readers, ministering in this parish. We both seek to love and serve God and our fellow human beings although we fall far short of what we could be and do. Never the less we feel very grateful and privileged by the way we have been accepted, and loved and used by the congregation. In our approach to our faith we do have our differences. However, within our marriage we draw strength from all that we do have in common, and seek to respect and challenge each other over the detail. It is very sad when during a crisis in the church people start threatening to leave, to create a split. Maybe as a church, as Christians, as people of faith, we ought to spend more time looking for the things that unite us.
Traditionally this is the time of year when many people take their holidays. For all those embarking on such ventures may we wish you all the very best. To get the most out of our holidays we need to relax and just let go. How wonderful it is to know that God is with us whether in conflict or peace, work or rest, sickness or health.