The Best Things in the Worst Times
Bishop Nigel's article which featured in the Autumn Edition of Grapevine which can be read here.
We live in turbulent times to say the least. Current political and economic events in the UK, Europe and the wider world are giving rise to serious anxieties, and some worrying xenophobic reactions. Notions of belonging and identity are being turned upside down.
Polarisation between old and young, urban and rural, traditional and metropolitan; between the better educated and those left behind, the migrant and the locally settled, faith and the secular - these are not helpful binaries in a complex reassessment of the world we thought we knew.
We have a new British Prime Minister and Government, charged with charting Brexit – our departure from the European Union. As I write the Labour Party might be described as ‘eating itself’. In Scotland our clear majority vote to Remain returns the spectre of a Second Scottish Referendum to leave the UK but remain in Europe. I might as well get a season ticket for my local Polling Station.
Social and economic uncertainty in Britain is serious. There are likely to be short term losses before any long term gains, hurting those who already feel vulnerable. As a vicar’s daughter Theresa May will know only too well that her laudable ambition that ‘everyone matters’ will not be easy to achieve.
Now is a time for calm and wise leadership throughout society. In my view we need some imaginative and mature people to harness the intelligence and courage, fresh ideas and compassion of younger generations to meet the many challenges and opportunities in our local and global communities.
Remember, that although we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. Helping others to flourish, overcoming fear and hatred with tolerance and understanding. Building enduring relationships across politics and race, religion and culture, celebrating diversity, strengthening our shared humanity.
As Christians, along with those of other faiths or none, we have an important responsibility to contribute our thoughts and actions locally, and of course our continuing prayers for our leaders and the nation. As Anglicans we are already accustomed to relationships across the world – our Companion Dioceses of Iowa and Swaziland exemplify longstanding support and friendship. Ecumenically the Churches of the British Isles have multiple affections and agreements across mainland Europe and these will not disappear.
During the 17th century Civil War in these islands a young nobleman, a royalist supporter, was imprisoned and died aged 27 in the Tower of London, denounced for building a church, in defiance of Oliver Cromwell the determined Parliamentarian Protector Great Britain and Ireland.
The young man’s act of faith, built in stone, remains to this day in Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, while his memory lives on in an inscription inside the church which reads:
In the year 1653 when all things sacred were throughout the nation either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, founded this church.
Whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the worst times, and hoped them in the most calamitous: the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.
“To do the best things in the worst times”. Now there’s an inspiration for all of us.