From the Rector

Dear friends,

 

Welcome to the October edition of The Acorn.  I typically write here about key events and seasons in the church.  This month, you will find that elsewhere.  I need to say something about the state of the nation.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has already demonstrated recently that it is right at times for church leaders to delve into politics.  We have a contribution to make here as Christians.  Our faith is not limited to the soul.  Hence, his recent speech at the TUC conference about social justice was a barnstorming one, rooted in the Bible, and it received a standing ovation.  The accusation that he was being party political was, to be Borisesque, sheer piffle.  Social justice is a concern for everyone and for the followers of Jesus in particular.  So is the future of our nation.  At the moment, we are in some peril.  I’m speaking about Brexit.

Before the Referendum in 2016, I gave a sermon at All Saints about why I believed remaining in the European Union was the right thing, not least because the whole process was a huge diversion from the key concerns of countering terrorism and addressing the consequences of the greatest displacement of peoples in our world since the Second World War, i.e. the refugee crisis.  Shoot me down if you will, but I still believe that the referendum was misjudged and I feel I have been rather proved right now that we have less than 6 months to go before we leave the EU and no agreement with our EU partners either on arrangements for the trade of goods and services or on the issue of the Irish border.  The latter is potentially catastrophic.  The Good Friday agreement, which secured the peace settlement in Northern Ireland twenty years ago, is jeopardised by this.

I’m writing this before it’s become clear whether Labour will support a second referendum or “people’s vote” to use the preferred euphemism.  That’s likely to be a game changer.  However, the stakes would continue to remain high.   Advocates of this are not of one view as to the question that might be posed to the people – a straight “yes” or “no” to the proposed settlement negotiated by the government; a choice between that and remaining in the EU (which we already voted to leave!); or a three way choice between the government offer, remain or No Deal.  My fear is that if we were to have such a vote, we could have a surprise again and a particularly nasty one – for I believe a No Deal Brexit is something genuinely to be feared.

There are three things I think we should be doing as Christians in all of this.

The first is that our prayers matter.  I will ensure that we pray persistently about this in our church services on a weekly basis.  Let’s make it part of our daily prayers too.

Secondly, the whole debate is a case study in how we sometimes develop an inability to listen because we are certain we are right.  The referendum result two years ago pulled lots of us up short.  There was a real sense that many, including in our own borough, had voted Leave through a sense that they had no real ownership any more, no one listening to their concerns about the changing shape of our country, overwhelmed with the shocking consequences of austerity.  After that, there were many voices in the political world that indicated there should be a deeper listening.  That hasn’t come about.  Rooted in community, the church has perhaps a greater capacity to listen and we say we are an inclusive church.   Whilst I’ve applauded the Archbishop for speaking out, we need to learn how to listen more than ever; and to encourage our political leaders to do this too.

Thirdly, if it’s the case that we are approaching a national crisis – and I believe we are – then that calls for national unity.  There is still chance to get the best possible Brexit deal we can, following the expressed will of the people.  I don’t think it is good enough to stand by and watch the Prime Minister get pilloried for her stances (and even for her dancing which is better than mine!) and be described as “beleaguered”.  It beggars belief, in my eyes, that we should be doing this at such a time, when we actually need a concerted and united effort for the sake of the country, not an opportunist intervention for the sake of a political party or even an individual’s career.  Theresa May needs not only our prayers but also our active support.  (I say that as a left leaning cleric as most of us are nowadays in the Church of England!).  In this digital age, an individual’s expression of support is much more noticeable than it used to be, even if that’s as simple as a post on Facebook.  In fact, it was precisely because I posted to our Council leader’s Facebook feed that he took up the invitation to make a trip some time back now to the “Calais Jungle” and Ealing took its share of unaccompanied minors from there as a result of his subsequent engagement with the issue – before that, if you remember, he was rather overwhelmed with the Ealing wheelie bin crisis!   Pragmatically speaking, the PM will end up with a rather poor deal from the EU if its leaders perceive she is beleaguered both in party and in country; but with the weight not only of her party behind her, but also of the British people as a whole, it’s obvious to me that our position would be a lot stronger.  It’s not too late. Yet.  Ask yourself what you can do.

With all my love as ever,

 

Nick

 


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