So, the election is over and so Jeremy Corbyn is appointed as the new leader of the Labour Party, with 59.5% of the first preference votes. In his acceptance speech he spoke of seeking a more tolerant and inclusive society, of “grotesque levels of inequality” which needs to be sorted: he also spoke of unnecessary poverty and how his election campaign had shows that young Britons weren’t apathetic about politics, but were seeking a cause to rally behind.
Could this be the start of a brave new spring within the Labour party and within politics itself ?
Oh, how much this speaks of the Church today…………….
I find as I talk to various people (and this is as recent as at a funeral I conducted yesterday) that people are not turned off by matters of faith or spirituality, but are hugely turned off by meaningless religion often seen as `the Church`. This morning I went to a local Church of another denomination, and where I was not known, where a coffee morning was taking place. I`d gone to support a friend who was part of an art exhibition which was taking place in the building; my friend wasn`t there at the point when I called in but as the Church was holding its regular coffee morning I thought I`d have a cup of coffee as well. I`m still waiting for any of the regulars to say hello or even speak to me, as they were so caught up in their cosy little club atmosphere and weren’t really concerned about anyone else. Just as the Labour party seems to have spent the last few years more concerned about keeping face and losing its reason for existence, so the Church seems more concerned about looking after itself and its lost sight of the mission of Jesus.
At a local level we`ve lost sight of the need to speak out against the poverty around us, the compassion for refugees, and we`ve bowed down to subservient scraping over looking respectable, maintaining the past, and preserving our buildings regardless of their purpose; in short we`ve become a cosy little club, desperate for new members but only as long as they look like us, act like us, and don`t disturb what we enjoy doing. Within Methodism, we`ve forgotten our past of Wesley reaching out to the miners of Kingswood, of the Toldpuddle martyrs, of protest and social action; instead when we talk about the past so often its through rose-coloured spectacles.
How long Jeremy Corbyn will last I don`t know but I pray that this may genuinely be a turning point in politics and may lead to a fairer, more just, inclusive society but at the same time my prayer is also for the Church that it begins to move once again with the Holy Spirit and becomes that for which Jesus said of Peter “Upon this rock I will build my Church”, not an institution but a community of faith.
Many of us will have seen, wept and despaired over the harrowing pictures of the refugees risking everything for a safer life. Many of us will have grown angry over the apparent lack of concern for the situation; the washing of hands; the medias wholesale depiction of migrants as freeloading spongers and nothing else.
The more recent pictures of the drowned boys seem to have hit home to people the seriousness and the precariousness of the fleeing refugees, and it would seem as though the mood of the nation is beginning to change.
I don`t know the answer to the situation and I give thanks that I don`t have to make the hard decisions, but I do think there are certain things that are incumbent upon all of us to get a grasp of as soon as possible.
- the need to distinguish between refugees and migrants. Refugees are fleeing hardship and danger not because they don’t love their own country, but because they are genuinely scared to remain there. Why else would they put their children into an overloaded boat and set out into dangerous waters. Migrants, I believe, are not seeking to flee from harm but are looking for an economic improvement in their situation. Now I know that those two points are an oversimplified generalisation but I`m getting genuinely angry at the way the media portray those fleeing for their lives.
- The only lasting solution to the whole scenario has to be a European one, but allied with other nations. This could be the time when the European Union makes itself truly worthwhile in seeking to solve this and affording respect and dignity to everyone.
- As Christians, compassion, love, support ought to be at the forefront of our thinking. Jesus instructed us to stand on behalf of the poor, needy and the suffering and so we should be engaged in generous giving to the relief agencies involved in this area.
- As Christians we should be praying hard for our political leaders, the European and other national leaders, the refugees themselves, and for the aid workers of whatever nationality.
- The controversial bit !!!! We should be praying for those whose fighting has caused this; for ISIS, and other terrorist organisations that they may see the damage they`re doing and for their hearts to be softened.