For our notice sheet this month I am summarising an address given by Bishop Christopher at a recent Diocesan Synod. The full text can be found at:
On the 14th November 1940, our Cathedral was devastatingly bombed and brought to the ground – a night of destruction across the city of Coventry when buildings, lives and spirits were torn down by the forces of hate, violence and fear.
That, as we know and rejoice, is only half the Cathedral’s story, and only half of our story as a Diocese and the whole Church of God. The following morning, among the rubble, the seeds of rebuilding and resurrection were sown.
We live at a moment of history when many things seem under great stress and at risk of being torn down; the devastating effects of climate change, international tensions and threats to the world order abound, war continues, and in this country we face deep divisions and visions over the identity of the UK and a General Election which could only extend those divisions.
We know that poverty is a reality for many families, youth violence is rising, homelessness is a crisis, and the mental health of young and old seems under increasing stress. Time will tell whether the promises made by all the main political parties to pour billions of pounds into improved public services will be honoured. Even if the money comes, it is not clear that it will solve issues, and it will certainly not meet the underlying spiritual needs of people.
During my first year as bishop I remember reading a moving testimony by Sarah Oliver, a foreign correspondent with the Daily Mail. ‘Last summer’, she said, ‘I sought confirmation into the Church of England. I chose to kneel before a bishop, put my head in his hands and remake my baptismal promises, renouncing evil and turning to Christ. If you were to ask me why, then in theological terms I can’t give you much of an answer: I simply surrendered to hope’.
That’s a very good definition of a Christian – someone who has surrendered to hope. And it’s a good definition of the Church – a community surrendered to hope.
The cross of Jesus Christ tells us that this world can be a dark and terrible place expert in death. The resurrection of Christ tells us that God has brought light and joy into the world and defeated death by life.
Amidst all the uncertainties of life, our word to every person is a word of hope: Immanuel: God is with us. Jesus is the Light of the World, the Resurrection and the life, the Saviour of the soul, the Redeemer of the world. God has acted in human history. God is with us to act, to act in your history.
Christ is our hope and has the power to bring our communities to life. Our calling is not only to speak hope into our communities but to bring hope through our actions.
Our witness, as Christians to the nation during the election and beyond, is to be one of hope. Whatever the differences driving us apart, there are stronger ties binding us together. To the politicians we say, make Jesus’ prayer your own: ‘God’s will be done on earth as in heaven’. And follow the advice of the ancient prophet; ‘Love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with your God’. And God will bless our nation.