Letter from the Rectory -= September 2019
The next two months will be momentous ones for this country, whatever happens after 31st October. No subject has so divided our nation in our lifetimes - some would say, since the Civil War of Seventeenth Century. The core political choices that have resulted in support for Conservative, Labour, Liberal and other parties for over a century have changed.
This month also sees the 80th anniversary of Britain going to war against Germany on 3rd September 1939. Only those in their mid-80s or more will personally remember the days that followed and the bombing of many of our major cities in 1940/41.
There have been calls for a return of the ‘Blitz Spirit’ as we face the uncertainties of this autumn and beyond. Such a concept combines defiance and resilience – the images of damaged buildings, piles of rubble, hundreds crammed onto tube stations carrying battered suitcases with children in tow holding tightly onto teddy bears – with patriotism – a coming together in a common cause, ‘keeping calm and carrying on’. The reality of 1940/41 may have been more a combination of such a spirit with utter exhaustion coupled with a grim determination to carry on, partly because there was no alternative.
In our present situation, we do not yet have a common cause. Indeed, one of the characteristics of the debate was been the inflammatory use of language, further polarising opinion.
One of the features of 1940 that could be appropriated today is greater community spirit. Many people live action-packed yet strangely isolated lives. How many people know their neighbours well enough to be in a position to help them? There is a widespread yearning today for community, for belonging. At its best the local church provides that cohesion within a community, acting as an extended family – especially important for those without their own families.
We know that St. Paul established at least 14 churches in the 20 years from 35AD. Peter, who led the early Church wrote, ‘All of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers and sisters, be compassionate and humble.’ (1 Peter 3:8). Those churches grew because they did have a common cause: hope in the living God, following Jesus Christ: a common cause that Christians continue to share today.