ARCHBISHOP ROWAN spoke to the recent General Synod of the Church of England of his experiences in Eastern Congo:
Two weeks ago in Eastern Congo, listening to the experiences of young men and women who had been forced into service with the militias in the civil wars, forced therefore into atrocities done and suffered that don’t bear thinking about, I discovered all over again why the Church mattered. One after another, they kept saying, ‘The Church didn’t abandon us.’
The Archbishop is a shining example of a pastor continually willing to “discover all over again”. God knows how much we all need to. In common with many a clerical household, I guess, Church Times is usually to be found on or near the kitchen table in this vicarage. Mealtimes this week have therefore been especially chastened experiences. What, I’ve wondered, is this young mother praying for herself and her (beautiful) hungry little one?
And the hand of blessing laid with love upon the heads of beautiful, well cared for, well fed little ones in Bramhall Parish Church this morning was warm with desire to bless the mother and her child in this photograph – and the countless mothers, fathers and children who share their desperate plight, praying for the impossible, whilst laying-on their own tender hands of blessing. God help us: I’ve thought a thousand times this week that this madonna and her child in Mogadishu were praying together once in Bethlehem.
And the weeping for the children in Norway today is heard all around the world. Christopher Burkett has written, too, in that tragic context, about why the Church matters. God help us to widen our vision: to sing fewer songs of rejoicing in our own perceptions of personal salvation until we’re a bit surer in our hearts and minds that salvation has to be extended to each and all – or it is no salvation. Whilst I thank God for “looking after” me I must heed the Divine call to play my own part in “looking after” others. For each and every child of God is intended to be provided with a Bethlehem home, a House of Bread.
I pray for the day when, for God’s sake, sectarian divisions and some of the more nuanced religious certainties – of whatsoever religious tradition (or none) – may be set aside in favour of the one really important certainty, the one really important bit of “gospel” that Jesus alluded and alludes to again and again and again – that in the heart of God, at the heart of Life, the mother and her child in this photograph, and the hurting and grieving souls in Norway, and in every other nation under the sun, are of absolutely equal importance. With Archbishop Rowan I “discovered again” this morning why the Church matters, and why all men and women of goodwill, all over the world, matter: Christian Aid emergency envelopes “sold” like hotcakes, thank God, and we sang “We have a dream” with vigour. Dear God in heaven, help us to dream big … and to plant mustard seeds of faith and hope and real practical love wherever and whensoever we can.