Opening new churches – more than a dream?
The Diocese of London, which covers a large part of Britain’s capital city, has reached the half-way mark in its ambitious plan to open 100 new worshipping communities. Capital Vision 2020 was launched at St Paul’s Cathedral in June 2013.
The new worshipping communities are a mixture of new churches – St Francis in the Engine Room became the first new church opened in London in 40 years when it was dedicated in November 2017 – and new congregations in existing churches.
At the end of April the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, and the Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe, launched the 50th community, French Connect, to serve hundreds of thousands of French speakers living in west London. French Connect is based at St Barnabas’ Church in Kensington.
PIECES OF A DIFFERENT PICTURE
Is political progress or agreement at Stormont going to happen any time soon? It seems that each side has boxed themselves in. It feels less like politics than a battle of attrition – with citizens caught in the middle. It is certainly not a helpful atmosphere for a wounded community. It is also a source of great frustration to most people on this island.
Reconciliation is at the core of our Christian faith. So, how might the Church or individual followers of Christ live this out, in a time of embittered politics? Must we wait passively on the sidelines? In the myriad of possibilities available, we suggest some of the following:
1. Acts of service in local communities: the example of Christ in taking up the towel to wash his disciples’ feet, including those of Judas Iscariot, hardly needs elaboration. In the coming months, we will read of hundreds of young people involved in Streetreach programmes – practically serving others in their local communities. We also think of the many other acts of service, by all ages, happening regularly across this island. There is something profoundly disarming about acts of service.
2. Symbolic acts: the recent Pilgrimage of Hope to Messines, led by the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic archbishops of
Armagh is but one example of the power of symbolism. It is not so very long ago that public commemoration of World War I by all parts of the community on this island presented difficulties. This public visit by members of the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities symbolises new possibilities. Whether such acts, on this or any other subject, take place on such a scale or in towns and villages, the message is the same – it symbolises possibilities of a different way.
3. Voices for something different: in an atmosphere where political discourse is so embittered, and words are used to bludgeon one’s opponents, it is important that there are public voices standing for something different – that point to a different way. It is not just what is said, but the spirit in which it is expressed.
These are small pieces of a jigsaw that go together to paint a different picture of what is possible for any community. There are pieces of this jigsaw that any individual, parish or denomination can pick up and use.
In 2004 a Rwandan Bishop, Josias Sendegaya, uttered remarkable words: “The government should not have to teach us about reconciliation. It is our duty. We should do it because it is the word of God”.
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A perspective on Christian unity
The last book read
Letter to the editor
KIERKEGAARD FAMOUSLYspoke about life being lived forwards and understood backwards. In the wake of the abortion referendum result in the Republic of Ireland, and pressure to follow suit in Northern Ireland, this may be an opportune time to look at three famous high profile abortion advocates who subsequently revised their thinking.
There is Norma McCorvey (a.k.a. Jane Roe) of US fame. The lady at the centre of the 1970s case, which opened the floodgates to abortion on demand in the US, appears to have opposed abortion later in life.
In the UK, Dr Aleck Bourne had a key role in a famous case which helped reinterpret or relax our more conservative pre-1967 case law regarding abortion. Bourne later became a founding member of the Society for the Protecton of Unborn Children (SPUC).
Bourne wrote in his memoir: “Those who plead for an extensive relaxation of the law [against abortion] have no idea of the very many cases where a woman who, during the first three months, makes a most impassioned appeal for her pregnancy to be ‘finished’, later, when the baby is born, is thankful indeed that it was not killed while still an embryo. During my long years in practice, I have had many a letter of the deepest gratitude for refusing to accede to anearlyappeal.”
Dr Bernard N. Nathanson supervised and led a 1970s clinic where tens of thousands of terminations took place in the US. New USS radiology imaging caused him to suddenly see (quite literally) the humanity of the developing embryo.
Dr Nathanson came to adopt a pro-life position in later life. The B.N. Nathanson case is of particular interest to Christians. I think Nathanson was of Jewish background but was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith later in life. The B.N. Nathanson story reminds us of the immeasurable Gospel of grace, hope and forgiveness of God – available for all who feel their lives may have been tainted by abortion.
Greater scientific understanding of early foetal life may see multitudes more people come to accept the essential humanity of the foetus.
George Bernard Shaw said: “… those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Minds can be changed and the stories above should inspire Christians in Ireland to continue to prayerfully support the pro-life position in humble expectancy.
Dr James Hardy
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