It was my month to write The Bridge Church Magazine …. I couldn’t write anything else
As you read this letter it will be February 2020, which means that I am writing this in January 2020 … it is a significant time. The country is now in the process of leaving the European Union, and whether you voted in or out, no one can disagree that it has been a long time coming. There is still much to negotiate and work through and no one knows for sure what lies ahead but we are certainly travelling a different road; we are beginning a new journey.
I am reminded of the opening lines of a hymn by Timothy Dudley-Smith, “Here on the threshold of a new beginning, …” (StF 684)
As we cross the ‘threshold’ of Brexit and begin that journey, a new beginning into an unknown future, there may still be choppy waters ahead. After years of difficult political disputes, now, more than ever, we need to think of what each of us can do to heal divisions and find a way of being in community with people who hold different views.
Perhaps these questions used during the recent Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will help us navigate the coming months.
What are the important things we need to carry with us as we journey together as a country?
What things might we need to let go of as we journey together into the future? What challenges does that bring?
What are the shared hopes for our community?
And there may be some of you who feel able to add this question, what might our common prayers for our community be?
I think one answer lies in a story recorded in the New Testament of the Bible.
In it we hear of St Paul’s journey from Caesarea on a boat full of prisoners and soldiers bound for Rome. During the journey, they are caught in a terrible storm and end up shipwrecked on an unknown island. Eventually all of the men are washed ashore… cold, wet, scared, and tired. This is what happened next, “After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us round it.” I love that phrase ‘unusual kindness’, you can almost sense the relief at the warm welcome and the hospitality shown to the men.
But what is ‘unusual kindness’? I believe it’s the sort of kindness that is generous, it’s the sort of kindness that is practical, it’s the sort of kindness that is courageous and it’s the sort of kindness that perseveres in helping those in need. It is the sort of kindness that seeks to understand another’s difficulty and the sort of kindness that makes valuing everyone in a community a priority. It’s the sort of kindness we all want to receive and it’s the sort of kindness we all should seek to give.
Friends, in these unusual times let us strive to be people of unusual kindness.
“May we, your children, feel with Christ’s compassion
an earth disordered, hungry and in pain;
then, at your calling, find the will to fashion
new ways where freedom, truth and justice reign;
where wars are ended, ancient wrongs are righted,
and nations value human life and worth;
where in the darkness lamps of hope are lighted
and Christ is honoured over all the earth.”
Singing the Faith 684 (v. 2)
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926)