Chapel Street Methodist Church
Penzance

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Minister's Letter, 10 June

From the Revd Alastair Bolt

Dear Friends,

I hope that you are continuing as best you can, not only with the stark certainties that lock-down brought, but with the endless ambiguities that its easing is presenting. Both for us as individuals, and as a church we are already moving from a period where we were told what to do, (or not to do), into a period where we shall have to decide. Staying home is more straightforward than staying safe. As in more normal life, we face a trade-off between increased freedom and increased responsibility. For the Christian, Jesus’ invitation “Follow me” brings with it the new responsibilities that discipleship entails, but it also brings us into the footsteps of the Truth who sets us free.

There are always welcome distractions if life is getting too heavy. The Cormac traffic signs to ‘beware that the road surface has been removed’ include the guidance to maintain social distance. I wonder how long the tailbacks will be with cars at 2-metre intervals? More sadly for cat lovers is the road sign on the way to Helston, ‘beware, cats eyes removed’. I slowed for wandering moggies.

Amidst all the challenges of the virus, our recent news has been dominated by the death of George Floyd in the United States and the subsequent demonstrations, sporadic violence and widespread anger about racism in Britain. You will all have your views, but I do think that Christians should add more to the national debate than simply repeating a genuine sadness at a personal tragedy, a condemnation of slavery, and a righteous anger at present-day racism.

We believe that people matter not simply because of some sort of common human decency and kinship. God gives us a value that we as ‘Upper Primates’ cannot simply ascribe to ourselves. Every life matters because every life matters to God.

On the day of Pentecost, nationalities, religions and ethnic groups from all over the near East were present. God’s Kingdom is for absolutely everyone. For the Christian ‘all lives matter’. This is particularly important in today’s Britain with all its ethnic diversity and competition. Black lives matter, as do the lives of Asians, Japanese, Poles, Mexicans, anyone who has suffered, anyone who is different to me, whoever I am and whoever they are.

The Bible tells us that conflicted people are fundamentally brought together ‘in Christ’. Only once I am in fellowship with Jesus, can His Spirit can transform my relationship with everyone else, especially those who it is beyond my good-will and kind nature to reach. Calls for natural justice or invoking the ‘brotherhood of man’, or even seeking the best in everyone, are only a partial start. Any calls by the Church for people to love others they find uncongenial will fall on deaf ears until those people encounter the encompassing love of God.

Jesus weeps over the brokenness of humanity, but He heals it through sacrificial love and reconciliation. The Bible tells us ‘Do not let your anger lead you into sin’. In our nation, anger and rage are rife. The media, social or otherwise, stokes these divisive fires of hatred about racism, or children returning to school, or sexuality, or the handling of the pandemic, or Brexit (remember Brexit?). Anger, even if justified increases heat and division, and does not of itself solve anything. Christians need to be peace-makers, purveyors of forgiveness, bridge-builders. Above all, at this time the Gospel of Jesus needs proclaiming radically and distinctively in a nation which imagined it could do without God and is being proved wrong.

Alastair's signature

Published at 17:40 on 10 June 2020

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