LETTER FROM THE ECUMENICAL MODERATOR
As Isaac Watts paraphrase of Psalm 90 reminds us: ' Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away. ' Soon we too will fly, forgotten as a dream and Milton Keynes will be no more ! Moderators come and go but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever. In an interview on the Sunday Programme relating to Rowan Williams' Dimbleby Lecture, in which the question was being asked if the new Archbishop would be able to revive the Church, Matthew Parris of The Times, whilst declaring himself an atheist who regarded religion as mere superstition, did not hold out much hope for Rowan's ability to do so and certainly not on the strength of the Dimbleby Lecture. Somewhat surprisingly, when pressed as to whether he thought Christianity would simply disappear, he said that there was another man, someone called Jesus, who, over many centuries had had an uncanny knack of reappearing and of inspiring great Christian leaders to lead revivals of faith. 'It has happened before and it may happen again.' he said.
And, of course it will, because the real truth about life and about the nature of things, is not that held by the humanistic atheists to whose ideas our society seems to have fallen prey. Quoting the Psalms the Prayer Book reminds us that the fool has said in his heart, there is no God. As Sabine Baring-Gold once wrote: ' Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the church of Jesus constant will remain. ' At the end of his Ordination service in the Cathedral of Our Lady and St Thomas in Northampton, Bishop Kevin McDonald made a short but simple speech which went something like this: ' Yes, we live in difficult times for the Church. But the Church has always lived in difficult times. We are the Church today and it is up to us to do something about it. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever and I place my Episcopate into the hands of Mary. ' Bishop Kevin is absolutely right. We are called to do something about it, to witness to the power of the Gospel, to testify to the unsearchable riches of Christ, to proclaim with Rowan Williams that "there is a story of the whole universe without which your own story won't make sense." But how will they hear without a preacher ? Each of our lives can be like a stained glass window through which the love of Christ can be seen and heard. The Church is not a building. The Church is not a steeple. The Church is not a resting place. The Church is a people. We, you and I, are that people.
Moreover one of those people is Rowan Williams who, together with many other able and faithful Christians, was not invented yesterday but has been bearing witness to the truth for a very long time. Were we living in the 19th century politicians and others would have been queuing up to hear him. But we live in the age of sound-bites and of the consumerism so ably outlined by the Archbishop, in which the vulgarity of immediate self-gratification, and the quick fix of a secular society for which nothing is sacred, have so invaded the thinking not only of the media but of many people in responsible positions in society that spirituality and the living God are not part of their agenda. The fact that we Christians are part of the problem rather than of the solution, through our own consumerist pick and mix churches, should spur each of us to think again about the issues the Archbishop is raising , to stand up and be counted, to occupy the public space, not least in our implacable opposition to missile technology which makes any war, and particularly a war on Iraq, both immoral and untenable.
When we realise the transitory nature of the world's agenda over against the eternal love of God in Christ we might ask: ' Where have all the yuppies gone ? ' We don't hear much about these upwardly mobile filofax people these days, any more than we will hear much about most of what passes for the conventional wisdom of the current secular agenda in a few years time. What we will hear is the eternal Word of God faithfully preached not least by the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury and no doubt by his successors to generations yet unborn. That Word reminds us that the inward mobility of the soul and the outward mobility of our love for our neighbour is far more important than any personal upward mobility unless it be towards God.
May the love and peace of Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever, be with us all.