(First Published in 'Three Voices - One Message', the Parish Magazine of Barrow upon Humber, Goxhill and New Holland in North Lincolnshire, October 2018)
And so, we reach the month of October.
A month very much associated with the season of autumn, when the countryside takes on a mellow feel, as trees change into glorious hues of red, amber and yellow, before falling as a soft carpet beneath our feet. A month of reflection, as we look back on the events of a long summer; but also, a prophetic month: a month that warns us of the future, as it heralds the coming of winter.
As I write this foreword, I have just listened to a podcast from The Church Times. In the podcast an author, the Revd Nadim Nassar, was speaking about the background to his new book called ‘The Culture of God: The Syrian Jesus - reading the divine mind, sailing into the divine heart’. It promises to be an interesting book and I eagerly await the arrival of my copy. However, in the podcast, the author raised two questions in a most emphatic manner. In relation to the difficult issues besetting our world today, he asked, ‘where is the voice of the Church?’ and ‘where is our prophetic voice?’
The Revd Nassar’s challenge is a pertinent one for us all. As we look back to the many and various world events over the summer, where indeed was the voice of the Church? Was it there at the forefront of our political, social, military and humanitarian responses to these events, leading and challenging with a loud and clear message? Or was it muted or, worse, nowhere to be found?
And what of the months beyond October, as we move towards those times that bring increasing debt, food shortages, fuel poverty, and loneliness for many people, a time of winter pressures for the NHS, and a new year in which the UK will leave the European Union and try to stand alone in the world? Where indeed is the prophetic voice of our Church, as a strong guiding light amidst all this change and potential turmoil?
In the life of the Church, October sees us commemorate several important historic people, who might act as mentors, guides and role models, should we ever need more than the life and actions of Jesus himself! Amongst them, George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, who is recognised for speaking out against Nazi Germany and saving Jews fleeing the regime; St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Society of St Francis (‘the Franciscans’); William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English and was martyred for his trouble; the nun, Teresa of Avila, an author and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer; Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, whose important writings place him amongst the Apostolic Fathers; St Luke the Evangelist; that learned, wise and gracious man, Alfred the Great; and not least of all, Martin Luther, who stood up to the theological irregularities of the Catholic church. All these spoke with a voice written through with their Christian faith, and they were not afraid to speak prophetically.
So, as we move through this month of reflection, change and prediction, where do you feel the voice of the Church is today? Where is the Church’s prophetic voice?
Most importantly, where is your voice as a Christian?