Clergy Blogs

Periodic contributions from Revd. Giles King-Smith, Vicar of the three coastal parishes. We also continue to show contributions from the late Associate Minister Revd. Linda Walters

These are the blogs written by Revd. Giles King-Smith

Revd. Giles King-Smith

No more barriers

 

I found these words of Gloria Steinem, the pioneering campaigner for women's rights, speaking about the challenge we all face and its possible benefits:

The virus knows that race, gender, class and national boundaries are all fictions. This could help us realise we are all passengers on Spaceship Earth. I'm hoping that this crisis not only exposes inequalities, but helps us learn what movements have been trying to teach us: we are linked, not ranked.

All boundaries, all differences are meaningless in a time of Coronavirus. We are one humanity, all of us vulnerable, none ultimately more important or powerful than any other, in the context of our mortality. Can we learn to make more of our linked-ness than the things which divide us? If we can, be sure that we will be doing the work of the Kingdom.

On a different note, I was cheered by another thought of Gloria Steinem:

Laughter is the only free emotion. Obviously, fear can be compelled. So can love, if we're dependent for long enough. But you can't compel laughter. Never go anywhere you're not allowed to laugh, including church.

Amen to that!

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

More heroes

I know, I'm easily hero-struck, but are two for your consideration:

- First, Marcus Rashford, whose open letter to MPs led to a policy u-turn which will mean more than a million children will get free school meal vouchers this summer. His eloquent and passionate letter is worth reading in full; when it comes to childhood deprivation, he knows what he's talking about. His incredulity at the grim reality of children going hungry in our country, now, is powerful and unanswerable - except by change...

- And second, the black anti-racism protester who carried an injured white opponent to safety during the demonstrations in London at the weekend. I'm sure he wouldn't claim to be a hero, but I found the picture of his rescue mission very moving. It reassured me that there are people who will step across barriers of distrust and hatred to save life; it underlined the truth that is deeper than our disagreements - we are not so different after all; and it provided an unforgettable image of the strength that stoops down to our weakness, to save us. I'm even more sure this guy wouldn't like to be compared to Jesus - think of it more as an acted parable. 

In the Kingdom, the poor and the weak will be given pride of place. Can we start doing this now? 

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Un-understanding

 

Samuel Johnson wrote: "We cease to wonder at what we understand". To put it another way, all understanding, in the sense of knowledge, definition, measurement, stops short of what is truly wonderful. When we wonder, when we're struck by astonishment and delight at some new marvel, we realise that we're out of our depth, and yet that we are being kept afloat. There is nothing for us to do except wonder. And this wonder has its origin in God, who is beyond our understanding.

For me, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and all the possibilities it discloses, are an endless source of wonder - as real as unexpected kindness or the flight of a swallow, and just as impossible to understand.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Covid thoughts

Some random reflections on the changes and challenges of the time we're living through:

- Many have rightly pointed to the mental suffering endured by so many during the pandemic. Those who are anxious, lonely or depressed may find their distress heightened, with no obvious sign of relief - though some have suggested that, if you normally struggle with anxiety, you may be better adapted than most to cope with a situation that makes us all anxious. Another issue is the psychological toll on those who have taken the most demanding roles - doctors, nurses, carers. When the crisis has passed, how much support will they need to rebuild their mental strength and confidence? And will our mental health services, notoriously under-resourced before this crisis, be geared up to repair the health of the healthcare workers to whom we owe so much?

- Coming at mental (and spiritual) health from another angle: our time in lockdown has forced many of us to adapt to a different pace of life, in ways that may prove to be beneficial in the long term. Grief counsellor and author Julia Samuel says, "One thing I sense is that many people are questioning how they lived before. The badge of busyness, for instance, has to a degree lost its lustre. Being busy was somehow being important, but maybe people have realised that busyness is essentially an anaesthetic to feeling." To translate that last sentence into the language of faith: if your self-worth depends on being  busy, you will be avoiding the possibility of a deeper relationship with God. Can we recognise the benefits of being slower, and keep them?

-  We all know that life will never be the same as it was before. And we sense the possibilities offered by this time of global trauma to re-set, to do things differently, to make changes that enable justice and health for the poor and for the earth itself. Novelist Arundhati Roy describes the pandemic as "a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it." You might find "fight for it" too strong, but when we stand for goodness and truth against evil and falsehood, that's what we're doing. The spiritual fight against evil, in which we enrol those who are baptised, takes place in the decisions we make about how the world will be. We know this, but so often we feel disempowered. Could this be the time when ordinary people everywhere refuse to let the future be dictated by those whose only purpose is to cling to their own wealth and power? I hope so, and I pray for change.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

I can't breathe

 

These three terrible words will not be forgotten.

There is a disturbing symmetry between George Floyd's cry for life as a police officer knelt on his neck, and the desperate struggle for breath endured by those whose life is being choked by Covid-19.

And you can't mistake the ugly congruence between the injustices suffered by black people at the hands of the police and of civilian racists, and the disproportionately high death toll among the BAME community from Coronavirus. There are, of course, many possible causes of this disparity, but the simple fact is that minority communities are more likely to be poor, and poor people are more likely to be vulnerable, in a range of ways: low pay, poor housing, health problems, and employment in high-risk occupations such as transport, cleaning, security - and healthcare. When you're at the bottom of the pile, your life is precarious, and you're less likely to be treated with respect by those who have power.

In other words, to insist that "Black Lives Matter" is not simply a protest, a howl of grief and rage at a single atrocity. It is a sign that all kinds of people, of all ethnic backgrounds, have woken up to the reality that some lives have been allowed to matter less than others, in all kinds of ways, not just in the US, but here and in every place where wealth and power have overshadowed our common humanity.

If we are Christians, we believe in a saving love, an unimaginably deep compassion, which our God feels for every creature, without discrimination. In his Kingdom, which we are called to proclaim and embody, there is no difference in status - no male or female, no Jew or Gentile, no black or white. All are equally honoured, equally precious. Will we stand up for this great vision, this dream of Martin Luther King, and will we stand against everything that distorts or defiles it? This question will not go away, it will haunt us until we take our stand for justice.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Prayers for Pentecost

 

Here are the prayers used at our 24/7 prayer room meeting last Saturday, and again for the service on Sunday - hoping they may be helpful for a little longer...

At Pentecost, as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the Church, we come to you, our God, in prayer - to thank you, to ask your forgiveness, and to pray for your Kingdom.

Spirit of the living God - fall afresh on us

Eternal God, as we call to mind our fellowship in the Body of Christ, we give you thanks for all the generosity, truthfulness and mercy which your Church has offered to the world, down the ages. And we thank you for the goodness and beauty you have shown us in our lives of worship and prayer. We remember now those who helped us come to faith and encouraged us on our way - by singing us songs or telling us stories, by inviting us in when we felt distant or unsure, by praying for us without being asked...

Spirit of the living God - fall afresh on us

Eternal God, as we remember the story of your Church, we cannot avoid the shameful reality of the many times that your people have, in the name of Jesus Christ, practised prejudice, coercion and violence towards those they identified as "other"; and we know also that we have struggled, and often failed, to accept those who are different from us. Forgive us, remake us, and help us to see that to live as your people means to be rooted and grounded in the loving-kindness you have shown us in Christ your Son.

Spirit of the living God - fall afresh on us

Eternal God, hear us as we pray for your Kingdom to come  - for the renewal of the whole created order in harmony with you, for an end to our sad divisions, for the establishment of your justice and peace. Give us eyes to see that your Kingdom is already among us, in countless acts of loving service, of tender-hearted forgiveness, of courageous witness to the truth, and of passionate care for the earth. Change our hearts from fearful selfishness and greed to generous, unstinting love for others, so that the poor and the vulnerable may be honoured and protected, and all may know themselves to be your beloved children.

Slirit of the living God - fall afresh on us

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Words of wisdom

 

Talk about setting yourself up for a fall! With a title like that, you can pretty much guarantee that what follows will not be wise - since the starting point for any kind of wisdom is humility. As Proverbs says:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and be not wise in your own sight.

I come from a family of know-alls. We like quizzes and hate losing them, we expect our grammar and spelling to be perfect (and tell others off when theirs isn't), and we find it hard to accept someone else knowing something we don't. Unfortunately, this kind of striving to know it all is not only an unwinnable game - it has nothing to do with real wisdom.

The wise person knows that they don't know everything, and is genuinely delighted to find out new things. More than that, the wise person doesn't equate true knowledge with having all the answers; they aim for understanding by considering life's questions slowly and patiently. In God-terms, they know that the divine is to be experienced rather than defined. They are mature enough to forgo the satisfaction of having things sewn up. They are good at waiting and listening. They don't care about coming first.

I would like to be wise like this.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Brazening it out

 

We love to judge, don't we? And we know that Jesus told us not to, don't we? So where does this leave us when it comes to a certain senior Government advisor? 

Maybe it helps to remember just how angry Jesus became with those in positions of (religious) authority who failed to live up to the rules they imposed on others. "Woe to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them." (Luke 11:46) Not quite the same scenario, true, but if hypocrisy is the target, then - bullseye!

I'm not sure where to draw the line, in this case, between genuine anxiety for your family's health and the casual arrogance of the rule-breaker. But one thing is clear: the many people who have made sacrifices - with difficult and sometimes heartbreaking consequences - have every right to be infuriated by someone who appears to see nothing beyond his own immediate need.

And the "instinct" argument may be an explanation, but it is no excuse. In the words of John Inge, Bishop of Worcester: "The PM tells us that Cummings "followed the instinct of every father" ... The point is that thousands and thousands of parents, including me, have not been able to follow their instincts because they felt they had to obey the rules!"

And another thing, maybe the main thing, given that we're all capable of hypocrisy and should therefore be wary of judging others for it, is the failure to apologise. But then it's hard to apologise when your career depends on insisting you've done nothing wrong. I suspect the main reason politicians are disliked and distrusted is that they never say sorry. 

Essentially, the anger that's flying about at the moment comes from a sense of injustice. Something is "off" here, and we don't like the pretence that it's all fine, really. Being alert to injustice, and being determined to point it out, as loud and long as necessary, isn't judging - it's being truthful.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Peering round the door

 

Now that churches have developed all kinds of online resources and services to help us to continue worshipping during Coronavirus, it appears that many more people are logging in than ever used to come through the door on a Sunday. Why? Maybe partly because you can maintain anonymity online - and we know what a psychological barrier that church door can be for those who are hesitant about commitment, or who had a bad experience last time they ventured in.

Also - when you've had a look (or had enough) online, you can just log out, whereas walking out of church needs a lot of nerve (or an outrageously offensive sermon). So maybe any self-congratulation over the figures for online attendance needs to be tempered by the likelihood that many of those "worshippers" are, in effect, poking their heads round the church door to take a look at what's going on - and then leaving.

Still ... we shouldn't dismiss the possibility that there are many people who, in these strange times, have found themselves drawn to explore God, prayer, spirituality, faith. So one of the questions facing the churches, as we move towards a tentative physical re-opening, is: how can we be as open to the casual, uncertain, hovering worshipper as we were during lockdown?

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

The Joy of Art

You may already have found this gem in the TV schedules - and please don't imagine I've spent the whole of my lockdown gazing at screens - but can I recommend "Grayson Perry's Art Club" (8.00 pm, Mondays, Channel 4)? 

Each week, renowned and slightly eccentric artist Grayson Perry invites members of the public to submit their artworks on a theme - the most recent being "What you see from your window". The results are hugely varied and often remarkably good; he also interviews celebrities about their love of art, and gets them to produce some work - all of it displayed remotely, of course. What I love about this programme is the sense of enjoyment and delight which Grayson and his wife Philippa radiate, as they enthuse over all kinds of creations. It's an hour full of laughter and surprise, and it restores my faith in our human creativity.

One thing that really interested me was a remark Grayson made at one point, about the need to be relaxed in order to be creative. This flies in the face of the conventional view that great art arises from some form of mental or spiritual torment. Instead, perhaps we can see creativity as a type of playfulness - a carefree messing about with the gifts and the materials we've been given, without fear of failure or disapproval. 

I don't always manage it, but I like this idea of freedom in creating (whether it's the Sistine Chapel or a sandwich). And - is there an echo of how God feels as he creates, and as he watches us create? Enjoyment, delight, laughter - whether we're creators or spectators, these feelings are worth aiming for, in every part of our lives.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

No more enemies

 

The other day I watched a short film of a meeting, arranged by the BBC, between the campaigner and lawyer Gina Miller, and a man who had been trolling her - adding his "voice" to the many thousands of spiteful, venomous messages she has received as a result of her opposition to Brexit. It must have taken courage on both their parts to agree to such a meeting. But it worked, and it left me with a couple of thoughts.

First, it was (thankfully) impossible for the troll to maintain his hostility to Gina Miller when faced with the real person opposite him. He backed down (I think "repented" is the technical term here) as he saw that the differences between them are skin deep by comparison with their shared humanity. (I'm sure he wouldn't put it like this, but that's what I think was going on.) I was reminded that it's when we actually meet the person we disagree with, and hear their story, that we are no longer able simply to dismiss them as different, as an enemy.

And, for her part, Gina Miller refused to play the "injured party" card, but instead engaged with her troll by trying to find common ground with him - talking about their similar experience of parenting. At the end of the clip, she expresses her longing for the divisions caused by Brexit to be replaced by a new and deeper sense of being together, by which we can overcome our disagreements. I saw two vulnerable people taking small steps towards a future free from fear of "the other", and I found this inspiring.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Old and disposable?

 

The awful scale of illness and death in our care homes is becoming clearer, along with the heroic dedication of staff in these homes, many of whom are poorly paid for looking after our most vulnerable citizens. Questions are rightly being asked about the failure to prepare properly for this eventuality, and about the lack of protective equipment, which has forced staff to work in unsafe conditions. By one estimate, the proportion of care home workers who have died of Coronavirus is double that of hospital staff. One day, when the dust has settled, and we're no longer inhibited from asking "What went wrong?" by the constant refrain of "We're in this together", there will be a reckoning.

For now, I'm reminded that, until this crisis, care homes and their residents and staff were basically out of sight, out of mind. So there are some big questions to ask. Do we, as a society, do enough to ensure the well-being of the old and the frail? And do we recognise (not least by proper attention to pay and conditions) the work done by carers on our behalf? And ... (here you can add in all kinds of other issues, from transport to NHS funding to a green economy) will we learn lessons from this traumatic time, or will we succumb to the pressure to fall back into old ways? 

One other thing: as we look for reasons why this country has suffered so badly from this pandemic, it will be easy, but perhaps misleading, to focus on the failings of individuals. Instead, we will need to expose the systemic failings - lack of preparedness, underfunding of health and social care, deep-rooted inequality - which have made this tragedy so much worse than it might have been. Hindsight is easy, of course; but the failure to create a just society, in which the weak and the vulnerable are honoured and protected, is a disgrace of long standing. 

Oh, and one more other thing: the Church may not have the heft it once did in public affairs, but we can still stand for justice, truthfulness and compassion - the values of the Kingdom - in the way we lead our lives, and in our advocacy for those who are so easily overlooked. Over the time that lies ahead, we can play our part, along with many others, in working for a healthier society and a fairer world.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Living with uncertainty

We don't like uncertainty - and yet we live with it and can't avoid it. Given that we don't know how each day will unfold - even when we think we have a fixed agenda, it never works out exactly as we expected - or how we will feel and what we will think as it unfolds, uncertainty is pretty much the only thing we can be certain of!

But we don't like it. We crave the security of knowing what's going to happen, even though we know that would be a terrible idea. And when things are going wrong, we long for someone to tell us exactly what needs to be done to put them right. We want our authority figures - doctors, priests, politicians, scientists - to save us from uncertainty by giving us precise and foolproof instructions that will guarantee the right result. But...they can't always do this. SHOCK HORROR!!!

So, unexpectedly, I find myself having some sympathy for our Government, as they come under fire for not giving us absolutely precise instructions, which would produce absolutely certain outcomes. Beyond legitimate concerns about how we can safely return to work and school, I think the Government is right to say, in effect: "Look, we don't really know how things will go, as we ease the lockdown - we're going to have to play it by ear and make further decisions on the hoof." This, at least, is realism rather than incompetence. 

In terms of faith, the calling (however much we dislike it and cry out against it, like the Israelites in the desert) is to accept that the future is unknown - or rather, the only thing we know for certain about the future is that God will be with us. That doesn't mean planning is pointless, it means planning is conditional. The challenge is to embrace uncertainty, while trying to be clear and purposeful in our response to events as they unfold. Can we enjoy the fact that we don't know what's coming next - or will we always be longing for a map, clear instructions, definite outcomes?...

 

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

A prayer for VE Day

 

Here is a different kind of prayer - one which expresses a commitment to the cause of God's Kingdom, as we remember the cost of war, and the joy and relief of its end:

Lord God our Father,

we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind,

in the cause of peace,

for the relief of want and suffering,

and for the praise of your name.

Guide us by your Spirit;

give us wisdom;

give us courage;

give us hope;

and keep us faithful, now and always. Amen.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Just ask

It's a lovely thing when someone says, "Anything you want - just ask". In a time of need, this is reassurance, a sense of being held. Of course, there is a danger that the person who says this won't be able to keep their promise. Words are cheap. And - as in fairy tales - it's possible that what we ask for won't be good for us. Add in the reluctance most people feel to ask for help, and the process is clearly not quite as simple as it sounds.

My previous posts have suggested that, to start prayer, we need to stop everything (including what we normally think of as prayer). But obviously that's not all there is to prayer - we generally come to it in order to ask God for something we need. Often we come with an extensive "shopping list", and my advice to drop everything is intended as an antidote to the breathless recitations which can get in the way of our simply being with God, like a weaned child with its mother, resting, content. But then the child looks up at the mother and asks for what it needs, in confidence and trust.

And sometimes, when we're ready to listen, the question comes from God to us :"What do you want?" Remember Jesus, on the road out of Jericho in Mark's Gospel (10:46-52), met by the yelling of the blind beggar Bartimaeus - "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" It's obvious what he's going to ask for, and yet Jesus makes a point of asking him: "What do you want me to do for you?" It matters that Bartimaeus should articulate his need, should shout out the thing he wants most of all. And when he has received his sight, Jesus' parting shot is, "Your faith has healed you." In other words, the moment you asked me, really asked me, for what you wanted is the moment it was done for you.

For me, there's something deep here about God's love for us and how we can respond to it in prayer. We are asked to identify and to voice the thing that we most long for. Not the thing we ought to long for, not the thing that we reckon will please God, but the thing we actually want. Leave it to God to strip away all the unworthy, unhealthy stuff, and to get to the heart of our longing - which will always be some variant of what Bartimaeus asked for: healing, wholeness, hope, for ourselves or for others.

Above all, I think God wants us to be honest in our relationship with him - that is, in our prayers. He knows what we want, but we need to know it, and own it, and say it. Just ask.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Laughter as grace

 

I really like this quote from Samir Selmanovic:

"Laughter is one of the ways we cope with the discrepancies of our lives. There is a dream we all have for this world, and then there is, well, this world. There are expectations we have of our religions, and then there are our religions ... Our capacity to love God, ourselves, people and all of life grows with our capacity to laugh. We are ridiculous, and not to laugh at our religions, our worldviews, and our philosophies (that is, ourselves) would be a false witness ... This ability to laugh in the midst of our imperfections in the presence of God is what we call grace."

Especially that last sentence. When, as often happens, I do or say something that would normally send me into a tail-spin of exasperation and shame, just occasionally I find myself laughing instead. And in that moment I am convinced that this is also God's laughter, and it is a freeing thing. 

G.K.Chesterton said something similar: "It is a test of a good religion whether you can joke about it." And maybe it's a test of a good faith whether we can laugh as we fall over, yet again.

Samir Selmanovic's book is called "It's really all about God: how Islam, Atheism and Judaism made me a better Christian". 

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Something more

 

Well, obviously something more is needed, replies the activist (who has found time in his/her busy schedule to read the previous post). If you're just going to sit around doing nothing, how will the Kingdom be built? How will all those lost souls be saved? How will we play our part in ensuring that God is "all in all"?

All right, let me lay my cards on the table. I am a lazy person who likes staring out of the window. Sometimes - quite often, actually - I am railroaded into doing things; and sometimes I really enjoy doing things, and some of those things might even be of benefit to others. But - building the Kingdom? Give me a break. Whatever the Kingdom is, it isn't going to be built by my conscious effort - or yours. The moment I say to myself, "Oh look, I'm building the Kingdom!", I am stuck fast in a mire of self-satisfaction, and God is somewhere else. When my left hand becomes aware of what my right hand is doing, the beautiful gift  that's been entrusted to me turns to dust.

So what can I do? Learn to be authentic. Which means - learn to be myself with God. Everything will flow from that. (And, of course, I won't know what that "everything" is until it happens.)

I am very far from having this sewn up. Despite my inherent slothfulness, I still rush around, quite a lot of the time, as if the world will end without my input. But I do believe that the best foundation for my doing stuff is doing nothing, and the best starting point for my prayer is stopping praying. Ten minutes of silence, sitting still, listening for the voice within  - that's all I need to remind me of what matters most. God is real, and God is here.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Calm and quiet

 

"The best way to start praying is actually to stop praying" - another quote from Pete Greig's book "How to Pray". Sounds a bit Zen, doesn't it? But it makes sense, if we understand prayer not as an extension of all our other activity, but as something quite different which requires a re-setting of our mind and our senses. Psalm 131 says it:

My heart is not proud, Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quietened myself.

I am like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child I am content.

I notice the sense of humbling which is involved in coming to prayer. All those great and important things which I think I'm meant to be doing, and which I don't really understand anyway, are to be left, put aside, forgotten, as I sit quietly and allow my soul to come to rest, like a child. And sometimes they include all those worthy causes and needy people for whom I know I ought to pray. The weaned child is content to be with its mother, and nothing more is needed.

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Heroes

 

Aside from heroism that is generally recognised (of the kind currently being shown by the key workers who are protecting and serving the rest of us), we all have our personal heroes. Thinking about two of mine, I realise that what I value in them is a quality associated with prophets: the clarity of vision, and the courage, to stand for what is right and good.

I've just finished reading a biography* of a man who has a strong claim to rank alongside Churchill as the greatest Prime Minister of modern times - Clement Attlee. Despite being the polar opposite of Churchill in temperament and gifts - self-effacing, understated, consistent - Attlee worked well with him as Deputy PM in the wartime government, and then headed the Labour Government of 1945-51, which brought into being the foundations of our welfare state, most notably the National Health Service. Often, though not always, supported by the Conservative Opposition in these great reforms, Attlee's administration changed the landscape of our society forever. His vision was of a country in which everyone accepted their responsibilities as citizens, and in which every citizen received the care and support they needed. Duties and rights, in other words; arguably, the present crisis has revealed how much more attractive and healthy such a vision can be, in practice, than the me-first stampede of greed and materialism into which we so easily fall in times of apparent stability. And - without claiming too much for Attlee, who abandoned Christian faith in his youth - is it fanciful to see something of God's Kingdom and its all-embracing compassion in the idea of a welfare state in which nobody is neglected?

And second, Jane Goodall. Google "Jane Goodall Channel 4 News" to find a 5-minute interview with the 86 year-old primatologist and activist, renowned for her pioneering work with chimpanzees, in which she calls out, in clear and simple terms, the destructive human activities which are endangering other species, threatening further pandemics, and causing potentially terminal damage to the world we share with all these remarkable creatures. The delusion she skewers is that we are able to do as we wish with the natural world because we are somehow above it, and thus able to exploit it mercilessly without incurring damage to our own life and health. On the contrary, we are part of the natural world, and our health is inextricably linked with the health of the planet as whole. As Jane Goodall says, we have disrespected the earth. Humility is needed, to start afresh. This, too, is the work of the Kingdom. "Dominion" over the earth and its creatures, as given to humans by God in Genesis 1, must mean, can only mean, taking responsibility for the world we have been given, in a spirit of reverence for all that is. Can we learn this lesson and make it "the new normal"?

I wonder who your heroes are. Do they, like these two, remind you of what really matters, what is worth fighting for, standing up for, living by?

*"Citizen Clem" by John Bew

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Revd. Giles King-Smith

Just showing up

 

In his book "How to pray", Pete Greig says: "99% of prayer is just showing up - making ourselves consciously present to the God who is constantly present with us".

In other words, stick at it. Don't become disillusioned if there are no fireworks, if you're not overwhelmed by joy and peace; just find a place and a time for prayer, and show up. When Archbishop Michael Ramsey was asked about the time he set aside for prayer, he replied: "One minute, but it takes me twenty-nine to get there".

It's easy for prayer to feel like a chore - one more thing we "have" to do, with no guarantee of satisfaction. So maybe it's best to start small, with no great expectations of ourselves, or of God. No hurdles to jump, no exams to pass. Just show up: find somewhere to be still for a few minutes, and do nothing, say nothing. Wait. Get rid of words, for a little spell, and be yourself, be with your self. God is already with you, of course.

I know, that's hardly a comprehensive guide to praying. But it's a start. Someone described prayer as "the soul's native language". We spend a lot of time and effort trying to translate prayer into words, when it's already there, waiting for us to be quiet, to stop buzzing around. Just show up...

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