The myth of redemptive violence- A sermon by Ben Edwards.

A sermon preached by Ben Edwards, ordinand at Evening Prayer 14th March 2017.


 

I remember once at school there was this kid who was essentially at the top of the food chain. He was this sort of dark eyed, brooding thug who I never once saw crack a smile. His Dad was a detective inspector, it turned out, and therefore he obviously felt any school rules were entirely beneath him. He pretty much did exactly what he liked to anyone, was first in any queue for anything worth queuing for, got the seat he wanted (inevitably the back row in classes), got the schoolyard hangouts he wanted and got the fearful respect of all the other kids that he’d thumped for looking at him funny or daring to ask out the pretty girl in the class that he fancied but wouldn’t go out with him.

And then, one term, another kid joins the school who is close to 6 feet tall and built like a brick privy. I mean this guy was like a mountain, easily bigger than absolutely all staff members barring Mr Booth, the fearsome games teacher with the perennial scowl, but even he was wary of facing this kid down. I would like to point out that this kid isn’t me.
Of course, our man the detective’s son didn’t much like this new kid, and it wasn’t long
before the inevitable happened. I can’t remember the details exactly, but detective Dad kid squared up to brick privy kid, and brick privy kid pushed detective Dad kid over in the dinner hall, in front of the pretty girl he fancied that wouldn’t go out with him. Feeling he’d been embarrassed by brick privy kid, detective Dad kid then slide tackles brick privy kid in Games on the football pitch. Brick privy kid, having been quite badly hurt by this deliberate attack, then waits for detective Dad kid after school and after a bit of argy bargy punches him in the face and gives him a black eye… then it gets really nuts, because detective Dad himself finds out where this kid lives and the family car gets stoved in… back and forth this went, tit for tat, one party does something stupid and destructive
so the other has to top it. It ended pretty badly for detective Dad and his kid – another serious fight occurred outside school, involving a crow bar, and detective Dad’s leg got broken, at least that was the rumour. His kid left the school and did not come back. Brick privy kid stayed on, his Dad apparently got off with a self-defence plea, but no-one messed with Brick privy kid, and he became the top of the food chain. He didn’t seem to learn anything from this process, but went on to replace detective Dad kid.

Who could blame him? It’s the story that we have been telling ourselves since time immemorial, the myth of redemptive violence. This tribe swept in and slaughtered another tribe – the survivors wait until they have regained their strength and hit back. Caesar, peace and victory, you crush the opposition, that’s how we bring peace. You crush us and we’ll regather our strength and hammer you back twice as hard. You insult our religion or our political ideology then we’ll destroy your innocent citizens with nail bombs. We get bombed, well we’ll get right back up and dust ourselves down and bomb you back, twice as bad, until there’s nothing left of your homelands.

And it isn’t just in the sphere of violence; we see it in business, in entertainment, in politics – a Mexican senator says he’ll divert the country’s corn supplies from the US to Brazil and Argentina –Iran votes to retaliate against the US immigration ban – China threatens retaliation for US trade Regulations – the bad guy does bad things and so bad things happen in return. . . it’s the pattern of the world which no-one ever seems to take any lessons from. It’s also the pattern that many Christians in the West have superimposed upon the Cross. Somehow, bad stuff happens – SIN- and
God isn’t happy, so God somehow has to cause violence upon something in order to appease Himself in some way, so He sends His own Son to take on human form and become the perfect sinless sacrifice, dying in the most painful and humiliating way, thus paying back the wounds God has had inflicted from the sin of humanity. . . and we’re supposed to take what lesson from this?

Is it any wonder that Christians in many parts of the Western churches are supportive of war? Supportive of dropping bombs and rejecting the resultant refugees? Redemptive violence is the dominant religion of today, and now it informs Christianity rather than Christianity informing society.

The mistake being made, for me at least, is this overlaying of the myth of redemptive violence over The Cross of Christ, an atonement model of penal substitution. The Cross is not God taking His pound of flesh for the damage caused to Him by sin, the debt owed to Him by the bad things we have done. The Cross is the final answer to the cycle of redemptive violence. God himself, the Son of the Trinity, taking all the violence and hatred and evil of the world upon Himself and saying, Enough. It is finished. It ends here. And now. For all time. All violence that has been and will be. Ends here.

It is finished.
Non violent resistance. The refusal to co-operate with an evil system, through the power
of the greatest of love, bends the universe towards justice and away from the perpetuating of evil, of sin. It is a far more potent weapon than violence in the freeing of the oppressed, of the enslaved.If brick privy kid had only loved detective Dad kid as his neighbour, had resisted without violence,had extended the hand of friendship instead of the shove of fear, perhaps things will have been different. However, in a world where even God is made to bow to the myth of redemptive violence, perhaps things would have got a lot worse for everyone else.

Grace, Faith, Crucifixion and Church- A Sermon by Rachel Murray.

A Sermon preached by Rachel Murray, Ordinand, on 25th January 2017 for the feast of The Conversion of St Paul.
_________________________________________________________

If you had told me…. 4 months ago…on 25th September, the first day of the Michaelmas term that today  I would voluntarily be preaching to you on the Conversion of St Paul…..I would have been in the words of the epistle, trembling and astonished.

Actually today – I feel privileged and not just because it’s the feast day on which Brother Malcolm made his Life Profession – in 1975.

As a cradle Christian I am fascinated by conversion stories.  Possibly even slightly envious.   I have a friend who was an atheist for most of his life until fairly recently.  I wanted to know – what was the moment when it all changed, what happened – was it  highly dramatic,  were you surprised by joy – what did you experience?  I know God had been doing some work on him for a while and my friend said he was just sitting on the sofa watching television when in a moment  – unexpectedly – the universe shifted, it tilted, it changed, all was the same, yet all was profoundly different.   The scales had dropped from his eyes.  He was looking at life through a God lens.  Nothing would ever be the same again.

And so to St Paul – born as Saul of a Pharisee household…grounded and steeped in the Jewish faith.  Destined to be a Pharisee.  All he wanted to do was serve God.  The law of God was his life.

When he heard the teaching of Peter – he was appalled – he knew if this message continued it would overturn the laws of the Pharisees.  And so he began his fight against the Gospel with threatenings and slaughter– at its height – not only did he approve of the slaying of St Stephen  – but he held the coats of the men who did the stoning.

What happened on that road to Damascus has been described as the genetic moment for our Christian faith, it was the moment that caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world – it’s impact is never over and has become universally relevant for Christianity today.

I have identified 4 basic Pauline beliefs.  You may know more – I’m sure you’ll tell me later!  Firstly – we are justified by faith – Pharisees were justified by keeping the law.  Faith depended on what you did.  Paul radically subverted this by preaching that the gift of faith is not something to be achieved – it is something received in Grace.  Salvation is found in the life of Jesus, demonstrated by the action of the Cross, witnessed by resurrection and empowered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, Grace was a keyword for Paul.  God does not love us because we are good but to fashion and fill us with his love.  This was a huge source of Paul’s exhilaration and joy.  The Grace of God  given not by reward but by his nature of neverending love.

Thirdly Paul wrote time and time again of the crucifixion of Jesus and it’s meaning for the world.  He did not witness it but the event was writ deep in his soul.  This is incredibly significant as to a Jew, crucifixion was unspeakably shaming and damning.   You were not just cursed in the eyes of humankind – but also God.  So it is remarkable that Paul came to see and write of the crucifixion of Jesus – not as God’s curse but a saving act of liberation and forgiveness.  At the foot of the Cross, Paul found himself to be a helpless sinner – but not a sinner forsaken.  It was there he was a sinner forgiven.  The Cross and forgiveness are inextricably linked.

And fourthly, The Church and the Body of Christ.  Jesus on the Damascus Road asked Paul  – ‘Why are you persecuting me?’  Gradually Paul came to see and know that the body of Christ was made up of Christian believers and saw that Jesus and his followers made up a single body which we now call the Church.  All Paul’s morality was based on the foundation given through baptism  – in which a Christian puts on Christ and Christ dwells in them.

Paul was changed on that Damascus Road – but it took time for his theology to mature.  He has to be befriended and instructed.  Baptised, we are told – so that the eyes which were blinded in that conversion were opened.

That Damascus Road experience is not confined to Paul, nor to a definite time or place.  Our coming together at this college, to this service has the Damascus Road written deep within it.  We travel that road countless times in our lives and the Spirit of the Living God is here to work His purpose of change and renewal within us.  We are here to be converted and re-converted.  To be converted to a greater truth.  To be converted ever more deeply into our true selves – the selves God wants us to be.

And with that conversion comes challenge –  can we as priests prepare people to be open to the transformation, to the conversion that God holds for them?

 

Our conversion is never complete in this world, rarely dramatic, maybe long and slow – but simply by the fact that we are here today, the conversion of St Paul tells us that by the cross of Jesus, we receive the grace of God and it is through grace and faith…forgiveness and love that we are justified before God.

 

And so today we say:

Thanks be to God for Paul
For his conversion on the Damascus Road
For his teaching, preaching, travelling and writing
For his work which founded the Christian Church
And that each one of us
By the Grace of God
May be able to say
Now I see
Now I understand
Now I know
Now I believe
Amen

Westcott Foundation 2016-17 Programme

WF programme 2016-17 cover smallerIt is a great pleasure to publish the programme for this year’s Westcott Foundation.

As ever, there is a range of study days to resource church leaders in worship and mission, preaching and pastoral ministry, drawing on the riches of the church’s tradition to enable engagement with the contemporary context.  You can download study day programme here: Westcott Foundation Study Days 2016-17 

The annual retreats (for Deacons, and for established clergy) make the most of Westcott House as an oasis in the heart of Cambridge, perfect for taking time out to reflect and recharge.  You can download the retreat programme here: Westcott Foundation Retreats 2016-17 

All events are also listed on the main Westcott House website and calendar

To book a place at any of the events, simply call 01223 741000, or use the downloadable booking form.

You can read more about our first event this year (5th October) here, timed to resource planning and thinking in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday, and in the wider context of current conflict and the centenary commemorations of WW1.

The Bible, the Great War, and Remembrance
Wednesday 5th October 2016, 10am-4pm
Led by Andrew Mein, Nathan Macdonald, and Ally Barrett
Remembrancetide is challenging. How do we meet so many diverse needs and expectations? How do we both remember the past fallen and speak into the complexity of contemporary conflicts? 100 years ago, as the world faced the horrors of total war, the Bible was crucial in enabling Christians to make sense of their experience. Introduced by the leaders of a Cambridge University research project on the use of the Bible during WW1, and by Westcott’s Director of Pastoral Studies, we will reflect on current practice of remembrance, and draw on the use of the Bible during 1914-18 to find new resources for theology and preaching.

 

Responsibility Without Authority

by Revd Prof Dr. Michael Fass (Senior Research Fellow, Westcott Foundation)

Introduction

This article is about the way that those who do not take a Stipend from the Church can reflect on their roles and responsibilities and the way that the Church can respond to them.

It is written from an Anglican perspective but its content may be applied to other churches who engage with such individuals. It is about the local church and is not about the multiple ministries that many non-Stipended clergy have in that part of the world understood as secular.

As the Church experiences falling numbers of those who offer themselves for full time ministry, issues of engaging with those who are Ordained but who are not in receipt of payments becomes more important. For example, in the Church of England the number of non-Stipendiary clergy is increasing at c. 3,000 whilst the number of Stipendiaries is reducing to c. 8,000.  The CofE has never paid much attention to this part of its clergy workforce and has no non-Stipended individuals in any position of authority anywhere.  At a recent workshop at Westcott one Bishop was reported to have declared that the non-Stipended clergy in the CofE were: “simply too diverse to do anything about!”.

As a consequence, this group can often feel marginalised and neglected and whilst it is true that it is very diverse, ways can be found to identity and develop common ground about its purpose.

The use of the words “Non-Stipendiary” to describe the role are in themselves derogatory and a number of attempts have been made to soften them at the same time that a variety of alternative non-Stipend-taking models have been experimented with – and introduced. Some of these usages must be a complete mystery to non-Anglicans and increase the confusion around the titles which now include: Self-Supporting Ministers (SSM); Ministers n Secular Employment (MSE); Locally Ordained Minister (LOM/OLM); Collaborative ministry, Voluntary Minister and Clergy with Permission to Officiate (PTO).

These difference in nomenclature, usages and understandings of role are not a sufficient reason for failing to appreciate the part these individuals play in the life of the Church. Rather, they describe an institution that is struggling to understand the nature of ministry (and by implication of Holy Orders!) at a time of rapid change, the most significant of which is the decline in church numbers and the call to mission.

One aspect of the discourse about non-Stipends is that it is very often framed in negativity.  This comes from both those who are non-Stipends and from those who are responsible for them.

I call this the seesaw effect of the abused and the abusive. On one end are the abused who are called upon to perform all those tasks in ministry (and there are many!) that are too tedious or time-consuming to attract the attention of full-time ministers. These individuals can become dis-enfranchised, dis-interested and destructive to the life of the local church and make the lives of the full-timers miserable. At the other end of the seesaw are those who are themselves abusive.  That is, they will only do what is convenient to them and are not willing to share in the “heavy lifting” of the life of the local Parish or of the wider Church.

Of course, there are many non-Stipend ministers we know who are at neither of these extremes and enjoy fulfilling ministries but the fact that the Church has no deliberate policy about their work suggests that something is not right that needs to be addressed.

As an alternative to framing the discourse of the role of non-Stipends in such terms, I should like to examine what lies behind the role and to explore what it means to have “Responsibility without Authority” that is intended to make a contribution to a revised theory-practice paradigm for those who do not take a Stipend from the Church.

However, it is important that the direction of travel from which I come is appreciated. I was Ordained into the Scottish Episcopal Church 20 years ago after half a life-time of lay discipleship. I served as a Non-Stipended Team Priest in the Diocese of Edinburgh and as Priest in Charge at Rosslyn Chapel for 9 years throughout the Da Vinci Code phenomenon before being appointed the Bishop’s Officer for ministry development. I now hold a PTO in the Diocese of Hereford; I work in three universities teaching theology and business administration at doctoral level and I am Fellow at Westcott Foundation in Cambridge. Throughout all of this time I have continued in secular employment and have not been paid by the Church except when I was part-paid at Rosslyn. I have also acted as Chair of ICF (Industrial Christian Fellowship and Moderator of CHRISM (Christians in Secular Employment).

I have divided my thinking into four parts in order to try to introduce some clarity into issues of “Responsibility without Authority” in ministry.  These are issues of: sociality, theology, ecclesiology and the ministerial role.

Issues of Sociality

Having responsibility for something usually goes along with the authority for its implementation but this is not always so. Most non-Stipends take on responsibilities in the local Parish and beyond, but few have the commensurate authority. Responsibility is about being answerable and accountable, being trusted and having the independence to fulfil the role. Authority means having the power to get something done with the attendant knowledge and expertise to achieve it.

Freud (1856-1939) put ideas about responsibility down to early-life experience and the way that our ‘unconscious mind’ learns to accept or reject responsibility; have it forced upon us or denied to us. Marx (1818-1883) referred to responsibility as structural and a function of ‘the buffers of destiny’.  In these ways ideas about responsibility are ‘hard-wired’ into our lives in both positive and negative ways.

Likewise, ideas about authority come from issues of structure as in Weber’s (1864-1920) ideas about hierarchy and ‘the grounds for authority’ in his bureaucratic model and from models in human history in, for example, De Gaulle’s (1890-1970) mystical self-belief.

Difficulties in dealing with responsibility include issues of denial, blame and punishment

whilst authority can involve difficult issues of rigidity, rules, certitude and entitlement. Each of these meanings can affect the way that we think about these words, their meanings and how we respond to them in the tasks of ministry.

Issues of theology

One of the founding Anglican thinkers about the idea of non-Stipends in the modern era was a CofE clergyman who in his work as a missionary in China came to the conclusion that the model of being church that was based on the primary role of the priest would simply not work in that vast country with its expanding population. Roland Allen (1869-1947) experienced the way that the work of mission was frustrated by clergy who held all the power; that the churches would never be able to provide the resources needed and that it should be the people of God who ministered to themselves and to others. Allen called this the ‘overflowing abundance’ of the Gospel. His ideas were considered so dangerous that he was removed from mission activity and, back in England, was banned from preaching from his own pulpit by the Bishop of Oxford. In our own times, the experience of Father Vincent Donovan amongst the Masai was not dissimilar.  He too was recalled to Ireland and was never allowed to go into Africa again.

However, signs had emerged in the post-war era that alternative ways of mission would be needed in its chaotic aftermath and in France the Little Brothers in Christ offered an example of the worker-priest deeply engaged with secular culture whilst maintaining a life of piety.

It was Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) who in league with his Cambridge friend Bishop Mervyn Stockwood (1913-1995) of Southwark declared that the idea of the non-Stipended minister was inclusive of ‘the inward meaning of priesthood’ and theologically authentic. In particular, Non-Stipends would be self-supporting, mission orientated and would face both church and the world – Not unlike a number of the models in the early Church.

Whilst some of these objectives were distorted by the world oil crisis of October 1973 (my training Rector, the late Revd. John Farrant, used to say that non-Stipends were then used to fill ‘gaps in the thin black line’) the original aim was not entirely lost. As the churches have continued to lose adherents since then, the challenging words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s (1906-1945) ‘What does God mean for people today?’ have come to be at the centre of the direction of the purpose and future of the churches.

Non-Stipends potentially now have both the responsibility – and the authority – to become the explorers of the Church; to work in those liminal places that other kinds of ministers are less likely to access and to minister in both contradiction and conciliation.

Issues of Ecclesiology

The CofE, as might have been expected, opposed such ideas and in a series of Convocations and Synods over many decades rejected non-Stipendiary ministry as being antithetical to Ordination and of the need to keep faith with Pope Gregory the Great’s (AD540-604) ideas of simony and celibacy (which maintained the separateness of the clergy) and of Justin Martyr’s (AD100-165) remark that ‘The blood of the martyrs is the life of the church’ (which made the stress and overwork of clergy to be the norm).

This compared starkly with the experience of those entering the CofE via the Southwark Ordination course who included the chief inspector of buses at London Bridge station and Jim Storey, solicitor to the TUC.

These individuals and many generations of non-Stipends who have followed in their footsteps understand their roles as contextual (don’t we all!), interpretive, recognisable and prophetic – each of which has the potential to add to the overall mission effort which is needed for our time.

Issues of role

Whilst Ordination comes from a variety of ontological motivations, ministry comes from that part of it which is about ‘doing’. Ministry is a ‘performative act’ in which something is expected of the minister in and of the social world.

All ministers share this responsibility for action and many non-Stipends (but not all) often have a double responsibility in more ways than one. In addition to their involvement in that part of God’s world known as secular, they often act as the ‘second chair’ or the ‘first follower’ in the local Parish to their full-time clergy counterpart.

This is a difficult role to play. Many non-Stipends enjoy major responsibilities in their secular role and are leaders and followers in their own right and on their own terms. Playing what they may feel is ‘second violin’ to another is not always easy for them. This is especially the case when they witness their full-time clerical leader behaving inappropriately or leading the local Parish ineffectively.

In such situations tolerance and Godly patience are needed on both sides to prevent the breakdown in relationship that is so common and which can lead to the distain that the two parties often express about the other – the “you lot are too diverse to take seriously or do anything about” attitude already identified.

This raises the question of the qualities that non-Stipends should aim to develop that will help them to own a ministry that is of both challenge and contentment within the local Parish. However, it should be recognised by their full time sisters and brothers that for many non-Stipends this will often only be a part of their lives when they are of working age and in  secular employment but that this does not mean that they are not in and of God and His mission when so engaged.

The ministry of non-Stipends is a gift to the Church and non-Stipends should not be passive about their Parish ministry but should contribute fully to the local church’s efforts (IE not to abuse it).

This raises the issue of the extent to which non-Stipends are of the Church but not in it. One of the reasons for the dis-enchantment of full-time clergy towards their non-Stipends is the way that some of them snipe at the inadequacies they observe in the practice of full-time ministry in the Church. As the Lay leadership of the Church becomes increasingly empowered through its knowledge and experience, many full-time clergy can feel threatened and correspondingly dis-empowered. Much of this lay criticism can be justified by the Church’s managing of its business but neither Church nor secular organisational practice is either wholly good or wholly bad.

There are a number of qualities that can be associated with those who have responsibility without authority and who act as first followers and second leaders. Amongst these are: the vocation of followers with responsibility; the ministry of followers without authority; the relationships of those with responsibility and the power of those without authority.

The vocation of followers with responsibility

It is not an easy task to fulfil ministry in our time even with the full authority the Church gives to its leaders. Ministry is full of ambiguities with or without the authority that goes along with the full-time role. The vocation of the non-Stipended clergy person is also ambiguous and often complex with one foot in the secular part of God’s world and the other in the local church. In particular, non-Stipends should ask themselves of their ministry in the local Parish – and of their responsibility to its leader – of the ways in which they can challenge, shape and contribute to its life and progress compared to their being passive, acting only as an implementer of the ideas of others or as its critic. In this model, followers have onerous responsibilities to act for good with or without the authority to do so.

The ministry of followers without authority

Whilst conventional thinking may propose that responsibility is a function of authority, it does not always need to be so. Followers can take responsibility upon themselves for their actions with the assumption that what they are doing will be in the general direction of travel of which their clergy-leader would approve. The giving of service does not always need the permission of another but can be an autonomous act of love. In the secular part of God’s world, current leaders quite deliberately say to their followers: “don’t ask me, make up your own mind!”. Active followers can also provide an aspect of challenge that is critical when alternative courses of action are under consideration and are valued by leaders who will ask: ‘what do you think we should do?”

Active followers do not leave their brains at the door; should struggle with complexity in the tasks of transformation and ill often find that their leader is engaged in the same struggle and will appreciate their supportive critique.

Lastly, followers are entitled to speak to power when this is needed if, for example, the leader is going in the wrong direction.

The relationships of those with responsibility

The relationship between the non-Stipended clergy person and their (usually) full time colleague-in-leadership will be one of the critical challenges that they will face.

One way to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the full-time leader is to focus on the purpose of the local church and not on the person of its leadership.  This is not easy when personality plays such a large part in the performance of ministry and when members of the congregation start playing Chinese whispers about what the leader has or has not done. Non-Stipends need to remind themselves of the privileges of Ordination and not get trapped in differences or disputes about personality. Another way to manage relationships is to seek to act as a mentor to the other in appreciation that the tasks of ministry are hard and that the role of the ‘critical friend’ can make a real difference.

The power of followers without authority

The idea that followers who are responsible but do not have authority cannot act is one of the main barriers to thinking and acting in the non-Stipended role. Followers have many opportunities to use their followership in ways that will support their full-time colleagues at the same time as developing their own distinctive ministries. These include a commitment to the tasks of ministry (or not shirking some of its tiresome activities1) as well as speaking truth to power, setting high standards and making hard choices. Many non-Stipends have extensive networks across the local church and beyond it that can help their full-time colleagues link themselves quickly and effectively with the local community. This can extend their mission boundaries and take them into liminal places they would not otherwise be able to go. Non-Stipends should be enablers and not gate-keepers whilst appreciating that very often their networks will last longer than those of their full-time leader who will move on. This situation is both a gift and a responsibility and has little to do with authority.

Conclusion

One way of considering ways to fulfil the non-Stipended role is to reverse the question and ask: ‘what do leaders seek from those who follow but also lead?’

Leaders seek individuals who will be their partners in ministry and who will serve the needs of the local church. One way that this has been defined is in the words ‘the towel of service’ (appropriately in the context of the Passion story!) to describe the qualities of the good follower. These include the credibility to act in the support role developed through long experience and of the trust that comes from it; one who is demonstrably patient with others, who is consistent in their loyalty and is a co-operator.

From this analysis it is possible to identify a ministry for non-Stipends that provides both challenge and contentment, both pastoral and evangelising opportunities, that is both performative and reflective and, above all, does not permit the role to be infantilised but gives proper place to the integrity and responsibility of the follower.

‘Always be ready to make your defence when anyone challenges you to justify the hope that is in you but do so with courtesy and respect (I Peter 3.15).

(This article first appeared in ‘Ministry Today UK’ Edition No. 67, Summer 2016)

 

 

 

‘Crisis in Employment’ by Revd Prof. Dr Michael Fass

 

Michael Fass is a Senior Research Fellow at the Westcott Foundation, Cambridge, & former Chair of ICF (Industrial Christian Fellowship)

Introduction

As the news came through about the latest job losses at Newport in South Wales and Redcar in the North East of England memories came back to me of the hard years of the two great recessions in 1981-1984 and 1989-1994. The first recession was a so-called “blue collar” one with shipyards, coal mines and steel works closed down in all the formerly great and historic industrial areas of Central Scotland, the North East and South Wales. The second was quite different and was a “white collar” recession with many office workers, middle managers and professionals, for example, architects, put out of work throughout the UK. The first attracted national attention not least during and after the Miners Strike of 1984-1985. However, the second was less visible with a slower “after burn” of destructive force as the national economy recovered and boomed in the years following “big bang”.

In the first recession there were double blows to working age individuals. The 1981 Budget doubled VAT from 8% to 15% which brought the national economy to a shuddering halt and put many self-employed people – of whom I was one – out of work with no prospect of re-employment throughout the recession. Increases in direct and indirect taxes did for the rest of the economy.

The second recession which led to the closure of many corporate headquarters finished off white-collar professionals many of whom were never to work again although only in their 40s and 50s.

In the first recession I was more fortunate than many others because through my part-time work with the world’s first Small Firms Service inspired by the Bolton Committee’s 1971 report and started up by Harold Wilson in the mid-1970s, I was taken on to manage the Government’s response to unemployment in West Lothian, the UK’s fourth highest area of unemployment (TWA). Coal mining had been its traditional industry and on nationalisation vesting day in 1951 there were 31 collieries employing 12,000 miners. By the mid -1960s many of these had closed and in 1983 when I began work only two were still operational of which one – whose main shaft was named the Gallipoli shaft – had been sunk in 1915!

In 1964, as part of a national industrial dispersal policy, British Leyland were instructed to build a truck and engine building facility in the area and by 1983 this plant employed 9,500 – mainly men – that included over 600 engineering apprentices with a further 3,500 ancillary jobs in the surrounding community. I remember the local MP, Tam Dalyell, telling me that inside the plant was the largest concentration of machine tools in western Europe – 1400. The only problem was that Leyland had dumped their oldest equipment into the factory and most of the machines had manufacturers identification plates dating from 1953!

Between 1984-1986 all of these local jobs were lost, the level of adult unemployment rose to c.29% and unemployment amongst young people aged 19 was at c. 90%. Less than 5% of economically active people worked in smaller firms and one third of the adult population of c. 45,0000 out of a total population of 148,000 were without work or prospects. I remember going out of my office in my first week at work to buy a sandwich and being puzzled to see the number of young families pushing prams in the street during working hours. In retrospect I think that it was at that moment when I realised that the job on which I was about to embark was going to be more about prophecy than about national policy; more about action that economic theory and more about pastoral care than about personal boundaries although at the time I hardly knew the meaning of the word pastoral!

The role of prophetic leadership

The initial reactions of the community to the multiple closures that followed their announcement were those of shock and anger. This was closely followed by despair. It took a long time – around three years – for this to become the determination to create a new way for the community. I remember being asked by a redundant Leyland truck worker if I thought that he would ever work again. I responded that I believed he would not but that if what we were planning to do doing was successful, then his children and grandchildren would have good jobs. The community enjoyed a close knit culture – like many industrial areas –  and began to mobilise in a variety of ways. Much of this was related to temporary work schemes (the UK Govnt’s Community Programme was in full swing) but the resources available were quite inadequate to cope with the social and economic consequences of the situation and the large numbers of individuals needing support.

The most remarkable feature of the area that emerged was the quality of its leadership. At that time there were four layers of public authority in Scotland. These were: The national government at Westminster, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office in Edinburgh and the regional and local authorities in the community. It might be imagined that this would a recipe for inaction at worst and duplication of effort at best but because of the quality of the individuals involved at all of these levels – and in particular, those responsible for the planning function – the actions that were first planned and then implemented, were unprecedented in the modern economic history of Scotland when applied to a local community.

For example, the two Westminster MPs, Tam Dalyell and the late Robin Cook, lent their support and lobbied ceaselessly for what needed to be done. One measure that was proposed but was considered totally unreasonable by those in control, would be the re-opening of the passenger rail line into the city of Edinburgh that would provide access to jobs in the short term whilst local jobs would take longer to be created.  This was achieved when the Convenor (Mayor) of the local authority hired a helicopter and flew the Secretary of State for Scotland along its proposed route. The route was the only new railway line built in the UK throughout the 17 years of Margaret Thatcher’s government!

Tam Dalyell, already with a fierce-some reputation at weekly PMQs, would visit my office most weeks to enquire how things were going and did I have a question for next Tuesday afternoon at 2.15pm – Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland-  conveniently placed immediately before questions to the Prime Minister at 2.45pm! The railway initiative was also an example of co-operation with no regard for Party lines: London and Edinburgh were ruled by the Conservatives but the regional and local authorities by Labour.

At every level of public service, plans were made for both short and long term developments that included better road networks and motorway access points, an increase in industrial building of small and medium sized factories and offices; access to venture capital funds that could be drawn upon by local businesses and an increase in education and training provisions in local high schools and colleges.  All of these proposed activities were founded on a new vision for the community that was developed and promoted that would replace its former reliance on one way of work and life to provide a more diverse future. Whilst the initial focus of leadership was on key infrastructural improvements, the long term task was about  changing hearts and minds.

The focus for practical action

Whilst planning work progressed there was much to organise. I remember the Convenor (Chair) of the Planning Committee asking me how many months it would be before I would be in a position to open our offices to the public and offer advice to businesses. I replied that we were open for business on the day of my arrival and could the local authority help to promote the services we could provide? From a standing start of a total of three staff and a budget of £180,000, the agency grew in the next three years to a total of 19 staff and a budget of over £5 million a year. The programmes that were initiated included a woman-only enterprise programme, the first in Scotland, and work with young people starting up in business in addition to management services for existing companies but the main priority was to stabilise the local businesses that remained and to encourage new ones to start up.

The public authorities primary and secondary schools were of a high standard but entry to higher education was low as formerly there had been an expectation that the majority of young people would become apprentices in local factories or go to work in the public utilities.  These routes into work were now blocked. As a way to help young people adjust, we initiated a Soc.&Voc. programme for both students and teachers that was designed to introduce them to the economy in which they would be working in the future. After initial resistance, over 100 high school teachers participated in the scheme.  Similar changes were introduced into the curriculum of the local FE college so that young people would be able to participate in new employment opportunities when these should arise.

The voluntary sector in the area was already well developed but, for example, CAB became a key resource for the community. The local authority embarked on a major house improvement programme in its smaller settlements and community-based social agencies were very active in providing a wide variety of social and economic services.  These would now be called ‘social enterprises’.

The need for pastoral attention

Such was the high level of suspicion about the situation and the charge that I was a government lackey, it took me almost two years before I was invited to meet the Joint Shop Stewards Committee (JSSC) representing 19 separate union organisations inside the Leyland plant to discuss ideas about the alternative ownership of manufacturing operations. In addition to the 98 series engine being fitted into Leyland’s own truck range, it was also used in a number of other applications including JCB back-loaders. The hope of the shop stewards was that the plant could continue to produce the engine -although at a lower volume of production – by selling to other users. This led to one of the most sensitive car journeys in my life as the Convenor (Chair) of the JSSC and I travelled by car down to England and after an overnight stay in a nearby hotel, met with JCB’s leadership the following morning to discuss our proposal.   Although not successful, the experience changed the way I thought and felt about opposition to the changes that were happening to individuals and groups who found themselves in situations for which they were completely unprepared and illequipped to manage for themselves and for their families.

Such interventions occurred on a daily basis either in our own offices and workshops, at meetings with individuals and groups throughout the community and alongside those who were responsible for providing the resources required which involved public and private institutions in the UK and EU. In each of these settings there were opportunities for engagement both with those to whom I wished to explain and promote plans and activities and with those who were anxious about their future.

Conclusion

Thinking about areas that are currently being challenged by profound changes in industrial and employment infrastructure – let alone the additional pressures of global trade and competition – I wonder what the lessons for ministry might be for today.

First, my experience tells me that the most important feature for taking action is the quality of the leadership that is available locally and regionally. This demands an equally high standard of response from church leaders so that by their example, knowledge and commitment they can participate in all that needs to be done. I was at a meeting of clergy recently which was discussing the role of mission in the Parish. Each individual was asked to draw a map of their community networks. Most could not get much further than conducting the Remembrance Day service for the British Legion each year! Ministers need to have extensive networks of relationships already in place that canl anticipate trouble that might lie ahead.

Second, there are many practical actions in which the local church can become involved. The  local church is often located at the centre of the community both socially and psychically and can be used as a focal point for those who would not otherwise meet or communicate with each other. Ministers need to draw up mind-maps of who and where the key sources of intelligence, power. leadership and resources can be found and identify the ways of influencing their plans and actions.

Third, the local church should also plan to provide resources in its own right and as a partner in the provision of services. In the second of the recessions the church in which I worshipped started up a ‘Crisis in Employment’ group for which I was responsible that provided CV writing, interview practice and personal support.

Prophetic leadership, practical action and pastoral attention are all issues about which the church knows a great deal from its accumulated wisdom over many generations and ministers  who are serious about the industrial and employment situations in which they and their communities face have a vital role to play in their resolution.

After many years of struggle and hard work, the area in which I worked between 1983-1992 now has over 45% of its economically active people working in smaller firms, an unemployment rate of less than 6%, a prize-winning local authority and a community that considers itself to be socially and economically successful. I make no claims for my part in these changes except for the privilege of having been a participant in them.

(This article first appeared in Urban Bulletin Issue No. 30 June 2016) .

 

A Conflict of Biblical Proportions? Scripture and the First World War

The centenary of the First World War has provided an important opportunity to re-evaluate its impact on religious faith and life.  Westcott House is one of a number of partners participating in a new project examining the influence of the Bible during World War I, as well as how views of the Bible changed as a result of the conflict.

German Bible with bullet hole
German Bible with bullet hole (Photo: Professor Dr Gottfried Geiler)

The Bible’s significance for people who lived through World War I may seem, superficially, an unlikely subject, but its influence was considerable. Many of the generation who fought in the First World War had studied the Bible at school and were more familiar with its contents than most people now. As a result, Christian nations on both sides were able to use it as a source of inspiration, motivation and propaganda. At the same time, conscientious objectors could use its message of peace to defend their refusal to fight. Wherever people stood in relation to the war, the scriptures offered a fundamental resource that could help them make sense of what they were going through.

Canadian picture of Jesus at Firing Squad of mixed European Soldiers
‘The Deserter’: Jesus faces a firing squad of mixed European soldiers (image credit: Boardman Robinson, via Wikimedia Commons)

The research project, entitled “The Book And The Sword: The Bible In The Experience and Legacy of the Great War”, is drawing together theologians and historians from around the world to look at this understudied area and for the first time attempt to pull together many potentially fascinating threads into a coherent narrative. From the controversial sermons of Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London; to General Allenby’s entry on foot into Jerusalem in 1917 in self-conscious imitation of Jesus; to the earnest debate among German theologians about whether or not the Old Testament really was bloodthirsty enough reading matter for the heroic German people; the project will aim to show how the Bible was a potent force that shaped many people’s wartime experience.

This Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project is being led by Andrew Mein, Senior Research Fellow in Biblical Studies at Westcott House, and by Nathan MacDonald, Lecturer in Hebrew Bible in the Divinity Faculty. You can see Nathan and Andrew interviewed about the project for our local TV channel, Cambridge TV, by following the link below.

http://www.cambridge-tv.co.uk/World-War-One-Bible/

A project like this is not only about the past. The First World War still looms large in our national self-consciousness, and is called to mind every year at Remembrancetide.  To look back at the way that faith and scripture worked for people a hundred years ago can help us reflect on our current practice: how did they hold together the seemingly impossible demands of national civic religion and the Christian witness for peace?

Soldiers hearing mass in the ruins of Cambrai cathedral, October 1918 © IWM (Q 9559)
Soldiers hearing mass in the ruins of Cambrai cathedral, October 1918 © IWM (Q 9559)

How might we draw on their experience to refresh our worship and preaching in a season that clergy often find challenging?  The Westcott Foundation will be offering an opportunity to explore these themes in a study on ‘Bible, War and Remembrance’ on Wednesday 5th October 2016, led by Andrew Mein, Nathan MacDonald, and Ally Barrett. Remembrancetide is challenging for those who lead worship and preach. How do we meet so many diverse needs and expectations? How do we both remember the past fallen and speak into the complexity of contemporary conflicts?  In this study day we will reflect on current practice of remembrance, and draw on the use of the Bible during 1914-18 to find new resources for theology and preaching.  Click here to email us and reserve a place at this study day or to find out more. 

In the mean time you can read more about the project here:

http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/a-conflict-of-biblical-proportions-how-the-bible-was-used-to-turn-the-first-world-war-into-a-holy

and here:

http://www.bibleandww1.divinity.cam.ac.uk

Stanley Spencer, Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing-Station at Smol, Macedonia, September
Stanley Spencer, Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing-Station at Smol, Macedonia, September, IWM ART 2268  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/25132

 

The distinction of λόγος- A Sermon by Arwen Folkes.

A Sermon preached by Arwen Folkes, Ordinand, on 18th May 2016. 

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‘No one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me’
~ Mk 9.38-40
May I speak in the name of….
When a business idea is born there almost always follows a process of strategic planning, writing a mission statement, and deciding who exactly it is for.  A brand or logo will then be designed to represent how the service or a product is to be understood by others.
Logos generally embody the values, definition, membership, appeal, and purpose of a concept. While some logos speak instantly others become significant as a service becomes more and more associated with it.
In particular, when it’s a logo for an activity, it often represents membership marking who belongs, and who doesn’t. It can become a badge of honour, a right to be earned or bought, and if particularly high-end the logo indicates a privilege.
In the first verse of this evenings Gospel it seems as though the ‘name of Jesus’ has come to inhabit the space of a logo; ‘We tried to stop them’ John says ‘because they were not following us’.
Stopped because they hadn’t earned the right to use the Jesus logo, because using the name of Jesus requires membership, earned rights, and followed tradition.
But, Jesus reclaims the right to decide who uses ‘his name’ and stops them in their tracks.
‘No, no, no’, he says, ‘my name is not a logo of membership … my name is the power of the λόγος of God’
Although linguistically similar, the term ‘λόγος’ is very different to the term ‘logo’. Where logo symbolizes an idea, logos is the idea; it includes the spark, the power, the movement, and the expression.
The second verse of tonight’s Gospel shows that Jesus himself believes his very name contains a power that transcends any mere linguistic representation. Within the very name of Jesus, there exists all that he says, does, breathes and becomes. The name is completely hallowed by his being and, he tells us, the one who uses it will find their purpose hallowed in return.
Such is the power of the name, such is the reach of the word, such is the λόγος of God … where humans use a logo to express the values of something, the λόγος frees humans to express the values of everything.
I wonder, therefore, how we facilitate the name of Jesus being known as logo or λόγος? The answer I think lies in being aware of the distinction.
A logo depends upon those who buy into it and creates exclusivity by placing parameters and definitions on who has the right to belong and use the brand. Indeed, legal structures exist to prosecute anyone deemed to have misrepresented the logo’s concept.
In contrast, the λόγος incorporates, builds, and integrates. It transforms, because it sees potential and nurtures it and it tries new things. As heard this evening it even works with those outside the tradition because it knows no bounds.
Where a logo says ‘yes’ but will frequently mean no, when the λόγος says yes, he really means it.
When we fully consider the name of Jesus Christ, I think we surely see that human boundaries are not the gospel message … because, the real message to be found is that the λόγος of God can gloriously and powerfully gift anyone who has experienced the call to use his name.
In the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen