This week's prayers:
- EU Referendum
- New CCOW Resources: Beyond Refugee Week
"For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." Galatians 5:14-15
During the EU Referendum campaign, it's been striking how many people have said they felt that their voices were not being heard: unemployed people from areas that have been marginalised since the loss of their industries ... experts in economics and finance ... young people ... older people ... those who are seen as national 'leaders' and are used to being listened to ... those who feel that the country's leaders are a remote elite and that no one ever listens to them.
Whether you've been an 'in' or an 'out' sympathiser, this sense that we are a deeply divided nation where people can no longer hear each other has to be a matter of concern. It's nothing new; the referendum has simply exposed known fault lines in our relationships with each other - between those who have benefited from the current economic and political systems and those who haven't, those who have had access to education and those who haven't, those who are younger and those who are older, those who belong to groups which feel part of the mainstream and those who are uncertain that a Britain outside Europe will acknowledge their rights. And as we face the opportunities and challenges of negotiations with our European neighbours and the reshaping of our country's identity within the wider global context, these divisions - as well as the divisions with other nations caused by our decision to leave the EU - need to be addressed. Because, as this week's New Testament reading reminds us, if we don't love our neighbour, we may well wind up being consumed by each other.
In an atmosphere where hurts are real, grievances have been built up over many years, trust is lacking, and some use division as a strategy, working to create space for ourselves and others to listen and to love may not be easy. But as this week's Gospel reading reminds us, the Christian vocation has never been easy and is not based in our strength. It involves following a Lord who forsook the basic certainties that most of us crave - a home, the security of family, a 'safe' place in society - in order to follow his calling of love. And it involves recognising that this same Lord offers those who are prepared to follow Him a new identity that transcends our earthly identities and that frees us, even in times of uncertainty, to work together in love. Moreover, He promises to guide and strengthen us - within and across national boundaries - in living out the Kingdom values He calls us to exhibit, such as justice, righteousness, radical service, and compassion.
As Christians, let's pray for forgiveness for hurts caused by the Referendum campaign. Let's pray for healing of the divisions within our country and with our European neighbours - praying especially that the Churches may be a witness to the ways that God's love extends beyond any boundaries. Let's pray - and, in deep humility, ask our fellow Christians in the EU and beyond to pray - for discernment for all involved in the negotiations that are to come. And, as church leaders note in the statements below, let's pray for the grace to renew our commitment to God's Kingdom, and to contribute to the coming debates in a way that holds fast to what is good and that shows the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
New CCOW Resources: Beyond Refugee Week
We hope that you found last week's summary of resources for Refugee Week helpful. This week we're attaching two resources Bethan has prepared to enable reflection and action in the coming weeks and months. The first is a study guide, with three sessions suitable for individual reflection group discussions. The second is a list of resources for reflection and action. Please let us know how you use this material!