Love is the answer

As a Christian and someone who also predominantly works within the realms of Sharia law, I am always in wonder at the relevance of faith in the world today. It is important we understand why certain events happen and how we reconcile our lives within such challenging times.

The events of recent months have shocked people around the world and the last few blogs have addressed many of the issues that have arisen from this. However, it is so important that as individuals we endeavour to play our part in the larger community around us. If we are tolerant and show love, we will eventually win over the hearts and minds of those who feel that the only way is violence and intolerance.

This week I am spending time with family and friends at Hilfield Friary in Dorset, where we are reflecting on these troubling times, in particular the refugee crisis that continues to unfold. In such peaceful surroundings, it is easy to forget the troubled world around us. However, we use this strength to seek justice, and through prayer and actions, a better place for all.

The bible explains that Love is patient, love is kind… it is not rude, it is not self-seeking… Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. In the Quran, it states that we treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need.

If we can take our love and meet those without, maybe all of us can start to make a difference.

Stuart Hutton FCSI, DipPFS

Chief Investment Officer

Simply Ethical

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Dual citizenship

The blog has been dominated bCate Williamsy politics for the last few weeks.  It is our nation’s preoccupation, and as Christians we have dual citizenship, in our nation and in the kingdom of God.  It is right and natural that at a time when one of our places of belonging is in turmoil, reflection should happen on the interaction between the two, and what our belonging in the kingdom of God means for our belonging in our nation.  Worldwide events are troubling too, with Nice prominent in our minds at the moment as the latest of a string of atrocities.

I’m going to share here something of my personal journey of the last few weeks.  For me, three things are of note: trees; a social media campaign called ‘Movement of Love’ and a letter to the PM.

Trees are what held me steady when the news came in from the referendum.  In their solidity and rootedness they reminded me that for all that much is changing, some things remain constant.  The sun still comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening.  Nature is flourishing in a time of year when there is much growth.  There are things I am concerned about but God is still God, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.

Next comes my need to do something, which I think many of us felt.  We saw an increase in racism, we saw hatred between those on opposing sides of the vote, and all against the background of troubling worldwide events.  The antidote to such things is and always will be love, rooted in our God who is the source and origin of all love.  I have become involved in launching a social media campaign, others may like to join in.  #MovementOfLove and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MovementOfLove2016/

Finally, a letter to our new Prime Minister.  She said that she wants to work for a vision of the UK which includes everyone rather than just for the privileged few.  It is all too easy to write angry and destructive letters so I decided to take the opportunity to write something positive, appreciating the sentiment in her words and encouraging her  to stick to this commitment.

That is my story of the last few weeks, we each will have our own stories to tell.  What is important is to ensure that our dual citizenships interact, that our citizenship of the kingdom of God inspires us to bring kingdom values to bear in our earthly citizenship too.

The Revd Cate Williams, Mission and Evangelism Officer for the Diocese of Gloucester

What price good neighbours?

david smithLast Sunday, congregations in any churches following the common lectionary will have heard the story of the Good Samaritan, prompted by Jesus being asked “… and who is my neighbour?” He deliberately chose to use the example of an immediately neighbouring community – the Samaritans – but one with whom the Jews were not exactly on friendly terms, to say the least.

The Jewish victim in the story could reasonably have expected help from his fellow countrymen, who both ‘passed by on the other side’, whereas it was the alien, the Samaritan who actually helped him, at his own expense and his own risk. I don’t think the Samaritan saw a foreigner, or an immigrant, or a terrorist threat, or a potential economic drain. Did he worry about the victim’s race, colour, or creed? Did he worry that when the victim recovered he would continue to be a burden on Samaritan resources? Did he wonder whether the victim was in fact wealthy and might be able to offer something in return?

Of course, we shall never know what the Samaritan actually asked himself, but we know exactly what he did – and that says it all. He saw simply another human being in need of help, and he came to his aid in whatever way he could.

Whatever you think of Brexit, whatever your views on immigration, whatever you feel about the refugee crisis, we all need good neighbours – and it starts with us being good neighbours ourselves.

By the Revd Canon David Smith, Team Rector, North Cheltenham Team Ministry

Walking humbly…

Chris Maclay

Another busy week of political upheaval, international violence, an inquest report, and sporting breath-holding…. uncertainty and frailty on a multitude of levels. As others have recently said, our best response in unpredictable (and predictable) times is to look upwards to the one who made us and sustains us.

As I have watched the political parties this week I have found myself longing for leaders defined by both humility and integrity. Yes, in Westminster, but in every village and organisation too.

At the political level, obviously, I value and cherish our heritage of democracy. But I am not convinced that the way it is exercised in many quarters is working. When politicians take a position and then do anything they can in order to blindly protect that position, they risk diverting all of us from the truth and they display an arrogance that allows no space for wisdom. Humility on the other hand, listens to and respects other voices, admits frailty and sees the good in others. John Dickson describes it as ‘holding power in the service of others.’ He points to the example of Jesus who ‘came not to be served, but to serve’, and he goes on to say that for a leader ‘perhaps the most obvious outcome of being humble is that you will learn, grow and thrive in a way the proud have no hope of doing.’

So, I hope and pray for leaders who do not thrust themselves forward in self-promotional arrogance, leaders who offer themselves in the service of others, and leaders who are ready to listen and learn. And I hope and pray that I, too, may be a leader like that.

By the Revd Chris Maclay, Forest Area Dean and Vicar of Bream.

Values for a post-referendum society

robert_springett 2As I look at the many churches across our Diocese I am struck as to how much change they have witnessed through, in most cases, many centuries. They have seen empires rise and fall, governments come and go, alliances formed and broken. Throughout these years they have stood for the constancy of God’s love and care, a haven for those in needs and the assurance of the future.

Whatever our hopes or fears for the future there can be no escaping the reality that the result the European Referendum has changed the landscape of our nation and indeed our lives. For those of us born after the second world war it is arguably the greatest political change we have witnessed in this country.

The challenge for us now as we seek to move forward, to build the new United Kingdom we have embarked upon outside the European Union, is what kind of a society will that be? It is a challenge far too important to be left simply to our politicians who seem in any case somewhat distracted, it is for us all to determine what will be the values that underpin that re-orientation.

Values, I suggest to which the spires of our churches, with their deep roots in the land might point us, as they point us to Christ, who healed the sick, who made the deaf hear, who cured the lame, and preached good news to the poor, to the marginalised and the outcast.

These are the values that, when we have been at our best, have made us a nation able to engage creatively with the world, to welcome the refugee and value tolerance and an open society in which all may find their place. They are the values that have brought us to account when we have been at our worst when we have sought only for our own interests when we have exploited the poor.

May we find in them again the key to our future and the new kind of society for which it is patently clear so many in our nation seek today.

By the Archdeacon of Cheltenham, the Ven Robert Springett.