The disturbing news of the UK’s loss of its AAA Credit Rating struck over the last week end and led to much political analysis and debate. Politics and economic implications aside, it emphasises the seriousness of our national economic situation, our credit-worthiness and our prospects for the future.
But the situation is of grave concern not merely for government but for each one of us, for debt casts a shadow on each of us as we are the peoples of these islands: the word taints us all. This situation is both national and personal and raises issues about our collective values, our understanding and expectations of life, about basic principles, and life foundations. What are we leaving for our children and subsequent generation? Ultimately, these issues are about what sustains, guides and drives us – our spirituality. The Christian perspective is clear: life is about wholesome relationships based on self-giving love patterned upon Jesus Christ, who spent his life living out God’s love on this earth and bore the consequences. He speaks to us about solidarity with each other, care for those marginalised, about integrity, justice and honesty, about the power of forgiveness and the outstretched hand.
I recall Revd Dr Fred Kaan speaking of his family experience during the war when the Germans had invaded his native Netherlands and how, over the Christmas period, they had nothing to give but each other’s company and so they shared each other in what was a most memorable Christmas. Maybe we need to learn how to share who we are and what we have with each other for the benefit of all from all strands of community.
In Christ, we are enabled to discover each other as members not only of His community but more so as humans. The focus is on a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging, a sense of responsibility based on love. Maybe this debt situation is a call, a challenge to move away from all the -isms of our time and seek the values and priorities of our Christian roots. Particularly at this season of Lent, for on Easter day we celebrate His victory and the certainty of new life in Him. Maybe the Church’s greatest contribution in these days is a call to prayer: not for the debt to be removed but for a sea change in our values through the spirit of the Risen Lord. Being energised and motivated in this way, we find a different perspective to our debt and a new collective energy to tackle and overcome - a challenge to both church and community.
This week sees a celebration on St David’s Day of the release of the new online Welsh Bible – Beibl.net. Parts of the Bible have been available in this form for many years but now we have the whole Bible within reach of the press of a button and in a contemporary language. We thank all who have been involved in this venture over the years and encourage all to a make use of this facility.
Those of us who use social networks are invited to send a verse on Friday encourage others to Praise God and so create a new curiosity for the Bible message. Facebook, Twitter can be very useful tools to raise awareness. Scripture has throughout the generations been a means of spiritual awakening. I recall the story of the seventies of a communists walking down the main street of a certain city in Central America and heard someone read publicly the Sermon on the Mount. He found the message so radical it led to his conversion. Of course, we do not necessarily need to be proficient in social networking to enable us to share Biblical messages! Spiritual renewal begins with us, with sharing, where we are and the witness we give.
Speaking of spiritual renewal, one issue that surfaced in discussions this week is the low percentage of members who attend worship services. One has seen estimates as low as 8 or 10%. The figures are alarming when one hears of literally 2 or 3 in some services. Why should this be? Is it that worship services are no longer meaningful or they do not meet personal needs or is it a matter of loss of faith amid the various pressures of contemporary life?
The worship of God – having a sense of His presence, being quiet and still, opening hearts and minds to Him and the need for spiritual fodder – is so crucial to our life of faith. Leading Divine worship is such a responsibility: perhaps we need to listen more to those who do not attend, be more innovative, use the arts as means of making the Word meaningful and engaging with our people today – particularly if the lapsed have moved away because of inherited patterns of worship, or if language or concepts are prohibitive. Do we not need to draw a line at some point and say such decline is enough, we need to see things change? Worship is the ideal place to begin but it requires preparation and some creative thinking helping us to use quietness, reflection , prayer, contextual Bible study – the pre-requisites of spiritual renewal. Being with the two or three is not always an uplifting experience.
Revd Dafydd Andrew Jones is Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. You can read his last blog, on signs of hope, by clicking here.