from the ashes
Just two weeks ago we welcomed a new member to the church ministry team here at All Saints. Joff Phipps took up the role of Social Justice Missioner- full time, to help us develop the work we do with likeminded organisations, particularly those that seek to help the most vulnerable people in our communities. Over the past few years our church community has got used to hearing about matters of justice and how the Christian faith informs our engagement with them.
In that time we have come to the collective realisation that the Bible speaks just as much about social and political transformation as it does about personal and individual transformation. For Christians the two go hand in hand, personal salvation leads to communion in body and spirit. This is more important than ever as the impact of Covid19 takes hold, in the sense it affects us i. spiritually – not being able to meet for corporate worship and prayer, ii. physically – from experiencing ill health, bereavement and loss, iii. socially – from experiencing isolation and financial depression.
Paradoxically, whilst Covid19 has meant that many of us have felt disconnected from loved ones, we have also seen a community that has relearnt the value of interdependence. In a sense, we have rediscovered the virtue of living in recognition of who we need around us, and how we are needed by others. We are in affect living through a period of renewal, a sort of phoenix-out-of-the-ashes moment. I just pray that we do not quickly forget what we have learnt, even about ourselves. Renewal is the right word here, re-creation is another good word. Although painful, involving profound loss for many families, there is hope and a new beginning to be found.
The church is also experiencing that same sense of renewal, as it has done at different times within its history. Interestingly, every renewal movement in the whole history of the Church begun not with the richest and most influential people in society – giving their attention to church life, but with the church giving their attention to the poor and the marginalised. In Luke’s gospel chapter 4, Jesus stood in the synagogue and said, ‘I have come to proclaim good news to the poor’. How often have you seen those last three words ‘to the poor’ omitted or reinterpreted? Proclaim the good news! It’s like when some say ‘All Lives Matter’ when they see a Black Lives Matter placard. No, Jesus specifically said that he came to bring good news to the poor, that’s not to say that others will not receive it too – it just showed where his focus was.
The Church in Cornwall will need to do the same, to target where the need is greater – and so I return to welcoming Joff, our new Social Justice Missioner to the team. Yes, it is a team, a public effort. This is not a one-person task but the mission of the whole community.
As Bishop Philip North said last year to General Synod “A church that abandons those that experience the impact of poverty might well be financially better off. It’s just that it would no longer be the Church of Jesus Christ. If we abandon the marginalised, we abandon God. If we fail to proclaim the good news to the poor, we lose the right and the authority to proclaim the good news to anyone, anywhere.”
As our own church’s vision states “At All Saints we believe that every person, Christian and non-Christian alike, is valuable and loved by God. Yet despite this truth the world can still feel like a dark place for far too many people; injustice, oppression and prejudice are still very present in our society. Knowing that Jesus came to bring life, and life abundantly, All Saints seeks to be a church that takes seriously the pain of the world and strives to make a difference. Our mission is Jesus’ mission, he came to bring good news to the poor, and proclaim release to the captive, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed.”
Blessings and peace to each and every one of you. Revd Jeremy Putnam