St John the Baptist Parish Church

Where a warm welcome awaits you

News from the clergy

Vicar's column- July 2017

Writing in the Church Times, Dr Pete Ward makes the thought provoking suggestion that in the One Love Manchester concert we may have been witnessing an answer to the “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer initiative. During the concert Marley told the crowd: “Love casts out fear”, which has a clear biblical resonance. Then there was the affirmation from Justin Bieber that God is in the midst of darkness. Religious references and themes abound in popular culture if we look. Since then, there has also been the Great Get Together weekend, with street parties and neighbours coming together, in celebration of Jo Cox’s belief that we have more in common. In general, we are witnessing defiance in the face of those who seek to cause fear and division; the enacting of love in response to hatred and killing on the streets.

The Kingdom of God extends beyond the boundaries of the Church. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We intercede that all may come to live by the values of love, peace, mercy and justice that characterise God’s reign. Mission has often been defined as “finding out what God is doing and joining in”.

Of course in addition to loving our neighbour, the scriptures teach that we should love God, the One who has the power to heal and unite us, with all our hearts. Prayer is the gateway into this love relationship; prayer aligns us with God’s purposes. It is the life blood of the church. It is important that we prioritise it individually and corporately. In our autumn course this year we will explore some of the mystics teaching on prayer. Bishop Andrew, the Bishop of Reading, wrote in a recent diocesan mailing:

“Prayer lies at the heart of who we are. It is in prayer that we know that we are always held in God’s loving gaze, and it is in that gaze that we are changed and it is out of that prayer that the world can be transformed. This is what we do and what we’re about.”

In these troubled times, may we find a sure anchor in God and an openness to embrace those beyond our doors.

Rev Lisa Cornwell

Vicar's column- June 2017

It takes a tragedy to suspend election campaigning. Opposing political parties united in grief and outrage. Our hearts go out to the people of Manchester, as they did to all those affected by the Westminster attack. ISIS has struck again through the vehicle of the solitary individual. Again, we question “Why?” What have they got against us?”

We need to dig deeper than Donald Trump’s childish pronouncement that from henceforth ISIS should be called “losers” rather than “monsters”. We need to apprehend their mindset. Those who say the perpetrators of violence have nothing to do with Islam are missing the point. In fact, unfortunately, it has everything to do with Islam but a particular interpretation of it. ISIS are demanding a return to the time of Muhammad, the days of the Caliphate and a theocracy governed by Sharia law. They want their religion to be pure and un-corrupted by the ideals of Western democracy, which they perceive as a threat and so they must wage jihad, “holy war”, to impose their ideology upon the world. Their atrocities are, of course, condemned by the majority of the Muslim population who have assimilated to the Western way of life, who see Britain as their home, not as “the enemy”, and who interpret the Qur’an differently. The Qur’an contains texts from which ISIS justify their actions but the Qur’an is not the only holy book to cite violence. Peace loving Christians will be aware that the bible contains passages we would rather were not there, for instance, the “texts of terror” in the Old Testament inciting ethnic cleansing. Scripture needs to be seen in context and, for us, through the lens of the New Testament. Christ calls us to an ideology of love, not hate; to humble service, not aggressive subjugation of others to our way of thinking. The will to pride and power is not the way of the cross. Oh that the members of ISIS would come to learn what God’s true and perfect will really is.

As the electioneering resumes, we need to evaluate manifestos in the light of gospel values. But I will leave further elaboration on this to the Archbishops’ pastoral letter inside...

Rev Lisa Cornwell