The publication was published in the fifth theological conference in Riga 19.-22.10.2016 to mark the 20 year anniversary of the Porvoo Common Statement of the Porvoo Communion of Churches. The publication includes articles, speeches and communiques from the theological conferences.
“The contributions in this book are intended to harvest some of the theologically and ecumenically insightful perspectives, which the Porvoo Common Statement and our joint Christian and theological traditions today provides for the churches and for the world in Northern Europe and beyond. We are grateful for the commitment and wisdom of the authors.
Our hope is that this antology will make the work done more visible in various contexts from grass roots level to academic discussions and research. We have deliberately wanted to be open also for the global and wider ecumenical perspective in the consultations at the same time as we have aimed to learn more about our Anglican and Lutheran heritage which also provide the energy of difference and the elasticity of diversity.”
The Porvoo Declaration commits the churches which have signed it ‘to share a common life’ and ‘to pray for and with one another’. An important way of doing this is to pray through the year for the Porvoo churches and their Dioceses. The Prayer Diary 2016 can now be downloaded here. Feel free to share it widely!
Porvoo Church Primates’ Meeting, Edinburgh, Scotland, 20-22 OCTOBER 2015
In the context of the crisis in the Middle East, Europe is facing one of its greatest challenges since World War II.
The Primates and Presiding Bishops of the Porvoo Communion of Churches met in Edinburgh for their regular biennial meeting, and reflected with urgency and compassion on current geo-political and social challenges as well as ways to further strengthen their relationships and work together towards building a confident and missional Church in an increasingly secular and pluralistic Europe.
On a daily basis people risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean sea; people walk long distances to cross into Europe because they do not have any other choice; also in parts of Europe, for example, houses have been set alight, so that refugees do not find a home; and there is a rising anxiety in some parts of Europe that democracy is being eroded by intimidation towards strangers seeking refuge and security.
The Primates and Presiding Bishops were unanimous in reiterating that we should not stand back and remain silent, but must both speak and act, remembering the words of Jesus; ” For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt. 25:35). They were also unanimous in their concern and prayers for Christians and other minority groups threatened by extinction in the Middle East.
A number of Primates and Presiding Bishops spoke of practical initiatives already underway in churches and communities in consultation with governments. Primates acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of the crisis unfolding also in Europe. They recognise that many countries have made and are making enormous efforts in hospitality, aid and finance. Accepting the pressure on political leaders they called for prayer and support for them and for those who resist the destructive calls of extremist groups that reject all support for the migrant stranger and those seeking refuge.
Churches continue to have a critical role:
They are called to understand and evaluate what is happening and to provide spiritual and pastoral leadership. For example, when those who are already vulnerable are on the frontline of receiving those who are even more vulnerable than themselves, the churches must act to encourage and support such communities to meet the challenge facing them.
Churches are called to witness to the distinctive Christian values of mercy, forgiveness, justice, reconciliation and human dignity. This testifies to the essential dignity of the human person and recognises that refugees arrive in an alien place traumatised with their experiences. One example of this witness is showing solidarity with those whose genuine needs and aspirations are diminished and who are stigmatised as enemies.
They are called to promote a vision of relationships and reconciliation beyond the immediate conflicts and challenges. This is needed because the world should not become locked into a situation where powerful nation states compete for assertion and dominance, leading to hopelessness and despair. In Jesus barriers are overcome, giving opportunity for the mature and compassionate recognition of difference. Power and dignity to the victims who seek protection, comfort and support as well as to the perpetrators who dare to change their action and dare to ask for forgiveness and reconciliation.
The Primates also discussed the report of the Porvoo consultation on Perspectives on Economics and Ethics – Behaviour Under Scrutiny. They thanked the Porvoo Contact Group for a document containing key biblical and theological insights, important sections on human rights, engaging with the economic system and reflections on, for example, the Jubilee imperative that points us to ethically based economic principles and behaviour, the question of who is our neighbour and our relationships as God’s gift to us, so that there is life and the world may believe. Primates recommended that the document be widely circulated as an additional resource to churches to reflect upon and use as appropriate.
The Primates took note of the successful Porvoo Pilgrimage from Porto to Santiago de Compostela and requested the Porvoo Contact Group to explore ways of replicating this pilgrimage model to enable mutual learning and sharing inter-generationally. The value of pilgrimage remains an essential part of the spiritual life of the churches.
The Primates meeting was rooted in the Celtic spirituality of worship and prayer as a way of living with God, creation and our neighbours. It was hosted by the Scottish Episcopal Church that provided the meeting with insight into the aspects of national identity, the issues around Scottish independence and Scotland’s relationship to the European Union. The Primates expressed their gratitude for their warmth and hospitality.
The presence of Primates from all Churches of the Porvoo Communion was indeed a sign of the gift of unity given in Christ being joyfully received. Primates were keen to encourage the Porvoo Contact Group to carry the Porvoo vision of being together in mission and ministry into the 20 year Porvoo anniversary meetings in 2016.
The Porvoo Communion of Churches is the result of the single most important ecumenical agreement that brought together a wide range of Anglican and Lutheran Churches who have been sharing a common life in mission and service for the past 19 years. The Presiding Bishops of the churches of the Porvoo Communion meet every other year to discuss matters of mutual concern, receive reports of activity within the Communion and to guide the future shared work of the churches. The Churches of the Porvoo Communion, based mostly in Northern Europe, are Lutheran and Anglican Churches that have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service”. The name Porvoo comes from the Finnish diocese and city in whose Cathedral the Eucharist was celebrated on the final Sunday of the conversations in 1992 leading to the Common Statement and thus to the Porvoo Communion of Churches.
The Bishops closed the meeting with a commitment to meet again in two years in Lithuania, hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania from 12-14 October 2017.
List of participating Primates and Presiding Bishops:
Rt Revd Peter Skov-Jakobsen, Bishop of Copenhagen, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark
Most Rev’d Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England
Most Revd Urmas Viilma, Archbishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia
Most Revd Kari Mäkinen, Archbishop of Turku, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
Rt Revd Martin Lind, Bishop, Lutheran Church in Great Britain
Rt Revd Agnes M Sigurðardóttir, Bishop of Iceland, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland
Most Revd Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Church of Ireland
Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland, Archbishop of Dublin
Most Revd Jānis Vanags, Archbishop of Riga, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
Most Revd Lauma Zusevics, Archbishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia Abroad
Rt Revd Mindaugas Sabutis, Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania
Most Revd Helga Haugland Byfuglien, Presiding Bishop, Church of Norway
Rt Revd Jorge Pina Cabral, Bishop, Lusitanian Church, Portugal
Most Revd David Chillingworth, Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church
The Rt Revd Carlos Lopez-Lozano, Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain
The Rt Revd Ragnar Persenius, Bishop of Uppsala, Representing the Archbishop of Church of Sweden
Most Revd Barry Morgan, Archbishop, Church in Wales (could not attend).
The Porvoo Declaration commits the churches which have signed it ‘to share a common life’ and ‘to pray for and with one another’. An important way of doing this is to pray through the year for the Porvoo churches and their Dioceses. The Prayer Diary 2015 can now be downloaded here. Feel free to share it widely!
On September 19th the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain signed the Porvoo Declaration, during a solemn celebration of the Eucharist, at which the Most Revd Antje Jackelén preached and the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu presided, concluding the Porvoo Communion Leadership Conference. Those who signed were Archbishop Elmars Ernsts Rozitis and Bishop Martin Lind. The two churches were welcomed as the newest members of the Porvoo Communion.
Sermon at the Porvoo Church Leaders’ Consultation 14-09-19 on Luke 10:25-37
by Archbishop Dr Antje Jackelén, Church of Sweden.
He is still lying there, after all those years. He is still lying there – no, not that particular traveler who fell in the hands of robbers on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho! He was taken care of by the legendary Good Samaritan.
But his brother, his sister, his children, they are still lying there, fallen in the hands of robbers, on the roads of the Holy Land, on the roads of Syria and Iraq, the Ukraine, Nigeria, Liberia, in the waters of the Mediterranean, and so many other places of this world. They are still lying there: women, men and children, fallen in the hands of robbers, also in well-to-do societies, stripped of clothes and dignity, left alone and half dead, or dead. And in these days, we also need to ask: who will become the Good Samaritan for the eco-systems of this planet that have fallen into the hands of robbers?
They are lying there, in sermon after sermon, pleading to us to be more fervent in our love of neighbor, to take a step or two beyond our comfort zones and show love in action, and thus become a truly diaconal church. A church that can move beyond preoccupation with differing views on homosexuality and address the scandal of human trafficking, for instance. A church that can forget the intricacies of ecclesiology for a while and move to a deeper understanding of what it means to be claimed by Christ in baptism, and gathered into God’s people to serve the world, together with people of other faiths.
Who are they, the men, women and children lying there in the roadside ditches of this world? The all seem to have the same family name. And that family name is “the other”. They are always “the other”, not us, not church officers and leaders. Not average church members, not you and I.
Because you and I, we are the priest – of course, since most of us are ordained – or the Levite. We know our dilemma all too well. On the one hand, we are busy people who work hard. We cannot possibly help all the people of the ditches in this world, not even all the beggars in our own cities. And isn’t this after all a structural problem requiring political solutions? A one-to-one strategy like that of the Good Samaritan will only perpetuate structural misery. Or so we negotiate with our conscience when it signals discomfort at the sight of a needy person.
On the other hand, we honestly bemoan the opportunities for love of neighbor that we have missed; we regret the times we chose to pass by on the other side. And maybe it is this very regret that makes us feel a little better: after all, we are not as bad as the priest in the parable, because at least, we are aware of our shortcomings. But then again, how is that feeling different from the Pharisee’s thanking God for not being like that tax collector? It is tricky to get this right!
It gets even trickier, when we ask: what really can I do? For those of us who are ordained as ministers of the Word, it is exactly words that are our foremost tool. So what did the Good Samaritan say to the man in the ditch? Nothing, it seems! According to the parable, the Samaritan did not say a single word to the victim. The text only reports on his gut reaction of pity when he saw the man’s trauma. It is to the innkeeper he speaks. The innkeeper is the one who can ensure continuous care. He is also the one in whose interest it would be to take measures for increased travel safety on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It would make his business more sustainable.
Words alone would not have helped. Without action the half-dead in the ditch will die. The blood of life will run out of the body, leaving it lifeless. It is the pouring of oil and wine, the bandages, the caring deed that saves life. It is word, sacrament and diakonia, as we know so well.
“It’s only words, and words are all I have …” that was the refrain in a popsong my then teenage daughter happened to play again and again while I was finishing my doctoral thesis in the late nineties. I was torn between the feeling of achievement and self-doubt: It’s only words, and words are all I have. Isn’t that too weak a tool when it comes to doing something for those who have been pushed to the ditches and margins of this world?
And yet, isn’t it with a word it all starts? In the beginning of creation, there was the word. In the beginning of creating relationship, there usually is a word, establishing the I-You relationship. In the collapse of relationship there often is lack of words. The You disappears, becomes a He or She at best, an It at worse, a Nothing at worst.
But wait a second, didn’t I complain some minutes ago that we tend to give the same family name to all the women, men and children fallen in the hands of robbers, the family name “The Other”? And yet I have done the same throughout this sermon!
That is NOT how Jesus tells the story! The lawyer wants to know “Who is my neighbor?” and probably goes away with the legally correct answer: the person in need. But Jesus twists the question around: “Which of these was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Jesus wants us to take the ditch perspective: It is not the other in the ditch, it is you and me. It is not us and our own who are this world’s Good Samaritans, it is the truly other, as truly as Samaritans were “the others” of that time.
Let us not deny our own ditch-experiences: physical or mental abuse we may have suffered from the hands of others, or self-abuse; failures or circumstances that brought collapse in relationships to others, to God, to what we own, to ourselves; bereavement and grief we could not express openly. Let us not deny the ditch-experiences of our life. As painful and devastating as they are, they are also revelatory. Because we were seen, spoken to; someone poured oil on the wounds. Otherwise we would not be here.
Who is becoming my neighbor when I am in the ditch? In that situation, I am not selective. In that situation, I will connect to anybody. I am longing for a word or wordless expression that tells me that I am seen, that my pain is noticed, and that I may hope for help.
In the end, it is help through action that counts. And yet, isn’t kindling the flame of hope that help is near the very presupposition for help being accepted, for help being effective? Only the one whose hope is somehow intact will respond effectively to the care offered.
I think that this perspective offers us some direction for our ministry, the priesthood of all believers. It is the ministry of hope that is our task, as people of faith, and as church leaders in a communion that probes ways towards greater unity and closer fellowship. The perspective of the ditches can guide us. The perspective from inside the ditches takes away the hierarchy of “we, the helpers”, and “they, the others, the needy” – or “we, the keepers of tradition” and “they, the deviators.” (Oblivious of the fact that all our theology is theologia viatorum, as the reformers put it: theology of those travelling the roads of this life.)
How can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourselves? The answer is quite simple: by mutually receiving neighbors and becoming neighbors, by being cared for and caring. And Jesus says, “do this and you will live.”
We believe that in the very last ditch, when life has fled our bruised body, the Good Shepherd will come close, tend to the wounds that this life has left us with, pay whatever is needed to restore us to the fullness of life and bring us to eternal joy.
Forty-five church leaders from The Porvoo Communion of Churches met in York, UK, on 17-19 September 2014, and received the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain as new member churches of the Porvoo Communion. The co-chairs of the Porvoo Contact Group, the Most Revd Michael Jackson and Bishop Peter Skov-Jakobsen welcomed participants and introduced the theme ‘Towards greater unity and closer fellowship’. Most of the sessions were held at Bishopthorpe Palace, office and home of the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, who greeted the church leaders and took part in the deliberations.
Bible studies were led by Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien of the Church of Norway and by Archbishop John Sentamu. The group openly shared different viewpoints, hopes and aspirations for the future of the churches and their life in communion together. The co-chairs presented introductory reflections related to the theme, which were followed by presentations from participants on communicating the gospel in today’s world; leadership as servanthood and Christian witness; religious freedom and human rights; and engaging young people in the church. The presentations focussed on the Porvoo context and led to extensive discussion and further input.
The meeting affirmed:
– The role of servanthood, leadership and discipleship in authentic Christian witness, with a special focus on the current situation in Europe
– The need to provide space and opportunities for prayer, spiritual expression and pilgrimage
– The need for a refreshed emphasis in mission as a way of life with and in the community
– The importance of including young people emphasising their visible and active role in the life of the Communion
– The important contribution of majority and minority churches in the Porvoo Communion of Churches
Based on the discussions, the church leaders agreed a work plan for the next four years.
Participants attended Evensong at York Minster each day and the meeting concluded with a solemn celebration of the Eucharist, at which the Most Revd Dr Antje Jackelén preached and the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu presided. During the celebration, the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain signed the Porvoo Declaration. Those who signed were Archbishop Elmars Ernsts Rozitis and Bishop Martin Lind. The two churches were welcomed as the newest members of the Porvoo Communion.
Porvoo Church Primates’ Meeting, Reykjavik, Iceland, 20-22 OCTOBER 2013
Justice faints and hope fades when the church looks in on itself
The Presiding Bishops of the Porvoo Communion of Churches, meeting in Iceland, unanimously agreed to the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain becoming full members of the Porvoo Communion of Churches. This decision was warmly welcomed by all present and is commended to the processes of the member churches as may be necessary.
The Presiding Bishops of the churches of the Porvoo Communion meet every other year to discuss matters of mutual concern, receive reports of activity within the Communion and to guide the future shared work of the churches. At the meeting in Reykjavik, generously hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Bishops shared news of developments in their churches and wider societies, particularly against the background of austerity and economic challenges faced by all the members of the Porvoo Communion from Portugal in the south to Finland in the north. Hope within the mission and service of the church was seen as vital to the work of all the churches and their shared life. The Presiding Bishops also commented on the reports received on Porvoo consultations carried out on marriage; on issues related to migration; and on the diaconal ministry (ministry of service).
The Churches of the Porvoo Communion, based mostly in Northern Europe, are Lutheran and Anglican Churches that have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service”. The name Porvoo comes from the Finnish diocese and city in whose Cathedral the Eucharist was celebrated on the final Sunday of the conversations in 1992 leading to the Common Statement and thus to the Porvoo Communion of Churches.
The Bishops, together with members of the local church and other Porvoo representatives, participated in two services of Holy Communion. At the first, which took place in the Lutheran Cathedral (Domkirkjan) in the historic centre of Reykjavik, the Bishop of Iceland, Agnes M Sigurdardottir, presided. In his sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “Justice faints and hope fades when the church looks in on itself. The Kingdom of God is proclaimed by a church that is caught up in the glory of God and the reality of the world around….. If we are to continue to grow closer, so that our [Porvoo] communion becomes family, and that family becomes the transforming influence in our society, which is so desperately looking for a new way, after the decades of reliance on material growth have betrayed us; if that family is to become what it should, then we need each other more than ever, not for comfort in the cold, receding tides of Christian faith, but to stretch and challenge each other to an ever closer walk with God and evermore passionate fulfilling of his mission.” (The full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon can be found on the website of the Porvoo Communion of Churches).
The Bishops closed the meeting with a commitment to meet again in two years in Edinburgh, hosted by the Scottish Episcopal Church, and to extend the duration of the meeting to enable a deepening of their engagement with each other.
List of participating Presiding Bishops:
Rt Rev’d Peter Skov-Jakobsen, Bishop of Copenhagen, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark
Most Rev’d Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England
Most Rev’d Andres Pöder, Archbishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia
Most Rev’d Kari Mäkinen, Archbishop of Turku, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
Rt Rev’d Walter Jagucki, Bishop, Lutheran Church in Great Britain
Rt Rev’d Agnes M Sigurðardóttir, Bishop of Iceland, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland
Most Rev’d Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Church of Ireland
Most Rev’d Jānis Vanags, Archbishop of Riga, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
Most Rev’d Elmārs Rozitis, Archbishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia Abroad
Rt Rev’d Mindaugas Sabutis, Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania
Most Rev’d Helga Haugland Byfuglien, Presiding Bishop, Church of Norway
Rt Rev’d Jorge Pina Cabral, Bishop, Lusitanian Church, Portugal
Most Rev’d David Chillingworth, Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church
Most Rev’d Barry Morgan, Archbishop, Church in Wales
The Archbishop of the Church of Sweden was represented by Rt Rev’d Ragnar Persenius, Bishop of Uppsala; Rt Rev’d Carlos Lopez-Lozano, Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain was unable to attend.
The Most Revd Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, gave a sermon at the opening service of the meeting of Primates and presiding bishops in Reykjavík.
Justice faints and hope fades when the church looks in on itself. The Kingdom of God is proclaimed by a church that is caught up in the glory of God and the reality of the world around.
The widow who won’t shut up is a parable in the midst of Jesus telling his disciples of the final coming of the Kingdom, while at the same time he sets his face towards Jerusalem. He shows us a life utterly caught up and guided in the great and final plan of God which will bring justice complete and hope fulfilled: he shows us a life purposefully walking a step at a time towards Jerusalem. The great purposes of God are delivered by a church with a vision of heaven and feet that walk the dusty roads.
That is our model and pattern, and the widow takes us there. She is poor, helpless an dependant for justice on a judge. As in some many parts of the world he is corrupt, or consumed by position and authority that ignores the cry and call of the weak and helpless.
Lest we look at the world and sneer, let us remember our own faults as a church. In Iceland there is the pain of the crash which took place five years ago. In every Diocese in England churches take part in food banks, in a society which has no need for such imbalances of wealth. On the richest continent on earth we cannot devise an economic system that provides for the poor and yet forces the wealthy and the powerful to share equally the burdens of debt, and the heritage of materialism gone mad.
The widow is caught up in her desire for justice. For her the cause is clear and she will not give in.
Justice is something we seek when it is not against us. The heritage of church abuse and patriarchy reminds us that the church follows the world in its injustice and too often combines its misuse of power with the blasphemy of theological justification. But the widow cries out, and in one of the very rare occasions where Luke explains the parable, we are told that it is to stop people giving up in prayer.
That is the first lesson. As Pope Francis said, the church is not called to be a Christian NGO. One of my churchwardens said something similar many years ago when I was leading a parish, „we are not the Rotary with a pointy roof“. When we lose sight of prayer and the reading of the scriptures, both as individuals and Christian communities, we lose the road we are to travel. Prayer for justice seems vain when compared to action. But Jesus is speaking out of the tradition of the psalms, where the psalmist calls to God to wake up. Prayer for justice, and a church that prays for justice, should be blunt and clear.
We need to find together in the Porvoo churches a regular renewal of our prayer and the forms with which to celebrate, to protest and and to lament. The widow is caught up with the judge. Are we truly caught up with God? Is his life what calls us together, or merely agreement, habit and obligation? In each other do we see the face of Christ and hear the call to follow together the Lord of justice, to encourage each other so that when the Lord comes he finds faith on the earth? Being caught up with God means that faith is found, not organisation, and faith is the assurance of things unseen.
We are all living in societies that change radically amongst Christian communities that are divided in their response, a reality studied amongst us. We will only find renewal and common purpose in the service of proclaiming the news of the Kingdom, and in making new Disciples, when we are together caught up in the prayer and worship of God.
But there is more. God is a God of justice, and the widow finds her answer. Any serious view of the nature of human beings, any proper theological anthropology, tells us that without the action of God the can be no true justice, and that the church is there to be the widow, to cry out and claim and struggle. That must involve action, which may be slight or grand.
A few months ago, in late July, an interview was published in England, in which I’d been interviewed and had among many other things talked about what are called credit unions in England. These are small, local, community financial organisations. Over the last 40 of 50 years they have more or less disappeared. And if, in England, you are in a poorer part of the country, and in much of the rest of the United Kingdom, and you need some money quickly, you can get it very easily. There are many organisations. The interest varies between 2500 percent a year and 5500 percent a year. So it costs you. You borrow 200 pounds for five days. You roll it over cause you can’t pay it back. You roll it over again.
Before you know it you owe two, three, four thousand. I made what seemed to me the fairly obvious comment that I considered this to be usury and usury had been a sin since Moses. Well, it was a quiet day in the press. And they had nothing important to report, so we found that they reported it rather large scale. It was a casual comment. I wish I could say that I had a grand strategy, but I didn’t. It was an accident. But it was an accident in which God was involved. Because it has created such momentum that there is a great new movement to change the way we do community finance. And it is such a powerful movement that we’re even working with the Scots about it. And there is a miracle. It takes a lot to make the Scots willing to work with the English. Understandably, we’ve spent about 800 years ill treating them.
But, what was interesting to me, was a comment by the head of our mission and public affairs department, who said he’s had to rewrite part of a book he’s writing on social action of the church, to say that it is not only about grand statements and about prayer, but in today’s society we are called to action. That in the postmodern society people look for a story of change, of engagement, of commitment, that brings testimony and witness to words and prayers.
So, we have in the widow someone who is caught up with the judge, but someone whose feet are on the ground. We have in Jesus someone who has a vision of the second coming and heaven and calls his disciples to that, but who walks the dusty roads of Palestine up to Jerusalem and a very very solid cross.
How to we respond to this?
Well, rightly one of our other reports, which I was reading recently, was a reflection on the nature of unity and contrasted it with unanimity. To look at the call of church reconciliation and the church to be a reconciler in the world. Unanimity amongst us is first of all a mirage and secondly a diversion.
Unanimity is too busy with checking whether the other person is doing the right thing to hear the call of widow: unity sees and hears her and puts aside our own preferences to stand in solidarity and cry with her.
Unanimity is tidy, it’s all organised, and bears no fruit: unity is irregular, confused, relational, it is an improvisation of celebration and lament, of the prayer for justice, and solidarity with the poor. You make it up as you go along.
If we are to continue to grow closer, so that our communion becomes family, and that family becomes the transforming influence in our society, which is so desperately looking for a new way, after the decades of reliance on material growth have betrayed us, if that family is to become what it should, then we need each other more than ever, not for comfort in the cold, receding tides of Christian faith, but to stretch and challenge each other to ever closer walk with God and evermore passionate fulfilling of his mission. Day to day.