Hope and New Life
The Bishop’s Pastoral Letter for April 2019
As I write a few snow drops are starting to bloom in the garden and there is some watery sunshine making a valiant effort to pierce the rather dull and gloomy skies of late winter. With Ash Wednesday still three weeks away, the glorious Festival of Easter that brings such promise as it welcomes spring and a sense of new beginnings, seems a distant hope.
When the majority voted to change our present relationship with the rest of Europe the reality also seemed a long way off. Now it is still to take effect. We need to remember that we are a democratic nation and I would like to offer a few reflections to help us as we approach the local elections in May and just in case we are going to have another General Election sooner than anticipated.
Firstly – elections are really important. As Christians we have a duty to pray for those elected to serve us but it is also a key part of our Faith to actively seek the welfare and well-being of those in our communities. We have an obligation to vote in elections. To vote for those whom we think are best placed to improve that general welfare and especially care for those who do not have a vote.
Secondly – we need to encourage those who are going to stand in elections to listen to the real needs of their constituents before formulating their policies and making promises that sound good but are unrealistic or which will not tackle the issue. Many feel that people in Westminster do not always understand what is happening in the regions especially if they do not listen to our excellent local MPs. Policies shaped by the experience of those who have to live them out on a daily basis are much more effective.
Thirdly – we need to hold those who are elected (both nationally and locally) to account.The United Nations Special Rapporteur who produced such a sombre but candid Report on the state of poverty within the United Kingdom last year was clear that making the right decisions would see an improvement in living standards for the 14million people (one fifth of the population) living in poverty in the UK take effect quite quickly but governments of all political parties have failed to take such decisions in recent years and the resulting poverty is unacceptable in a nation that has the world’s fifth largest economy with many areas of immense wealth.
Finally – we need to pray for those who wish to stand for election and those elected; for those who formulate policies and those who implement them; for those whose lives improve and for those who continue to suffer as a result of these policies. As Christians we need to work actively for reconciliation not just between people of differing views but also between those who take decisions that affect the lives of others and those whose lives are affected.
I long to celebrate the joy of Easter as the Resurrection transforms the cross into a symbol of hope and new life. I long to celebrate the joy of Creation as the warmth of the spring weather transforms our countryside into a symbol of hope and new life. I long to celebrate the joy of God’s Kingdom as its values and teaching transforms our communities into places of hope and new life.
Bishop of Stafford