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We are some days into August as I write this letter, But it is the holiday season after all! For me this means that when it is warm and the North East wind is not blowing, then I can get to sitting in my garden with a book in the fresh air and sun.
It was on one of those days recently that I was able to capture the clouds above Cambridge which comprise this month's picture, if you can get on to the web and see it. From my vantage point it is interesting to think of astronauts 'cruising ' back to earth at 17,000 mph and then landing at about 200 mph safely. My 'vantage' point is one of stability in a sort of monastic 'retirement' in comparison with most of the other residents of this estate who leave here at 8 in the morning and return at 6 in the evening. There is also a continual mobility among my neighbours, 5 of whom have moved to other places in the past year.
Of course all this has been well known for the past half century but it raises issues today when organised Christianity in the West has fallen on hard times. By and large the parishes hold on to a shrinking core of the faithful. One could pose the question, 'Where is Christ in all this?' From the point of view of faith Christ is at work in the world, in the cosmos, in space travel too!
What is happening is that people like my neighbours are in some respects distancing themselves, albeit unconsciously, from 'organised' religion of any kind. The problems the churches seem to have of striving for unity among themselves and within their own ranks do nothing to enable the disenchanted to hear the gospel. So perhaps Christians are destined to go forward with an increasing sense of having to relinquish the traditions and conflicts of the Christian past and to recover a new sense of a stability which reaches out to daily life as it is today.
That 'future' necessarily has to embrace the living faith that the Lord is at work in our society. The early years of the church, lived out in a society still embracing pagan ritual, were necessarily exclusive. Today the opposite is the case in a society which has over the centuries been moulded by Christian faith and practice. We are not, as has been maintained, a pagan society today. Our call is from Christ the living Lord to be as those who confidently support the majority who, by the faithfulness of their own workaday lives, enable others in society to find truth, justice and healing. And the hidden and 'anonymous' Christ fulfills, and responds to, that courage.
Who knows where such positive looking forward will lead the church of Christ?
© Aelred Arnesen
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© Aelred Arnesen