15th March 2016

fr_simonDear Friends

One of the joys of praying the office (Morning and Evening prayer) is the opportunity to say and at the same time pray the psalms. One of the psalms set for this morning was psalm 133 and it begins thus:

How very good and pleasant it is
when people live together in unity
.  Ps 133 v1

As I mentioned in last week’s bulletin I was very impressed by Jonathan Sacks book The Dignity of Difference. In it Dr Sacks has a chapter entitled:  Co-operation: Civil Society and its Institutions.

It begins with a quote from Jeremy Rifkin The Age of Access.
A strong community is a prerequisite for a healthy economy because it alone produces social trust.

It might seem obvious that economic growth is created by self-interest. When two self-interested parties interact with each other collective gain can take place.

However pure self-interest can be a destructive force. Descartes famous “I think therefore I am” might seem to be a governing presupposition of modern thought, but without the collective ‘We’ society and the relationships necessary for it’s growth and development suffer.

Dr Sacks argues that the notion of the ‘I’ is an abstraction and as the sociologist George Herbert Mead showed we only develop a sense of personal identity through close co-operation with ‘significant others’. We don’t learn our language in a vacuum. In Genesis Adam had to pronounce the name of his wife before he could pronounce his own name – “He must say ‘Thou’ before he could say ‘I’. ”

The Church has much to say about relationships. All relationships derive from that initial Covenant with God – it is a relationship of reciprocity. We grow together, we support each other without the calculation of advantage.

I sometimes fear we live in an age where the ‘I’ excludes the ‘We’. When we can see no further than our own noses there develops a terrible mistrust of collective institutions. You only need to observe the current US presidential primary’s to see this. Trump is riding the crest of the wave called ‘The mistrust of the institution of government’.

Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) says
“to feel much for others, and little for us…constitutes the perfection of human nature”

Ironically the pursuit of the I to the exclusion of all else leads to our ultimate destruction. Relationship is the only sure way to ensure freedom, growth and success.

How very good and pleasant it is
when people live together in unity
.  Ps 133 v1

Simon


Fr AndrewDear Friends,

I am in the full grip of man flu/a cold/imminent death or the bubonic plague – delete as appropriate! And I am feeling very sorry for myself with sniffles and hot and cold flushes. Yesterday was a very quiet day. The highlight of the day was watching the full Commonwealth Celebration Service in the afternoon from Westminster Abbey. It was both a remarkable and a beautiful service. The Dean, our old friend The Very Rev’d Dr John Hall, opened proceedings in his bidding by saying “We give thanks for our diversity of faiths and for the variety of resources and circumstances of our countries, let us pray that we may be united in one common bond of mutual support and friendship”

There was wonderful music from around the commonwealth, people of every colour and age, the great and the good were on parade, boy scouts and brownies and celebrities and politicians galore. The ecumenical prayers were led by different faith leaders and for me the most remarkable thing was a solo performance on the steps of the Sacrarium by a South African singer called Simphiwe Simon Shibambu who sang a traditional Xhosa song called “QONGQOTHWANE”…try and track it down on Facebook if you can. If you want to read what went on in the Abbey yesterday I have put a link to the order of service here.

What struck me was what a truly diverse people we are; Nelson Mandela once used the phrase “A Rainbow Nation”. It is very easy for us to spend our lives in our own communities and our own contexts without experiencing something of the gifts and values and strengths that people of many different countries and backgrounds have to share with us.

Trupti Patel, representing the Hindu community in her prayers said this: “Let us walk together; let us sing together; in togetherness we can understand each other’s minds; thus did the ancient seers share together to reach their divine ends. May our intentions come together; may our hearts become inseparable; may our minds become as one to truly know one another; may we all unite in togetherness”. And there is surely no other response than – Amen to all of this!

With every blessing,

Fr Andrew