Be Proud of Our Nation at Easter
Sunday 24th April 2011The Archbishop of York today wrote a message for readers of the Sunday Express here. The text of this article follows...
Happy Easter! Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a country where we can celebrate this special time of year with our friends and family?
On Easter morning I love to go to the service at York Minster and meet hundreds of other people celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
On an average Sunday around one million people attend Church of England services.
Today, the number rises to around 1.5 million.
The Church continues to play an important role in the life of the nation, not only providing services and pastoral support to individuals but also strengthening local communities up and down the country across urban, rural and suburban areas.
The majority of the work that the Church does may lack glamour but it adds significantly to the stability of our country.
We need to be careful that we do not underplay the contribution that is being made on a daily basis.
Neither of these caricatures holds up to serious scrutiny.
Did you know that 85 per cent of the population visit a church or place of worship in the course of a year? Did you know more people do unpaid work for church organisations than any other body?
God calls us to have an active trust and it would be wrong to pretend Christians spend all their time inside church buildings.
In fact, church-goers contribute an impressive 23.2 million hours’ voluntary service outside their church within local communities each month.
As William Temple once said: “The Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members.”
At this time of year more than ever we should remember that God’s love is both restorative and transformative. It reaches out and embraces every single person and community. I think it’s great that the Church is reaching out in new ways.
I’ve seen churches holding events in pubs, opening coffee shops, running youth projects in cities up and down the country and setting up street pastoring schemes among other things.
That may not be what most people expect from their local church but actually we are called to reach out and love our neighbours.
I want to encourage Christians to keep on going in the work they are doing to help others. Remember the Church has been doing “the Big Society” for more than 2,000 years!
We should also be proud of the role Christian values have in Britain. With growing bureaucracy, political correctness and overly prescriptive ideas of what “equality” is, it is easy to become disheartened or discouraged from expressing our views openly.
Equality is not the situation we increasingly see, where one person’s rights trump another person’s. Equality is about reflecting each person’s unique worth, value and importance to God.
It is about showing love and compassion regardless of age, sex or colour. Equality is doing the right thing by God and by our neighbours. Let us not forget that God’s love is indiscriminate.
To paraphrase George Orwell, we need to ensure that we do not create a situation where “all are equal but some are more equal than others”.
We should not live in fear for our trust in God. Indeed, we need to be careful that we do not simply become like a salesman who cannot talk about his product. Don’t be afraid, be courageous!
National pride is wonderful when it is expressed in the right way. For example, we have two great days of national celebration on the horizon.
First we have the Royal Wedding on Friday. Then on May 2 the Church has a special May Day celebration for St George, the patron saint of England.
I hope that on both these occasions people will be holding parties, waving flags and celebrating these events which will enrich national life.
We desperately need shared values and vision to hold us together and for me, what is important is to love God and my neighbours with all that I am. We need to apply that same sense of pride and celebration when we think of our national religion.
Let us not be narrowminded like the Pharisees who had unquestionable zeal and unsurpassable knowledge of the rules and regulations,
without having a real grasp of God’s all-forgiving love.
As the old saying goes: “God wants spiritual fruits rather than religious nuts.”
Let us be generous of spirit, full of new life, living with new hope. Live every day in the knowledge that we are called to serve, to love, support and encourage our neighbours: saved not by our actions but by those of God’s Son.
Rejoice in the freedoms we have.
Do not be scared to share the good news of God in Jesus Christ with your friends.
Let us together make Jesus Christ visible at the heart of society and celebrate Easter renewed in spirit and action.