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Celebrating New Beginnings

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Sunday 26th February 2012

The Archbishop today writes in the inaugural edition of the Sun on Sunday. His column follows...

Celebrating new beginnings

What a fantastic honour to be given the opportunity to write a column in the first ever Sunday Sun. Today is a new dawn. A fresh start.

When I think that we can now get the latest news, politics and sports stories seven days a week from our country’s favourite paper, all I can say is “WOW!”

I know there will be those who will criticise me for writing in a newspaper which will be seen by many as filling the gap left by the News of the World. However I am always one for responding to change positively and embracing new beginnings – seeing the best in all people, especially in adversity.

This week marks the beginning of Lent, the period in the Church calendar that precedes Easter.

Lent is not a time for pointing the finger at others. As Alexander Pope said: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” We should always remember that when we point the finger at other people, there are three other fingers pointing back at us!

We should rejoice in new life, turning our back on what has gone before.

God is the God of new beginnings: the God of again and again. Let us use this landmark occasion as an opportunity for a fresh start in our own lives.

I like to describe Lent as a spiritual MOT. If we want to function at our best we need to take a good look at how we are living. In the same way that you would take your car to the garage to check how it’s performing once a year. Why not use Lent to give your own life an honest self-appraisal?

We all need to stop and look at what we are doing once in a while – and when we understand what has gone wrong, we need to put things right.

Let me put it another way, there is no point travelling at top speed if you then realise that you’ve been heading in the wrong direction all along!

Remember we are not looking for the sort of fresh start that we get with New Year’s resolutions – those temporary fixes, based on blind optimism rather than on what is achievable. Such promises are usually broken a few days after they have been made. We should be looking for a lasting, life enhancing, transformation. One that sets us on a road towards a brighter future.

Human flourishing is often hindered by our refusal to be honest with ourselves – refusing to forgive ourselves and others.

Remember God loves us and forgives us no matter how many times we mess up, and whether we deserve it or not. All we have to do is humble ourselves and have the courage to start again.

We should live as if a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders, because we worship a God of forgiveness. Ours is a God of second opportunities. Wow!

With that in mind, live in hope, free from fear. Embrace every day that God puts before you with confidence.

And if you can buy the Sun seven days a week, even better!

Fairtrade Fortnight

I wonder if you’ve given up anything for Lent?

Many people will be giving up sweets or chocolate. I’ve given up dairy products, meat and alcohol – in fact I am eating a completely vegetarian diet. No bacon sandwiches for me!

I hope that whatever you are eating, wherever possible, you’ll buy Fairtrade.

I think it’s important, no matter where you live in the world, that you are given a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

As tomorrow is the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight, I’d challenge you to try and buy as much as possible that has the Fairtrade logo – that way you’ll know that the person that produced it got a fair deal too.

I can’t eat Fairtrade chocolate till I get my Easter Egg, but I can still eat Fairtrade fruit, and drink Fairtrade tea and juice!

Valuing the Young

Fairness in the workplace isn’t just an aspiration we should have for those overseas.

Can it be right that we now live in a country where around 1 million young people are unemployed? Where people are being thrown on the scrapheap before they’ve even had the chance to begin a career?

My heart sank this week when I heard of the Government’s “Workfare” plans encouraging young people to take on unpaid placements in companies, with no guarantee of permanent posts, by apparently threatening to cut their benefits.

We can encourage people to volunteer, but a worker should be worthy of their wages.

What we need is a culture where young people not only want to work, but where their work is valued, meaningful and contributes to the national good.

By all means pay companies incentives to employ young people, but do not take advantage of the vulnerable by using them as free labour. In this day and age, a Living Wage shouldn’t be an optional extra, it should be seen a basic necessity.

Or as my father used to say to me: “Sentamu, treat everyone fairly and they will treat you fairly too!”

This column originally appeared in The Sun on Sunday on 26th February 2012.

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