The global "credit crunch" will affect us all. Some are already experiencing its chill winds through loss of investment income, reduced pensions and the drop in property prices and the stagnancy of the market. Others have to face unemployment or the threat of redundancy; for some in our own community the blow has already fallen. We see familiar names disappearing from the High Street, and our plans for the future have to be rethought. Non-one is immune from this, and our concern for all such people is expressed in the prayers we offer daily in your parish church.
Events like this challenge the Church to exercise its prophetic ministry - not in offering slick answers to complex problems, but in discerning the underlying meaning of what is happening and listening to whether God is speaking to us through current events. That was the role of the ancient prophets, and many of them made themselves extremely unpopular by saying "This is what God says".
Various religious leaders today have offered a word of prophecy in the current crisis. The basic truth is that we have placed too much reliance on money, and in seeking to obtain more and more of it, we have undermined its value. The great materialist boom has lured us further and further into the realms of debt, often unsecured. We have become greedy, avaricious, and our appetite for material goods and possessions has increased. What we thought was the road to happiness has led instead to frustration, dissatisfaction and disappointment. And, like any addict, we have gone for more and more of what has failed to satisfy. Just think of the increasing incidence of mental illness, of family breakdown, of depression and stress: this is where our obsession with material prosperity has led us.
It hasn't been all wrong. But we have neglected other aspects of our human nature in our pursuit of material things. As someone said the other day, "the flat-screen television has become more important than playing with our children". What has happened to our relationships? Are they not far more important then almost everything else? How many people in the rat-race can no longer find time for relaxation, for simply being with families and friends? We used to be content with so much less: what has happened to change this? Where was that subtle twist which made what we do seem so much more important that who we are?
These are the issues we are being challenged to face today. A recent writer offered an interesting diagnosis of our condition. We are suffering from a new disease, "affluenza", which causes us to put affluence and physical comfort above everything else. We need effective treatment to rid our bodies of this virus, and to set us free to concentrate on the spiritual things of life. I don't necessarily mean "religious" things, although I personally believe that our neglect of these is part of the problem - religion is one way of establishing a proper balance in our lives. But I do mean those things which nurture our inner being, the real person we are behind all the frenetic activity. We need to appreciate the beauty all around us, the care and love of those closest to us, the simple pleasures (many of which are free) of daily living, and let go the need for the newest and the latest and the biggest things around.
One of our human failings is that it often takes a really significant jerk to bring us to our senses - the prophet might well say that this is exactly what we have had. Will have the required effect? Is God showing us the folly of our ways in the only terms we will hear? That, I believe, is how divine judgement expresses itself in daily living. So my hope and prayer at the start of 2009 is that we may may all heed what is being said, and have the courage and strength of will to take the right steps to put right the deadly imbalance in our contemporary way of life.
May God bless you all, particularly those who are seriously affected by the financial crisis.
- February 2009
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- May 2009
- June 2009
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- August / September 2009
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- November 2009
- December 2009
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.