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‘Atomised’ Britain is urged to seek God’s forgiveness

28 December 2011

by Ed Thornton

CHRISTMAS sermons expressed concern at social divisions; and the Queen’s broadcast focused on the reconciliatory power of forgiveness.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, preaching in Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day, spoke of a society where “bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost”. Society was “much the poorer” for forgetting the 1662 Prayer Book, which “gives us words that say where and who we are before God”.

Dr Williams said that the Prayer Book had “defined what a whole society said to God together. . . If you thumb through the Prayer Book, you may be surprised at how much there is that takes for granted a very clear picture of how we behave with each other.”

Dr Williams continued: “The most pressing question we now face, we might well say, is who and where we are as a society. Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost. Whether it is an urban rioter mind­lessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spin­ning apart in the dark.

“And into that dark the Word of God has entered, in love and judg­ment, and has not been overcome; in the darkness the question sounds as clear as ever, to each of us and to our Church and our society: ‘Britain, where are you?’ Where are the words we can use to answer?”

In her Christmas Day broadcast, the Queen said: “History teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves — from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person — neither a philoso­pher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friend­ships, and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, preaching in York Minster on Christmas Day, urged people “to turn from our beastly ways”, which included “a right to consume with no regard for social action”; “rebuilding balance sheets and focusing on economic growth as an end in itself . . . without sufficient focus on building community”; and “obses­sion with wealth and maximising shareholder value”.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, preaching in Llandaff Cathedral, said that the Occupy protesters had “reminded us that in Jesus, the view of God as a holy, set-apart God has been shattered for ever”. The initial threat of legal action by St Paul’s against the protesters, later withdrawn, had given “the unfortunate impression that what was happening inside the cathedral had very little to do with what was happening outside it”.

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, on Christ­mas morning, said that the protesters had “voiced an uncomfortable truth. Most people are feeling poorer whilst some are rewarded out of all proportion.”

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said that “those of us in Weste­rn Europe cannot go on con­suming more and more when so much of the world has so little.” He called for “a new moral vision of what we do with our wealth and how we ensure that everyone has a fair share in it”.

The Bishop of Whitby, Dr Martin Warner, in a Christmas message on his website, said that Britain was “riven by inequality of opportunity and the enjoyment of material wealth. . . This year we should be concerned not only about the rise of unemployment towards the three million mark but more particularly about the fact that so many young people are bearing the brunt” of it.

The Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price, preaching at Bath Abbey, said: “There is a sense of the very fabric of society being torn apart. Accompanying this is a feel-ing of loss about the way we used to live our lives, the way we managed our relationships, the way education was. . . There is something missing.”

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, spoke at midnight mass of “the people of the parish of Beit Jala” in Bethlehem, who were preparing “for their legal battle to protect their land and homes from further expropria­tion by Israel”.

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