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Easter sermons focus on Muamba and Twitter

12 April 2012

by Madeleine Davies

THE recovery of the footballer Fabrice Muamba (News, 30 March) featured in many Easter sermons this year, while others highlighted allegations of political corruption, and bullying on the internet.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, was among several clerics who found evidence of the power of prayer in the “aston­ishing” recovery of Mr Muamba, the Bolton Wanderers footballer whose heart stopped for 78 minutes after he collapsed on the pitch on 17 March, prompting a “Pray 4 Muamba” movement. “People don’t necessarily always pray because they believe in God,” Bishop James said. “Faith and belief may follow in its wake.”

The “wave of prayer” was also celeb­rated by the Archbishop of West­minster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, who used his homily on Saturday to speak of the dark­ness experienced by many — “times are hard, economically and socially.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, called on Christians to witness to the resurrection by tackling issues of hunger, war, violence, and deprivation, “things that mar God’s image and disfigure his world”. His message that Chris­tians were “agents of his Kingdom, not just its beneficiaries” was echoed in many of the messages delivered over the course of Holy Week.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, said that the Church “cannot remain silent” in the face of injustice, and cited allegations of political impropriety. “How can we value opinions when the treasurer of the majority party in the Coalition suggests it will cost a quarter of a million pounds to enjoy an influential dinner in 10 Downing Street?”

The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, delivered a rebuke of “the abuse of power and authority”.

Two Australian bishops raised concerns about social media. The Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, said that “ingenious technology with amazing potential for good” had become “a weapon for bullying, brutality, and destruction”. The Bishop of Canberra & Goul­burn, the Rt Revd Stuart Robinson, said that politicians’ human flaws had been thrown into relief in the era of Twitter and media scrutiny, making leadership more difficult.

Some church leaders, however, used social media to convey their message. The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, recorded his Easter message in his kitchen, before uploading it to YouTube.

The Bishop of Doncaster, the Rt Revd Peter Burrows, said that it was “easy for Christians to feel intimi­dated” in the current climate, but “we mustn’t hold on to Jesus as our own prized possession, or because we’re too afraid to proclaim Christ crucified and risen, in a world that seems set against the Christian message.”

In Bradford, on Maundy Thurs­day, the Fresh Expressions mis­sioner to the city centre, the Revd Chris Howson, invited people to wash one another’s feet in a public pool.

Passion plays were performed in locations including Trafalgar Square, Brighton beach, and a cem­e­tery in an 18th-century limestone quarry in Houghton-le-Spring, Co. Durham.

An online survey, commissioned by the Church of England, asked 2000 people what they would pray for. A quarter of the respondents said a family member, while the same fraction chose peace in the world. One in ten wanted forgiveness. Only 15 per cent said that they would not pray at all.

Against a backdrop of traditional Easter messages, the Vicar of All Saints’, Hove, the Revd Phil Ritchie, said that he would love more people to attend church on a Sunday morning, but suggested that there were other ways to celebrate Easter than “coming to a draughty Victor­ian building. . . Why not stay at home, have a lie in, have sex, and eat some chocolate.”

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