“THEIR mind-set, often, is that they can’t see any possibility of change: they’re beaten down. Just going away for a few days gives them a different outlook, and helps them make changes that make their life better.” This quotation from Una Kopp, of the Mothers’ Union, is from our feature on charities that give holidays to families who could not otherwise afford them; but, give or take an expression or two, it could have appeared in the Church Times at almost any time in its history. In the second decade of the 21st century, social issues that rear their heads — lack of housing, substandard housing, hunger and malnutrition, the north-south divide, the exploitation of the worker, the blatant self-obsession of many of the comfortably off (television documentaries constantly indicate the sums spent on solipsistic private obsessions) — are depressingly perennial. There has been progress in some matters, but the direction of travel is not inevitably onward and upward.
Most people know when they need a holiday, even if, for one reason or another, it has to be deferred. For some, this is a chronic condition. So, even today, one of the good deeds that churches can do is to organise an outing, or even a few days’ break — subsidised for some participants by others. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome, and elsewhere may well broaden the mind and deepen the devotion. But we wonder how often Christians who are forever making once-in-a-lifetime journeys to one ambitious destination or another give thought to those for whom even a day at Walsingham or another of England’s pilgrim places would provide a change of perspective that was equally life-changing. There could be benefit on all sides if more hospitality were offered by parishes in attractive surroundings to those less fortunate — perhaps in an organised way, through twinning arrangements. Moving outside the realm of the Church, could there not generally be more links between the “estates” of town and country?
Britain today is a divided land, and it does not benefit from further divisions in the Church. The big Christian festivals held during the summer, well known to our readers, are a means by which people may leave the familiar behind and gain a renewed perspective; they cater for different cultural and theological tastes, and may seek to awaken the social conscience. But are they silos? A talk, for example, from an “expert” or even a challenging Anglo-Catholic bishop is no substitute for getting to know all sorts and conditions of people. Christians should get out, get away, and mix — and not only with their own sort.