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Rested and refreshed

11 August 2017

“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.

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