CHURCHES and cathedrals held reconciliation events across the country last weekend to encourage people to come together over Brexit.
The initiative, termed “Together”, was supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (News, 22 March).
It was scheduled for the weekend that the UK was originally supposed to leave the EU, with or without a deal, though the EU granted an extension to 12 April. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister offered to enter talks with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and said that she would ask for a further extension so that the UK could avoid a no-deal scenario, but one that was short enough also to avoid the European parliamentary elections at the end of May.
Mrs May said: “We can and must find the compromises to deliver what the British people voted for. . . This is a decisive moment in the history of these islands, and that requires national unity to deliver in the national interest.”
After Mr Corbyn's meeting with Mrs May on Wednesday, both Downing Street and Labour said that the talks had been "constructive". The BBC reported that Mr Corbyn had found the meeting "useful, but inconclusive"; talks would continue.
Derby Cathedral invited people to come in last weekend and say a “prayer for the nation, their neighbours, for MPs and political leaders, and for peace, hope, and good will”.
The Dean of Derby, the Very Revd Stephen Hance, said: “After what has been a divisive political process during the last three years, we want people to be encouraged to pray for someone they disagree with, as a step towards reconciliation and a fresh vision for the whole country.”
The Bishop of Repton, and acting Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, said: “Our church communities, like the rest of the nation, are divided over whether or not Brexit is the right way forward. But, as Christians, our role is to promote peace and reconciliation in the places where we live and worship, and to demonstrate that we can live peacefully together even when we disagree.”
Other churches taking part included St Botolph’s, in Boston, the area with the highest majority of Leave voters in the country (News, 15 March).
The Bishop of Grantham, Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, said: “Boston and the surrounding area expressed a strong preference to leave in 2016. However, even in Boston, there were those who voted to stay.
“As we know, the political situation is unclear, and there are still strong differences of opinion. Given that, the one thing we can do is to come together and pray together, and in doing that we are sending out an important sign that, whatever our differences are perceived to be, we have the capacity to be united.
“The Church in Boston considers itself to be a place of hospitality, and where there are deep differences hospitality matters.”
The Evangelical Alliance is releasing weekly prayers on its website “to aid us in our intercession for the UK and our neighbours in the run-up to Brexit”.
In a poll of 2004 people by Britain Thinks, 64 per cent agreed that the anxiety caused by Brexit was bad for their mental health.
The EU settled-status scheme was opened last weekend. The Government said that 50,000 people had already applied.
EU nationals will have until 30 June 2021 to confirm their status. It will cost £65 for those over 16, and £32.50 for those under 16. Those who have indefinite leave to remain or permanent residence will not have to pay.
When the policy was announced in January, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said that it gave the impression that EU citizens were “never really one of us”.