Relationships – with each other, our Church, the planet, and God

Article for Noticeboard, newsletter of the Diocese of Southwark
May 2015

Relationships lie at the heart of what it means to be human, and of the Christian faith. When they work well they are profoundly life-enhancing and life-giving: when they go wrong they can be deeply distressing and destructive. There is plenty this month to stimulate our thinking and reflection on our most basic relationships – with each other, with our Church, with the planet, and with God.

Until May 7th we had a Coalition government.   In political terms a coalition is ‘a temporary alliance of distinct parties for a limited purpose’. In politics a key question is how we can live well together, balancing the needs and desires of a multiplicity of individuals and interest groups, each with their own agendas. A basic principle from a Christian perspective was expressed in the House of Bishops’ letter entitled, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ It placed relationships at the heart of a Christian understanding of politics in declaring that, ‘we support policies which respect the natural environment, enhance human dignity, and honour the image of God in our neighbour’. Underlying this is the basic Christian belief that ‘every human being is made in the image of God. But we are not made in isolation. We belong together in a creation which should be cherished and not simply used and consumed’.

From 10-16 May is Christian Aid Week. It is a vital reminder of one of the most crucial moral challenges of our time – the huge and growing inequalities of wealth and opportunity across the world. It is an opportunity to build greater awareness of the needs of so many of our fellow humans, and for raising money and resource to help to meet some of those needs. Many of our churches will be very actively involved. One of the themes Christian Aid have focussed on is that of the environment and climate change, and how this affects the poorest people in a disproportionate way, and so is closely tied to the justice and peace agenda. This year is especially important for climate change action as emphasised, for example, in the recent statement from Anglican bishops from across the Communion entitled, ‘The world is our host – a call for urgent action for climate justice’. It is well worth reading, not least to encourage us in Southwark Diocese to implement our own Environment and Climate Change policy.

May 24 is Pentecost Sunday when we think about the role of God the Holy Spirit in creation and in the new creation, in bringing order out of chaos, harmony and mutual understanding in a world of different languages and cultures, all based on the creative and salvific work of God the Father in Christ. We are reminded in Paul’s epistles of how God the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, the Church, and in each of us to bring about the new creation based on God’s love in Christ.

May 31 is Trinity Sunday when we reflect upon the mystery of God’s love in the midst of the one God understood as Trinity. It gives the most basic reason for the primacy of relationships in our Christian view of life. Abishiktananda’s classic book on prayer comments that, ‘the purpose of our creation was simply that we might share in this life of God (communion of Trinity) which is signified by our communion with each other. Every human relationship is shot through with the Trinitarian mystery’.   Good relationships are as fundamental as that.