This is the editorial from our Lent 2022 newsletter. To read the full content, click here
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Welcome to the Together for the Common Good Easter Newsletter. This Holy Week we are thinking of the tragedy unfolding between the peoples of Ukraine and Russia.
In the last few days a Ukrainian Pentecostal pastor said that the mood of the prayers he is hearing has changed. “At the beginning of the war the mood was one of distress and shock, even begging. But now, it is one of praise – they are praising the Lord.” He said despite everything, somehow they are being given the strength to resist. He added that 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, especially verses 9-10, uncannily describes their spiritual condition.
dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Christianity is a religion of paradox: that God would be human, that life comes from death, that achievement comes through failure, that to gain one must lose, and that the least are the greatest. What is paradoxical about the mysteries of the faith is that reason cannot fully penetrate their meaning, so that what seems contradictory to reason is profoundly true in terms of faith.
But too often we interpret the world through a secular lens and forget our identity in God. We might ask ourselves which paradigm we are living in. We are not called to be conformed to the world, but we are called to live in it, walking the way of Jesus.
This is the way that calls us to fight for the integrity of the human person, to resist the powers that dominate and dehumanise. And wherever we see controlling behaviour, whether through physical brutality, coercion of thought or speech, commodification of human beings or nature, we are to restrain it. Darkness does exist, but love is more powerful. As John Paul II said seven years before the Berlin Wall fell,“no evil is greater than the infinite mercy of God.”
In the West we have been too complacent, living in a kind of dream, believing that progress would always go our way. Our hard won traditions have been taken for granted, even rejected. Meanwhile our societies have been unravelling and fragmenting. But reality is crashing back in: there is a lesson to be learned from the courage of our fellow Christians in Ukraine. The pastor went on
“The whole world is having its test now, despite what country or continent…We are now seeing the true values that we live by, not those we talk about or brag about, but how we actually live.”
In such unstable times, how we actually live really matters. The reality of this terrible war calls us not only to support Ukraine in whatever way we can, but also to treasure what is precious. It calls us to speak the truth, to cherish our way of life. To recognise with gratitude that, though imperfect, our country is a wonderful place where we can be free.
This moment calls us to remember who we are: that we are made in the image of God; that we thrive in relationships of loving friendship. And that real physical presence, faithful accompaniment of our fellow human beings, really matters. It matters especially at a time when we are being groomed to desire a disembodied virtual future of digital control. Building common good between neighbours in real places is more important than ever.
We mustn’t despise the small things – we do have to rebuild relationships with one another.
So our work continues. In this edition we are delighted to bring you Nigel Rooms who writes about a Nottingham congregation whose relationship with its neighbourhood was transformed, and Ralph Norman who explores the legacy of Thomas Hill Green, whose work on citizenship popularised the term ‘common good’, and we are delighted to announce a new common good lecture series in partnership with Lincoln Cathedral starting in June. And thanks to Hannah Rich of Theos we are excited to bring you the results of the independent evaluation of our Common Good Journey discipleship programme for lay people.
We are living through one of those periods in history where everything changes. Our perception can be distorted by the relentless crisis-to-crisis news cycle, so for those who want to understand more deeply what’s going on, there is a selection of articles in our Signs of the Times section, including a dedicated page about Ukraine, plus our latest Recommended Books.
Wishing you a blessed Easter
Founder and Director, Together for the Common Good
Like what you are reading? More inspirational content from Jenny Sinclair can be found here: https://togetherforthecommongood.co.uk/news-views/from-jenny-sinclair
Header image: instagrammed by ukraine.ua. A traditional pottery jug in the shape of a cockerel, sitting atop a kitchen cabinet, survived a bombardment of Borodianka, and became a symbol of the Ukrainian spirit of resistance. For more on this story, click here.