By Rev Angela C Bosfield Palacious
Each one of us needs to be accountable as an individual and as a member of the wider society. We have a responsibility to look out for our own families and those of others. We are required to balance the important aspects of christian life: worship, private prayer, communal bible study, family, friends, theological and ethical reflection and ministry, including what may be perceived as political action.
If we are to have the spiritual maturity necessary for responsible action, then our ministry (lay and ordained) will have to be based on strong devotional and spiritual foundations. We need to be a member of an accountability group of some sort, where we are challenged to grow in our faith. It is extremely difficult, if not culturally impossible, to live in a world with no christian support group or community.
It is within a small fellowship that the true meaning of love, as spiritual love, can be experienced. The emphasis on silence, meditation, worship and study indicates how much of ministry is public and how much is private in preparation for the public. In times like these, we will have to make wise decisive choices that need to be anchored to our convictions by a strong sense of the presence of Christ, and the purpose of christian living.
This requires us to flow between knowing God and learning more about God, between private spirituality and public action. Faith is as much action as it is a relationship with God. Christ’s love for others means that devotion is preparation for ministry to anyone in need, that Sunday is refreshment for the next week and rest from the last week.
As committed Christians, our social service has to be accompanied by social action, or at least by knowledge of current affairs, access to information, and readiness to give support when the need arises. We have to be alert to the signs of the inter-connections between the brokenness we see in others and the systems of which they are victims. As clergy, we cannot keep our eyes on pastoral and spiritual matters and leave the running of the world to those not informed by theological and ethical principles.
We are living in a time which is as tense as the early years of the nineteen-thirties were for many people, as the threat of war approached. As we look back at the Church’s role in negotiation, its lack of theological understanding, and inability to act early or against the rise of Hitler, we find a warning flag that should enable us to address the issues of this age with more honesty and courage than was evident then. Our life and witness as members of the contemporary church must be informed by the Christian Story and vision of the Kingdom of God in such a way that clear statements are made about who we are called to be at this time:
How are we treating our Chinese brothers and sisters in our country? I am told that in some countries they are being persecuted.
Is there price gouging in our stores?
Do we have adequate healthcare for the poor or is this reserved for the poor who could pay or have insurance?
When should we hope to have a workable comprehensive National Health Insurance scheme?
When we take seriously the command to love our neighbours as ourselves, a whole new dimension of relationship is opened. To speak of the Church setting the example is to place the challenge right in the way of the whole christian community, not just leaders and ministers, as we all re-examine our calling and purpose.
Trust is what we need to learn to put in God, even as we learn to trust each other as a form of human bonding. Trust extended at an early age can function as a means of promoting trustworthiness. Constancy, patience, discipline, humility, contentment and kindness reflect attitudes to self and to others, attitudes which build up relationship.
The image of Christ in terms of human qualities needs to be before us at all times. We are accountable to God for those who stumble because we willingly misrepresent Christ to them. We are the keepers of our sisters and brothers, and this should motivate us to leave our sanctuaries and daily enter the noisy, crowded market-place when this lockdown is over.
Let us ponder the answer to these questions as we hold ourselves and our churches accountable in this regard:
Do we miss ministry in the marketplace, basketball court, “under da tree”, and wherever people gather to share the word of God? Did we socially distance from them before?
Have we always been on lockdown when it comes to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, elderly and imprisoned? Will we change that now when the need is so great?
Have certain types of persons been locked out of our churches for years in the past?
How are we going to use our freedom when this is all over?
How do we handle the tension between self-preservation and being there for others?
To have a vision of where Christ is and what He is requiring of us, we need spiritual insight and guidance, and to find the courage to act. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to be accountable to God, our neighbour and ourselves in love.
• Rev Angela Palacious, a motivational speaker and author of several devotional books, is an Anglican priest. She may be contacted at 393-9000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.