The nifty bit of abuse in my title comes from a Christmas song by Sydney Carter who imagines Mary and Joseph “knocking on the window on a Christmas Day” and getting the answer:
“No we haven’t got a manger, no we haven’t got a stable
We are Christian men and women, always willing never able”
It’s unfair of course, but it is does sum up a lot of Christain hand-wringing at the state of the world, while the churches, bible bloggers included, offer diddly squat to make it better. The U.K. church’s response to the Brexit referendum may be a case in point. They have made justifiable criticism of the mean -mindedness and outright racism of some of the debate; they have worried about the effect of the U.K. Exit on European peace; they have protested that God is concerned with people rather than boundaries, and especially with people who have no countries and no homes.
So let me suggest two practical responses that any church can take.
- It can help identify usable dwellings within its own parish that might, with Government help, house refugees, and it can publicly commit itself to welcoming refugees and helping them settle over years rather than months. It can notify its local council and the Scottish Government of its desire to help in this way. This is a practical response to the fact that Brexit will make it harder for refugees to come here. Churches in Scotland will find that some German churches already have experience of what can be done
- It can work to establish a twinning arrangement with at least one church in the EU. Most denominations want their churches to do this kind of thing through their bureaucracies, which like to keep power in their own hands. Individual congregations should assert their independence and competence to make contacts and pursue friendships with congregations in Europe. Such linkages have four purposes at least: a) to celebrate our common faith and mission in Europe. b) To share information about worship, education, pastoral care, and outreach which can enhance the life of both partners. c) to encourage mutual visits that build personal friendships. d) to make real especially to younger people our belonging together across boundaries. The reality of a European union is not totally dependent on what nation states and their governments decide to do, but upon the determination of citizens to build cross-border institutions and personal ties. Perhaps we should always have started to build Europe from the bottom up rather than the top down.
These responses are far from being the only right ones, but they tackle real problems which are exacerbated by Brexit; the plight of refugees and the increase in nationalistic hatred of foreigners throughout Europe. They also hold out a chance for churches to take the lead in a social issue rather than being dragged kicking and screaming in the wake of change.
These initiatives would also be fun, because they involve contact with other human beings. Boredom comes from exclusivity and closed doors; fun, excitement, hope and pleasure come from openness. When Jesus spoke about himself, he did not say, “I am the Wall” (like Mr. Trump); he did say, “I am the Door.”