Life, Worship, and the New Reality: 5 October

Jack’s funeral last week was a wonderful old fashioned service. Jack was a big, strong, Bilston, man, who walked to the social club, or the bookies, in a collar and tie, with his Staffie Bull Terrier. He gave his grown up children what for if he thought they were having a sickie ‘There’s people out there as’d love yow’re job.’ Mourners from all over Bilston came into church before the hearse arrived; we walked into a full congregation. Abide With Me rang gently and powerfully round the church, connecting everyone and embracing the family. Jack’s daughter spoke of him with firm, warm, teary, pride. The Lord’s Prayer resounded. It was a privilege to have been there. I wonder if I will ever see such a funeral again.

On Friday and Saturday I was at the Global Leadership Summit in Stafford. Willow Creek Church near Chicago invite inspiring speakers from the Church and Business. The sessions go out on DVD to locations all over the world. The worship was light years away from Jack’s funeral. An accomplished, loud, band led rocky songs, encouraging people to sing enthusiastically. We could hear the band, not each other. Later they turned down the volume and stood back from time to time, so we could feel together as a congregation in worship. Talking about this with Will, a fellow vicar, I thought loud band worship is fine for individuals, like singing along in the car with the stereo on, but a better atmosphere: ‘Here I am to worship…’ When life is hard, though, we need to feel and hear the worshippers around us more, embracing us and lifting us.

Life is hard and will continue to be. This was the message of Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor at Willow Creek. The Recession is the New Reality. Bill told us how the Holy Spirit had told him this hard truth. Things will not go back to ‘normal’ soon, if ever. He encouraged us to Lead in a New Reality, leading Christians to love their neighbours, in church and beyond, in practical ways. A great message. Catch the Summit if you can, Oct 9, 10 in Bolton, SW London, St Alban’s and Swansea, Oct 16,17 in Coventry and Gerrard’s Cross, Nov 6,7 in Newcastle, Nov 9,10 in Kampala, Nov 11,12 in Dublin.

Bill Hybels began, however, by talking of the recession as a ‘rogue wave.’ This gave the impression that we would soon return to normal waters. Maybe Bill was remembering more what it felt like when the recession first started. Maybe he hasn’t fully worked out the implications of what the Holy Spirit said about the New Reality. I have written to him about all this.

Governments are banking, betting, heavily on the rogue wave theory. In this view our economies will soon start growing again as they did before, and we will then be able to pay the huge sums we have borrowed. If recession is indeed the New Reality we are bankrupt. My sense is that the Holy Spirit is indeed saying that the recession is not a freak of nature but a dustbowl caused by human greed. The Old Unreality was believing that we could live by greed, on credit. The New Reality is harsh but gives our grandchildren a better future.  (See my blog for 6 July)

Speakers at the Summit spoke of caring for the poor, speaking out for justice. We hear the talk a lot, but how many of us do it? Tikkun pointed me to the Neighbourhood Assistance Corporation of America who arrange rescheduling of mortgage payments. They are in great demand, because the banks listen to what they say. Banks come to more generous arrangements with the NACA than with anyone else. How come?

Bruce Marks, NACA’s CEO, says:

‘Obama pleads, begs and bribes the servicers, and that doesn’t work … We don’t trust them, so we force them to do it with nonviolent bank terrorism. We go to CEOs’ homes and hold them personally responsible for the devastation they’re causing. We dump furniture on their lawns; we knock on their front doors.’

NACA name and shame bank executives on their website. Robert Diamond, CEO for Barclays USA, earned $91million in the three years, 06, 07, 08. He’s labeled ‘PREDATOR.’

NACA sound like a widow who sat outside the house of an unjust judge until he helped her. (Luke 18) A good precedent. May this kind of neighbourly action also be part of the New Reality.

Roger Harper

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