• Shawn Swinney

Living in the Wide World by William Challis

Just after I was ordained, about 100 years ago, I spent two weeks in hospital. Chatting one day with the Chaplain, we recognised how rapidly confinement within a hospital ward reduces the size of one’s world to the ward itself. Everything that happens in the ward becomes vitally important; the outside world recedes into the far distance. I wonder if that is what we are experiencing as we all confine ourselves to home to a greater or lesser degree.

A big danger for Christians is that we might begin to reduce our faith to our own little world; our faith in Jesus is about how he can help me survive this time. But Christianity has always been a ‘big world’ faith, and not just a ‘little me’ faith, it is committed to mission and not just personal spirituality.

So I was thinking about that might help us retain our big view of our faith, remembering the ‘great big God’ who is over all, including this pandemic.

Hint number 1 – read widely. I finished the book about Lament (absolutely brilliant) and have now embarked on the series of books that has sat on my shelves for many a year, and which I resolved not to take to Oxfam when I retired, but to keep and one day to read. That day has come, sooner that I might have expected! The books are the five volumes of Kenneth Scott Latourette’s Christianity in a Revolutionary Age (Harper and Row, 1958), a classic much admired but, I suspect, rarely read. In his first chapter, Latourette blows apart my contracting worldview: ‘Since without him Christianity would not have been, Jesus, the seeming failure, has had more effect upon the history of mankind than any other of its race who has ever existed.’ Our faith is a worldwide faith, so read widely; read the novels that teach us so much and which we were thinking about yesterday, read history, look in your newspaper and on line for news that isn’t about coronavirus – there is still some left in our newspaper!

Hint number 2 – pray widely. Praying for our Mission Partners reminds us that we are all involved in our worldwide faith, but do remember to pray for the places where they work, and not just for the personal safety of the people we know. So much of the world is caught up in conflict or poverty, and not just in the coronavirus. So many people have so much less than we do. So many people need our prayer today.

Hint number 3 – engage with others. We have cracked the IT (at our age…) and started joining in Morning Prayer by Zoom. Other people’s prayer stimulates ours by broadening our concerns and our way of praying; words others have written to give us a structure of prayer remind us that many, many others are praying with us in other settings across the globe.

May we be blessed in keeping our eyes and lives open to God’s worldwide work even as we have to retreat to our own homes.

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