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Columnists

Way to go

Lucy Winkett

WinkettDuring the years I have written this column I have moved house, moved job, acquired a dog and gone quite a bit greyer than the photo that accompanies this slot. It's time to hang up my boots or whichever metaphor suffices for stopping the monthly hunching over a laptop that writing this column requires.

Recently I was sitting around a table with a group of people I didn't know. We turned out to be a mixed  bunch: an actor, a plastic surgeon, a radiographer, a designer, a businessman, a media consultant  and me.  Each of them regarded religion with a kind of benign curiosity, a sense that it was an activity carried out by consenting adults in private, with as much relevance to the real world as the wizardry of Harry Potter or the menace of a chugger.  Polite incredulity was the dominant reaction to the sense that a person would live a life that took religion seriously, although they were all engaged and exercised about the big questions of life, death, faith and hope.  Religion, in their minds, had become detached from such human and humane concerns.  

Our conversation raised again for me the question of what the church aspires to be. The choice of metaphors is important here. For Tertullian and many since, it is a boat, buffeted by the storms of society, with a mission to save those who were outside drowning.  For others it has been a perfect city, a big tent with a roof but no walls, and famously and biblically, a body with many different parts. There are so many different ways to describe the ekklesia, and our theology of the church is closely linked to what we think the 'world' is too.  Is it a place whose wiles must be essentially resisted or whose insights should be embraced?  Is it a place that is 'not church', or does church encompass everyone and everything?  

Some of Danny Boyle's Olympic statement of Britishness resonated with me as I continue to think and pray in the context of 21st-century London: the resonance and meaning of bells, an analogue sound in a digital age,  the commitment to children, the fostering of imagination, the facing of demons (even the child catcher), the  belief that healing  is universally deserved. Even though Christianity did not explicitly feature in his vision of Britain, some of these themes, including the reforming campaigns of the 19th and early 20th centuries, were the stuff of many a life of faith, and the future he presented could find a home in the prayers of a socially engaged, creatively free church that was committed to justice and peace.  

And so while I know that the institutional church looks like it is dying on its feet,  I still believe we have the potential to be a contemporary expression of the ancient and everlasting love of God.  And it is on that note that I want to finish.   Privilege is an overused word, but it has been genuinely a privilege to write for you. Thank you for your encouragement and may our shared Way always be Third. 

Lucy Winkett