View from the Rectory - March 2020





We are one month in to the new political order and in truth very little seems to have changed.  But in the years to come this period might be remembered as the calm before the storm, like the so-called phoney war of 1939-40.  Nothing has changed because we have entered the transition period in which everything is supposed to remain the same. But as trade talks get under way with months of hard bargaining most likely punctuated by bad-tempered adjournments  and endless delays it is easy to see how tension could be ramped up to new heights. Last year with parliament deadlocked  it was joked that negotiating the Brexit extension would become an annual ritual for the British Prime Minister, people eventually forgetting what it was all about in the first place.  Given the likely difficulties in concluding  a trade agreement with the EU, it’s not inconceivable that the transition period could similarly be extended long into the future. This would be undesirable as it would mean that the opportunity to establish a new, settled and harmonious relationship with our neighbours would be delayed whilst mutual mistrust would sour the atmosphere  and risk turning us in on ourselves.

The great German reformer Martin Luther (1483-1547) spoke of the human condition as being incurvatus in se, turned in upon itself.  He was referring to our propensity to withdraw from the sustaining presence of God and to seek refuge in a narrow world of our own parameters in which we ourselves are at the centre. This instinct has its root in fear, for however adventurous we may be, none of us are by nature willing, or indeed able, to open ourselves to the sheer breadth and generosity of God’s vision for his Creation.   This is something which, by the grace of God, we can only ever catch glimpses of, and yet what little we do see is sufficient to inscribe that vision in our souls, even when in word and deed we seem to be living in denial of it. The season of Lent is a time to ponder these things, the call to repentance being not an injunction to wallow in guilt but an invitation to recapture the vision, to open our hearts and minds to the wonder of God and his future.  As we do so we draw ever closer to the remembrance of Jesus’ passion and death,  the ultimate reminder that rebirth into God’s future necessitates dying to the old life with its limitations, inhibitions and fears.

If, as a nation,  we are now truly to enter into a period of renaissance, it is essential that the same dynamic of dying, rising, and striving for that greater vision is at the heart of our common life and that whatever the difficulties in negotiating trade agreements, we do not allow it to be dislodged.  Noises from government thus far are positive. We are told that the UK has an internationalist outlook and that we are intent on playing a leading role in grappling with major world problems not least climate change.  We must hope that this will indeed be the case for it would be depressing indeed if two or three years hence we were turned in upon ourselves, internally divided, seeking to defend narrow short term interests and scapegoating  foreigners.  I hope that Christians, whether Brexiteers or Remainers can unite in regarding this transition period, however bumpy it becomes, as a long Lent in which the challenge is to lift ourselves out of recrimination and blame and to pursue a vision of a Britain that is outward-looking,  future-oriented and committed to fulfilling our obligations on the world stage.     

Charles Booth


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View from the Rectory - February 2020
The Rector