In the light of the killing of Fr Jacques Hamel in France, the archdeacons of Birmingham and Aston have written to their flock.
They wanted to assure them of their ‘reassurance, prayers and practical support towards…security and that of clergy households and churches at this time.’
They listed prayers for peace: ‘turn around the hearts that hate. Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace.’
They provided public information: ‘Birmingham City Council will be reissuing their Incident Management Toolkit for Faith Institutions.’
There is practical advice: ‘We would encourage you…to review…security…helped by a new Grant Scheme…following a survey with a Master Locksmith.”
They warn: ‘Given the public role of Church of England ministers, these events also highlight the need for vigilance around issues of personal safety.’
How hard it is for them, as for us all, to acknowledge something that is extremely uncomfortable in our secular age. In Jesus’s own words ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.’
This means exactly what it says. Christianity is far from a comfortable, cosy religion promising world peace. It is threatening to us, as much as to any other power, because it constantly reminds us of the transitory value and ultimate worthlessness of wealth, rank and status and so many other things we hold dear. Christianity never promised to build a perfect society nor safety and security in this world. Indeed Jesus’s own words promised quite the opposite.
To say otherwise is to undermine the true promise.
When health fails; when life draws to its close; when, as now, danger threatens; the true promise is that we were created by a great and all-powerful God who knows each one of us and loves us. Forget every worldly reassurance or safety measure. The only real security is in him.