West Dever News, April 2015

“We live in challenging but hopeful times…” So begins the Pastoral Letter written by the Bishops of the Church of England released in March to coincide with the General Election Campaigns of the various political parties. Part of the challenge of our present times is to motivate people to vote at all. It is not difficult to collapse into a sense of powerlessness believing that my vote will make no difference. Disillusionment with the democratic process has lulled many into opting out of expressing their preference altogether. It’s a point that the Bishops readily acknowledge. “Turnout at General Elections since the Second World War has fallen to below two-thirds of the population…”

The big question posed in the Letter is how do we re-engage the whole population of our country so that we all feel involved? Can those who feel left out be helped to feel included in such way that the task of electing a government is seen to be the responsibility of us all – and worth all of us fighting for? This is no mean task not least for politicians whose job it is to communicate policies that articulate a sense of vision for the future. The Letter points to two specific points in our post-war history when those visions were strong. “Clement Attlee’s Labour government of 1945 and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative administration of 1979. The first responded to the discontents of the Depression in the 1930s and the socially unifying experience of the War to establish the National Health Service… In 1979, the incoming Conservative government was pledged to facilitate individual enterprise and a market freed from state interference…” The call is for a new long-term vision in which all who live in our country will feel equally valued and thus willingly commit to the ‘bigger society.’

The Bishops have advocated “support for policies that respect the natural environment, enhance human dignity and honour the image of God in our neighbour.” Their Letter is not a party political broadcast. It does not tell anyone how to vote. But it does urge thoughtful, prayerful consideration – allowing for the possibility of challenging times to become more hopeful times.

The Easter Story is one in which a vision for the whole of humanity is brought to fruition through faith, faith that at times was sorely tested but which ultimately triumphed. The coming General Election will be an opportunity for each of us to show how much faith we have – in the mark of a cross.

God Bless.


You can read the Bishops’ Letter in full at https://churchofengland.org/media/2170230/whoismyneighbour-pages.pdf