Questions for our times

It’s 4am. Can’t sleep.

I have been ‘hyem’ – that is ‘home’ in dialect – fear not Boris, only in memory! That’s what it is like in lockdown.

And this by virtue of two books sent to me by friends:

Northumberland and its People, and the other, From Shiels to Shields,

North Shields on the bank of the River Tyne where I was born, and, say it quietly, where my heart still is. There you will find the Presbyterian Church, at St Columba’s, where my imagination was fired and took my first steps on the journey of faith and brought me here.

My Minister there, during that time, who was a big influence, was Arthur Macarthur. A very tall distinguished man wise and gentle. After his struggle with his pacifism at the outset of the war with Germany he was as a consequence deeply committed to the gospel of reconciliation.

This led him to having an important role in bringing the Presbyterian and Congregational traditions together in the formation of the United Reformed Church.

My night time thoughts and memories turned to the pandemic, coming out of lockdown and relating it to VE Day and the aftermath of War.

Then the questions came flooding in – no chance of sleep now.

What now for the church?

In his memoir, Setting Up Signs, in which there is some relevance to the issues that face us all in an uncertain world, Arthur writes:

‘The questions go on and we need the fellowship of all the saints and all men and women of faith, whether they be Humanist, Moslem, Buddhist or Jew to find our way to truth,’ he goes on to say ‘in the immediate future it may well be that the vital task will be some redefinition of the faith once delivered to the saints. Whether that redefinition will justify the church in still calling itself Christian is a serious question. A gospel that is not for all is no good for the global villager.’

Now you know why I couldn’t sleep.

Ken Graham

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