In these times of conflict and aggression and a society which many would say has lost its way, isn’t it now more than ever that we need the guiding principles of religion? But numbers attending church are falling nationwide and the Christian message is being lost on many. So as Christmas is a time to reflect on a Christian message, we spoke with the Bishop of Kensington. Our conversation meandered from terror threats, to poverty to the position of Christianity in today’s world.
The Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington covers not only the area of Kensington, but also Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, Hampton, and Spelthorne. The Bishop of Kensington has a wide Area within the Diocese of London to take care of. His “patch” embraces the extremes of poverty and wealth, as well as a huge diversity of ethnicity.
This year has been a busy one for the Bishop. He has been closely involved in the responses to both the Grenfell Tower disaster and the Parsons Green bombing. At Grenfell he was inside the cordon supporting the firefighters as well as the evacuees themselves, who had witnessed and gone through such a trauma. At a time of devastation we all need some faith to cling to.
Closer to home, he was involved in the appointment of Father Andrew Downes at St Mary’s, Sunbury and has worked closely with St Peter’s Staines and St Saviours, Sunbury.
We spoke of the current political correctness in our society. We seem to tread so warily when it comes to minority groups and religions, not wanting to offend any of them by championing our own Christian faith. Are we embarrassed to be known to be a Christian? All faiths and ethnicities should celebrate their own festivals at the same time as showing respect to others. It appears that Religious Education in schools is dying a death and yet it was introduced in the mid 1940’s precisely to promote tolerance and understanding after the horrors of the holocaust. Isn’t respect needed as much, if not more, today?
A newspaper article earlier this year stated that a dinner hosted by the City of London Corporation had done away with the traditional grace said before the meal. The CLC stated “a note of thanks felt more appropriate to the audience as a celebration of London’s diversity.” Of course we welcome diversity but are we set to whitewash the Christian faith? That cannot be right. Nativity plays are replaced at school with pantomimes, seasonal cards wish us “Happy Holidays” and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is better known than ’In the Bleak Midwinter’.
Whether we like it or not, Religion is shaping our world. Extremism of any sort is a recipe for disaster. But so is erasing the Christian faith in this Christian country. We all need an identity and we all need values by which to live. Christianity is about loving God and loving our neighbour no matter who they are. Our society today is based on a cult of self but the way to a better future is to be focussed on helping others, which grows as we grow closer to the God who came close to us at Christmas.
So thank goodness for those selfless people who do their bit: the foodbank helping tackle poverty. Poverty does not discriminate. It can affect anyone no matter what ethnicity or religion. Thank goodness for the selfless fosterers who take in those needing a home. We can all do our little bit to make this a better world. Let’s love each other and show respect and understanding. It should not just be Christmas that is the season of goodwill to all men, but the whole year