The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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June 2017

The Vicar writes

Jeremy Fletcher

Arriving in Hampstead in March this year, I was not expecting to be writing about a General Election three months later. I should know that it’s a rule in politics that nothing is certain, but, like many, I was lured into a false sense of security by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.

This is the first constituency in which I have lived where there is a genuine contest. Elsewhere the seats have been ‘safe’, and whether I agreed or disagreed with the person elected, it still seemed as if my vote (which I have always cast), wouldn’t make much of a difference. That said, the incredible level of scrutiny of national voting patterns is such that, even if your direct vote might not lead to the MP you want, the overall figures do make their contribution to the political debate.

We get the MPs, Parliaments and Governments we vote for. I have never understood the disparagement of the ‘political class’ or the ‘Westminster village’, as if these things were self invented, self perpetuating, and did not depend on wider society. What I do understand is the way that an institution can act as if it is detached, and self important; the way its internal ways of working can become the only things that matter. Our consumption of print, broadcast and social media can fuel this process, and it is up to us not to buy in to the separation of politics and government from the everyday.

Recent political decisions, like the Referendum and the election of the President of the United States have been interpreted as a result of popular dissatisfaction with politics as it is seen to be conducted. But there has to be another way of holding our politicians and elected representatives to account. Our deep engagement in the principles, morals and ethics of decisions will be key. Our resistance to measures which appeal to short term gain but have no long term future or purpose will be essential.

Above all this, we can offer with humility and confidence a vision of the world and human relationships which stems from Christian belief and practice. Rowan Williams, in his slim book called Being Disciples, puts it profoundly and deceptively simply. ‘We are each of equal value to God…we are all dependent on each other’. He concludes his essay on ‘Faith in Society’ with this quotation:

’Being disciples means being called to see others, and especially others in profound need, from the perspective of an eternal and unflinching, unalterable love.’

I will cast my vote on June 8, I hope, in that spirit. A view of humanity based on our faith in God the Holy Trinity demands that we play a part in the continuing politics of our parish, our area, our city and our nation. Rowan Williams ends:

‘I hope and pray that we…will respond to this by the strength of God’s Holy Spirit, and that we can proclaim this vision as the firmest possible ground for hop in all human societies…past, present or to come.’

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