God’s PPS?

One of the marks of a teacher who really understands their subject is that they can explain it in simple, straightforward language to a lay person in the field. Thanks to a facebook friend, I came across this report from Damian Thompson of an article in the Times.

Apparently, the father of Lulu Renton, a six-year Scottish girl, sent a letter she had written to God to a number of influential church people. The letter asked, “To God, who invented you?” There was no reply from the Scottish Episcopal church or the Presbyterians and a rather complex reply from the Scottish Catholics.

However, the copy sent to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace.” This drew the following reply from the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Dear Lulu,

Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –

‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’

And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.

I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.

+Archbishop Rowan

This has obviously been written by Rowan himself – you can almost hear him speaking it as you read. I think he has done a commendable job in addressing the question in terms that a six -year-old might understand and without any condescension. He takes the enquiry seriously, admits it is a difficult question and then gives a good personal answer with great warmth.

It makes me feel very proud of my Archbishop.

What’s it all about? Really?

Over at Phil’s Treehouse, Phil Ritchie is asking questions about the strap-lines that several CofE dioceses have adopted to proclaim their mission statements: Missionary Diocese of…, Going for Growth etc. I think he raises important questions about these, not least the issue about giving a hostage to the future. So many of these things seem like a good idea at the time, only to look rather naff a few years down the line.

However, one question I think the dioceses ought to ask seriously before adopting these statements is to whom such straplines are directed. Is it to remind those who are currently members what they are about? Or is it to say something to those currently outside the fold?

I rather suspect that many of them are the former. Who currently outside or s phere of influence really wants to know that Wakefield diocese is missionary, or that Lichfield is going for growth? In many ways I suspect these could be rather off-putting, making the outsider or casual visitorfeel like they are perceived as evangelism fodder, one element of the vision for “growth”.

For those of us who are already members of the CofE there are plenty of other ways in which the internal message could be put across. And it will take more than such strap-lines across every diocesan publication to change the culture of a diocese and the national church as a whole.

So let’s see something more empathetic and imaginative, that tells others what we are about. How about “Good news to the poor”? Or would that be just TOO radical?