Christian Faith Today

Remarriage of Divorcees in Church
Sleeping with Bread
Support Us All Day Long

Remarriage of Divorcees in Church

The PCC of St Andrew's, Handsworth discussed the issue at one of its scheduled PCC meetings.

We looked at the document produced by the Birmingham Diocesan Board of Social Responsibility and shared some of our own thoughts and experiences.

Our general conclusions are as follows;

St Andrew's has in the past re-married divorcees in Church and the PCC affirms this practice. It does so on the basis that the Church, while not condoning divorce, recognises that we are all fallible human beings and in need of forgiveness. The PCC felt quite strongly that offering re-marriage asserts the Christian principle of forgiveness.

The PCC acknowledged that there may be instances where re-marriage is not acceptable, but felt that any decision should be left to the discretion of the Priest. Although we recognise that this is arbitrary it was felt that this was the most practical way forward.

The PCC does not think that offering a blessing in Church after a civil wedding is the best way to deal with the re-marriage of divorcees, as it raises dangers of such blessings being seen as "second class" weddings, but of course, there may be circumstances where a couple asks specifically for a blessing and this should be accommodated.

This document was formally adopted by the PCC at its meeting on 21st November 2000.

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Sleeping with Bread

Sleeping with Bread:

That’s the title of a book I came across recently. Sleeping with Bread. A strange title for a book, and here’s the story behind it.

During the bombing raids of the second world war, thousands of children in Europe were orphaned and left to starve. The lucky ones were rescued and place in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much couldn’t sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night, the bread reminded them; Today I ate, and I will eat again tomorrow.

Well, the book isn’t about the war. It’s about us – you and me – and our own lives now. It’s about helping us to recognise and value what is most important in our lives – like that bread was to the children. And it gives a way – perhaps now, last thing at night – of looking back at the day that’s just ending. So that we can hold on to what has been good today, and see what hasn’t been so good.

The book suggests two simple questions to ask ourselves at the end of the day:

First: for what moment today am I most grateful?
And then: for what moment today am I least grateful?

You could ask the same questions in different ways. Like:

When was I happiest today?
When was I saddest?
Or
What was today’s high point?
What was today’s low point?

For me, that’s all about common sense – and faith. Common sense because it's good to remember the things from today which were the good moments. Someone we talked to perhaps, or a programme we really enjoyed. Something that made us feel alive or in touch. If you could relive just one moment from today, what would that be?

But it's important too to recognise the times that weren’t so good – rather than just sweep them under the carpet. So a moment to recognise the moments today for which you were least grateful. Perhaps the moments that you felt sad, or helpless, or angry.

That may be harder, and that’s where faith comes in. As a Christian, I see the love of God shown in the love of Jesus, who cares about the things that are difficult in my life, and wants to help me learn from them, and be made stronger by them. So I can look at the things that weren’t so good today, and listen to how God is speaking through them. And that helps me. For one thing it helps me to make choices in life – to choose the things for myself that bring life and joy rather than the things which leave me feeling empty and unsatisfied.

Well, that’s one way of praying, I guess. One way of ending the day by telling God about the best and worst moments. And, like the refugee children – you remember – who were given a bit of bread to hold last thing at night, Sleeping with Bread - we can hold on to the things that have been good for us today, and be confident that tomorrow is a day to be lived with God who will be there, whatever happens.

Reverend John Austen

Sleeping with Bread by Dennis Linn is published by Paulist Press, USA. It’s available in Britain through religious bookshops at about £10.00.

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Support Us All the Day Long

The Oratory, on Birmingham’s Hagley Road, is a magnificent church, with other buildings where a community of priests live. Do try and visit the church one day – it's amazing. In the nineteenth century, the most well-known priest who lived there, for many many years, was Cardinal Newman. And one of the prayers he made famous was this:

O Lord support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then Lord, in your mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last.

Well, the prayer itself may be very old, but those sentiments and hopes have been around so much these last few weeks. The feeling that life and the world is full of trouble. That life is often lived at fever pitch. That we all want safety and peace. And that very scary, panicky feeling that’s been around, that nowhere is really that safe and secure anymore. Recently, I’ve talked to quite a lot of people who can remember the war that ended in 1945, and for some of them, the events of September 11th and afterwards have been particularly disturbing, bringing back all sorts of memories.

Our personal concern for peace is probably about wanting to feel safe when we go out, wanting to feel secure when we shut the door at night, hoping that the people we love are safe, too. But peace for the world means something more than that. Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. So peace has to be about justice, about people having equal chances in life – not having to go through their lives with all the odds stacked against them. Sometimes it may be necessary to fight for those things. Sometimes it means changing things around in the world so that people have a fair chance of health and education, of good housing and food, of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. That sort of peace can only come at a price.

I suppose that’s the same in families too. If you want peace in a family, it can be real hard work, and things often have to change. Differences have to be accepted, and wrongs that can be dealt with have to be sorted. Old wounds get reopened, people get hurt. But that can be much better than papering over the cracks and pretending that nothing is wrong, or just cutting yourself off from the family, and saying that you are never going to have anything to do with them again. Peace that’s worth anything has to be more than sitting on your own behind a door with five locks and saying: “They can’t get me now”.

Peace and justice. I always feel for the ordinary people caught up in every conflict. The people of Afghanistan, as the winter approaches. The kids, the older generation, the people we’ve seen on TV with so few possessions in a country which has become so barren.

And late at night I think particularly of the people who have to take responsibility of behalf of us all. Political and military leaders. The aid agencies, trying to push hard so that people don’t starve in Afghanistan The politicians and leaders of all faiths and nations who can’t just switch off the light and say ‘ Well, it isn’t my problem’.

So it’s a good time to remember that prayer which Cardinal Newman made famous:

O Lord support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then Lord, in your mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last.

Reverend John Austen

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