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Bishops' Letter

Bishop Richard Cheetham

Bishop Richard writes...

“Live simply that others may simply live” is a sentiment that has been common for at least a generation.  It is sometimes first attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.  Since that time, life has become far more complex, with the rise of the Internet and the digital age; far more unfair with growing inequality (Oxfam recently reporting that the wealthiest eight individuals have more than the bottom half of the entire world’s population); and far more unstable (with climate change, many intractable conflicts, the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, and a fragile global economic system).

March sees the beginning of Lent and is a very good time for Christians to reflect on how we live amidst all the challenges of today’s world and not least whether it is truly time to be much more serious about the matter of living simply. One of the problems in this, and perhaps particularly so in Lent, is how to avoid this being seen in a very negative, “hairshirt” kind of way which simply puts everyone off. However, Lent, and our Christian faith and tradition, offer much more positive way of thinking about living simply.

Jesus said very clearly that we cannot serve both God and Mammon. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book speaks of “Dethroning Mammon”. The thinking behind this suggests that our pursuit of unbridled gain can enslave us and when we learn to put God truly at the centre of our lives we are genuinely liberated. Of course, we need a well-functioning financial system which produces in an efficient and fair way the goods and services which we all need and depend upon. The danger is that it gets out of control, and instead of being a servant becomes the master.

This year’s Lent Call focuses on projects from our Link Dioceses in Zimbabwe, which concentrate on food security. In 2016 it was estimated that over a quarter of the population of Zimbabwe needed support in finding enough to eat. This problem has been exacerbated by the effects of climate change, which are damaging crops in Zimbabwe severely. By giving to the Lent Call, perhaps through money saved by some more simple living ourselves (for example by eating less meat), we will be doing a small amount to help the situation and for those affected to simply live.  Similarly, many people across the globe do not have access to reliable and clean water. March 22 is World Water Day, and draws attention to the very real challenge of redressing this damaging and death-dealing situation.  In past years we have supported the provision of bore holes in some of our Link Dioceses – a life-giving move for the communities they help.

During Lent we seeking to understand and live more deeply the mystery of God’s sacrificial and transforming love made known in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As we move through Lent and participate in the services of holy week and Easter, let us pray that our lives and world may be deeply shaped by this love and that we may all learn to “live simply that others may simply live”.

+Richard Cheetham