What can I say about Brexit that we can reflect on as missionary disciples?
Like the country, Christians appear to have been split between the two camps. Sadly, some Christian commentators have used the referendum to suggest that God would be on one side or the other, which to my mind amounts to a sort of spiritual blackmail! Nevertheless, the Church does have much to bring to the conversation, and the Cardinal and others have outlined the important role that Catholics can now play in unifying and healing relationships made fragile as a result of the fevered campaigning and subsequent fall-out. Indeed, the future is likely to be shaped by those with a long, or perhaps an eternal, view.
When I worked in youth ministry I recall that Christian practitioners were often looked upon with suspicion by some in the statutory youth services: youth ministry took advantage of vulnerable young people in order to make believers of them. Mentioning a Christian motivation for youth work, on funding applications for example, was frowned upon.
I’m happy to say that this changed over time, frequently because of the hard work of youth ministers, but also as a byproduct of council funding cuts following the 2008 financial crash. Youth projects found themselves short of workers and third sector projects, less reliant on central funding, began to take up the slack and collaborate more closely with council youth services.
What has this got to do with Brexit, or indeed evangelisation? We see a country in crisis, its very foundational values being questioned and rethought, and the usual safety nets being withdrawn. The Church now finds herself (having been pushed to the political sidelines over recent years) with a voice and a vision for the future, in a country looking for a new direction. Can we make a compelling case for a future in which people are made aware of their dignity in Christ, the responsibility of each person to act for the common good and a society where the Church offers that fixed point from which everything else takes its bearings? Evangelisation presents people with the opportunity for an imminent and saving relationship with Christ that all of us are called to – we have an opportunity to re-propose that truth. Evangelisation is a call out of something (the ‘world’) and into something else (Christ and his visible church). Whether our society is willing to listen to this vision of the Kingdom remains to be seen.
During the migrations of European peoples throughout the first millennium, when societies and civilizations were fragmenting, even as she was under great threat, the Church made possible the potential civilization and evangelisation of Europe. Often through monastic movements like the Benedictines, God’s good order was maintained through work and prayer – radical Christian community created the conditions in which evangelisation could take place, so that when the time was right, that potential was released. Can we live with a similar devotion and love, into which God can draw the restless and the thirsty when the time is right?