Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year message - children are our treasure: our present and our future

In his New Year Message, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that ‘our hearts would be in a very bad way’ if we concentrated on the state of our finances to the exclusion of the welfare of fellow human beings. And one of the most damning criticisms of any society would be that it was failing its children. He talked about the plight of children, who are ‘damaged by poverty, family instability and abuse, street violence and so much else’, noting that ‘one of the most damning things you could say about any society is that it's failing its children’. He remarks that ‘children need to be taken seriously, not just as tomorrow's adults but as fellow-inhabitants of the globe today’.

He challenges personal decisions and public policies, national and international, asking: “Does this feel like something that looks after our real treasure, something that keeps our real wealth safe, the lives and welfare of the youngest and most vulnerable?’

In the message, Dr Williams encourages us to consider the importance placed on material wealth, to 'turn outwards' and appreciate the treasure that is our 'fellow human beings' during this time of financial crisis.

The Archbishop recognises that people are entering the New Year with ‘anxiety and insecurity’ and ‘fears about disappearing savings, lost jobs, house repossessions and worse’, but sees recent months as having provided an opportunity to ‘think about wealth and security and about where our “treasure” is’.

For those who wish to read the full transcript of the Archbishop's New Year Message, it is available on YouTube, and reproduced below:

‘It's always a relief to have a bit of space after the busyness of Christmas to relax at home and mull over the past 12 months and the hopes and possibilities of the year ahead. The prospect of this coming year, though, is one that produces a lot of anxiety and insecurity for countless people. There are fears about disappearing savings, lost jobs, house repossessions and worse. While the headlines are often about the big figures, it's the human cost that makes it real for us.

‘A little before Christmas I visited a new academy in Scunthorpe named after St Lawrence. Lawrence was a Christian minister in Rome in the days when you could be arrested and executed for being a Christian, nineteen hundred years ago or so.

‘When he was arrested, he was told to collect all the treasures of the Church to be given up to the courts. He got together all the homeless, the orphans and the hungry that the Church looked after in the city, and presented them to his judges, saying, 'These are the Church's treasures.'

‘Like any really good school, St Lawrence's treats its children as treasures. In the last few months we've had to think a lot about wealth and security and about where our 'treasure' is.

‘But it set me thinking - what would our life be like if we really believed that our wealth, our treasure, was our fellow-human beings? Religious faith points to a God who takes most seriously and values most extravagantly the people who often look least productive or successful- as if none of us could really be said to be doing well unless these people were secure.

‘And as we look around in our own country as well as worldwide, this should trigger some hard questions – whether we think of child soldiers in Africa or street children in Latin America, or of children in our midst here who are damaged by poverty, family instability and abuse, street violence and so much else. Children need to be taken seriously, not just as tomorrow's adults but as fellow-inhabitants of the globe today, growing human beings whom we approach with respect and patience and from whom we ought to learn.

‘One of the most damning things you could say about any society is that it's failing its children. That's why I was really encouraged recently to be invited to open a project in Springfield in Birmingham – a church-based initiative supporting children and their parents from across the whole community. Here the church community took the brave decision to open up their church building for work with local families and to seek funding for further buildings and resources from the local authority. What's more, they've worked throughout in close collaboration with the local mosque and have a joint programme with them for young people. There's a community with its eye unmistakeably on its real treasure.

‘So what about a New Year in which we try and ask consistently about our own personal decisions and about public policies, national and international, 'Does this feel like something that looks after our real treasure, something that keeps our real wealth safe – the lives and welfare of the youngest and most vulnerable?'

‘Jesus said where our treasure is, that's where our hearts will be. Our hearts will be in a very bad way if they're focused only on the state of our finances. They'll be healthy if they are capable of turning outwards, looking at the real treasure that is our fellow human beings. A very happy and blessed New Year to you.’


Blogger Cato said...

It would be a whole lot finer if the Bishops et al declined their over-inflated salaries for a year or two, stopped driving about in chauffered limoussines, got out int othe mean streets and did a thing or two instead of pontificating to me as to what I should do.

1 January 2009 at 16:57  
Blogger EUBanana said...

Nice to see someone else agrees. It's a bit rich (excuse the pun) to see someone who has never experienced poverty, or even a days hard work probably, to lecture people about how they shouldn't worry too much about their finances, when that someone lives in an ivory tower apart from us mere mortals who have to work for a living.

That said it's not his fault he lives in a bubble. He seems to be a very compassionate man, and this sort of speech is his job. So he's doing his job!

1 January 2009 at 18:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From David Lonsdale

What a depressing speech. The reason our children have problems is because their parents have rejected Jesus, yet Williams manages to point the way forward for the New Year without once mentioning Jesus.
If our relationship with God was right then our relationship with our fellow man would follow.
If we look at the ten commandments we see that the first four are about our relationship with God and the last six about relations with our fellow man.

Jesus affirms the gradient of the relationship when he says in Matthew 22 v.37-39 ,

"37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38This is the first and great commandment.
39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Williams seems to be reluctant to say anything about the priority of our relationship with God.
Is it any wonder that our society is in chaos and our children are suffering when our pre-eminent Christian leader points to the problem but cannot bring himself to mention Jesus as the answer.

1 January 2009 at 20:47  
Blogger Tom said...

Excellent. I'm so glad that's all clear for us now Rowan. Christian faith is about being nice to people, especially the little children. Thanks for presenting the message of grace - apart - from - works so transparently...

So, God...If I'm nice to children... then we're cool, right?

1 January 2009 at 21:04  
Blogger len.allan said...

The crisis of a Christless Christianity!.
If you remove Christ from Christianity what have you got? - a dead religion.
When I watch the services of some denominations( who shall remain nameless)the service has the atmosphere of a funeral home, almost like they were worshiping a corpse.
Jesus said"I came that you might have life and have it abundantly".
Remove Christ from Christianity and you have a corpse!
Jesus Christ reconciles you to God by his death ,but he save you by his life!

2 January 2009 at 09:19  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Your Grace.
I agree with all the comments above, I note that although Christ was left out, the local mosque got a mention. Perhaps Lambeth Palace should be opened as an orphanage? May God help us, because the C of E
seems incapable under its present administration.

2 January 2009 at 10:53  
Blogger Phil Walker said...

Oh, Jesus was there. Didn't you see, the last paragraph. He's our real treasure, because he's … present … in … everyone … around … us. Oh, brother.

2 January 2009 at 22:35  
Blogger len.allan said...

Phil, Should have gone to specsavers

3 January 2009 at 10:46  
Anonymous eagerbeaver said...

Rowan Williams is an overgrown Ewok whose major contribution to this country is the hastening to a laudable end of disestablishment.

The UK will only properly grow up when we stop religious busybodies of all denominations (whether they be RC, CofE, Hindu, Muslim or Sikh) interfering in the dily lives of the vast majority who don't give a shit

4 January 2009 at 17:27  

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