The voice of wisdom in politics does not shout in order to make itself heard in the market place.
It is a whisper sensed, not just once, but continually and with growing insistence. It speaks into the nagging suspicion that nations have got things drastically wrong and are heading for collective disaster. But wisdom is also the voice of hope. It is the voice of conscience and of common sense and no doubt many of us at Modern Church hope that the day will come when it will be recognised for what it is before it is too late.
For this to happen, those who speak to the world need to be conscious and confident of wisdom’s own tempo and of its strength. We are sensing a little of this in the prophetic remnant which we call the Liberal party. Nick Clegg seems to be quietly but firmly speaking into, or perhaps out of, the fragmentation which our own nation is heading for in the aftermath of Brexit. In church and politics the liberal voice is always prophetic, not as a siren of doom, but as the still small voice which speaks from the edge into the fragmenting centre. Judging by recent polls, a growing number of people are hearing it, no doubt with relief.
These are times when people of good faith and sound judgment need to make their voices heard. I believe that Modern Church is one of the most important liberal voices in the marketplace. It has a unique task, one which few other organisations or political lobbies are equipped for because it speaks from the edge of the Church’s life into its centre, as well as to the world outside. It also embodies, and speaks for, the marginalised who themselves are the voice of conscience and hence of Wisdom. Its most immediate task is therefore to speak wisdom, in a variety of social and religious contexts, into the political and religious extremism which feed on one another and threaten to destabilise or even destroy society as we know it.
Religion is potent stuff. But good religion is both shaped and sustained through Wisdom, and her voice needs to be heard. The Church needs to hear Wisdom as the voice of conscience and compassion which, together, lead to repentance and transfiguration. Transfiguration is not just change. It is about changing the way we see and hear people, and perhaps of how we do politics. From this change of perception comes transformation of mind. So Modern Church’s mission is to be the voice of conscience and compassion speaking into a spiritual and moral waste land loosely defined by sound-bites. It is called to speak, in equal measure, to a culture of both indifference and extremism.
Modern Church’s strength lies in its integrity and in its history, the two being of a piece. In its integrity, as it challenges indifference and hardness of heart in both Church and world, Modern Church finds its centre and its equilibrium, but it is also constantly being urged forward. This forward movement is its dynamic midpoint. I believe that part of Modern Church’s prophetic witness consists in recalling the Church to that same dynamic midpoint. In both church and world Modern Church is called to ‘hold the centre’, to speak hope into the politics of today and into the clamour and busyness of the church’s own life. But it must keep moving in order to do this, like Alice and the Red Queen who had to run faster in order to stay in the same place.
Moving faster in order to retain our integrity returns us inevitably to Wisdom, to Sophia, the one whose re-creative purpose both sustains and gives life. Modern Church is already a sign of this purpose at work in the life of the Church. It is resourced from the energy of Sophia, of the Holy Spirit of God for the task it has inherited and will pass on to future generations.
Such a calling requires that together we continually ‘return to centre’ to that place of stillness and equilibrium where we sense God, both privately and collectively. The returning is different for everyone, but it is the point at which, collectively, we begin to recognise the purposes of a merciful and just God for the world and for the wider church. In returning constantly to that centre we begin to see things and people through the lens of mercy.