Archbishop Justin Welby’s Holy Week Lecture 1: ‘Are we together for more than we can get out of it?’

Let’s be clear, I am all in favour of plans and outcomes and spontaneous gestures being well prepared beforehand to get the result you want. But this is different. It is a genuine spontaneous outpouring of the heart, an expression of love and pleasure in knowing Jesus. Again that speaks of what leads to human flourishing. Human beings are not entirely transactional: we are filled with passion and when we reflect Christ we overflow to common good.

So why is that all so significant today? Because what we are to become as a nation is at this time especially open to choice and decision, and thus what the church has to show in itself and point to in its advocacy and example (and the church is of course all of us, not the institution) is the extravagant, gratuitous love that is the Kingdom of God and which when even palely absorbed into human society is the root and flower of human flourishing.

The great periods of change and reform in the way we behave as a nation have come from a combination of huge events and overseas influences. We have never been just some islands off the north-west coast of mainland Europe. In the mid-19th century, the ferment following the ending of the Napoleonic wars combined with the industrial and agricultural revolutions. At the same time victory over France, especially at sea, had led to the creation of the second British Empire. As more and more of the Indian sub-continent fell under British suzerainty, the demands of Empire grew, for better and for worse. It was a very potent mix of economic change at home and overseas development. It led to the reforms which began in 1832 largely inspired by Christians such as Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and others, and which continued apace until the Education Act of 1870 and afterwards.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury