I suppose it is quite a natural reaction, if someone said there was a pick-pocket about, to put your hand into your pocket (or handbag) to check your cash or cards are still there. I like lots of pockets, so it might take me a while to find mine, since I’m never quite sure which pocket it is in at the moment.
I’m sure we are designed to ‘panic,’ and to check the place we feel vulnerable.
When the church faces issues, such as how to react to prayers not being allowed on council agendas, I think we do the same. We quickly seek to reassure the membership that everything is OK, nothing has been lost, but whoever is doing the scaring needs to be ‘opposed’ or ‘issues’ need to be dealt with.
A similar thing happened the previous week when the Advertising Standards Agency ruled that the Healing on the Streets team in Bath can not say, on their leaflets, that God heals – unless they have a written statement from God himself (but the Bible or contemporary testimonies don’t count on the grounds of being anecdotal)! They even go further, arguably outside their remit, to rule that the Bath team can’t even say they believe God heals.
In the first place, I’m not that keen on formal prayers as a kind of tradition. However, I think it is powerful to acknowledge and honour God publicly through prayer, and losing that will have consequences. I think the solution, to have prayers before the agenda in Bideford, which will be voluntary, might bring some sort of renewal, if done with grace.
However, we need to accept the interpretation of the law, and if necessary seek to amend it to be in tune with what we as citizens expect and want. A different kind of renewal. And thank the person that brought the complaint!
As to Healing on the Streets, it is rude of God to heal, and to seemingly stick to his own rules rather than according to what the ASA might like. It is untidy, and it causes holy disruption to lives.
And it starts on a regular basis in Cleveleys next month. You can still sign up for the training if you ask Andrew nicely.
This training involves being taught to, rather than panic, see and follow through God’s love, possibilities and purpose – in response to lies and crimes perpetrated by that thief, the devil.