The long road
25 September 2019 IN: Bishop
I write at a time of considerable political uncertainty. I’d be very surprised if, by the time you are reading this, the situation has resolved. Indeed, we may well be facing a General Election very soon. Lots of people are quite understandably fed up with the national state of affairs, and many may be attracted to whatever produces the quickest solution to the immediate mess. Uncertainty can be damaging. It is said that the financial markets react more negatively to it than to almost any resolution of a problem, and I know from my own experience, that if I dither too long over whether I’ll be quicker taking my car or catching a bus, I will be late for my meeting anyway.
And yet there are matters so serious, and of long-term significance, that it is better to live with uncertainty for longer than to jump to the wrong solution. In my vicar years, we faced a complex and divisive issue in one of my churches. After we had spent some months considering it, there was open pressure on me to deliver the answer. And yet I knew that to do so would, with certainty, alienate a sizeable chunk of my congregation. Instead we took even longer, spent time understanding all the aspects of the problem, and committed ourselves to a rota of praying and fasting.
We reached our answer in due course. In the short term, taking that extra time was painful and frustrating. But the outcome was much better than we would have reached otherwise. It both held us together and enabled the church to grow. It was well worth the wait. I can think of some current church issues that come into that category. Maybe it is also where we are now in our national life.