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St Paul’s And Holy Cross

1st of November 2008

In the Spring of 1994 I was fortunate enough to have four weeks study leave in a fairly remote part of the Dordogne region of France. Along with my books, I took my bicycle, and spent some time in the late afternoon riding around the lovely countryside as a break from my studying. I came across hamlet after hamlet where there was a “manoir” in a state of decay or even derelict, and a war memorial in the centre of the tiny village. In most places there were more names on the war memorial than there were houses in the village. I became acutely aware of the social devastation and loss that came about as a consequence of the Great War.
As far as I am aware none of my direct forebears lost there lives in that conflict: I only know that my paternal grandfather served behind the front lines, and that a great aunt on my mother’s side worked as an ambulance driver behind the trenches…and I remember them both from my earlier days. Thus from a family point of view, I have not experienced the impact that so many have.
During my study leave, cut off from the world I was blissfully unaware of the horrendous genocide which was at that time going on in Rwanda. My subsequent visits to that land, seeing thousands of skulls laid out, places of genocide left as they were, and being with people for whom this tragedy was desperately real, have left their mark on me.
How is it that such things happen, and go on happening? I have thought about the social authority structure which meant that leaders were obeyed, simply because that was the way it was… about the desire for power, prestige, revenge, which so easily drives leaders…do we ever learn from history? What is needed is a deep change of heart! I remember my history teacher father (a man I think of uncertain faith) remarking that one of the things that saved this country from the horrors of a French revolution was the spiritual revival in which the Wesley brothers and Whitfield were leaders. In that era many hearts really were changed.
The history of the Christian church is a very mixed one: there have tragically always been those who have used their position with decidedly unchristlike ambition… but it is nonetheless true that the crucified and risen Christ can and does change people’s lives wherever He is welcomed.
So let us look back with horror, with shame.…with thankfulness.…and up afresh to the only one who can comfort and change the human heart.
With my prayers, Jim Stevens

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