Creative, Innovative and Risk-Taking Peacemakers

by Christopher Collins.

The world seemed to collectively hold its breath over the summer as the intensifying war-mongering rhetoric between President Trump and Kim Jong-un reached ever new heightened levels. North Korea have been publicly intensifying their nuclear weapon capability both in range and load. With every new threat from Kim Jong-un, Trump responded with promises of “fire and fury”. At times, it seemed almost inevitable that a nuclear strike was a distinct possibility.

Yet while North Korea perfected its arsenal, many nations were busy negotiating the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. In so doing, a paradox was exposed. While 122 countries (notably excluding the UK and USA) were dreaming of a nuclear free future, other nations were busy preparing for war. The USA cited the development of North Korea’s capability as a reason to maintain its own deterrent.[1]

At the centre of the paradox we are confronted with a profound question: “where is God in the midst of this?”

There are several ways of viewing war and preparations for war from a Christian perspective. The most popular are the “just war theory” and “pacifism”.

Just war theory suggests that war is necessary in certain circumstances in order to protect our own lives and the lives of others. The concept, which first developed before the Christian era, has evolved under the influence of Christian theologians into a set of criteria to ensure that any war is justifiable. These include, amongst others, the requirement that all other means have been exhausted in resolving conflict and that the harm done is proportionate to the aim. Furthermore, any conflict must be able to discriminate combatants from non-combatants and the means proportionate to the ultimate goal.

When nuclear capability is compared in the light of this theory we find difficulty. The harm done is always certain to be out of proportion with the aim, it is impossible to discriminate the target because of the widespread and long-lasting impacts of nuclear exposure. Rachel Lampard, writing in the Methodist Recorder earlier this year, reminded us that the impact of nuclear weapons in terms of human, environmental and agricultural costs span our time and space[2] with costs not yet imaginable with a unaccountable magnitude.

And so Pacifism, an opinion described by many as a “minority report”. Often citing a basis in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, pacifists take seriously Jesus’ command to resist the evildoer, to turn the other cheek, give more than is demanded and to love their enemies. Although it sounds passive, pacifism is active non-violence. While it sounds the easy option, it never really is – we only have to look at the treatment of conscientious objectors during conscription and national service to see the huge and humiliating personal cost for their devotion to the peaceful cause.

Many would argue that the basis of pacifist belief is fine for a personal ethic but cannot be extrapolated to international relations. Indeed it can seem naïve and implausible when considered in the face of the sovereignty of the nation state and its right to defend its borders and interests. Even more so, then, when considering the nuclear threat and its unthinkable cost, the pacifist view seems untenable.

But is it really so untenable and implausible? Walter Wink, in his book Jesus and Non-Violence: A Third Way, describes Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount about resisting the evildoer, turning the other cheek, giving more than is demanded and to loving enemies, not as a fixed manifesto of good behaviour but rather a set of examples of how playful subversion of the cultural expectations can defuse a potentially exponential cycle of violence and injustice begetting violence and injustice until all human dignity and the integrity of creation is destroyed.

One notable example of such subversion is Article 9 in the Constitution of Japan adopted in May 1947 which commits Japan to “renouncing war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” In the face of a brutal war and untold terrors, it would have been conceivable for Japan to retaliate, if it had the means. Instead, a nation metaphorically turned the other cheek and took a risk for the sake of peace, reducing their own sovereign right to make room for peace to be established.

Another notable example was the creation of the European Union in which each member nation softening its own sovereignty to find a common good.

For many, though not all, it is disappointing that Japan seems to be weakening its “pacifist clause” while the UK voted to leave European Union prompting fears of its eventual breakup and a return to hardened national sovereignty.

So I wonder if we could take Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount as an encouragement to playfully subvert our own cultural expectations of responding to violent threat in creative and peace-building ways that do not resort to fire and fury.

And ok, we might not be able to change the Trump-Jong-un situation ourselves, but we can creatively and imaginatively implore our government and all the world’s leaders to be creative, innovative and risk taking peacemakers in the world for the sake of the God-given dignity and integrity of all peoples and the whole of God’s creation.


[1] [Accessed 15 September 2017]

[2] [Accessed 15 September 2017]

Icons – pointing to what?

by Gareth Powell.

The death of a 36-year-old mother of two in a road traffic accident and the temporary silencing of the chimes of a clock, both having attached to them the language of iconic.  One, twenty years after the event, continues to see the person described as an icon, with photographic images venerated. The second, an inanimate object but one that marks time, marks occasions and is considered a landmark.  At various points in the life of the late Diana, Princess of Wales commentators use the language of icon more because of perception than because of human dignity and the langue is simply applied to Big Ben as the most photographed building in London.

Contemporary icons seem to have about them little by way of a common thread.  They are defined by a plethora of commentators, and are a long way from icons in the Christian tradition and those that caused such controversy at the second Council of Nicaea.   In the great sweep of the Christian Church icons are very much more than items of religious art, rather icons express central doctrines of the faith.  They are more than visual aids, they are created (written) with great devotion and are only understood fully within the context of worship.  Icons give a visual expression to the surrounding cloud of witnesses, and of course to Christ. They present the believer with a visual embrace in the economy of God.  Moreover, they offer windows on the divine.

So, our use of the word now offers us a challenge.  What are modern day icons a window onto? In a Christian tradition that has not paid very great attention to the visual, what sort of icons do we need so that we may see God; see the holiness of the created order and all in such a way as to transform?

When compared with the great icons of the Eastern Church Big Ben seems a small, modern image.  Innocent enough.  On the other hand, a 36 year old mother of two killed in a road accident has about it much more than worship at a shrine of flowers. There was a human soul at the heart of that accident and two grieving sons, still.

The language and definition of icons has developed and it is unlikely that the more overtly ‘religious’ use of the term will in any way be narrowly defined again.  It may be then that we need to rediscover (reclaim?) the language, and our task is to work harder at offering a critique of icons that can all too easily point to a shallow understanding of human worth and dignity.  There is nothing wrong with iconic buildings, but when the icon prevents an encounter with what holds human life and death, we have to reassess our priorities.  The Eastern Icons were about encounter.

In some traditions icons are treated with great respect and care, reverence even.  From time to time our cultural icons are similarity treated.  The reasons for this may be ambiguous and from time to time a challenge of such an icon is necessary in order to break the myth and let what really matters take center stage.   If we want an icon to point us to something different we have to work at understanding the breadth of the world.  The icons of the present moment may in fact be nothing more than memorable events, noteworthy points in discourse, significant markers in a given discipline, or popular people.  The language of icons however has a deeper definition.  John of Damascus reminds us that the icon is a song of triumph, and a revelation, and an enduring monument to the victory of the saints and the disgrace of the demons.[1]

The same could be the case for our definition and contribution to public discourse.  The purpose of the image in iconography is to give a sense of direction.  ‘In being offered a sense of direction we are, in turn, brought into a new place and a new perception.’ [2]  When applying the language of icon there is a theological task to offer some views on how we interpret the world and see that which is ultimately of value as part of God’s creation.


[1] Ware, Timothy, The Orthodox Church 1963 p42

[2] Williams, Rowan  Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement  2000 p184

My Prayer List for Our (God’s) Church

by Neil Richardson

  1. A Church grounded in its life in the Holy Trinity: lives conformed to Christ, prayers renewed and deepened by the Holy Spirit and all offered to the glory of the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Experience of the Trinity came first, the doctrine and doctrinal orthodoxy later.

  1. A Church freed from anxiety and fear: anxiety about its own future and fear of the world.

Not forgetting Thomas Merton’s question: ‘Where am I going to look for the world first of all if not in myself?’.[1]

  1. A Church living St Paul’s ‘one another’ agenda: encouraging, loving, forgiving, accepting, supporting, praying for …….. each other.

Saying the Lord’s Prayer from the heart – and living that Prayer – is an important first step.

  1. A Church committed to worship which transforms,

and so helps us see each other, the Church, the world differently – through a deepening vision of and encounter with God.

  1. A Church of disciples embracing gladly the difficulties and hardship we would not have if we were not disciples.

That may mean sometimes distinguishing what God is asking of us from what the Church is expecting of us!

  1. A Church which lives in Christ and speaks of Christ – loving God and everyone and everything in God.

Christian’ (3 times in the NT) is the outward label; life ‘in Christ’ (everywhere in John, Paul and other NT letters) is the inward reality.

  1. A prophetic Church committed to justice and speaking truth to power.

How will the poor hear the gospel otherwise – and the Bible speaks even more about justice than about love.

  1. A Church re-discovering the heights and depths of prayer, including silence and contemplation.

Does our praying sometimes betray the anxiety which Jesus condemns in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘(they) imagine that the more they say the more likely they are to be heard’?

  1. A Church which looks in hope for the renewing of creation and the final revelation of Christ.

‘The Last Things’, even if interpreted differently today, remain an integral part of our faith.

  1. And all this in the closest possible fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions.

Can we draw closer to God unless we draw closer also to them?

Omitted from this list! References to
  1. Membership figures and evangelism

Linking membership figures with evangelism risks turning evangelism into proselytizing. Evangelism is not so much trying to make new Christians as unselfconsciously living and speaking Christ, and letting the Holy Spirit do (much of?) the rest.

  1. Kingdom values

A vague, slippery concept – hardly a scriptural idea. The Gospel is about truth (i.e. reality) not values (E. Jungel[2]).

  1. Relevance

The relevance of God, of worship, of the Gospel itself is axiomatic, (as Bonhoeffer said of the Bible), like the air we breathe or the bread we eat.  Attend to the fundamentals… (Matthew 6:33).

  1. Human Resources, whether money or people.

Scripture is noteworthy for what it omits and includes. Omitted:  references to ‘supporting’ the Church, keeping the Church going, etc, etc.  Included:  a miracle story, narrated in different versions six times, of overwhelmed disciples enabled by the Jesus who multiplied their meagre resources to feed a great crowd.

And finally:

The Inescapable Reality of God.  That is where the Bible starts and finishes – from the Garden of Eden to the heavenly Jerusalem, including the destruction of ‘Babylon’. Instead of church-centred thinking, we need God-centred thinking, living, praying and mission. Church-centred evangelism becomes recruiting, self-centred praying talking to ourselves and each other, rather than waiting upon God.

The inescapable reality of God may yet be the destruction of us all. If we do not breathe this air and eat this bread, how can it be otherwise? Think of climate change, the nuclear threat, the obscene expenditure on armaments, the iniquitous suffering of the poor in bloated, unequal societies. The inescapable reality of God means we reap what we sow.

But this isn’t where we start in preaching the Gospel. Yet – as a great American Wesleyan scholar, Albert Outler, said – ‘the Gospel hasn’t been preached until it’s been heard’. Can we, with God’s help, searching the Scriptures, waiting on God, and sharing ‘the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings’, re-discover the Gospel for our generation?

[1] T. Merton, ‘Is the World a Problem?’ in Contemplation in a World of Action (Unwin Paperbacks 1981), p.145.

[2] Eberhard Jungel, Theological Essays II, (T&T Clark 1995), pp.191-215.

She Persisted

by John Howard

I understand from American Internationals here in Israel/Palestine that over the last year, with all the political events in the United States, that there has been a hashtag – “She persisted” – which has done the rounds. It could almost be a title for Matthew 15: 21-28. A passage that has often troubled me and, as it came around again in the lectionary this year, left me wondering.

Jesus leaves his usual stomping ground, and arrives in the multi-cultural mixing-pot of Tyre and Sidon. His fame, though, goes before him and a woman with (we would say) a mentally ill child – seeks his help. The disciples try to brush her away but she won’t take no for an answer. Jesus speaks to her and he treats her with little more than contempt. “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (Matt 15:26 NRSV Anglicized Edition). The context seems to indicate that the children are the Jews – or Israelis- and so the woman is being, in effect, called a dog. While the words might well have had subtly differing meaning at the time, it is difficult to understand Jesus’ response to the woman in any other way than as an insult. I have never found the assurances that some commentaries give – that Jesus’ words were not understand by Matthew as being offensive. (Peake’s Commentary on the passage, p787; Matthew for Everyone, Tom Wright, p201 half recognises the problem but seems to fail to deal with it.) At the very least Jesus was seeing her as a second-class citizen until her persistence won through.

I have been quite taken by a novel I have read recently, “The Fire Child”, (“The Fire Child“, S.K. Tremayne. Harper Press). Much of it is written in the first person; it could be described as a psychological thriller. The three main characters are Rachel, a young woman just married to David – some years her elder, who is a high-flying lawyer from a Cornish family who were formerly lead mine owners and can trace their family line back a thousand years – and Jamie, David’s son from a former marriage. In very differing ways each show remarkable persistence, and while there is no happy ending to the book there is a satisfactory one (perhaps that’s as much as I can say without ruining the book for all who read Theology Everywhere)! What links this book to the passage from Matthew’s Gospel is not just the theme of persistence, but the question of what lies behind the words that are used. The book places words in the mouths of Rachel, David and Jamie but what exactly do they mean? What thought processes lie behind the words chosen? What does Jamie mean when he says he has “seen” his dead mother? What does David mean when he describes his commitment to sustaining the hereditary family home? What does Rachel mean when she calls herself a “liar” about her past?

What does Jesus mean by the way he addresses the Canaanite woman? What was in his mind? Was it the traditional enmity (we might say prejudice) of the Israeli towards the Canaanite? Was he reflecting the irritation and the frustration of his disciples that this woman was getting under their skins? She has stopped her shouting and got down on her knees before Jesus, begging for his help and still he uses the words “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” I know that I can act that way. Too often I do, but I’m ashamed that I do. But Jesus is the Son of God. What is he doing saying words like this and seemingly showing unacceptable prejudices?

Perhaps my understanding about the nature of being divine is at fault. Can God be prejudiced and yet divine? – I don’t think that he can – but more accurately in this dilemma we have to ask, can Jesus be prejudiced and divine – or divinely human? Not, I would suggest, if his divinity is a constant state of being throughout his life. But if his divinity is seen in the process of living – we might say an existential incarnation – perhaps it could then be; a state whereby he learns as he lives from every encounter he has, until his final earthly encounter hangs him on a tree.

How we relate to others by our actions and our words reveal who we are. Rachel, David and Jamie show this in the novel “The Fire Child,” and we do through our lives. It has to be the same for Jesus. He reveals himself through the living out of the Gospel ministry. We can try to avoid the difficult words of Jesus but to do so is likely to deprive us of their power. When we see the impact of his own mistakes, of his own prejudice changing the person of the one we call divine, is that not a divinity that is far more challenging, for it calls us to embrace our experience in the same way.

Ageing, dementia, narrative and identity

by Joss Bryan

In Rembrandt’s self- portraits we track him ageing from his youthful days bursting with energy, to his prosperous middle-age and finally his sad decline into poverty and old age– he becomes an old man characterised by loss. In these and other portraits of his elderly patrons, Rembrandt captures the effects of time on the human body- skin that sags and folds, hands that are dry and knarled by years of activity, whispy, hair – grey and course, and eyes translucent hiding thoughts, fears, hopes. These portraits show us what the process of ageing does to the human body and give us a glimpse of the mystery, the tragedy and the beauty of human ageing.

Life expectancy has doubled over the past 150 years. There is a preoccupation in our culture with the problem of ageing, and caring for the increasing number of older people. Growing old, it seems has little to commend it. Many of us fear reaching this stage of life when we face loss of energy, agility, hearing, sight, taste, hair, dignity and independence; perhaps worse still, loss of our intellectual capabilities; loss of memory.

The stage of Old Age presents us with the reality that our bodies and minds will and do wear out as we draw closer to our inevitable death and many of us in adulthood fear a diagnosis of dementia. We dread the degeneration of our memory and our minds, that essential part of us, which is the centre of our knowledge and understanding. St Augustine in his confessions noted that memory is a ‘great storehouse’, ‘an inner place’, ‘without it I could not speak of myself’, ‘it is my mind, it is myself’[1]. The experience of living with dementia is one in which memories fragment and disappear and the story of who you are disappears bit by bit from you.

How might the Christian faith speak into the vanishing self of the person living with dementia within a context dominated by the language of personhood, which emphasises the capabilities of cognition, self-awareness, memory and the sense of the continuity of self over time.  John Swinton suggests to be a person is to born into and to participate in the human family, and it is our relationality, which is fundamental to our personhood[2].  As Christians, we believe that every human being is created by God, dependent on God and dependent on other human beings. This dependency begins at the moment of our conception and continues throughout our lives. It is a fundamental characteristic of the human person, and the embodiment of our relationality. It also mirrors our ultimate dependency on God the creator. Therefore, the experience of dependency for people living with dementia, and indeed for everyone at whatever age, does not reduce our personhood. Rather, is a reminder of the nature of who we are as creatures and our relationship with God our creator.

In Luke Chapter 2: 25-35, we find the story of Jesus being presented in the Temple, and old Simeon. It is a story of hope, which extends beyond death. Simeon does not represent the past, nor is he a nostalgic figure; rather, he is someone whose identity and narrative is orientated towards the future. His life-story was shaped by a devout faith, which hoped in God’s promises. It was defined by the moment he knew that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. The anticipation of this was the silver thread in his story.

Simeon in the Temple with the Christ Child is one of Rembrandt’s last paintings. Simeon’s eyes are shut, Mary gazes at Jesus cradled in Simeon’s old hands. In this misty scene, Rembrandt depicts the moment when Simeon sees at last the light of salvation and he prays ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace’. Simeon is ready to end his story and return his breath to the God who gave it to him. The end he imagined has come. He has cradled the continuation of the story of salvation from which Christians for centuries have claimed their identity. It is the story which the Church sustains and holds on behalf of all humanity. It confers an identity on every human being and finds its source in God and our relationship with God. People with dementia may not remember the past in a systematic or chronological way and they may have little conception of the future, rather they are in the present. Is it too much to suggest that we can conceive of each present moment as part of every person’s continuing story with God – whoever they are? The Christ child revealed the eternal truth that in him we can see salvation and that we have a relationship with the God of love, which gives us an identity, which transcends time. So, when that final moment of our life comes, we have nothing to fear, and like Simeon we can depart in peace.

Based on a sermon preached at Jesus College, Cambridge, 13 November 2016.

[1] St Augustine, Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (London: Penguin Classics, 2002) X8,9,16,17.

[2] Swinton, J., 2012, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God, London: SCM Press.

Refugees: people fleeing danger and seeking sanctuary

by Inderjit Bhogal

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) website there were 37.5 million refugees in 2005 and 65.3 million refugees in 2015. This is an unprecedented global situation, the highest figure ever recorded (Betts and Collier, 2017). But who does the term refugee refer to?

The Refugee Convention 1951 (UNHCR online) defines a refugee as a person who:

“owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/her of the protection of that country…”

The UNHCR Global Trends 2015 Report (Hoogte and Richardson, 2016) records that wars, conflicts and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere. Up of 40.8 million people are displaced internally within their own countries, there are 21.3 million refugees and 3.2 million asylum seekers (people who have applied for refugee status and are awaiting the result) in industrialised countries.  This means that 1 in every 113 people globally is an asylum seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. Syria (5.9 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Somalia (1.1 million) produced nearly half of the world’s refugees in 2015. Turkey, with 1.6 million Syrian refugees was the top hosting country in 2015, while in the EU the countries with the biggest volume of asylum seekers were Germany and Sweden.

The UNHCR Report also notes that ninety percent of the world’s refugees are from countries close to conflict. This means that they are fleeing war and danger. It is therefore argued (Betts and Collier, 2017) that the very concept of who a refugee is needs to be redefined. The Refugee Convention 1951 restricts the definition of a refugee to a person who is fleeing “persecution”. Refugees are people fleeing persecution, but also the disorder, danger and insecurity of war and terrorism (Betts and Collier, 2017). Refugees are people looking for safety from danger to their lives, sanctuary while they can also earn a living until they can safely return home. This was the original role of the UNHCR, to provide protection for refugees and to find long-term solutions to their plight. However, the definition of a refugee by the UN Refugee Convention 1951 is no longer adequate because it does not clearly state who is a refugee today, it does not say who should provide safety, and it does not offer a long-term strategy (Betts and Collier, 2017).

People fleeing danger remain vulnerable and in need of safety and protection. On 23rd December, 2016 it was reported on BBC News (online) that over 5000 people had died in 2016 on their journeys to find safety.  It was reported in The Times (11 July 2017) that already 2,150 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year. A newspaper photo of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy refugee, whose deceased body was found on a beach has become a symbol of this monstrous situation.

So who is a refugee? A more accurate definition of refugee may also help to state who needs to help refugees and help nations to create pathways to rescue and protect refugees.

For me a refugee is someone whose life is in danger (as a result of war, violence, terrorism, persecution) and who has lost the protection of his/her own country (internally or outside). It includes also people who flee for the safety of their lives because of deep poverty, natural disaster or severe weather conditions. Refugees are human beings seeking and bringing the warmth of human relationships. Expect them to enrich you not diminish you.

The current refugee situation is crying out for an end to war and violence, for respectful dialogue between people of different religions and ideologies, equality between rich and poor, and respect for the earth and environment. Refugees are human beings. Refugees have a moral right to migrate for safety. Every nation has a moral duty to rescue and protect refugees. We all have moral obligations to welcome refugees and give them sanctuary.

People of different faiths, beliefs and ideologies can work together to towards these goals.


BETTS, A. and COLLIER, P. (2017). Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System. UK: Penguin

HOOGTE, H. and RICHARDSON, W. (2016). Global Trends: Forced Displacements in 2015.  UNHCR: Geneva.

Making memories

by Graham Edwards

“Making memories” is not a new phrase, but it is one I have heard several times recently. It has come up in conversation with couples and families who realise that the time they have together may be short; “We’re spending time making memories” they say, and we agree it is time well spent. We are all, of course, always in the process of making memories; in those we hold, and even when we are unable to retain them we play a part in the memories of others. Memory is not simply concerned with remembering events, or people, or words; it is much more than that. Julia Shaw (2016, p. xi) argues that memory is where the root of an individual’s identity lies – what she calls your “you-ness”. Memory, she says, “shape[s] what we think we have experienced and, as such, what we believe we are capable of in the future”. Memory, then, has power to affect an individual’s understanding of the present and their perception of the future, enabling identities to be constructed in the context of their whole lives or the life of their community, their perception of history and the claiming and re-claiming of that history.

If an individual’s memories create their “you-ness” then the memories of a community can be understood as creating their “us-ness”; I am fascinated by the way church communities talk about their memories and their “us-ness”. There is, of course, much to be said of memory in the church. There are familiar caricatures: “ah yes, that’s where Mrs. Johnson used to sit”, “this church used to be full every week”, “Reverend Thomas used to visit every member at least once a week”, and so on! In the life of the church, memory does something. Tuula Sakaranaho (2011) argues that memory is collective in its nature because memories are constructed in and through relationship: “memory is intersubjectivley constituted” (Sakaranaho, 2011, p. 139). The way the past is understood and held, is therefore, as Jan Assmann notes, “the decisive resource for the consciousness of … identity. Anyone who wants to belong to the group must share the memory” (2006, p. 87). Within a church, memories are claimed and treasured by the community, because those memories reveal things that might otherwise remain hidden. The memory of full pews perhaps says, “We are a good church, we’ve done incredible things, think of how many people we’ve known.” The memory of ‘difficult characters’ causing friction perhaps says, “Look how much we have grown.” The memory of how well a new hymn book was accepted perhaps says, “We are looking to the future.” Memory holds the “us-ness” of a community that would otherwise be missed, and needs to be told – to be ‘re-membered’. In her work considering religion in modern Europe, Grace Davie (2000) reflects on the function of memory in religious traditions. She uses the term “vicarious memory” to describe the process where a small number of people hold the memory of a religious tradition or community on behalf of others. The religious tradition is sustained as long as those who hold the memories preserve them, which, Davie claims, demonstrates that memory is always precarious because it is held by a group of people, indeed often a small group. This means that because memories are dependent on that group to preserve them, they can easily be lost and may not be sustained indefinitely. The precarious nature of memory is negated somewhat by the way “memory mutates” over time to allow new forms of practice and understandings to emerge, yet sometimes there must be an active challenging of memories to allow them to be assessed in the present life of the community.

Memory is not disinterested recollection; memory creates and sustains the identity of individuals and communities. The way memories are used can allow new life, new ideas, and new practice to be developed within those communities.

My questions are, I suppose, what are the things that need to be forgotten, and what forgotten things need to be remembered as the church seeks to be the community of Christ in the world?  The answers are, however, harder than the questions.


Assmann, J. (2006). Religion and Cultural Memory. Stanford: Stanford Universirty Press.

Davie, G. (2000). Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sakaranaho, T. (2011). Religion and the Study of Social. Temenos, 47(2), 135-158.

Shaw, J. (2016). The Memory Illusion. London: Penguin.