REV PAUL BEDFORD: A great deal has happend in 325 years!

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FAREHAM United Reformed Church, in Osborn Road South, has just celebrated its 325th anniversary.

The church began in 1691 after the English Civil War and the shaking out of relationships between the church and the state.

A great deal has happened in the past 325 years.

The growth of school education, the creation of income tax, the birth of the United States, the Napoleonic wars and two world wars.

We have seen the winning of votes for women, the creation of the National Health Service, the acceleration of the transmission of information from weeks to instant, and the expansion and contraction of the Royal Navy.

But through it all, while knowledge may have grown, has wisdom?

For all our supposed sophistication, we men and women, boys and girls, still behave according to what we call our base instincts.

The more so if we in any way feel our survival is at stake – be that our physical survival, our economic well-being or our social standing.

Christians throughout these 325 years have tried, in public worship and private prayer, to seek the wisdom of God as they lived their lives courageously going against the flow – holding up a mirror to the world, braving condemnation as hypocrites, calling for change to the status quo if they believed God was calling them to speak out for change on his terms.

One clear example of this was the abolition of the slave trade.

It was Christians such as William Wilberforce who argued passionately that God created us all equal, and treating humans in this way was degrading.

God continues to call on us to be changemakers.

You may think this seems strange.

Perhaps you see churches as a bulwark against change, striving to keep the fabric of society and pattern of life just as it is.

But the truth is different. When we call upon God in our worship, we ask him to use us to reshape the world for good.

This is a prophetic role.

Its aim is to strengthen the fabric of society, not to keep things as they always have been, but to remind increasingly private individuals that we are meant to live as mutually supportive communities, pointing out to them their neighbours, near and far.

So here’s to the next 325 years of change!

Rev Paul Bedford is a minister at Fareham United Reformed Church

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