Churches across Britain and Ireland are preparing for next week’s Brexit deadline, whether it is met by a deal, no deal, or a delay, by offering prayers for the nation and the region. The Church of England is also encouraging community conversation over a cup of tea.
Churches are being encouraged to host “informal café-style meetings” over the weekend of 30 March “to bring together people of all standpoints and encourage open discussion.” The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, have today backed newly-commissioned resources to invite people to “get together and chat over a cup of tea and pray for our country and our future”.
Under the slogan “Together”, the packs include specially-chosen Bible passages, prayers and questions designed to prompt conversations. The introductory notes urge participants to have “respect for the integrity of differently held positions, encouraging communities which feel the same about the issues to use their imagination to consider the viewpoints of those who feel differently.”
“As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to demonstrate that love for God and for each other, along with compassion, solidarity and care for the poorest, are our defining values”, Archbishop Justin said. “These values have been the bedrock of our national life for many centuries. They are not simply our history: they are also our best hope for the future.”
- What effect has Brexit had in your family relationships, friendships etc? If you disagreed, has it been possible to disagree well?
- Putting Brexit to one side what are the three main things we have in common that we can build on for a better future as a community? What are the three main things as a nation?
- What would it mean to live as a people who believe in the Cross and the Resurrection? What might be the “cross” experience for our community – and what would resurrection look like?
- How can we work together to build a more just society which is at peace with itself and committed to a better future for the next generations?
At the time of posting, no one in the UK nor anywhere else is sure what the situation will be by the weekend of March 30. The deadline for the UK to leave the European Union is March 29, but after weeks of debate and the rejection of a government-negotiated deal to manage Britain’s exit from the EU by parliament, a delay is still possible.
The Anglican Communion News Service notes that other Anglican churches in Britain are urging prayer in the face of the Brexit turmoil.
Last month, the Scottish Episcopal Church College of Bishops said that they had “been praying for and supporting all those involved in the debate on Brexit as well as those who believe they will be adversely affected by the outcomes of the debate and decisions made…
They continued: “Scotland is rooted in values that make us an inclusive place and that is mirrored in the life of The Scottish Episcopal Church. We would emphasise that our church welcomes all those from beyond Scotland and the UK who choose to live amongst us. We celebrate all that they bring to our communities and we offer them our support at this anxious time.” …
… The bishops of the Church in Wales have warned that Brexit “could bring a time of confusion and anxiety as the country begins a new era.”
They are calling on people in the country to pray for the nation on 29 March, and have asked churches to be kept open for private or corporate prayer or simply for people to spend time in quiet reflection.
“Leaving the EU will impact on almost every area of our lives; and as we approach 29 March many people are fearful at the prospect of leaving without a negotiated deal, leading to unknown consequences for people, businesses and communities”, the Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy, said.
Brexit-Preparation materials published by the Church in Wales suggest that churches might offer support by helping EU citizens in their congregations with questions about their residency and work status post-Brexit; prepare for long lines at food banks and consider stepping up distributions; befriend minority communities and congregations, and “Make it clear you are aware of and will not tolerate hate crime.”
Concern for members of minority and migrant populations permeates the Anglican materials. The Anglican Communion News Service coverage continues with preparations in Ireland:
The Church of Ireland covers both the Republic of Ireland – a continuing EU member – and part of the UK – in Northern Ireland. The status of the border between the Republic and the North has been one of the sticking points in the British Parliament accepting the agreement.
Belfast Cathedral, in Northern Ireland, is hosting a series of “public theology” Lent talks focused on Brexit, in partnership with the Corrymeela Community, an ecumenical reconciliation and peace-building group on the island of Ireland. The talks, at St Anne’s Cathedral, are based on the Book of Ruth, and include topics including “Ruth and the Law”, “Crossroads Decisions”, “The Challenge of the Migrant”, “Who is Family?”, and “The Political importance of Compassion”