5th July 2024

‘ONE LOT OF SINNERS OUT – ANOTHER LOT OF SINNERS IN’. So proclaimed a poster outside a Baptist Church in Leeds immediately after the 1945 general election which Labour unexpectedly won. The author was a young Welsh minister, Howard Williams, destined eventually to become minister of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London and famed for his pulpit eloquence and often controversial views (that poster caused quite a rumpus both in Baptist and political circles in Leeds). This morning, as results are declared and post-mortems begin, we might feel it apt today as well. Or, we might judge it unduly cynical. Is there really never a possibility of change for the better? Howard, to all who knew or heard him, was not a cynic. He believed passionately in the universality of God’s love for all, and in the Gospel which motivates us to hope and work for justice. But he knew too that Christian faith must combine hope with realism: there is the endemic tendency for all our thinking and actions, even (or especially!) when they have noble ambitions, to be warped by self-interest. His poster was a call for our politics to be laced with humility and an openness to grace.

One of my favourite hymns is Albert Bayly’s ‘Lord, your kingdom being triumphant, give this world your liberty’ (BPW 578). It prays for every part of our life in society to be imbued with God’s grace and wisdom. Its final verse (I’ve put two most telling words into italics) runs:

Lord, your kingdom bring triumphant,

visit us this living hour,

let your toiling, sinning children,

see your kingdom come in power.

Keith Clements