Reflections of a future vicar

Joel Bird is a vicar in training at St Mellitus College. Last weekend he attended the college's residential weekend away where Christians in Politics was invited to speak. Here he shares his reflections on the message of Christians in Politics and the ways in which he was inspired and challenged.

Every Sunday morning on our residential weekends we have a college seminar from different guest speakers to challenge and encourage us as the next generation of church leaders. The latest installment came from Christians in Politics. The scene was first set by the Dean - Graham Tomlin –who spoke about politicians often being in the limelight for the wrong reasons; public opinion being poor in regard to most political parties; and apathy encouraged by celebrities.

Up stepped the speakers - Colin Bloom from the Conservative Christian Fellowship and Ian Geary from Christians on the Left - who began by highlighting how the world of politics is indeed unbalanced by Etonian-Oxbridge graduates and big egos. They encouraged us, however, to understand that there is a big difference between politics and governing, and that while Christians may naturally steer themselves away from the former, the latter must be engaged with. 

“Transform unjust structures in society" is a well-used Christian phrase, but often represented by Christians throwing rocks from the sidelines, instead of getting involved in the sometimes messy business of politics. It was highlighted that power and government runs throughout scripture and so can't be ignored. Through people like Joseph, Cyrus and many more, God was able to work through positions of power and in government to bring justice and peace over thousands of years.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was the idea that the two speakers were first and foremost Christian and then associated with a party or “tribe”. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of their input was a video that they played, concisely explaining what Christians in Politics was about. The video, which will be released in the New Year, clearly hit the target, as indicated by the hushed response in the room. It was at this point that the talk turned from why we should be involved, to what and how.

What followed was an enthusiastic advocation of the need for Christians to be involved in politics. As future vicars, it is important that we are able to support and encourage those who feel God is calling them to govern. Added to this we need to be involved ourselves. The challenge I was left with was the part I need to play in being involved at the most basic level: by praying for my MP, writing them a letter, and opening up my awareness to the politics taking place in my local area.

They humanised the MP's, helped us to remember that these are real people who need our prayers and our encouragement. Where there are Christians who feel called into leadership and to this tough environment it is clear they need our support and help as they navigate how to do this in a God honouring way, without compromising on the things that count such as integrity and honesty.

What I will take away is more of a “to-do”list:

  • find out who my MP is and add them to my prayer list.
  • decide which “tribe” I want to be a part of.
  • encourage the people in the churches I work in to do the same.