Benefice of Bethersden with High Halden and Woodchurch

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From Revd. Alex Bienfait
Rector at Biddenden and Smarden Churches

For those who enjoy hot sunny weather, this has been a summer to remember but for some the Alex Bienfaitconsequences of the long spell of dry weather have been devastating.  Across the northern hemisphere, fires have raged out of control from the west coast of North America to Portugal, Sweden, Greece, even in Britain, in the Peak District.  As we witnessed images of the charred wreckage of cars and homes, we heard survivors describe how fast they had to act to escape the flames. 

These fires were out of control and their spread unpredictable but what is particularly shocking is that many were started deliberately.  We are left to wonder whether the arsonists could have had any awareness of the devastating results of lighting a few small flames. 

Just as fires can rage and spread from seemingly innocuous beginnings, so the same can happen when hatred and resentment are stoked up with just a few innocent-seeming words.  This is particularly the case when these words are spoken by politicians who have a duty and a responsibility to keep citizens safe.  Both Conservative and Labour parties have been embroiled in separate controversies: Boris Johnson when mocking certain forms of Muslim dress and certain senior Labour party members when making anti-Semitic remarks.

We live in a country that values freedom of speech but with that freedom comes a responsibility towards our community. Widely publicised comments made by political leaders can encourage the hatred and the fear of others. Just as with the fires we have had this summer, there is no predicting where this hatred, once ignited, will lead.

There is a frequently expressed anxiety that our country's Christian values are being undermined.  One of the best ways we can uphold these values is to practise consciously the building of trust and peace.  Jesus didn't preach “Blessed are those who spread hatred”, but “Blessed are the peacemakers”. This means treating our words like small flames and handling them with care.


Alex Bienfait.


James 3:5 “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark  6 The tongue also is a fire.