The Next Generation
Journalists sometimes complain that there is little of interest to report in August. Not so this year when, around the time that my family were moving into Harwell Rectory, our screens were inundated with distressing scenes in English cities of violence, looting and arson and its awful aftermath.
Why has this happened? The post-mortem is still ongoing and much ink has been spilt in the struggle to make sense of these shocking events. Many people accept that whilst the perpetrators were a relatively small minority, this 'Lord of the Flies' nightmare represents the terrifying tip of the iceberg of a generation that has grown up in a society that has drifted a long way from its Christian moorings.
What is to be done? Justice must be done, the debris cleared up, and the victims cared for. But if we are going to heed this wake-up call, we also need to engage in 'preventative medicine'. We have done it before and can do it again. The 1820's was a time in which, like today, many young people in the cities were out of control. A series of movements for social reform resulted, including the creation of Sunday Schools and YMCA buildings along with the teaching of morality and self-control. Within a generation, the rot was reversed and social order restored.
We all have a moral duty to invest in our young people and support families in what is arguably the most difficult and important job of all, raising the next generation. As father of four young children, I know it is not an easy task! The Church, in particular, is charged with passing on to the next generation the life-transforming Christian story. Psalm 78 speaks of this imperative:
We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds
of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done...
he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them...
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would
not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
The Church has its work cut out. Ageing congregations around the country support the notion that there has been a failure in transmission, rather like a radio that has lost its tuning. The challenge to connect with and nurture the next generation is great, but the need, as evidenced by the scenes in early August, is inescapable.
It is sometimes said that 'it takes a village to raise a child.' We in the villages of Harwell and Chilton, and the churches at their heart, face a great challenge. But if we are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to invest in the future and make young people and families a priority, they and the society they will come to lead will benefit immeasurably.
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton