Margy and I were recently at a funeral in Guildford. We were there to thank God for a most amazing and delightful Christian woman. She was for years the Head of the Religious Education Department in a large comprehensive school in the middle of a council house estate. Her lessons were phenomenal. Boys and girls flocked to take R.E. at GCSE and A levels and achieved high grades again and again. Nobody disrupted her classes- a raised eyebrow was enough to quieten the roughest boy – because behind her formidable exterior was a compassionate and caring heart. Her pupils knew this and many came to her to talk and pray through the problems in their lives. She encouraged me as Vicar of her local church by her prayers, generosity and enjoyment of life. Her Headmaster at her funeral talked of her authority, authenticity and integrity. Her pupils sensed this and trusted her completely.
I miss these qualities in our country’s public life today. We read of Members of Parliament unashamedly claiming false expenses, of confidential documents being regularly leaked to the press. People even in the same party do not simply disagree but attack their opponents’ characters and give briefings against them. People who have been knighted have had their honour removed as their hidden behaviour is revealed. Winning the argument and gaining power appear to be more important than upholding the truth. The word incompetent appears far too often and even the police seem less trustworthy than they were.
The qualities of character of my Guildford friend seem to be in serious decline in our country’s public life. I see this as linked to a decline in the belief in an almighty, just and loving God. I rejoice when I do come across such integrity – and long for the day when we shall all be able to say of others: their word is their bond.
My heart lifts when I recall my friend and thank I God for her. May you have similar experiences of joy this season.