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Reform Magazine | April 27, 2017

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Editorial: “The lamps are many, but the light is one.”

parrisLately I’ve been getting this (inadequate, obviously) mental image of what the “divine presence” means to me: It’s like the gas and air you may be offered through a pipe when giving birth.

In this vaporous compound is found the origin and substance of everything (think carbon cycle) – but at the same time, it is available to us to draw on further if and when we choose. Sucking on that pipe will not change your situation or provide an opiate. Rather it will open up your breathing and your mind to a just-perceptible, nurturing something that links you to the rest of the universe and encourages you in your struggle.

So much for personal abstractions. Of course, any perceived experience of the source of all that is will be profoundly shaped and, let’s hope, illuminated, by context – according to whether one is envisioning Christian God, Allah, “elemental force”, or the Buddha Nature. Even so, the identical chantings of a mixed bunch of people in my weekly yoga class seem to encourage us all a little further along our various spiritual paths.

The great theologian and “pluralist” John Hick, who died a year ago in February, commented in one of his last interviews, published in REFORM this month, that he didn’t believe Jesus ever claimed he was the only “way, truth and light”. During the discussion (with Justin Brierley and Chris Sinkinson) Professor Hick pointed to the profound connections between different faiths, and quoted the Sufi poet Rumi, who said: “The lamps are many, but the light
is one.”

It’s a concept Robert Crawford continues to explore (page 27) – particularly in the context of possibilities for the soul – since his own academic research in this area has been brought into sharp focus by the tragic death of his son.

After five years at Reform, I have been struggling to hand back the keys. But my freelance contacts book is now dusted down and updated; I am ready to begin new projects and try for a family-friendlier lifestyle than the “both-parents-long-commutes” model has allowed.

It has taken me some months to extricate myself emotionally from the magazine and also from United Reformed Church House. It’s been fascinating – inspiring and sobering by turns, but always an incredible privilege – for an ordinary URC member like myself to gain insights into the church’s dealings at denominational level. As for Reform, well, my amazing colleagues, our ever-changing mix of awesome authors and interviewees, and our loyal, interesting, argumentative readers have all contributed to a journalistic experience (and a letters page!) I will never forget.

I am proud of what the magazine has achieved since we relaunched in 2008 and I am delighted to be passing the editorship on to Stephen Tomkins – formerly deputy editor of Third Way magazine, and a seasoned author and commentator – who will lead it to an exciting new stage of development.

I would like, humbly and from the bottom of my heart, to thank so many readers who have sent in letters and emails of warm wishes and appreciation – they have touched me deeply. I now look forward to becoming a Reform reader myself.

___

This article was published in the February 2013 edition of  Reform.

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