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Reform Magazine | August 18, 2017

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Editorial: Resurrection on Epsom Downs

steve_tomkinsEvery Easter when I was a child, we had a sunrise service on Epsom Downs. We heard readings about Mary in the garden and sang Up From The Grave He Arose as day broke.

I’d like to say it was a moving and beautiful occasion, with the rising sun vividly conveying the glorious excitement of miraculous hope. In fact, the main appeal was that I lived a long way from church but right near Epsom Downs, so for one Sunday in the year everyone else had to leave earlier than us to get to church. It was usually cloudy; watching the sky over the golf course go from dark grey to light grey, and wondering whether the sun was up yet, fell rather short of conveying the glorious excitement of miraculous hope.

Afterwards, we had a cooked breakfast at church before the main service. This was another celebration that fell short of the plan, though this time it was entirely my own fault. The truth is that earlier, while it was still dark, I had come into the lounge to find lots of chocolate eggs waiting for me on the piano, and scoffed the lot. A plate of bacon and beans is a much less glorious prospect if you recently ate half a ton of chocolate. Easter came to mean much more to me in later years, but at the time I think it’s fair to say the main thing the day taught me is not to be such a pig.

Our contributors this month have some rather more substantial reflections on the meaning of Easter. The panel in A Good Question are looking at resurrection – not so much whether it’s real or how we define it, but what the point of it is anyway – and they come to rather different conclusions. Trevor Dennis tells a wonderful Easter story, Teaching God to Dance.

Less seasonal but no less relevant, we talk to Dame Hilary Blume, the pioneer of alternative giving, about charity. She is not a household name, but has been an influential figure in the charitable sector, and has some strong criticisms to make of it: dishonesty, disorganisation and sentimental, sloppy thinking. In fact, her accusations are important enough that next month we’ll be inviting a response from a leading aid organisation.

This month we also unveil a new regular feature: Art in Focus, curated by the artist Meryl Doney. She starts with an Easter reflection, a striking take on the Emmaus story. If you’d like to use the image in church in a powerpoint projection, you can download a suitable version from our website: www.reform-magazine.co.uk.

The Emmaus story is an example of something I’ve long found striking about Easter in the Bible. Considering how much the Gospel writers copy from each other in general, the Easter stories are remarkably independent, and yet they have a lot in common. Nobody sees Christ rise from the dead. When they do meet him they don’t know who he is or understand what has happened. It’s a bit of a muddle.

And that’s utterly true to my experience. It seems that there is a power at work in us that mends us and restores us and raises us up. But it doesn’t happen in a spectacular moment. It’s slow, unexciting and confusing. Like the sun rising behind grey clouds. Perhaps I did learn something about resurrection on Epsom Downs after all.

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

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