Editorial: For all the saints
Macarius lived for six months in a gnat-infested swamp as penance for swatting a gnat that bit him. John Wesley at 82 caught a fever begging in the snow on behalf of those with no blankets. Felicitas, eight-months pregnant, was kept in a lightless dungeon because of her faith and after giving birth was thrown to a bull in the Roman arena.
Mother Sarah lived by a river for 60 years without ever looking at it, as a spiritual discipline. Elizabeth Heyrick led a boycott of sugar in protest against slavery. Sam Sharpe led his fellow slaves in a revolt against slavery.
King Sechele combined Christian mission with rainmaking magic. King Charlemagne combined Christian mission with conquering 15 million people. John Chrysostom combined a passion for economic justice with an insistence that Jews worship the devil.
Helena Konttinen preached in her sleep. Thomas Aquinas abandoned theological writing after an unexpected encounter with God. John Mason preached that Christ would return to earth on his own rectory lawn. Martin Luther King, at his lowest ebb after prison and a death threat, was sustained by the voice of Jesus promising never to leave him.
The only thing all these stories have in common is that the people in them are Christians. We are quite a family, aren’t we? Heroic and horrifying, wacky and inspiring, wise and otherwise.
The start of November brings All Saints’ Day followed by All Souls’. I can’t say I’m very clear what the difference is, but the pair give us a reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our own ways. Family can make us feel embarrassed, proud, shamed, inspired, angry, superior, supported – but probably never completely self-sufficient, because we are part of everything that has gone before us. Being part of the Christian Church means having some strange, mixed-up and dodgy relatives. That’s why the likes of you and me are welcome here.
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On 1 December 2016 the price of an annual subscription to the print edition of Reform will change from £25 to £28. The digital edition will remain at £18; a joint subscription to both will change from £31 to £34. This is the first price increase in the four years I’ve been at Reform – in which time the costs of making magazines have steeply increased. We resisted for as long as we could and shopped around to keep costs as low as possible, but now we’ve had to make the change.
I hope you agree that Reform is still unusually good value for money, and a price rise equal to the cost of one supermarket sandwich per year is worth paying to keep the news, comment, inspiration and debate coming! Don’t forget, you can still buy subscriptions – including Christmas gift subscriptions – at the existing price until the end of November.
This article was published in the November 2016 edition of Reform.