Blue over Brexit? Here’s how to Fixit

For many of us with a heart for European unity and peace this is a tough day. It is hard to see as a good thing an event so widely described as ‘divorce proceedings’. The negativity that has come to the fore in UK attitudes towards Europe — they only want our money, we can’t trust them, etc — is saddening. It took 28 years (’45 to ’73) to leave behind the painful anger and distrust of war, and it seems it has taken 44 years to lose the love of peace.

So what do we do now? How are committed, Anglo-Saxon Europhiles supposed to behave from here on in? For those of us who have little or no access to the levers of political power, here are three suggestions:

1. TALK PEACE. The heart of the European project is not prosperity, it is peace. The original dream of a united Europe was that by pulling together in trade we are less likely to pull apart in war. Our problem, I think, is that we’ve done so well at it that we have forgotten, in peace, the possibility of war. As we talk about Europe over the coming months — and as the conversation inevitably descends into acrimony and competing formulas for prosperity — let’s at the very least remember, and remind others, that the real goal is peace. For those whose talking includes praying, here is a task we can give ourselves to daily: pray for the peace of our continent.

2. BUILD BRIDGES. The heart of co-operation is not political power, but grassroots relationship. If the UK has been slow to embrace the European dream this must in some measure be a reflection of our island status. We haven’t spent enough time at our neighbours’ parties to get to know them. Strangers are just friends you haven’t been trapped in a lift with. One way to resist the temptations of isolationism, nationalism and xenophobia is to build friendship with people outside our ethnically or linguistically defined circle. A starting point open to all of us is to ask who we know already who will be on “the other side” once Brexit is delivered. What can we be doing now to rekindle and resource those friendships? For those who belong to a local church, what can your group do to make stronger, deeper connections with fellow-believers in other European nations? The fact that these links tend to be weak is perhaps a sign of our failure to take seriously the opportunities the past 44 years have offered us. Let’s not let that failure continue into this new, more difficult landscape.

3. CROSS OCEANS. The fun (?!) thing about living in the UK is that you can’t get anywhere else without crossing the sea. It’s this challenge that gave us, for many years of our history, the world’s most advanced Navy and by implication the widest Empire. It also gives us the tendency not to bother. It’s such a hassle to cross to the mainland that we figure maybe we just won’t — with the result that our perceptions, our priorities and our personal circle are all narrower than they otherwise might be. Ironically, Brexit doesn’t mean that you won’t need to cross the Channel any more: it means that the need to cross it is greater than ever. Those who care about their connection with their mainland European neighbours will need to show it even more by physically being there. What can you do to make sure that your plans for the coming few years will put your feet on mainland soil?

Talk peace; build bridges; cross oceans — the very nature of these three actions should show us already how significant the role of the Christian community can be in the coming years. These are actions we know and understand — they are the very basis of our understanding of mission. Are you ready to take a lead in re-engaging and re-energising the passion of the UK church for our closest, and perhaps most urgent mission field?