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Nov 10 Archdeacon George: The Micawber Principle

By the time this letter is published, we’ll know the worst ! We’ve been prepared for it for long enough; on the principle that when it comes, it won’t seem so bad after all. I refer of course, to the long-awaited cuts in public spending due to be announced on 20th October.

We’ll all be worse off wherever the axe may finally fall. Yet will be worse off as a society, as communities ? That I think, depends on how we respond. Whatever our view of the wisdom and extent of the cuts in economic terms, we could hardly just carry on as we were. Mr Micawber pronounced that a personal debt of just six old pence (2.5p) would lead to misery. As individuals and as nations we have to learn to live within our means. But will we learn the deeper lessons of the profligacy of recent years ? With a little over a year to go to my three score years, my hopes for a free bus pass may be shattered. There’s been a national campaign to try to save the VAT exemption for work on our listed church buildings, which I’m sure many of us have supported. It’s human nature to think first about the impact on us personally; but that doesn’t always make it right. We have to be prepared to take our share of the pain in a good spirit. More than that, we must be ready to look out for the real poor, for those who always seem to suffer most from cuts in public services. It was putting self first, whatever form that takes, that the stirring words of Isaiah 58 challenges. The author condemns the fact that the righteous people of his day serve their own interests when they fast; when they should rather be loosing the bonds of injustice, sharing their bread with the hungry, and giving shelter to the homeless: If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. There will be many “parched (and dark) places� as a result of the spending cuts. As churches, we have a duty and an opportunity to live up to our calling, to look out for the real victims. The prophet uses the images of light and water to describe the impact God’s people should have. We must recover our position at the heart of our communities, signifying what true community is all about. We must shine Christ’s light in the darkness of despair, and offer his living water to all who thirst. The so-called Micawber Principle suggests there’s a small margin between misery and happiness. We can effect that transformation amongst the people with whom we live and work. There are costs involved, but the rewards are infinitely greater. George Howe Archdeacon of Westmorland & Furness

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