T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruellest month”. He was wrong. As far as I can tell, it's January. Like many others, I have entered the new year with the cost of Christmas looming over me and am now discovering what damage the cold and damp are doing to my few worldly possessions. My car particularly has joined in with this and decided to develop critical engine trouble on the way to the new Archdeacon's licensing recently. As I limped my horrifyingly noisy car back home after the service, I happened to turn on the radio only to be confronted with an advert threatening me with jail, or worse, if I had forgotten to do my tax return. I couldn’t remember if I had. There is no situation so bad that adding taxation to it cannot be made worse.
It turned out that I had done my tax return, and that my car was ultimately fixable (at significant cost). But the experience lead me to think about gratitude. Sometimes it is very hard to feel grateful for what we have. Very few people pay tax gratefully, yet we should be profoundly grateful for all that we get through taxation: roads, schools, hospitals, being just three things which come to mind. It is almost that so much comes from taxation that we take it for granted.
Certainly, the attitude of most long-term residents in the UK is of profound ingratitude for what we have, coupled with demand to receive even more while wanting to pay even less in taxation for what they already use. I am most frequently reminded of the good that comes from taxation by people who have moved to the UK from countries which lack, for example, universal free healthcare.
As Christians, we have much to be grateful for. God has created each of us and is the source for the love which we share with one another. As member of the Church of England, we also have much to be grateful for.
We receive from our diocese far more than we are ever asked to give in parish share. That parish share pays for clergy salaries and other essentials for our churches in Bromsgrove. Without the benefits we get through the parish share system, most of our churches would struggle to stay open. If we recognise what we have, we can be grateful for it. And if we are grateful, we can be generous.
Perhaps at the moment you may feel like I did driving my car home:
worried and not at all grateful. I didn't feel inclined to be generous while worrying about how I was going to fix my car. In our churches we may look around at all the things that need fixing, at the lack of people and money we struggle with, and not feel generous. But let's try to recognise what we already have, and respond by being generous in our giving of our money, time and resources to the work of our churches and the wider work of the diocese.
Revd. Tom Atfield