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A Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other

Bible, newspaper. Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by LMP+Today, 28 July 2014, marks 100 years since the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This has been widely credited with being the trigger event that started what we now call the First World War. While there were numerous underlying causes and tensions, this day is recognized as the anniversary of the start of that war.

Without getting into too much of the history, I think it’s safe to say that the world was changed by this war – one of the deadliest in history, one which inspired numerous political and social changes – and we remain impacted and influenced by it, to this day.

So here’s a question: Did this centenary enter into your prayer life at all, in worship this weekend or today?

And here’s why I’m asking. The Church of England produced a number of resources to commemorate the event – not glorifying the violence, but as a faithful response to the reality. Lest we forget indeed. They planned for poppies to bloom across the country, they developed numerous liturgical resources, they are providing historical vignettes through interviews and stories. There’s an entire webpage to explore: https://www.churchofengland.org/ww1

For me, this touches on deeper issues. Namely, how well do we connect the good news of the Gospel to the headlines of the newspapers? I’ve often heard the quote (of unknown source) that we should preach with a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other. Is that what preachers are called to grapple with? Is that what congregations want to hear?

Or, do we choose to ignore the secular world’s devastations and instead seek the refuge of scripture during our worship times?

I don’t have any answers – I’m still pondering. But I personally believe that we ought to be able to find meaningful ways for the faithful to be nurtured in the good news while being aware of the challenges of this world. It is my effort to let the timeless Good News bring the promised healing to the hurts we feel from today’s headlines; and that means at least acknowledging them.

(Full disclosure: I used some of the CofE resources in my personal office, but not in the Sunday worship… though this week’s sermon did touch on several of the world’s devastations from this week.)

I’d be most grateful for others to join in this conversation… Preachers? Worshipers? Theologians?



About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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5 Responses to A Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other

  1. I definitely believe the church as a whole needs to engage the world, and not shelter our faith from the realities of the world. By engaging, we make our faith more active, more alive in our day to day on-goings, showing it is relevant to each of us, especially to those who are exploring their beliefs. Let’s not be sheltered, let’s be outside looking and connect!

  2. The whole notion of the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other is (I find) some what tenuous. In my experience it is most often understood in terms of a Jack-Van-Impe prophecy type thing – where we try to force the bible to echo our own thoughts on contemporary matters. I fear that we use the image to say “This is what the Bible says about x” Implied is the message “We are right, you are wrong, you should listen to what we say.”

    I wonder if a better image is to have the Bible in one hand and a mirror in another. I think it’s far more effective to look at our own discipleship and see where possibly the Spirit of Jesus is calling us into the world to work for it’s heal

    • Thanks Kyle,
      I’m not suggesting we try to manipulate the message of the scriptures to fit our understanding of current events. I’m just wondering if, and how much, we connect our faith to the world around us, in the context of worship.
      I like the image of the mirror though, inviting us to have that personal connection of our ministry in God’s world.

  3. I see parralels between the events of July/August 1914 with the events happening to day in
    the Ukraine and the mid east.. The events of 1914 pulled varied alliances into conflict.
    Could it happen to day ? Maybe I would hope we have learnt from the experience of the last 100 years .
    As for memoralizing the out break of WW I here in Victoria B.C. there will be a special service
    at Christ Church Catherdral at 4:30 P.M. Sunday 3 August.
    Let usw all pray for peace

    • Thanks Paul!
      We can look historically at how the church responded to the reality of WW1, and in fact there’s a few interviews of that on the CofE site. 100 years from now, I wonder what history will show as the Christian/church response to the atrocities of today.
      Blessings for your memorial service!

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