The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the wealthier people in society to shoulder their load in the economic downturn in his Christmas Day sermon.
Dr Rowan Williams used the sermon to stress the importance of people working together to rebuild trust and mutual confidence.
He said: “That confidence isn’t in huge supply at the moment, given the massive crises of trust that have shaken us all in the last couple of years and the lasting sense that the most prosperous have yet to shoulder their load.”
He drew upon Prime Minister David Cameron’s idea of the “Big Society”, claiming: “If we are ready, if we are all ready, to meet the challenge represented by the language of the ‘Big Society’, we may yet restore some mutual trust. It’s no use being cynical about this; whatever we call the enterprise, the challenge is the same – creating confidence by sharing the burden of constructive work together.”
Understanding the pressures that lay ahead in 2011, with thousands more people in the public sector expected to lose their jobs as part of the cuts programme, he warned of the hardship ahead.
He said: “Faced with the hardship that quite clearly lies ahead for so many in the wake of the financial crisis and public spending cuts, how far are we able to sustain a living sense of loyalty to each other, a real willingness to bear the load together? How eager are we to find some spot where we feel safe from the pressures that are crippling and terrifying others?
“As has more than once been said, we can and will as a society bear hardship if we are confident that it is being fairly shared; and we shall have that confidence only if there are signs that everyone is committed to their neighbour, that no one is just forgotten, that no interest group or pressure group is able to opt out.”
Dr Williams paid tribute to Prince William and his fiancé Kate Middleton for deciding to get married in the new year.
He said: “Next year, we shall be joining in the celebration of what we hope will be a profoundly joyful event in the royal wedding. It is certainly cause for celebration that any couple, let alone this particular couple, should want to embark on the adventure of Christian marriage, because any and every Christian marriage is a sign of hope, since it is a sign and sacrament of God’s own committed love.
“And it would be good to think that in this coming year, we, as a society, might want to think through, carefully and imaginatively, why lifelong faithfulness and the mutual surrender of selfishness are such great gifts.”
The Archbishop compared a Christian marriage with the covenantal relationship with God and he reflected on some examples of marriage which he has seen that has inspired.
He said: “There will be times when we may feel stupid or helpless; when we don’t feel we have the energy or resource to forgive and rebuild after a crisis or a quarrel; when we don’t want our freedom limited by the commitments we’ve made to someone else.
“Yet many of us will know marriages where something extraordinary has happened because of the persistence of one of the parties, or where faithfulness has survived the tests of severe illness or disability or trauma.”
Dr Williams singled out the strength of bond between Britain’s Armed Forces and their relatives.
He said: “I admit, I find myself deeply moved at times when I speak with the families of servicemen and women, where this sense of solidarity is often so deeply marked, so generous and costly.
“As the Prince and his fiancee get ready for their new step into solidarity together, they will have plenty of inspiration around, more than you might sometimes guess from the chatter of our culture.”
He also took time to remember those who have suffered repression and persecution for their Christian faith in places around the world, including Zimbabwe and Iraq.