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Bishop Sarah Mullally asks politicians to avoid 'the Punch and Judy of politics' at National Prayer Breakfast

by Cara Bentley

Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the current chaplain to the speaker but soon to be Bishop of Dover, opened the event, followed by the Speaker himself, John Bercow.

The annual event held in the Palace of Westminster has previously had speakers such as Tim Keller and Andy Hawthorne from The Message Trust.

This year, as guests tucked into their danish pastries and mushroom and chive frittatas, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally spoke about the need to look past binary politics and see those who disagree with us as someone made in the image of God.

After a reading of Genesis 1 by Conservative and Christian peer Baroness Berridge, the Bishop of London said: "We risk submitting one binary narrative for another - one in which the main fault lines are cultural and generational, encapsulated by the networked Metropolitan youth versus the old left behind.

"Now, whether or not you agree with this analysis, one of the key issues seems to be the use of binary narratives. The right versus wrong and the report [by St Paul's Insitute] calls for a politics and a broad public discourse based on a different language, a transcendent conversation, one that can address deeper discussions around questions of meaning, identity, belonging.

"This morning I want to suggest that the Christian faith offers such a language because at our heart is a sense of belonging, of identity and meaning that emerges from being made in the image of God, the imago Dei. It is a concept that I believe could contribute to this kind of transcendent conversation which is called for.

"This creates a culture of winners and losers - it is the Punch and Judy of politics, it is a state that we say we want to get away from but yet we still see it week by week in the Prime Minister's Question time, while politicians say that that's not all they do, it is often the only time that members of the public see them."

She went on to speak about a future where people might not be demonised for holding a certain view and can debate with compassion.

Prayers were led by four Christian politicians with SNP MP David Linden praying: "Heavenly Father, we thank you for the amazing opportunity to gather here this morning to worship and proclaim your great name and give thanks for our salvation, paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And Lord at this time we pray for our politics, both here in Westminster and right across these islands.

"Give us wisdom, God, to make wise decisions about our nations' futures, and guide us to decisions which are just and fair. Lord, help us to demonstrate a positive Christ-like witness as we seek to navigate the tricky waters of Brexit and with our domestic politics. And for those of us who already know you passionately, Lord, I pray that we would disagree well and do so with grace and brotherly love. And Lord, help us to speak truth in power and make decisions which are not for the convenience of merely today or political expediency but instead, help us to make decisions which improve people's lives and advance your kingdom here on Earth.

"God, I ask that you would use these volatile times to cause people to reflect on where they draw encouragement from, we pray Lord that these too would come to know and love you and recognise the immense sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen."

Also praying were Eleanor Smith, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton south west, Lord David Alton of Liverpool and the Rt Hon Lord Newby.

The songs 10,000 reasons and How Great Thou Art were led by David and Carrie Grant.

You can hear the full address by Bishop Sarah and the prayers on Premier Christian Radio at 10pm on Friday 6th July or repeated at 6pm on Saturday.

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