Selfies and the divine image

Published: 21st January 2020

In his Christmas message, the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, says:

Lichfield Cathedral this Christmas is full of selfies. Thousands of children from across the diocese have drawn simple images of themselves, and these are displayed in a stunning installation suspended beneath the great central spire, the ever-moving faces swaying gently in the ever-changing light. This beautiful artwork is called ‘In The Image and Likeness: A Constellation of Images’, and it demonstrates very powerfully the enormous variety of our people in this part of England.

Over the last few weeks we saw lots of images of politicians, as they courted our votes for the General Election on Thursday 12 December. On the morning of Friday 13th, I wrote to the 24 of them returned to Parliament as MPs for constituencies across our diocese. I wanted to assure them of my prayers, and the prayers of churches across our communities, knowing as we do the heavy responsibility that now falls to them in their public life. As I wrote, I reflected that they had been chosen to represent not just those who had voted for them, and not just those who were like them, but all of us, however different we may be and however much we may disagree with one another.

'In the Image and Likeness: A Constellation of Images'. Credit: Peter Walker.

The divine image which we trace in one other takes endlessly different shapes. If we are to build together a society that reflects the richness of all our people, we need to learn how to build bridges across difference, to meet and greet one another in all this bewildering variety. That is a big challenge, particularly after a bruising and divisive election campaign. But it is vitally important for each of us to reach out to the people most different from us, to the people with whom we most passionately disagree, to the people whose lifestyles, viewpoints and cultures are most dramatically unlike our own, to spend time with them, and to see how together we can enrich one another’s lives and the lives of our society.

The thousands of selfies in the Cathedral are for me a sign of the hope that is given us at Christmas. They are hopeful because they are images of children, belonging to a generation who should be able to teach us how to live together in friendship and respect. They belong to Christmas, because this is when we see God coming among us to take up the wonderfully varied life of our humanity. At Jesus’ crib, kings and shepherds gather together to worship, bridging divides of class, wealth, education, culture and nationality. Each of us can find ourselves in that scene, a child of God made in his image and likeness; and each of us can see that same pattern in those most different from us. And at the centre of it all is the little infant in whom ‘God has spoken to us by his Son, the express image of his person’.


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