Friday, 18 September 2015

I can, I will, I am (2)

Some time ago I wrote this poem:

A few weeks ago I used it as the starting point for a poetry workshop at St Chad's summer school. It was an opportunity to reflect on life and identity, as well as to learn some new English vocabulary along the way. With both a great desire to learn and a great willingness to share, a disparate group of people from around the world came together to create something beautiful.

Sometimes with very little English, but always with a great deal of honesty, the workshop proved to be about more than just writing: it became a place for the expression of pains and joys, of hopes and fears, of normal, everyday experiences and of horrors I can't begin to imagine. But after collecting ideas, sharing, developing and refining them, it culminated in the writing of a poem together.

I think the final result deserves an audience beyond that group who gathered one morning in July so I am sharing it here.

I can love in many, many different ways
I can dance when the music plays
I can help people who need me and show that I care
I can live my own life in a place of fresh air

I will learn always, every day, every time, forever until death
I will know about love, about life, about how the world works
I will share ideas for a better future together
I will go to new places and change my life

I am sometimes lost but I hope to be found
I am always surprised by the joy of life!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

God of the Open Door

A few years back in Taize, during a week in silence, we were invited to reflect on which facet of Jesus we most identified with. This was certainly not about denying other aspects of God's identity, but about discovering a way of relating to God which was helpful for each of us individually. 

There is nothing new about identifying with different images of God: the crucifix and the nativity scene; the brother, the lord; the one who rebels, the one who serves, the one who teaches. Focus on the specific does not detract from belief in the whole.

I realised very clearly that my image of God was the joyful Christ. The Jesus I was closest to was the one who dances at the wedding feast and makes more wine so the party can go on. It is an image that has remained helpful for me. Yes I believe in the Christ who suffers on the cross and calls us to share in that suffering in a world which makes God weep: but I also believe in a God who calls us to joy and wants us to be happy.

I found myself reflecting on a similar theme this year, and discovered another identity of God to be one I also now hold dear, "The God of the Open Door".   

Then again, perhaps these two images are not so far apart: it is the openness, the hospitality, the drawing in of the other, the building of community which enables the outburst of joy. It is together that we can discover true happiness.

Friday, 11 September 2015

No Faith in War

It's been a while, so I guess it must be high time for another blog post! Especially as I certainly have no shortage of things I would like to write about ... so many that actually fitting in the time to write about them is proving something of a struggle! After a very full summer and a slightly hectic return to the new year (because everyone knows "new year" is in September, right?!) I probably have enough material to bore you all in many posts in the weeks to come.

To begin though, I want to write something about Tuesday, when I, along with may others, gathered at the gates of the ExCeL centre in London where preparations are going ahead for one of the world's biggest arms fairs. Part of a sustained week of creative action to impede the setup of the event, Tuesday was entitled "No Faith in War" and was an invitation to people of faith to stand against the evils of the arms trade. Gathering from about 9am, we maintained a presence of both prayer and protest at the gates all day, with people coming and going throughout.

Peacefully, prayerfully, many of those present stepped out into the roads, preventing access to the entrances to the centre where preparations for next week's exhibition are underway. Multiple blockades throughout the day, including one point where entrances at both ends of the centre were closed. Informal prayers and songs sat in front of a growing tailback of lorries and a funeral procession for the unnumbered victims of the arms trade were among the powerful moments which took place in the approach roads to the ExCeL gates.

This was not a passive vigil of witness but a creative, active response to one of the great evils of our time; but the atmosphere throughout remained one of respectful peace as well as of passion deeply rooted in gospel values. I remained conscious through the day of the stark contrast between this and the preparations behind closed doors for an event which will contribute to the continuing escalation of instability and conflict; the human cost of which is increasingly evident.

DSEi takes place once every two years and brings thousands of arms manufacturers and dealers together with representatives of global governments and military, including those from some of the world's most repressive regimes. Even if actual money doesn't change hands, we are facilitating relationships between some very dodgy characters. As the refugee crisis in Europe draws our attention to increasing global conflict and human misery, there is an almost sickening irony in knowing many of these conflicts are fuelled by a trade which is being encouraged here in our capital.

For me, the theme of the beatitudes reverberated through the day. We heard them several times with different groups independently choosing its inclusion in their liturgies.
The power of Jesus' words, spoken as they were to an audience living under a military occupation, resonated through acts of repentance and resistance, in the face of a system which continues to perpetuate violence and oppression.

The sense of joy and community which pervaded the day, even in the seemingly impenetrable face of death and destruction allowed me, us, to experience the truth of His blessing, that the peacemakers and those who hunger and thirst for justice will know happiness.

I came away uplifted and inspired. This for me, is where and how the church should be. Thank you, to all who were church with and for me that day.