A fire that never dies away

I was listening to a live broadcast from the Taizé Community this morning. It’s the season of Advent so images of dark and light feature prominently. One song stood out for me: Dans nos obscurités – Within our darkest night. The village of Taizé has seen its fair share of dark times and so has its namesake community. During World War 2 it suffered terrible deprivation, some who could, left to find work, leaving only a handful of elderly people and no one to farm the poor land. Brother Roger, the founder of the Taizé Community, arrived in the middle of that people, to begin a simple life of prayer and practical support focussed upon reconciling people, reconciling differences.

It was a terrible time for France, a country divided between German occupation and free but in dreadful straits. Brother Roger helped Jewish refugees cross the line into free France then Switzerland. After the war the tiny community befriended German prisoners in a local camp. A dark time but the glimmer of the light of hope for a better future was already burning. The community of Brothers grew from different denominations – protestant – catholic – anglican – lutheran – determined to live a life of prayer together. The light grew.

Young people saw the light. It drew them like moths to a flame. The community’s work flourished. At the time of Brother Roger’s death many thousands from all over the world spent time with the brothers every week. There was always a welcome. There still is.

Brother Roger died on 16th August 2005, killed with a knife in the middle of the evening prayer by a woman with mental health issues. Within our darkest night. The last few years have seen terrorist attacks all over France and Europe. France is on high alert again after such an attack in a Strasbourg Christmas Market. The Taizé Community continues to pray for reconciliation, for the healing of divisions between God’s people. Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away, that never dies away .http://taize.fr

Homage to Raed Fares

Raed Fares died four days ago. He was shot dead by gunmen in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib. Who was Raed Fares?
Raed Fares, was the founder of Radio Fresh, an independent radio station broadcasting from inside opposition-held areas in the country.
He angered both militants and the Syrian government.

Four years ago, he suffered shattered bones and a lung puncture in an attempt to shut him up. There were more attempts.
Raed Fares did not expect to die quietly in his bed. He refused to carry a weapon. He said his fight was just dedicated to the people, and to the welfare of all groups, all society:

“What can they do? Kill me? Well let them kill me.                                                      I’m not going to leave and leave them the country”.

What did he do to upset both sides in this terrible, intolerable conflict? He protested against tyranny and injustice. He stood up for women in an unequal society. He promoted non-violent protest. He used hyperbole (such as playing sounds on his radio station of tweeting birds and ticking sounds, clucking chickens and bleating goats, and modifying women’s voices with computer software), to draw attention to the injustice of demands to take women off the air.

Does this sound familiar?





Love _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Yourself

You may recognise the missing words in this blog’s title. You can find references to these words in the Old Testament: Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 10:19. Jesus drew upon these verses to most clearly establish the best way to live and can be found in Mark 12.31, Matthew 5:43-46, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:32-35 and Luke 10:27. As the full text is central to Jesus’s message why leave words out?

Well just reflect for a moment upon the words that are left: LOVE YOURSELF. This may seem a selfish way to go, but not so. The problem is that people are finding it increasingly hard to love themselves. Low self esteem is rife, particularly amongst the young. This leads to addictions and unwholesome relationships. Low self esteem is also a characteristic of bullying, loneliness and isolation. This can all be summed up as an inability to love oneself. Loving yourself really means loving the person God created you to be. Not some other, more glamorous, beautiful, perfect somebody else, but YOU!

2000Here is some sad news from the Guardian this week: ” an Indian husband and wife who fell to their deaths from a popular overlook at Yosemite national park in California were apparently taking a selfie, the man’s brother said on Tuesday.

Park rangers recovered the bodies of Vishnu Viswanath, 29, and Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, on Thursday about 800ft (245 meters) below Taft Point, where visitors can walk to the edge of a vertigo-inducing granite ledge that doesn’t have a railing.”

This unfortunate couple are not the only ones who have died trying to get themselves into the best shot for a selfie. The selfie has become an artificial form of loving yourself. It has become THE way to show how beautiful, glamorous, adventurous, perfect you are. But the selfie is a sham. It fools you into thinking you are what you think you should be. It is not the REAL you. Learning how to love the real you is not easy I grant you. It took me half a lifetime to discover that truth.

I think this is what Jesus was really getting at when he said LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF. There they are, the missing words. The words that everyone focusses upon. Yes, they are important. Of course the Gospel truth is that we must learn to love our neighbours but how can we love others when we don’t even love ourselves. Just ourselves, imperfect as we are in our own eyes but always perfect in God’s eyes because we are made in God’s image.

 

Travelling

tardisI am a massive Doctor Who fan.

Thirteen actors have headlined the series as the Doctor. The transition from one actor to another is written into the plot of the show with the concept of regeneration into a new incarnation, a plot device in which a Time Lord “transforms” into a new body when the current one is too badly harmed to heal normally. Each actor’s portrayal is unique, but all represent stages in the life of the same character. Together, they form a single lifetime with a single narrative. Now when you think about it this sounds a bit like a parish priest: a single lifetime with a single narrative. A priest in the Church of England is defined by their calling: the single narrative to ordained ministry. Extracts from the ordinal or ordination service state:

Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent…With all God’s people, they are to tell the story of God’s love. They are to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and to walk with them in the way of Christ, nurturing them in the faith. They are to unfold the Scriptures, to preach the word in season and out of season, and to declare the mighty acts of God. They are to preside at the Lord’s table and lead his people in worship, offering with them a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. They are to bless the people in God’s name…Guided by the Spirit, they are to discern and foster the gifts of all God’s people, that the whole Church may be built up in unity and faith.

As priests we swear to abide by this calling. We wear this stamp of priesthood imprinted upon us through the laying on of hands in an unbroken apostolic succession leading back through time to the apostle, Peter.

As I write, the latest Doctor Who series has begun with a new Doctor. Dr Who is a traveller, as Jodie Whittaker, playing the new Doctor, reminds the viewers. Priests are travellers too, called to follow in the footsteps of Christ wherever he leads us.

the white house

IMG-0473_editWelcome to blogs from the white house. These do not come from The White House of course. The photo of this white house is a bit of a giveaway. To look at The White House you need your sunglasses. The whiteness of the white, the whiter-than-white is too dazzling. This white house is more of a whitey-grey, more toned down, more real.

White is a very interesting colour. To begin with, strictly speaking, it isn’t a colour at all.

According to a wikipedia article: 

White is the lightest colour and is achromatic (having no hue). It is the colour of fresh snow, chalk, and milk, and is the opposite of black. 

White objects fully reflect and scatter all the visible wavelengths of light. White on television and computer screens is created by a mixture of red, blue and green light.

In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, priestesses wore white as a symbol of purity, and Romans wore a white toga as a symbol of citizenship. 

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance a white unicorn symbolized chastity, and a white lamb sacrifice and purity. 

It was the royal colour of the Kings of France, and of the monarchist movement that opposed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1917–1922). 

Greek and Roman temples were faced with white marble, and beginning in the 18th century, with the advent of neoclassical architecture, white became the most common colour of new churches, capitols and other government buildings, especially in the United States. It was also widely used in 20th century modern architecture as a symbol of modernity and simplicity.

According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the colour most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude. 

White is an important colour for almost all world religions. The Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has worn white since 1566, as a symbol of purity and sacrifice. In Islam, and in the Shinto religion of Japan, it is worn by pilgrims. 

In Western cultures and in Japan, white is the most common colour for wedding dresses, symbolizing purity and virginity. In many Asian cultures, white is also the colour of mourning. 

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White)

I am happy that this white house is not emanating eye-dazzling purity because that is quite hard for this occupant to live up to. In a dazzlingly white house everything you do and say would have to be so carefully managed in case you just fell off your pedestal. You would have to live an ultra-pure, ultra-moral life to live up to the God-like status of an occupant of The White House. An occupant of The White House would certainly never condone the moral failings of others, condone the bigotry and xenophobic actions of others or support the perpetuation of social injustices because acting out of self-interest just isn’t very white.

So from this white house won’t come great judgements on the rest of the world. I couldn’t live up to that sort of whiter-than-white moral high ground. 

Instead, I hope you will find bits and pieces that may feed, sustain, interest you, from the perspective of a parish priest going about her work.