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?

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. 


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.