Tuesday, 22 October 2013

I can, I will, I am

It's the inevitable question when you go somewhere new, start a job, meet a new group of people ... so, tell us a bit about yourself. I have done a lot of meeting new groups of people recently, and going into new settings, and I am not getting any better at summing myself up in three sentences. Whilst for a GCSE French oral it seemed fairly easy to reel off, "Je m'appelle Stephanie, J'ai 15 ans, J'habite a Burton, une petite ville industrielle situee au centre de l'Angleterre pres de Derby" (which most people I know seem to be able to do in one language or another!) summing up who I really am is definitely a lot more tricky. And as life continues to get richer, and more layers are added to its tapestry, I guess it is only going to get harder.

This poem, is, I suppose, in one sense an attempt to respond to that impossibility of summing up my identity. It began life in response to being asked to finish the three sentences I can ..., I will ... I am ... in a few words each. At which point it looked like this:
I can touch stars hidden deep in my soul
I will live, I will laugh, I will love
I am loved, I am me, I am whole

The version below, grew out of that. 

I can sing a tune that only I know
I can fly off to places that others can’t go
I can be who I am and not need to impress
I can dream in colours no words can express
I can touch the stars hidden deep in my soul
I can, in my brokenness, choose to be whole

I will be the me I am destined to be
I will choose to know limits so I can be free
I will keep walking onwards and follow the road
I will, when I stumble, re-shoulder my load
I will know that the journey itself is the goal
I will, in my brokenness, choose to be whole

I am shifting shadows of darkness and light
I am fragile wings which strive to take flight
I am bathed in blessings that allow me to thrive
I am a child of hope called to be fully alive
I am cradled and carried as ocean waves roll
I am, in my brokenness, loved, valued and whole

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Eid Mubarak!

Today Muslims are celebrating the feast of Eid al-Adha, or the "festival of sacrifice" which is (at least as I understand it) their most significant religious festival. "Big Eid" as the children in my class used to call it, celebrates both Ibrahim/Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail, and, perhaps more significantly, God's intervention to prevent the death of that treasured child. The biblical version has Isaac in the place of Ismail, but God's intervention remains the same.

This festival seems an appropriate time for me, as well as my Muslim friends, to reflect on its significance. To me, at least, the message of the story seems very clear. God does not choose, ever, acts of violence as a way to honour him. God does not desire suffering, death or violence. Abraham heard that message and understood it: it is perhaps this as much as anything else about his story that marks him out as a man of God and father of faith.

As Wilfred Owen wrote, far more eloquently than I could express, too often, humanity, including those who profess to believe in the God of Abraham, have forgotten to listen to this message. Almost 100 years on from these words being written, sadly, we too often continue to forget.

Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo, an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
(Wilfred Owen)

Now would be an excellent time for us to start listening to the voice of God, the one which invites us to stay the hand of violence and choose a route of peace.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Early Days

When I clicked to edit this as-yet-unpublished blog post, the first sentence began, "We are now into our second week of community life..."

Scrub that. We are about to enter week 6. But the title, "Early days" still feels apt.

Admittedly, in some ways, August already feels a long time ago. In some ways, Birmingham City Centre already very much feels like home. In some ways, framing each day with morning and evening prayer already feels like a very established routine. But mostly, it still feels like early days.

Early enough, certainly, to share something of what we are trying to do because I don't really think I've done that on here yet. Perhaps my blog has been somewhat neglected while I have learned how to put a real website together ... www.carrslanelivedcommunity.org.uk and learned just how time consuming that can be ...

Up to now, preparing and planning the prayers has been a fairly major part of our work. As time goes on of course, and more and more is already established, (and when more people join and share in that preparation,) this will become a less onerous task.

I do think though, it is time and effort well-spent, and I am very pleased that the first thing we have established is the routine of prayer. I really believe that if we get that right, everything else will probably be more-or-less ok.

A commitment to 7.30am morning prayer makes for a commitment to an early start every day, but, (whether or not I always feel exactly like this when the alarm sounds!), it is a very good way to start the day. A commitment to 7pm evening prayer ties us to the city, which both limits and opens possibilities. It has been a joy to sometimes share those times with others, and, so far, a joy to commit to the routine even when it is only us. Overall, framing the day with prayer, is a routine which gives life.

Hospitality, a core value of the community, is already beginning to provide opportunities for sharing food and conversations; and my voluntary projects in the city, worthy of separate posts in their own right, are already proving to be a source of joy and life.

There is lots more to be done. Discerning our place and our possibilities will be an ongoing process. Among the most pressing challenges ahead, we need to find more people attracted to this way of life, in order to make this sustainable. After all, it was community that we were seeking in moving here, and as yet, that's still very much a work in progress.

But overall, so far, the Carrs Lane Lived Community, or the very humble beginnings of it, is, for me, a place of life. Long may it be so.