Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Resurrection Days

And this is Love
That great white light

Who dares
A fragile breath
Which reaches out
Through time and space

And in this touch
A tiny spark
Of heartfelt joy
The darkness

In darkest night
A dot of light
That’s scarcely seen
But hearts perceive
This moment comes

And flickering hope
Is born anew
In these
The resurrection days.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


A friend of mine is currently trying (and maybe I should add, almost four months in, succeeding) to blog about something she is grateful for every single day for a year.

Realistically, I am not going to even attempt to do that. If I did, it would probably last for about three days. I know my limits.

There is definitely something in it though. Blogging every day: no chance. But being grateful every day, yes, maybe that is something I could do. Something I should do. Something I need to do.

It is very easy to be dragged down by the ills of the world: to look at all that is wrong and painful, and difficult, and dark, and unjust, and wonder what on earth it is all about. It is easy to imagine, surrounded as we are by so much hurt, that there is something very naive and just a little bit stupid about living in a spirit of joyfulness and gratitude.

And I'm certainly not saying I'm going to start being grateful for the bad stuff. Nor am I about to shut my eyes to it and pretend we all live in a rosy world where everything goes exactly as we would wish it, because do you know what, we don't.

But sometimes a shift in perspective reminds us that in spite of all that causes pain, our own and that of others, we still have a lot for which we can be grateful; and to celebrate those things is neither naive nor crass. The celebration of, and gratitude for, the riches of life need in no way detract from our concern for suffering and injustice. Perhaps, on the contrary, our ability to be grateful for what is good is what gives us the strength to not just be mired in all that is difficult, weighed down by the weight of all that is wrong, but to act as a force for change and for good.

It was one of the things that struck me most forcefully and most persistently when we were in the Philippines: the ability of people with, by our Western perspectives, so little, to be so grateful for all that they have and are. And if they can do it, then guess what, so can I.

Thank you.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The value of the collective

Just under a week ago, I fasted as part of the National Fast Day for End Hunger Fast campaign. It was not my only day of fasting this lent and today, once again, I am going hungry in solidarity with the thousands in Britain who aren't sure where their next nutritious meal might come from. As part of a commitment by the church here to establish a relay of people fasting throughout the season of lent I have been fasting every Thursday.

But last Friday was noticeably different. Although I went to bed feeling just as hungry, fasting last Friday was definitely easier than it has been on other days.

I am certain the reason for this was to be found in the collective nature of last Friday's National Fast Day. I knew that, up and down the country, thousands of others were sharing the same fast as I was, for the same reasons. I felt connected to something beyond my own personal act of commitment. I was not physically present with any of them. Most I will never meet. But in some way I do not claim to fully understand, it made a real difference.

It was a reminder of the importance of our collective experiences. A reminder of our deep human need to share our struggles, our joys, our desires, our doubts, our beliefs, our lives. A reminder of the need to seek out the real community which is able to both support us and challenge us, affirm us where we are and guide us to where we might be.

It was a reminder that our highly individualised, 'just worry about your own personal gain' 'individual freedom is the ultimate god' society is in a very unhealthy place leaving millions isolated, vulnerable, confused, and susceptible to mental illness. A reminder that alone, we risk not even knowing what we are seeking; let alone knowing where to find it.

It was a reminder that we can only be the "I" we really want to be in the midst of the "we" that surrounds us. A reminder, therefore, that if we spend less time worrying about the "I" and more energy building the "we"; we might just find that, in the process, the "I" becomes something beyond what we imagined to be possible.

Friday, 4 April 2014


Today I am hungry. I am hungry by choice.

Around me, thousands have not made that choice. But they are hungry too. And probably not just today.

The statistics are, in one of the richest countries in the world, quite frankly, shameful. Half a million people visited foodbanks last year and all the indicators suggest the figures are continuing to rise. Over 5000 people were admitted to hospital last year suffering from malnutrition and 17% of British children live in poverty.

Since the beginning of Lent, and a bit before, I have been involved in the End Hunger Fast campaign. At its heart is a call to take seriously the faithful spiritual discipline of fasting; and to link it to a political campaign for change. To fast as a prayer, yes, but also to fast as an act of non-violent direct action against a system which has abandoned some of the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable in society.

One of the things I have become acutely aware of through my involvement in this campaign, even more so than I was before, is just how insidious is the temptation to blame those at the bottom of the heap. In a society that has become obsessed with personal, individual gain: we are taught to assume that our personal gain is being hampered by whoever is standing on the next rung down of the ladder. The rhetoric from both our media and our government is designed to keep us believing that it is the poor, the sick, the foreigners who are keeping us trapped in poverty and debt.

Huge resources are poured into recouping the estimated £2 billion lost through benefit fraud (which includes the inadverted fraud of dealing with a complicated system). And of course making sure we know all about the small number of cases of deliberate abuse. Far more than the resources directed towards clawing back the estimated £32 billion lost through tax avoidance and evasion (the government's own figures - many campaigners would put the figure far higher)

It is very easy to demonise the poor: they are the least likely to have the resources or skills or opportunities to express a different version of their story. "It is all their own fault", "they could just work harder", "they're all playing the system anyway", "well they don't exactly look like they're hungry", "I managed to pull myself up by my bootstraps so they should too", "if you help it will just make them dependent"...

And why is this myth not robustly and routinely dispelled? Because while we are busy looking down at how much it costs to support those below us, we are not turning round and looking up. And because we are looking the wrong way we some how carry on believing, even though it doesn't make any sense, that we are oppressed by those from below. Oppression never works like that. We are never oppressed by the poor, the weak, the vulnerable.

Yet while it is easy to find those ready to quickly repeat half-truths to condemn those beneath them, the End Hunger Fast campaign has proved how challenging it is to build a mass movement of people willing to start turning their gaze and looking upwards instead. I fear for a society so downtrodden, that it cannot raise its eyes to see that poverty, injustice and inequality in one of the world's richest nations are not caused by those at the bottom, but by those clinging determinedly to their place at the top of the pile.

It is time to start looking up. Looking up at a system, not to idolise it, but to recognise its flaws and the oppression inherent within it. Looking up at those with power and influence and wealth, not with a desire to emulate what they are and have, but in order to challenge an injustice which doesn't not have to endure.

We need to end the scandal of hunger. But probably even more, we need to speak as prophets of justice to end the stranglehold which keeps our eyes turned to the dust, as messengers of hope to encourage those around us to start looking up, inspired and believing that we can change our world for the better. I hope this campaign is doing a little bit of both.