I am posting this message from Lavender Kelley, the President of the American Pediatric Chaplains Network, as it offers far more eloquently that I can a perspective on the tragedy in Las Vegas:
We are pained by the tragedy in Las Vegas and send our prayers and healing intentions to all the victims, their families, first responders, and healthcare providers.
We are especially aware of the spiritual and emotional impact that such an event can have on the children in our lives—children of the victims of this terrible shooting, both directly and indirectly, as well as children that hear about these events in the media and wonder about how it affects themselves, their family and friends, the world around them and how it affects what they believe about the Holy and humanity. Truly, this incident is one that will have ripple effects far into the future. All of us will be touched in some way because of the insidiousness of gun violence and the way it breeds hopelessness. Unfortunately, we have witnessed this on a daily basis in too many places. Moreover, this tragedy comes at a time in our country when communication and support have grown increasingly difficult because of social and political polarization. Yet, it is in the midst of that pain and hopelessness that chaplains must bring light.
Our answer must be to hold on.
We must hold onto one another, hold onto hope, hold onto relationships, and hold onto love. We must make our arms wider and help others learn to hold on as well. Our faith practices and calling as a chaplain compel us to this. We must tend to one another so that we can return to our work full of vitality.
While I am not a chaplain, I resonate with this final paragraph, there are many other tragedies at the local personal or community level as well as more nationally and globally. We need hope and we need to learn more about how we help each other hold on.
On Saturday Paul and I walked the Worms Head at Rhossili on the Gower. I am not the most physically courageous and this was the closest I have ever come to rock climbing. On a short stretch right at the top Paul was telling me where to put my hands and feet as I ascended and then descended what was close to a sheer drop – at least to me. When I hear the word ’causeway’ I think of the paved roads at Holy Island or St Michael’s Mount not so many different rocks with no obvious routes through them! I wanted to feel the sense of achievement of walking the whole thing and it took courage as I didn’t know if I could and I was aware how precarious my footholds were at times – praise God for Keen sandals! At several points I wanted to give up and I was pleased I persevered and I pushed myself to see what might be possible.
I have used the term a gram of courage because I don’t want to get what I achieved out of proportion – I was proud of myself for what I accomplished but that is nothing compared with the courage of some of my friends who have to act courageously day after day just to make it through a day. Courage looks different for all of us and we are not always aware of the hidden challenges and circumstances people face.
I began reading a book on poetry as medicine last week. One of the poems struck me and I was reminded of it today as we spoke about play as part of a lecture:
My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those mountains,
farther than the oceans,
way up near the stars,
to ask Christ the Lord
to give back to me
the soul I had as a child,
matured by fairy tales,
with its hat of feathers
and its wooden sword.
(Federico Garcia Lorca)
I long for the child like wonder to return – there are glimpses of it at times, particularly in nature but I long sometimes for the freedom of that joy filled child who didn’t yet understand the expectations of others and the things which constrain.
Yesterday in our morning worship session Nigel Roberts helped us to reflect on covenant. The picture shows us taking off our shoes and placing them around the cross to signify our commitment to God talking about the verse how lovely are the feet of him who brings good news and how in the story of the prodigal gave his returning son sandals, he was no longer a servant. We recited the Methodist covenant prayer before we took bread always an immensely challenging and powerful prayer which can be quite difficult to say fully:
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you
or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty;
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it
And the covenant now made on earth may it be ratified in heaven.
Last night I was driving home from work thinking about my blog for today. I was listening to Simon Mayo and the phrase “dried up dreams” leapt out at me from Simon’s interview with John Sopel. The context was a book John has written about Trump’s America and why he gained power and he seemed to be saying it was something about giving people hope and the capacity to dream again. Apologies if I have misrepresented anything here, the driving conditions were awful and i was concentrating hard on the road. And sometimes what I hear isn’t what has been said as my mind goes off on a tangent!
The phrase resonated with me as over the years I have had to face dried up dreams in different ways and that can be a very hard place to find yourself in. However, with God’s grace, I have been able to move beyond them and find new dreams or a reshaped dream or to quote a more positive Bruce Springsteen song than the one played in the interview (Youngstown) I have had the capacity to be “working on a dream”.
One of the most wonderful elements of a trip to California six years ago was seeing giant redwood trees. This one we saw on Sunday and is not quite in the same league but evokes the same feelings of how the passing of time can change a perspective. I can’t imagine what these trees would have seen in a place where different people lived and died and celebrated and lamented and did all those things which make up our lives. Summer is giving me the opportunity to reflect and as I work towards my two weeks holiday I am looking forward to some time and space and a different rhythm.
Yesterday I got to the first part of a conference on Researching the Church of England at Aston University. This picture is from the first keynote by (Rev Dr) Susannah Snyder on Refugees, Arts and the Church of England. I have a few notes from the session which I am pondering on – mostly I didn’t get the name of who the idea originated with so apologies for that – sometimes my brain is pondering something that has been said rather than keeping up with the next bit!
Arts and prophetic or radical amazement.
Arts as a counter to moral distance – arts create an echo in our head which will not go away.
Art as prophetic imagination – anticipation of the shalom that awaits us.
These pictures are of an installation called Critical Mass by Eve Mileusnic – there are feet in different size and shapes representing the movement of people and things and on different days she arranged the feet differently. The visual impact gave people time to reflect and as one person observed the outside world and church world came together.
I am not always a visual learner which is one of the reasons I post a photo each Friday as it means I am paying attention to the environment but I appreciate the capacity of the arts to connect with the emotions and the spirit in a way that words do not always seem to. Thank you God for artists.