We have both been immensely blessed by being able to travel to the USA to gatherings of the Pediatric Chaplains’ Network. To be able to be part of such a supportive community of practice is something I don’t take lightly. As different tragedies have taken place so messages are sent and prayers mobilized and you know that you are not alone in whatever it is you are facing. I joined those responding and we are praying particularly for Jessica and James, the local chaplains we know best, but also for all the emergency responders along with some family friends of Sally’s. This is the prayer that one of the chaplains forwarded for those facing Hurricane Harvey:
In times such as these it is hard to know exactly what to pray – but being aware of God’s presence and peace is one I use a lot.
When I wrote last week’s blog on unexploded bombs, I had no idea of the tragedy of another type of bomb that would be exploded by a suicide bomber in Manchester the following day. How should we respond when someone decides to explode a real bomb with the intention of harming children and young people? Obviously we weep with those who weep, our empathetic hearts break with those bereaved and injured. Many rush to help, support, pray, and the very best of humanity is expressed when we see others hurting and distressed. One of the many voices of life suggested that the city of Manchester will choose love not hate as their response.
We also ask why? Asking why is not a doubting question but a real one in the light of such sadness. It is also a brave question. It is brave because we do not always know what answers will be revealed or if there is even an answer at all that will answer our questions. This week questions of why and responsibility have been asked by the families, observers, helpers, local, national and international leaders. Was something missed that could have been picked up and the bomber stopped? Learning lessons is a universal helpful response to tragedies. But questions of why quickly move to accusations of blame.
Questions of responsibility are necessary and helpful but do not have to be motivated by finding or locating blame but bravely to learn and understand. Personally I hope we do learn how this happened so that lessons can be learnt and more people who wish to cause harm are stopped before it happens .
But I also hope in time and hopefully quickly, we will also ask the question of why, what causes one person or persons to feel this is an appropriate action or reaction? Simple answers of ‘they are evil’ will only superficially serve us. I wonder if lessons learnt from conflict resolution processes in other places could stand us in good stead as we look to ways in which we might respond. More fundamental explorations are needed and deserved around the longer, wider, deeper narrative of why, and a greater desire for peace and justice than retribution.
This caught my eye as we left a meeting last week. I have been thinking since how I might describe myself. My O level (GCSE for anyone a bit younger than me!) Greek tells me that I can say messenger rather than angel – I am not sure I see myself as terribly angelic, certainly in the colloquial sense the term is often used. However, I am aware that I inhabit a number of roles where I might be perceived to be a messenger or bring a message. It is hard to think of something more important than this currently, I might want to add reconciliation or I might be thinking of trying to help people find a sense of inner peace but if we all attempted to, at least sometimes, be an angel of peace then the world may be a bit different one day.
I am reading and writing this week and came across this quotation which the author of a books aid he had posted on his wall – I might copy him!
Peace is a deep disposition of the heart. It is humility, an ability to let go of the need to be right in our own eyes, or the eyes of others, an ability based on the knowledge that our rightness or wrongness in any issue is totally irrelevant to God’s love for us or for our neighbor. The peace that comes with claiming our self in God is the foundation of our ability to carry God’s reconciling love to others in the most humble places and humble everyday ways.
Roberta Bondi from Becoming bearers of reconciliation Weavings 5 (1) p9-10.
A good place to get to…
I am metaphorically laying these flowers in the places where people have been slain over the past week, Orlando and Birstall in particular. There is no background to this picture because the day was so misty that you could not see the sea beyond nor feel the sun that was above. That is how it feels at the moment… a deep sadness looking out into I know not what…
I am laying the flowers in hope, hope that the outcry in each of these cases will instigate change, change in attitude, in practice, in legislation… that peace may begin to prevail…
My daily readings book says this today – seemed very apt:
Everybody hurts. When I don’t have words to articulate my pain or frustration I get crude. But crude is probably better than repressed. So I let ’em rip. Damn it. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn it. This is my psalm of lament: ‘God, damn it’. Is it too much or is it prayer? The danger is that we’ll ignore a simple truth: we actually feel this way. Lament is a healthy and essential form of prayer in peacemaking. In lament we tell God exactly how we feel, what we want…and we leave it for God to decide how to restore us to justice. Brian Busse SJ Psalm 94:2-3.
From Ignatian Book of Days Jim Manney Chicago Loyola Press 2014
Most of us I guess would not disagree with this statement. It was made by the lead character on the television show Madam Secretary (USA Secretary of State). The rest of the quote was much more interesting:
Peace is a beautiful thing, Blake, making peace, not so much. (Series 2 episode 11)
It was said in the context of the sacrifices and compromises that it had taken to achieve peace in their story line . Their peace had been achieved at a great cost in lives and personal virtue. The wholistic physical, mental and spiritual weIIbeing of our personhood, communities and countries is not passively achieved .
I was going to blog about this anyway but I also rewatched Selma this week. This film recounts the story of a protest march which was part of the civil rights movement in the USA, in particular the struggle the black community had to register to vote. It was one of the key events in the life story of Martin Luther King.
Peace and justice are both indeed beautiful things and even when non- violence is used, outcomes are not always achieved in ways which could be described as beautiful!
Bringing about peace is sometimes hard, messy work. It cannot always been done in a passive manner. It might mean being firm, resolute, non-compromising, but it can be done with grace and mercy and is always worth it.
On the Radio 4 Sunday programme this morning the speaker was talking about the different interpretations of the Hebrew word for the bird referred to in the Noah flood story (Genesis 6.9-9.17). Apparently it is the same word used, yonah and it means either dove or pigeon according to its context. For today this could mean a dove for peace and a pigeon to carry messages, to communicate.
It was helpful to reflect upon the realisation that we need both a spirit of peace and a desire to communicate. I may have one or the other for different situations I find myself in, but in the spirit of honest Christianity I need to confess that I do not always want to be bothered to do both. Having a desire to bring about peace without seeking to communicate, or vice versa, is rarely successful. Perhaps this is a helpful lens to look at not only our personal issues but also our societal and community ones.