Solidarity and prayer

Last Sunday my parish took part in Share the Journey, a global call to walk together in solidarity with migrants all over the world.  People have myriad reasons to flee their homes.

How could our stroll on Sunday have any comparison with those who are forced to leave their homes for fear of their lives or their livelihoods?  How could it be related in any way with those who face a hideous, dangerous journey with an uncertain end?

The link is a concept of solidarity.  A tough one to describe and to feel.  Wikipedia says it “refers to the ties in a society that bind people together as one”.   There is a part of me that thinks that that must mean that unless I walk hundreds of miles and risk my life in a rickety boat, I am not in solidarity.  A walk in the park won’t cut it.

But it does cut it.  I could have been doing other things on Sunday morning, I wasn’t, I was walking purposefully with a group of people who share a belief that having to leave your homeland is not a good thing.   We were listened to stories of refugees as we went.  And we were praying together.

Do I know it works?  Yes I do, that is my faith of course.  I believe that my prayers and my deliberate footsteps in the sunshine in a park in Birmingham will be felt by refugees the world over.  It’s what gives me hope that together we can make the world a better place.

We were joined by a photographer, James Maher, who spent some time with the Lampedusa Cross we were carrying, a simple cross, made by Francesco Tuccio on the island of Lampedusa from the wreckage of boats carrying migrants, which he finds washed up on beaches.   James’ passion for taking photographs of the cross was obvious and wiped away my feeling that we may not have done very much.  We were passionate and hopeful.  That goes a long way.

St Marys copy 8 jpm (1 of 1)
James Maher’s photo of the Lampedusa Cross, which is housed in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham





When you get to Live Simply

I had a brilliant morning yesterday holding a book sale in our parish.  It was part of the parish’s commitment to Live Simply.  This does not in any way mean living miserably, it means living joyously, putting aside the stresses of consumerism, but enjoying what we do own and living our lives in a way that is in balance with all our fellow humans, the planet and God. Sounds a bit high fallutin’ I know.

My key is to find a simple way to make that happen.  The book sale was it.  I wanted to celebrate the books I wanted to be rid of, they have served me well, I have enjoyed them and learnt so much from them.  In some cases, that I don’t want to read them.  In a parish centre full of hundreds of people, it was great fun discussing the memories that the yellow Reklam editions evoke in anyone who grew up in Germany or studies the language.  In fact I had some great conversations about Germany, a love of mine. One of my favourite books is Zola’s Germinal and the impact on parishioners who had grown up many years ago in mining villages was clear.  One parishioner donated a book by Helen Dunmore, who she had known, the author’s death last year still obviously greatly saddening her.

I was not coordinating the selling of paper, people were donating memories, they were purchasing the promise of an interesting few hours learning something, they were buying gifts of books they felt were needed by others.  All in all, people were sharing their lives with each other and the atmosphere was tremendous.

So, my love of being a part of a community was totally fulfilled.  We were all there with a shared interest of books, but also as a worshipping community, it was powerful and many commented on how much joy and pleasure there was in the room.

We were in there in solidarity with the poorest people in the world.  Every book was being sold for CAFOD’s Lent Appeal, which finishes on 12 May and every pound we raised will be match by the UK Government.   We raised £445 in one morning.

We were also in solidarity with friends and family, some of the books had been donated by a Scouting friend from the home of a family member who recently passed away.  They were hugely popular books and I was delighted to see the conversations about them and the delight in parishioners who found a new treasure.

Of course, we kept the planet in mind, reusing and recycling the precious resource of paper and ink and appreciating, really appreciating, the value of those seemingly simple resources in our lives.

A great morning, which has fed me spiritually for the week ahead.

Not our book sale, but we had about as many books.