Sunday, January 28, 2007

Surprised at Synod!

There, that has a suitably unlikely ring to it, I feel!
But it truly does describe the process that took place at yesterday's diocesan gathering, where the theme for the Eucharist before we got down to "business" was Holocaust Memorial Day. To start with, there was the rite of penitence, which definitely hit the right (ie most uncomfortable) places for at least one of the congregation.

For sins which we ourselves have committed, and for sins of omission
For sins of our hands and sins of our hearts
For the hurt we have caused you and our neighbours through ignorance or indifference
O God of Abraham we ask your forgiveness.

For failure to see your image in someone is who different
O God of Sarah we ask your forgiveness

For putting our own welfare and social comfort above the basic needs of others
O God of Jacob we ask your forgiveness

For our reluctance to get involved
O God of Rachel we ask your forgiveness

For being grateful that we are in some way superior to another
O God of Leah we ask your forgiveness

For teaching that it is better to receive than give
O God of Sinai we ask your forgiveness

For the failure of your Church to be light in the darkness
O God of Calvary we ask your forgiveness.

Having recovered from that, there was another moment of unsettlement during the Offertory hymn...It is set to Rhuddlan, a comfortably familiar, four-square tune, and you're singing away cheerfully when suddenly caught of balance by the third line, which jolted me with an almost physical shock.

God of freedom, God of justice,
God whose love is strong as death,
God who saw the dark of prison,
God who knew the price of faith:
touch our world of sad oppression
with your Spirit's healing breath.

Rid the earth of torture's terror,
God whose hands were nailed to wood;
hear the cries of pain and protest,
God who shed the tears and blood;
move in us the power of pity,
restless for the common good.

Make in us a captive conscience
quick to hear, to act, to plead;
make us truly sisters, brothers,
of whatever race or creed:
teach us to be fully human,
open to each other's need.

I was not at all surprised to discover that it is by Shirley Erena Murray, who was responsible for my hymn of the year last year "For everyone born a place at the table". It seems to me that she has a real gift for that sort of holy disturbance that we all need to experience. For me, in a week of rather unpleasant self-absorption, this was just what I needed to move me on.
It's so horribly easy to become overwhelmed by one's own issues, so the reminder that I'm part of something so much bigger, both for good and ill, was timely.

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