Thursday, March 23, 2017

In God I trust and will not fear...

In God I trust and will not fear
for what can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56, appointed for Morning Prayer today, seemed painfully apposite in the aftermath of yesterday's events in Westminster. A few weeks ago, an Anti-Terrorism officer from the West Midlands police addressed all the cathedral staff, sharing with us the new ACT (action counters terrorism) strategy. It made for sobering listening...and gradually the realisation dawned that an ordinary day in an ordinary place could in a split-second be transformed into the stuff of nightmares...that being a run-of-the-mill cleric in a small Midlands city was no protection...that actually everyone, everyone is at risk in this new climate.

That doesn't mean that I emerged from the presentation convinced that any particular faith or nationality was suddenly "the enemy", or that I bought into a set of fear-filled responses that would have changed both who I am and how I live. That wasn't what the officer was after either. He simply wanted us all to understand that the threat was real, and that as things are at the moment there is a very real possibility of a random person using something as ubiquitous as a family saloon car to cause death and chaos....that there are many prepared to die for causes both real and, sometimes, imagined - and that with the best will and the best policing in the world you cannot keep everyone 100% safe in situations like that.
The presentation ended with a short video of a (staged) attack by an armed gunman on an office block. I found this completely terrifying. There was something about the little group of staff huddling in the basement of the offices that really hit home, and since then I've had a huge sense of how ordinary life is - until it suddenly becomes noteworthy because it is threatened by violence. 

So yesterday my first reaction was fear. Were either of my sons anywhere near Westminster? Was it suddenly more risky to be a baby barrister in London now than it had been on Monday? Could I actually cope with either of them working in the capital when such awful things could happen so randomly? I wanted to do that "mum thing" of gathering all my family in one place and hugging them. Often. 

That was yesterday. But today I've been reading so many responses on-line, seeing how again and again bloggers and tweeters have seen the choice of fear as a choice that allows terrorists to win. After all, a terrorist is so-called because he deploys fear and violence to achieve his own ends. But if we refuse to give in to that fear, if we focus not on the hurt that has been done but on the love that is represented by all those who rushed to help, then there is no victory for terrorism.
And this morning the psalmist reminded me that there are worse things that to be maimed or even killed...that while flesh can indeed harm flesh, to follow God's way of love is to resolve, day by day, to cast out fear and replace it with a trust that all will, ultimately be well. 

That's so easy for me to type when I am not the mother of a policeman whose family are forced to begin to believe in a life without him, nor the colleague of a teaching assistant who won't be there to help with Y5 tomorrow...I've not been touched by this in any direct way at all. The truth is that actually flesh can do a great deal to us, no matter how much we trust in God. And that's scary - particularly when you are fearful not so much for yourself, but for those whom you love.

But I spend my days in a place that bears visible scars of what can happen when we allow fear and hatred to have the upper hand, but also in a place that proclaims with all that is in it that we will not be shaped by the violence of the past. Rather we will use those wounds as launch-pad for a wider compassion founded on an understanding that we are all wounded, and all equally to blame for the wounds that others carry. 

I'm often proud of working at Coventry Cathedral, conscious of the power of that resolve to foreswear the easy division of humanity into "us" and "them", foe and friend, which inspired Provost Howard to have just two words written in the sanctuary of his ruined Cathedral.
Tonight, too, I know there is no "us" and "them". We have messed up collectively. We haven't loved enough. have pursued our own interests, as individuals and as nations, all too assiduously. 
And as a result, fear and hatred drove across London Bridge yesterday afternoon.

Father, forgive


Anonymous said...

Thank you. (And to prove that someone is reading this...)

Doc Ditherer said...

Ditto. Thank you Kathryn