PCN Newsletter 21st May
This is the ninth is our series of lockdown newsletters
Marcus Borg Memorial Conference – Postponement to 2021
PCN members and friends will know that we had planned our fifth conference in honour of Marcus Borg to be held in Birmingham in October in association wit the Church at Carrs Lane. We had invited Revd Deshna Shine to lead our day and plans were well in hand. Deshna is the Executive Director of the Progressive Christian movement in the USA. It is now clear that it will be some considerable time before we all feel safe to attend conferences and Deshna has agreed to lead the conference in the autumn of 2021, when we do hope a vaccine will have been discovered and be universally available.
A Post – Coronavirus New World?
Thanks to members who continue to send to Sarah their ideas on what changes are needed in our society as a result of lessons learnt from this dreadful pandemic. Last week I began a conversation on the notion of a Universal Basic Income, which some members had advocated in their replies and I have begun a blog on our website so we can continue that particular conversation. One of our members , Mike Dennis, has kindly drawn attention to a 2016 publication,“Citizen’s Basic Income - a Christian Social Policy” by Malcolm Torrey. It makes the case for the introduction of a basic income for all persons and links the case to Christian ethical and social teachings. Might be worth sourcing a copy.
Next week in this newsletter I want to begin a conversation about how we value key workers such as care assistants, a matter mentioned by many members.
One of the purposes of this newsletter is to point you to resources that you may wish to use, both during lockdown and in the future. As many of you will know the Centre for Radical Christianity is moving to a fully online presence. This means that there are now additional resources that can be accessed from www.crconline.org.uk
When will this end? I’ve had enough of this. I want to be able to talk to someone without having to guess how far 2 metres is, or worry about what observers are thinking. I want to go and visit my family. Go away for a few days. Have a meal in a restaurant. Not have to queue to get into a supermarket. Just do a million and one things I’d taken for granted. Aaaargh!
But, I can’t. I shouldn’t. And being inconvenienced now is a lot better than risking my own, my family’s, and other people’s health because I’m fed up with being kept mainly between these four walls. It is also inappropriate as there are many who wish they were in my position. Within our society there are many struggling to keep afloat or wearing themselves out caring for others. And when we look to other places in the world that were fragile even before this, it truly highlights the privileged position many of us find ourselves in.
But knowing that doesn’t stop me being fed up. And whatever feelings we have, bottling them up doesn’t help. Our families might not appreciate us letting loose, as they have their own challenges, but God is willing and able to listen to what is on our hearts.
Too often we only think we can bring before God what we are thankful for, and our concerns for others. And too often what we do bring is a shopping list of our own
desires and wants. But you only have to look to the Psalms to hear anguished cries to God, and we have Paul’s words to the church in Rome:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who
searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26–27 (NRSV)
So as we continue to stay home and stay safe, let us remember that God is still there. This isn’t great, but it could be much worse. And that however we are feeling, God is there beside, around and beyond us. God is already listening, knows how you are feeling, and the Spirit is willing to stir, move and embrace you.
With every blessing,
Rev’d David R. Coaker, PCN Trustee and Editor of Progressive Voices
The Lord is my key worker, I shall not want for essential supplies.
He makes me lie down in clean pastures; with beds scrubbed, protected eyes smiling;
She leads me beside still waters, down empty rainbow’d streets;
They restores my dignity, and my soul.
Even though I walk, sit, am wheeled through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil of abandonment or complacency
for you are with me;
your truck, and your mop, and your gloved hand –
they comfort me.
You prepare a takeaway box before me
in the presence of those who disparage you;
you anoint my head with a fresh shampoo, my body with new sewn scrubs;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life
and I shall dwell in the warehouse, in the care home, in the hospice of the Lord my whole life long.
Written by Rev Alice Watson, for ‘Liturgy in a Dangerous Time’.
Last week Adrian began summarising the positive changes that you have suggested and I think that my number one would simply be ‘be kinder’. Kinder to the environment, kinder to one another, kinder to ourselves.
Through my hobby of salsa dancing I come into contact with a very wide range of people, some of whom have views with which I disagree but since I am not required to like them, simply to dance alongside them, by mutual agreement we let it go.
But last week one of those acquaintances had posted online and said words to the effect that he was of an age where he was unlikely to die of Covid-19, that we couldn’t stay locked up forever, and most of the people who had died were going to die soon anyway. His conclusion was that we may as well get back to normal. His first two statements are true and the third is a matter of debate, but in combination what they showed was a lack of empathy, a dedication to championing the desires of the individual regardless of the cost to others. I don’t know whether he knew when he wrote that that one of our mutual salsa acquaintances was grieving the loss of her father to Covid-19 – I would like to think not.
And this is where I realise that ‘be kinder’ is not simple. In being kind to myself I walked away from the conversation with him, but if I were truly trying to be kind should I not have tried to express to him the need for empathy and social responsibility? At what point does my need for kindness to myself become of greater importance than my desire for a kinder world for all? I’m not sure there is a quantifiable answer to either of those questions.
After I had read what this man had written I was trying to formulate a suitable (and printable) response, I explained to my husband the situation and he very calmly gave me a hug. I have that kindness in my home and my life and for that I am grateful. My sadness is that the man from salsa would probably have laughed at me for needing that comfort. He seems to have no idea of the magic of kindness and its power to remake our lives.
Sarah Guilfoyle, Administrator PCN Britain