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Pain... and hope

The cries of anguish we've heard in 2020 have to lead to lasting change, writes Diane Watts 

Pain and Hope

As I write, 2020 is drawing to a close and we walk towards Christmas hearing the words of love and hope and light and peace. I am sure we will welcome in 2021 with extra enthusiasm, not wishing to look back or re-live the deep challenges of this past year. 

BUT  …  I do not want to run ahead into 2021. I want to take some time to root myself in the pain of this year. I cannot step forward without remembering, without reflecting on and re-learning all the threads that have come to me.

Let me tell you what I have heard and seen this year, from the confined spaces of lockdown. I have heard the cries of my black sisters and brothers as they viscerally experienced the pain of a knee about their neck. I have seen the faces of frustration as my brothers and sisters tell me yet again of the struggle for justice, not new. I have heard the cry:

  • ‘But how long?’  
  • ‘How long must we struggle for justice to be more than just words, to be real?’ 
  • ‘How many times must we re-live the pain and re-tell our story?’

I have touched the anger which cries out, ‘no more fine words’ and which calls for lasting change. And I have tasted the salty tears which fall because the Church, the Body of Christ, has been so slow to hear, to respond and to lead in love, with hope and peace, towards the light. I have asked myself so many times, have we failed all God’s creation, taking our eyes off our Saviour and have we forgotten that we have been given the task to be the light shining on the hill even in the hardest places?  

And so, at the end of this year, this particularly difficult year, I must stand with my head bowed before the coming King and admit that for so long I have not looked or listened well or learned well from my brothers and sisters of colour.   

No more. Too often I have turned away from pain; no more. Too often the richness of our diversity has passed me by; no more. Too often the potential beauty of our meeting places is lacking; no more.  

No more. For not one of us can flourish when justice for my brothers and sisters of colour is absent. We cannot live well or shine as stars in the world, until together as one we stand.  

2020 has seen much and heard many words spoken, but words can never be enough. Here perhaps silence is where we must find ourselves. Silence as we bow the knee and seek the mind of Christ, walking silently towards the cross of redemption and into the glorious resurrection which means freedom for all. From the silence flows action, deep and true. Action that changes me and the world around me. 

And so, in this space, as the year passes on its baton, there is hope; there is a bright light shining in the darkness. As the Christ child enters our world, without limit, emptied of all glory taking the place of a servant, so too we come. Starting in the darkest of stables we walk forward, grafted together into the True Vine. Together honouring each other as members of the Body of Christ, in humility regarding each other as better than ourselves and looking only to the interests of others.

At the end of 2020, in the sunset of this year, I will leave the final word with Phillis Wheatley.  Sold into slavery at seven years old, she saw in all of nature God’s immense glory that called her and others to strive for greater in this life. To remember His calling us out of darkness into his marvellous light to be a royal priesthood and proclaim His mighty deeds.

Here is our hope. My prayer is that in 2021 we grab this hope, embody it and live powerfully so lives are changed.

A Hymn to the Evening
By Phillis Wheatley 

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main
The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain;
Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr's wing,
Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.
Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes,
And through the air their mingled music floats.
Through all the heav'ns what beauteous dies are spread!
But the west glories in the deepest red:
So may our breasts with ev'ry virtue glow,
The living temples of our God below!
Fill'd with the praise of him who gives the light,
And draws the sable curtains of the night,
Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind,
At morn to wake more heav'nly, more refin'd;
So shall the labours of the day begin
More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.
Night's leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes,
Then cease, my song, till fair Aurora rise.


Diane Watts is Faith and Society Team Leader 


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