As the year turns, stay angry...and change the world.
As the first day of the new year dawns, many of us are gaining strength, this year in particular, from the thought of a fresh start. 2016 really was the year that kept on taking - our heroes and our icons, our sense of community and belonging, our safety and our strength. Today is a day not for looking back, but for looking forward, for kindling hope, for mustering strength.
None of us knows what the new year will have in store - but we can be pretty certain that this will be the year when we really need to face the cost of creating the kind of world which reflects more closely the Gospel values of justice, compassion and hope. We can be tempted to dwell in a rainbow-tinted echo chamber, with people who see the world more or less the way we do, with the same priorities and perspective, and with whom it's easy to agree. We can so easily forget that outside our bubble, terrible, terrible things are happening which make our own cares and concerns seem insignificant and petty.
So today I want to offer just two things which I hope will challenge and inspire you as you face all that 2017 will hold. Neither of them require you to lose weight, learn a language or give up alcohol for a month, you'll be relieved to learn!
The first is this: I have been hugely inspired my LGBT Christians I meet who are engaged in the quiet activism of making the world a better place. Not especially fighting for our rights, or challenging the institution or being prophetic (though I see lots of that too, and I love it!) Beyond my world of faith and spirituality and transformation, they are doing a different kind of remarkable thing. And here's one - a really wonderful initiative by one of LGCM's friends and supporters.
Refugees at Home is a small UK based group aiming to connect those with a spare room in their home with asylum seekers and refugees in need of accommodation. It's really that simple. Like LGCM, they're a small organisation and they're dependent upon volunteers - volunteer hosts, and volunteers to help assess potential homes. If you want to make a small and practical difference, could you help? Could your church help? Could you spread the word? In the bigness of an overwhelming and frightening world, this seems to me to be embody our calling as Christians to offer hospitality, to welcome people who are finding our community hostile and strange. It's a wonderful idea, and with the infrastructure and support offered by Refugees at Home, it's possible for you to do in 2017.
The second thing I'd like to share are some words from Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, which originally appeared in a post on Jayne Ozanne's excellent Via Media stream back in the autumn. You can read the full post here - and if you're not already familiar with Via Media, it would be a good new year's resolution, if you still need one, to check it out every now and again. Bishop Paul talks about anger, and offers us a challenge and an opportunity about how we use our anger for change, and transformation, and for good. His words are pinned on the noticeboard in our office; perhaps they will inspire you too in 2017.
Be warmly angry
Be warmly angry,
be hot with anger, but do not boil away.
Be warmly angry,
but do not boil away.
Feel what you feel,
and turn the feeling to strength.
Don’t mourn, organise.
Let the person you are in God speak out,
so that your own desires and your own anger
become the engine for a just world.
Come as you are.
Be as you are.
Bring your heart’s desire
to bear on the life of our community.
Make yourself heard,
and if people like me act as if we know you
better than you know yourself,
then set us to rights,
tell us the truth,
motivate and stir and provoke us
to know your anger as you know it.
And then, please, for all our sakes,
exercise your courage,
the virtue by which
your aggression becomes reasonable.
And bring your courage to bear
on the councils of the church.
And share facts and logic and
truth and history and perspective,
and (yes, of course!) argument.
But never lose your anger,
even after you’ve let it blow through you
as the sun goes down,
and refused to allow it to consume you.
Bring your next-morning anger,
your tempered anger,
your reasonable passion,
the truth of how you feel,
and contribute it to the whole community,
which desperately needs to listen to it.
Make a difference.
Return, day after day,
in the face of discouragement
to make a difference again.
Keep on making a difference
until things are different.