Hymns for Peace? #MPNN

How often has a hymn taken your breath away as you have sung it? Today’s call to ‘Make Peace the New Normal’ is a chance for us to turn into song our shared commitment to Peace.

Earlier this year, Peacelinks, our newsletter, carried a fascinating analysis of the work of Shirley Murray and Graham Maule, both of whom had died. Hymnwriter Andrew Pratt explained the power of their work:

Their significance cannot be underestimated. How far
hymns will be useful in the future we cannot tell,
but corporate song binds people together, enables
us to express thoughts, emotions and convictions
that are more difficult to communicate in prose.
We remember songs and they can motivate and
reinforce communal action. Murray and Maule
have both written in a way that underlines peace
and justice.

As our day of ‘Making Peace the New Normal’ draws to a close why not draw your thoughts together by writing a hymn? Our current situation, locally and globally has much to say about what it means to be a disciple today.

Gary Hopkins, a Midlands Hymnwriter, offered the following yesterday as his reaction to the world today:

(Note: It can be sung to the tune(s) Abbotts Leigh or Scarlett Ribbons )

  1. God, our anger at injustice
    swells from deep within our core:
    anger at decision makers
    for oppression we deplore;
    anger at the ones who lead us
    for indifference to the poor;
    anger at the lies, deception,
    selfishness that we abhor.

2. Systems made to serve the privileged,
tightly gripped by those with power –
stripping others of life chances –
edicts from an ivory tower.
God our anger fires within us:
bring your justice, liberate;
come and shatter worldly systems;
take the least and make them great!

3. Channel grief and anger in us;
let us be your voice and hands.
Spirit, guide our justice-seeking,
take us where your love demands.
Christ destroys the powers and forces,
chains of bondage, unjust strife,
not by might and raging violence
but a sacrificial life.

4. How long, Maker, Word and Spirit,
till such evils are reversed?
How long till your reign is finished
and the last become the first?
Hear us God, we pray for justice,
hear our cries for those oppressed,
hear our voices, never silenced,
till the least are truly blessed.

© Gary Hopkins 2020
Suggested Tunes: Abbot’s Leigh or Scarlet Ribbons

Statement on #VEDAY75

Today the nation marks the end of the fighting in Europe. As a Fellowship we know it will remind us all of many different memories, stories and thoughts.

Our Chair, Richard Bickle, released the following statement:

“We will join people throughout the UK and around the world as they reflect on the end of fighting in Europe during the Second World War.

As we do so, we remember that there are no real winners in war, casualties occur on all sides and conscript armies are forced to fight one another. Many of those who returned as heroes brought with them deep wounds from all they had seen and done.

There are few people still alive who remember the relief felt at the end of the war in Europe, however the need to build lasting peace is as needed today as it has ever been.”

Trustee Thoughts – This #VEday75 What Are We Remembering

Rev Christopher Collins, Trustee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, shares his thoughts, dis-ease, and prayers for VE Day 75

If I’m honest, the upcoming VE Day commemorations had largely slipped me by, buried under Covid-19 life and ministry. Lockdown means it will feel like any other day. This changed when someone asked me what the church was doing to celebrate VE Day. My dis-ease of doing anything was greeted with shock. “We should do something” I was counselled, “because that’s where the zeitgeist is.”. Buoyed by the prospect of homemade bunting and socially distanced street parties, it seems to be the implied that it will keep our spirits up as lockdown continues.

I’m not comfortable with the idea of “celebrating” because I am not convinced we are sure about what it is we are celebrating. If it’s a moment in history then is it because we vanquished our enemy? If so we should remember that history is written by the victor, therefore it feels insensitive to the memories of the millions who were killed in the conflict no matter which uniform – or non – they wore. If we celebrate our military prowess in battle, it suggests that invasion and combat are always the ways we should settle our international disputes. We parade our troops and hardware but where do we celebrate our non-violent reconcilers who bring conflicts to an end? It’s only been a few weeks since the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday agreement in 2018 largely passed us all by, without its own bank holiday to mark that creation of peace.

If we are honest with ourselves, do we live differently because of VE Day? Or is our human nature still drawn into the ways of living that rake the seed bed of conflict: our distrust of other nations (perhaps even more so now because of Covid-19), our covetousness of what other people have, greed which exploits, our indifference to refugees and homeless and our pride which leads us trust in ourselves.

For me, stepping back from sepia toned celebrations and, instead, turning to prayer is a more appropriate way of marking VE Day. I am going to pray for peace. My go to prayer for peace is Coventry Cathedral’s “Litany of Reconciliation”. This prayer, formed in the ashes of a cathedral flattened by bombing, puts the seedbed rake in our hands. It does not ask God to forgive “them”, but to forgive us all because we are all complicit at some level. It reminds me, in the litany of prongs to the rake, that the way I can attend to peace-making is to take care of the hatred, covetousness, greed, envy, indifference, lust and pride which builds in me. Only then can we challenge the world around us and build real and lasting peace.

So, today, I will be pausing and leading others in praying the litany recognising our continuing need for peace 75 years after VE Day.

Coventry Cathedral Litany of Reconciliation:

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,

Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,

Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,

Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,

Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,

Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,

Father, forgive.

Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you[1]


[1] http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/ccn/the-coventry-litany-of-reconciliation/

A joint statement from the Network of Christian Peace Organisations

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations brings many different Peace Groups togehter

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, called for a global ceasefire in light of the coronavirus, saying: The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. The threats we face as a planet, health pandemics and climate change among them, demand a coordinated international response with no room for continuing to waste resources on armed conflict.

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations urges our government to robustly support this call by discontinuing the sale of arms during this crisis and calling on all involved in current conflicts around the world to lay down their arms.

We are encouraged by the prompt, creative response of British manufacturers to the urgent need for new ventilators and the London ExCel Centre which hosts the DSEI Arms Fair, being used instead for a socially productive purpose as the Nightingale Hospital.

This crisis is teaching the world much about the values of compassion and fairness, and the ability of societies to care for the most vulnerable as the basis of security. All our efforts now are rightly focused on preserving life and we have been heartened by the huge efforts made to this end, and by the strengthening of community bonds across the nation. The coming weeks will be painful for society. We will need time to grieve and to reflect.  We hope that the bonds of common humanity, coupled with the compassion and imagination being deployed today can create a lasting legacy for future generations.

  • Sue Claydon, Chair, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
  • John Cooper, Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Theresa Alessandro, Director, Pax Christi UK
  • Martin Tiller, Co-Chair,  Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • Andrew Jackson, Paul Maxwell-Rose, Co-Directors, Christian International Peace Service
  • Oliver Robertson, Head of Worship & Witness for Quaker Peace & Social Witness
  • Philip Austin, Coordinator, Northern Friends Peace Board
  • Andrew Fox, President, Community of Christ (British Isles)
  • Roger Stuart, acting Chair, Congregational Peace Fellowship
  • Lydia Funck, General Secretary, Church and Peace
  • Helena Ripley, Trustee, Student Christian Movement
  • David Rice, Chair, Methodist Peace Fellowship

URC Peace Fellowship becomes part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation

The URC Peace Fellowship has announced that its work is to continue as part of the ecumenical charity, the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

The Peace Fellowship was set up in 1999 to raise the profile of issues of peace and justice in the United Reformed Church, and support members in peace making initiatives at local, national and international levels. It has worked closely with the Church & Society team at Church House, and the Joint Public Issues Team.

After a period of reflection and consultation, the Fellowship’s committee decided last year that the best way for members to continue to be engaged with issues of peace making and peace building would be as part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR), with which it has worked closely over many years. It has invited all members to join FoR, and will wind up its activities as an independent organisation this month.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation supports its members by providing opportunities to meet with other peacemakers from around the country and to take action locally. This includes an annual educational conference, producing resources for use individually or in collective worship, a regular newsletter, and providing opportunities to campaign for change and connect with peacemakers around the globe.

Andrew Jack, outgoing convenor of the Peace Fellowship, commented: “The URC Peace Fellowship has worked to ensure that peace is given its rightful place within the denomination, although it has not always been possible to ensure that these matters received the attention they were due. I feel some sadness that we have had to conclude that the URC Peace Fellowship no longer has an independent future, but recognise the possibilities for future witness to Christian peace-making and peace building that is offered within FoR. The future for the URC Peace Fellowship within FoR raises exciting opportunities for a more effective witness for peace in the present challenging political climate. I pray that these new arrangements will be a step forward in bringing God’s peace on earth.”

Simeon Mitchell, Secretary for Church and Society, commented: “For 20 years, the URC Peace Fellowship has played a key role in bringing together URC members with a commitment to peacemaking and raising peace concerns within and beyond the denomination. It has been an important complement to the education and advocacy on issues such nuclear weapons and drones carried out through the ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team. I am delighted that URC peacemakers will continue to be supported and brought together under the auspices of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.”

John Cooper, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, added: “The United Reformed Church has often challenged and shaped the wider peace and justice witness of the wider Christian Church. This has included an Assembly Report about Non-Violent protest in the 1980s and the vast hymnody of Fred Kaan. More recently it was ministers Melanie Smith and Mark Meatcher leading inspiring worship and witness in protest against the DSEI Arms Fair. The Peace Fellowship has long worked with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and we look forward to a future with increased URC membership and a future URC network of peacemakers emerging.”

Fellowship Reflects and Looks

This year the Fellowship is taking time to reflect back and to look forward. We’re exploring where our story has taken us and considering where we could go next.

This time of reflection intends to both challenging and inspiring. It’ll give the Fellowship a chance to celebrate successes, reflect on things that didn’t work out and begin to define our next steps on the path to peace.

Members have just received an email with a survey, inviting some initial thoughts/views. We’ll shortly be issuing the next issue of Peacelinks and that will include a paper version of the survey.

Our relationships are not just personal but also institutional, and so we will spend time with like-minded partners and fellow members of IFOR to explore what they celebrate about the Fellowship and what their challenges to us our.

It’ll be a challenging few months and we look forward to listening in on all that everyone share.

Christians Condemn Nuclear Warhead Deal

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, a group of Christian Peacemakers which traces its witness for peace and justice back more than 100 years, is concerned about recent news regarding the renewal of the UK’s nuclear warheads.

Chair Richard Bickle said:

“This policy shows real contempt for the promises made by the UK government when it signed the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Instead of working for nuclear disarmament, this decision locks in dependence on nuclear weapons for the generations to come.

We believe that the estimated cost of £31Bn could be much better spent tackling the real threats to our future security posed by the impacts of climate change.”

The decision emerged when Strategic Command Admiral Charles Richard told a Senate hearing last week that a replacement warhead called W93 or Mk7 was needed in the US.  He added: “This effort will also to support a parallel replacement warhead programme in the United Kingdom whose nuclear deterrent plays an absolutely vital role in NATO’s overall defence posture.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has since confirmed that it is working towards replacing the warheads.  A spokesperson, said: “As previously stated in the 2015 defence review, we can confirm that we are working towards replacing the warhead.”

A Prayer as Brexit Approaches

We asked Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal, FoR Member and President of the Methodist Peace Fellowship, to share a prayer for use in this time of change:

Feel free to use and share his words:
_____________________________________________________ 

PRAYER FOR OUR TIMES

Holy God
Creator of the universes, the heavens and the earth.
You make all people in your image;
You know the hurts and hopes of us all;
Your presence is deep within us and around us.
Holy are your ways and holy is your name.

Forgive us
For all the ways in which
We assault and abuse your image in us, and in your creation around us.

Forgive us
For seeking the best for ourselves but not others, and so often at the expense of others.

Forgive us
That our highest ideals are marred by our selfishness.

Forgive us
for our ways and words that
Bruise and break relationships, households, congregations, communities, neighbourhoods and nations.

Forgive us
For the inhumanity, inhospitality, hatred, wars and violence
Which destroy homes and displace people.

Forgive us
For the inhumane, inhospitable and hate-filled treatment
of people seeking sanctuary, and of refugees.

Bring us and the world to always build cultures and communities of hospitality and justice

Where all are welcome, valued, belong equally, and have sanctuary and well-being.

Strengthen us to work with you to heal hurts,
keep hope alive,
to make all things new,
and never to tire of seeking justice and peace.

In the Name of Christ.
Amen.

A Covenant of Peace?

We invited Reverend Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference, to reflect on what the Covenant of Peace could mean today:

Rev Dr Glasson speaks with David at the Tent of Nations (c) TMCP

On a hilltop overlooking Bethlehem, David who farms these olive groves looks out over the settlements that move towards his land  ‘I refuse to have enemies, I refuse to hate, hope is resistance.’ David is increasingly powerless, a pawn in international politics and land occupations, and yet, David is divinely powerful. He will not be made smaller by  what he sees, he will not make himself bigger by rubbishing another.

In politics, in racism, in families we witness all around us people who are belittling others. They do this in so many ways, by sneering, by ridicule, by gossip, by fake news,  as well as by war, politics and tribalism. One person tries to feel taller by making someone else shorter. Ultimately this process is designed to make the ‘other’ disappear entirely. Belittling is an act of violence.

I have been intrigued over Christmas by the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. Both unexpected children, one to elderly parents who were past hope, the other the surprising first born of a young woman. John who cuts a wild figure renouncing the company of the world, Jesus who mixes with tax collectors and sinners. Different though they were, they both saw in the other one not a threat but a completeness. John knewthat in Jesus something new was happening that will be greater than himself. Jesus knew that John was the ‘Elijah that was to come (Matthew 11:14) These two strange and different men, were not rivals but part of the same story, the story of a Kingdom that was to come. Neither grew bigger by belittling the other but by recognising the need of each other and naming it.

When David refuses to hate and to have enemies it is not a resignation to the events around him. When his olive trees are cut down, he plants more, when his buildings are demolished he pitches tents. When John says, ‘there is one that comes after me that is greater than I’ he is speaking of possibility not resignation. To find the best in someone else, is to find the best in ourselves.

Rev Dr Barbara Glasson

So, hope is resistance, it is a verb, it is a commitment to live differently, it is supremely powerful, not at the expense of someone else but for the transformation of all of us. And hope is not wishful thinking, it is a call to action. In 2020 we are called to hope, and that means to be people who will not rubbish others to make ourselves bigger.

And if this feels like an impossible task in the face of political upheaval and environmental threat, then we need to remind ourselves that it is only possible because we are promised a covenant relationship with God – we are God’s people and we are called into relationship not only with our creator but with the whole of creation. We are never loved any less by God by loving others, indeed the contrary is true. God’s covenant of peace means to see each other as God sees us and to say so!

Fellowship of Reconciliation Responds to Queens Speech

Richard Bickle, Chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, said there was a need for accountability and an investment in peace if elements of today’s Queens Speech are to be met.

He said:

“The Fellowship shares wider concerns of the Peace and Human Rights movements that Government plans to tackle so-called “vexacious claims” against British Personnel could lead to abuse being swept under the carpet. If lasting peace and true reconciliation is to be found in situations of former conflict then honesty and accountability from all sides needs to be central.

The announcement of a comprehensive review of the United Kingdom’s Security, Defence and Foreign policies, provides a chance for the UK to focus on security building through peacebuilding, rather than over-investing in weapons of war. We encourage the review to take seriously the need for non-violent conflict prevention and resolution to be a pillar of UK foreign policy and defence.”