Wednesday, November 02, 2005


There's no denying that the Church of England can put on a good show, as we saw at St Paul's yesterday. But to what ends and for whom? The occasion was dignified, as it should be, but it is still painful that in a ceremony to commemorate the lives of those killed in the 7/7 London bombings, people of a number of faiths and none, so many voices were passed over by the particular form of 'inclusiveness' which the Established Church chooses -- a walk-on role for other faith communities, and none for those of non-religious or humanist convictions. Our gaff, our rules. The way of Jesus? You'd have a hard time convincing me. The subversive goodness of the Samaritan was barely acknowledged.

Even so, Rowan Williams has a genuine humility and a way with words which often communicates beyond the limits of a 'grand occasion'. His address was spoken out of deep Christian convictions (it is vital that we speak as who we are), while also evoking space for others in a way that was more than token politeness -- as he showed by his opening remarks, and in a variety of references which demonstrated, as one mourner put it, "genuine empathy" for those who might be seeing and experiencing things rather differently in their moment of anguish. The full text is here. I've chosen the following excerpt:

"If it were true that one victim would be as good as any other, which is what the terrorist believes, the human world would be a completely different place, unrecognisable to most of us. We are here grieving, after all, because those who so pointlessly and terribly died were, each one of them, precious, non-replaceable. And those who suffered injury and deep trauma and loss are likewise unique, their minds and hearts scarred by this suffering. Time gives perspective and may bring healing; but the trauma of violence, and even more the death of someone we love makes a difference that nothing will ever completely unmake. The poet W.H. Auden captures this sense of injuries that never really heal as he writes of the biblical story of the Massacre of the Innocents –

Somewhere in these unending wastes of delirium is a lost child, speaking of Long Ago in the language of wounds.

Tomorrow, perhaps, he will come to himself in Heaven.

But here Grief turns her silence, neither in this direction, nor in that, nor for any reason.
And her coldness now is on the earth forever.

"The loss by violence of a loved person leaves always that chill, that silence. We know there really is a tomorrow; religious believers are confident that there is a ‘last awakening’ to the face of God. But how very weak and trivial a thing our human love would be if the ‘language of wounds’ did not haunt us, speaking of a unique face and voice and personality.

"But that is why even our grief on an occasion like today becomes an action that is prophetic, challenging, an action that resists terror. To those who proclaim by their actions that it doesn’t matter who suffers, who dies, we say in our mourning, ‘No. There are no generalities for us, no anonymous and interchangeable people. We live by loving what’s special, unique in each person. Everyone matters.’ "

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