On Wednesday last week the General Synod was debating the Anglican Covenant – in the end reasonably abortively as the GAFCON conservatives had decided 6 weeks ago that they weren’t going to take part in the process, and helpfully let the rest of the world know five minutes after the Synod vote. (Find out more at Thinking Anglicans)
Anyway, leaving Church House we were overwhelmed by the noise of three helicopters – part of the policing of another student protest. Amazing how that noise added to the tension, and later in the day there were many reports of the “kettling” of the protesters. After the violence during the previous protest the heightening of the police presence was understandable.
It was only much later that I came across the story of Zoe Williams. While I was debating a change to the nature of the Qualifiying Connections for marriage in a multi-parish benefice, she was standing in between a mob and a police van. They wanted to attack it and turn it over. She, a Fine Art student, simply realised that such violence would achieve nothing, and so she stood in the way. Others joined her, and the van was safe.
Preaching on Advent Sunday it suddenly hit me that her action was a superb example of what Christians are called to do in these days when we await the Second Coming. As citizens of heaven we are required to intervene in the inevitable cycles of violence which characterise human existence. Where there is a downward spiral we should stand in the way, ushering anything which is devastated and broken into the enfolding love of God. I wonder whether I would have done what Zoe Williams did…I hope I would.
And it made me wonder what situations I either encourage or am complicit in where there is disagreement (which is OK), which leads to enmiity, hatred, a prolonging of ancient hatred, a cycle of despair. And I wonder how I might stand in the way of such inevitabilities, and bring into them the hope of a new way of being. The day after her intervention, Zoe Williams was in a lecture on the influence of the Bible on the art of the Renaissance. She’s a pretty good example of the influence of the Bible on us, if you ask me. In Westminster on Wednesday afternoon a sword was turned into a ploughshare…and it wasn’t by the Church of England.