Lent #19 – Ten Reflections

Written as a part of a Lent 2017 project. 

Freddie Alexander

  1. We worry too much about being holy. Perhaps this is a fear of being damned. As if there is a small island of redemption and holiness, surrounded by a great ocean of damnation. What if these roles were reversed? What if holiness was not a state we kept struggling towards, but a state of contemplation to rest within?
  2. We start Lent with every good intention. “It is just forty days.” Being able to live with not living up to our expectations is a more interesting test of character.
  3. I recently listened to a discussion between Krista Tippet and Richard Rhor, in which Richard described people seeing him in contemplation and describing his face as sad. Richard was surprised at this, because he was the happiest he had ever been. Joy is deep. It can be cultivated out of the sunlight.
  4. These practices come and go, turning on cycles in the year. Lent is less something to take part in, and more something that occurs, inevitably, coming and going, like the tide. Living in peace with this tide seems to be a good life.
  5. How shall we be joyful? How shall we keep our lightness?
  6. Advent seems sadder than Lent. As the Resurrection caps Lent, the Slaughter of the Innocents caps Advent.
  7. I will find it more difficult to retreat in my everyday life. It is a careful eye that needs to maintain this practice. Being able to remove myself to sit upon the mountain and watch storms on the water is a valuable healing.
  8. We should not be so proud as to be wrong.
  9. We should not be so proud as to be right.
  10. Lent is a time to strip back to our core. How do we love, in our core? How do we live? How do we worship? How do we speak of these many difficult things to speak about? Stand taller. Be more.

NaPoWriMo #16 – You

You
Oh, you holiday home,
you luxury hotel,

you square mile, you village,
you puffed up nostalgia

you cultural abscess,
you five hours from London,

you windowless kitchen,
you three room apartment,

you wish you were Glasgow;
funny, cute, likeable,

you UNESCO crime scene
(formaldehyde stairwell),

you high street H&M,
you excessive blueness,

Edinburgh, you great bridge,
you meeting place of spires.

NaPoWriMo #15 – Poetry Isn’t Real

Poetry Isn’t Real
taken from the Lies, Dreaming NaPoWriMo prompt list #15

i have sPent too long trying
tO maintain my belief in what
i could not provE, what was
ouT of my grasp, and just as
i felt you Rest in my palm so
soon i knew You would dissipate

gIve me truth
give me underStanding
give me Nothing
but the lighT~

you are as staRlight to me
flecks of whitEness behind
the clouds, Above this disk
i Lay my head.

NaPoWriMo #12 – You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.

You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.

Persons.png

Appendix
The title of this poem is taken from a statement by Alvi Karimov in response to the accusations of over 100 gay men being abducted in Chechnya. The body of the poem is taken from Article 1 of the ‘1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.’ 

Lent #18 – A Chance to Witness

Written as a part of a Lent 2017 project. 

Joey Knock

Flowers

Demonstrating outside the Russian Embassy. Photo by Sarah Moore. See more at http://www.femmenism.co.uk/chechnya-protest/

I’m not used to making Holy Week or Easter a spiritual high point in my year. Sure, I go to church on Good Friday but it’s for the maybe-hot cross buns and the chat rather than the death of our Saviour. Yet even when I was wondering what cocktail to have for lunch during the Gospel reading (I settled for Long Island Iced Tea), the enormity of the story pricked away at me. And as we left, Johnny Cash sang out Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord).

I felt I was there, processing along the seafront carrying the cross, our church group smaller and older than it’s ever been before (at 27, I was the youngest). Martha and Sarah asked me how my new job at Stonewall was going. I struggled to explain what I do to these two stalwarts of the church, who I’ve always assumed to be homophobic with very little evidence. This was the first time Martha recognised that maybe I’m gay.

Why didn’t I tell them what’s happening in Chechnya and where I was on Wednesday? Outside the Russian Embassy with hundreds of queer activists and allies demanding a closure to the reported rounding up, encampment and murder of gay men. These men are the scapegoats that deadly hate creates, as was Jesus.

I didn’t see the connection on Wednesday. Despite a Lent of reading the Psalms and reengaging with The Lord’s Prayer, I didn’t think of praying for Chechnya. After the demo, a colleague invited us back to his flat. Fred, in his 40s, welcomed us as his husband Max, 80, told us about closeted life and heartbreak in the 1960s. My face was a picture all night long, sipping the wine and sipping the (metaphorical) tea.

Back at church on Good Friday over the promised cross buns, Diana told us how clearing out her late Mother’s home was going. Christine talked about her husband’s trip to an evangelical Christian festival that she finds too big. And Betty, who a month ago was walking, wheeled up next to me and shared my disappointment over the not-hot cross buns. However much I hate what homophobia the global church has created and maintained, I care deeply for the church ladies I drink actual tea with.

These still feel like parts of my life to reconcile. You can be gay and Christian, but I’m gay then Christian and usually feeling inadequate and inauthentic in both spaces. And then there’s Jesus. The pricking of an unimaginable story of crucifixion and resurrection that maybe I believe more than I think. A story that says I am here now, because I was there when they crucified Jesus and I must be there for the ‘crucifying’ of men in Chechnya. A story that, come Easter Day tomorrow, brings another promise that maybe I now believe or cling on to a little more. Love wins.

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How do you pray when it’s no longer your day job? After three and a half years working at Tearfund and Christian Aid, Joey is starting a new job at LGBT Organisation Stonewall. Joey blogs and tweets (@joeyknock) about faith, LGBTQ culture, masculinity, Disney, and Lorraine Kelly. Seaside walks in Southend make him happy.