A distinctive feature of our times is the voice of the marginalised, which is heard in a way that was never possible before. This morning, on the BBC website (in addition to COVID stories!) there were stories about loneliness, anti-Semitism, a hijab option for New Zealand police uniform to encourage Muslim women to join the police, and an article about Grenfell Tower victims. That is on a morning when there are no stories about Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, indigenous peoples or the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
The bible often encourages us to look after those on the margins, especially strangers, orphans and widows (e.g. Deut 26: 12, Is 58: 6-7, James 1: 27). Historically the Church has had an important role in caring for and speaking out for people on the margins of society. Then in more modern times charities started to take on this role. The Church of England Central Home for Waifs and Strays (The Children’s Society) started in 1881. Media organisations have sometimes promoted the cause of those on the margins, but it is social media that has proved to be a complete game changer. Suddenly it is much easier for voices at the margins to find solidarity and support. By sharing on social media, issues can gain a very high profile very quickly. It is ironic that social media has been used to highlight abuse and failings in the Church and children’s homes; the very institutions which should be most concerned about people on the margins.
Journalists engage with social media, and at times news broadcasts can seem like a cacophony of anguished cries from the margins. Sometimes it can just seem too much, and my instinct is to turn away. Sometimes I manage a more Christian response, and find some willingness to share the pain. At this time, the CofE is launching a Living in Love and Faith dialogue process about sexuality. I feel the need to take part and share in some of the pain.
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. God has taken on a human nature and come to earth to share in all the joys and sorrows of our human experience. He showed a particular preference for those on the margins of society, notably tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2: 15-17), lepers, foreigners, the sick and demon processed. The Samaritan woman was shocked when he spoke to her (John 5: 9). Jesus showed extraordinary solidarity with people on the margins, even when they were there because of moral problems. He showed a willingness to share the pain.
So let’s praise God for the birth of Jesus, and God’s willingness to share our pain.
With prayers and best wishes,
Prayer about listening
Lord, help us to listen to each other
to be gentle with one another,
to forgive each other
and to be willing to laugh at ourselves.
Amen. Angela Ashwin