July 4 creeps in as fast as any other day of the year. What can an Englishman say about it and not appear ignorant or patronising?
I’ve been saving this poem by America’s Emily Dickinson for a suitable occasion. Perhaps we need hope on both sides of the Atlantic? It can be ours, if we listen for the tune without words; too many hasty, unreflective words have been spoken of late, threatening unity rather than building it up. Let us pray for unity as we listen to the Spirit within.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I 've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
A thoughtful greeting from Pope Francis to Queen Elizabeth.
Yesterday saw the start of a weekend of celebrations across the United Kingdom on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne.
Marking this milestone, Pope Francis has sent a telegram to the Queen offering his prayers and good wishes. In it, he says: “On this joyful occasion of your Majesty’s birthday, and as you celebrate this Platinum Jubilee year, I send cordial greetings and good wishes, together with the renewed assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will bestow upon you, the members of the Royal Family and all the people of the nation blessings of unity, prosperity and peace.”
In recognition of the monarch’s commitment to the care of God’s creation, Pope Francis is donating a Cedar of Lebanon to the Queen’s Green Canopy project. He expressed the hope that this tree, “which in the Bible symbolises the flourishing of fortitude, justice and prosperity, would be a pledge of abundant divine blessings” upon her realm.
The project invites people from across the United Kingdom to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”. As well as inviting the planting of new trees, The Queen’s Green Canopy will dedicate a network of 70 Ancient Woodlands across the United Kingdom and identify 70 Ancient Trees to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of service.
We invite readers to pray for the Queen and the people of her realm, and especially for unity, prosperity and peace. Let us pray, too, for the people of Lebanon to recover these same gifts.
So I have a new name, refugee.
Strange that a name should take away from me
My past, personality and hope.
Strange refuge then.
So many seem to share this name, refugee,
Yet we share so many differences.
I find no comfort in my new name.
I long to share my past, restore my pride,
To show I too in time will offer
More than I have borrowed.
For now the comfort that I seek
Resides in the old yet new name
I would choose, friend.
Written by a twelve year old Afghan Refugee.
Mrs Turnstone spotted this poem in an exhibition at Canterbury Baptist Church.
During my lifetime our country has made room for different groups of refugees: to name a few, exiles from Eastern European Communism, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people, people oppressed for their sexuality or because of their opposition to dictatorships. They and their descendants are part of our society, offering more than they have borrowed.
So why are our shores so unwelcoming today? And why do people not only flee their homes but also seek to come here to Britain? Welcoming or rejecting the stranger, which is our true self?