"How little can the rich man know Of what the poor man feels, When Want, like some dark dæmon foe, Nearer and nearer steals! He never tramp'd the weary round, A stroke of work to gain, And sicken'd at the dreaded sound Telling him 'twas in vain. Foot-sore, heart-sore, he never came Back through the winter's wind, To a dark cellar, there no flame, No light, no food, to find. He never saw his darlings lie Shivering, the flags their bed; He never heard that maddening cry, 'Daddy, a bit of bread!'" William Gaskell (in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton, 1848)
Amanda Udis-Kessler (Colorado Springs) words, on the prompting of John Churcher (United Kingdom), have now been recorded by Canadian, Reba Sigler, who is also an opera singer. The wonders of internet communication! The recording can be found here - Reba Sigler sings Amanda Udis-Kessler's Rebuilding starts with weeping. US hymnwriter and sacred music composer Amanda Udis-Kessler wrote the text just after the 2020 US Presidential Election and has re-shared it following the violence at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. I have asked and been granted permission to reproduce it here. It is pertinent in the US context but also in the UK and Europe through pandemic and Brexit. Do visit her site - link below.
Rebuilding starts with weeping, with tears that fall like rain, With full and honest grieving for years of loss and pain, For suffering and sorrow that never had to be. Rebuilding starts with weeping for all who are not free. Rebuilding starts with praying, with hopes allowed a voice, With visions for our country, with reason to rejoice. We offer up our spirits, our hearts and minds and hands. Rebuilding starts with praying for strength to heal our land. Rebuilding starts with loving, with care for every soul, With yearning in compassion that all may yet be whole, That enemy and neighbor may know a better day. Rebuilding starts with loving, for love will show the way It is most often sung to the Bach Passion Chorale.
Amanda’s many other inclusive hymns, worship songs, and rounds are freely available for listening and download at https://queersacredmusic.com.
Days now to an anniversary…and we witness strife (an understatement) in Afghanistan and this hymn, perhaps still speaks to us. That saddens me (understatement again). I thought it would lose any validity or use within days of being written…I hoped
When will we ever learn…
Twenty years ago this year the USA, and with it the world, was shaken with the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. This exacerbated the polarisation of faith traditions and ideologies across the globe. Tensions increased and an ‘us and them’ mentality, already present, was exaggerated by political posturing, understandable, to a degree, in the light of what had happened. Broken bridges have still not been rebuilt but today those labelled enemies in Western nations are as much within as outside out borders and reconciliation is still needed. Ideologies are in tension with each other and this is overlaid by the threat of a pandemic. Global cooperation has never been more necessary. A hymn I wrote in 2001 within 24 hours of 9/11 is perhaps still pertinent…those we label or sense to be enemies inhabit the fabric of our own politics. Their actions are not as obvious but just as damaging…trust is at a premium…
1 God's on our side, and God will grieve at carnage, loss and death; for Jesus wept, and we will weep with every grieving breath. 2 God's on their side, the enemy, the ones we would despise; God quench our vengeance, still our pride, don't let our anger rise. 3 God's on each side, God loves us all, and through our hurt and pain G od shares the anguish, nail scarred hands reach out?love must remain. 4 God show us how to reconcile each difference and fear, that we might learn to love again and dry the other's tear. Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2001 Stainer and Bell Ltd., please include any use on your CCL Licence return or contact Stainer & Bell via www.stainer.co.uk. Administered in the USA by Hope Publishing. Tunes: AMAZING GRACE; BASIE (Kleinheksel)
Some of the poetry in Words, Images and Imagination are perhaps pertinent to this situation…
Not re-invention, something new.
A rim of steel bound to a wooden hoop.
Stressed by spokes from a hub.
The whole could revolve.
An axle between, harnessed these in pairs.
A frame, a chassis, could bear the weight.
A load could be carried, easily.
Food was transported.
Building materials shifted from place to place.
Loads became heavier, more extreme.
Not all things could be hefted.
Shoulder to the wheel lads.
Up the hill and down again.
Down again…they could not hold.
The runaway cart they could not watch.
A hundred metres, fifty, twenty.
Nearer the children till they heard the screams.
That’s all it took.
Spoke in the wheel.
Carnage – averted.
When will they ever learn?
In a chamber.
Progress? Bigger. Better?
winged now, cloud high.
Is it the mist blinds them?
That turns this glistering gold to dust;
that brings a different cargo now,
tossed over the side to make smithereens of all below?
A spanner in the works would save a life,
ten thousand maybe?
When will they ever learn?
But experience civilised us.
Language helps negotiation.
Jaw jaw, not war war.
The wheels of government turn, unseen.
Not covered by spats like 1930’s sports cars.
Doors close on the truth,
untruth behind the blinds…aptly named.
And rust grows, still the rust gnaws,
the squeals heard
are not really the cries of hungry children.
There is no hunger, do look the other way.
You cannot see the greed and want of power.
We have no intention to dominate and crush.
We must use your gifts carefully
sure not to share with those who might misuse or waste.
Not corruption, this is care,
We must not perpetuate old ills of profligacy.
And out of sight,
Beyond check or balance,
the wheels turn,
and who will break the spokes today?
Who will spoke the wheel…now?
Spin spanners in the works?
Who will scatter now the proud in the imagination of their hearts?
When will WE ever learn?
© Andrew Pratt 28/1/2020
*Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who resisted his government when he recognized, very early and very clearly, the dangers of Hitler’s regime. His first warning about the dangers of a leader who makes an idol of himself came in a radio address delivered in February 1933, just two days after Hitler took office.
In an essay written in that same year, Bonhoeffer stated that the church has the right and responsibility to ask whether the state is fulfilling its duty to preserve justice and order. He wrote that the church has the right and responsibility to aid victims of the state, even if they are not Christians. And that the church has the right and responsibility to jam the spokes of the wheel of the state if it is creating too much or too little law. Jamming the spokes, he wrote, “is not just to bind up the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel but to seize the wheel itself. (Bonhoeffer on Resistance: The Word Against the Wheel, Michael P. DeJonge Oxford, 2018, P58)
In these days as we remember
torture, holocaust and fear,
hear our prayer, our supplication,
wrung from hearts, soaked by each tear.
Tears have flooded through our nations,
pain has racked and broken lives,
now we vow to show through action
our compassion still survives.
If the voice of God is silent,
if disciples cease to speak,
then the voiceless and rejected
know the way ahead is bleak.
Let our faith be known in action,
in our depth of love and care,
in our choice identifying
with our neighbours in despair.
When the strength of our resistance
to the evil that we see
shows itself in selfless giving
of our lives then we are free,
free of cant and self-deception,
of hypocrisy and pride,
for we greet as sisters, brothers,
those that others would deride.
Andrew Pratt 22/1/2020
Words © 2020 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: CALON LAN; ST WINIFRED