Justice & Sacrifice

First published on the blog of Northern Lights Metropolitan Community Church.

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On the 21st October, 1854, a young woman named Florence Nightingale left England for Crimea, where a war was raging that was claiming lives on both sides in astonishing numbers and where the care for wounded and dying was almost non-existent. Her cohort of nurses included fifteen nuns, and a number of other women from different classes and backgrounds who shared Nightingale’s conviction that nursing was call from God on their lives. Her contemporaries included the extraordinary Mary Seacole, who set up a recuperation post behind the lines in Crimea, because she was refused the right to travel to a British field hospital because of her Jamaican heritage.

Women behind the lines found themselves working in desperately under-resources field hospitals offering what help they could to the men who were injured. Over 4,000 still died in the first winter they were posted, but Florence Nightingale’s position of some influence (as the daughter of a prominent and wealthy family) allowed her to make recommendations and resource training on her return to England that has gone on to save countless hundreds of thousands of lives since.

Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole stand as part of those in the course of human history who have heeded God’s call to care for humanity above and beyond their own needs. We could name the martyred British nurse Edith Cavell (who was shot for saving the lives of soldiers without reference to nationality or uniform), or Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. We could think of families like the ten Boom family who found themselves in concentration camps for hiding Jewish people. We could think of David Kato, who died speaking out for LGBT rights in Uganda.

In their tradition and honour, MCC set up the Global Justice Institute, which has been working for human rights around the world for ten years. They have small budget, and a big heart. They can be found around the world fighting in some of the most dangerous places for LGBT+ people and our allies. Their goal is not to impose their structures and ideas on local people, but to empower them to work for themselves. Please join us in prayer for them, and give what you can in this week’s offering. If you would like to give online, or set up a regular offering to the GJI, you can do so here.

God is a God of forgiveness, who pardons our injustices to one another. Let us be a part of bringing God’s new realm of justice and peace by seeking to correct what injustices we can see.

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Privilege and Safe Space

First published on the blog of Northern Lights Metropolitan Community Church.

I had the lovely, but slightly strange, experience of running into an old friend last week. When I was 14 and took on a volunteering role, she was the manager of the charity shop I worked in. We then worked together for 2 years in that shop, and another two that she started up for a local hospice. In that time, I went through my GCSEs, AS Levels, A Levels, several friendships, and eventually moving away from home to start a life at university in London. I’ve never had any doubt that working with Pauline gave me a confidence that I never had around people my own age, and that in many ways learning to work in a shop that brought in people from all walks of life with a whole range of needs and intentions was an early step towards understanding what ministry meant.

I clearly remember one day two young men, about my own age, 17-18, came in and asked for some dresses to try. You very quickly learn when you work in a second-hand shop that your stock is a major source of outfits for local themed club nights, fancy dress parties, and dares. (I once managed to construct a rather good Peter Pan costume from just one day’s donations, but that’s another story.) I jumped to the conclusion that these two were looking for outfits for some kind of drag night, helped them to find their size, and left them to it. It was only later, when the assistant manager cracked a joke about the colour, “bringing out your eyes” to one of the young men that I realised he was the only one trying on clothes, and that he and his mate weren’t laughing.

I think that was the first time I stopped to think about safe space, anonymity, and the projections we cast onto other people. I have always had a more-than-average levels of privilege, being cisgender, white, able to learn in the specific ways our education system demands, etc., but I don’t think I’d really taken it until then. I had never thought of my position as being one that could be used to hurt other people.

I often wonder now if that moment changed anything substantial, or how often I still allow the preconceptions I was brought up with to penetrate my everyday thinking unchallenged, and how that in turn affects my behaviour. I was reminded of the words of the traditional confession, which acknowledges that we sin, “through negligence, through weakness, through [our] own deliberate fault”. This means that when we contribute to behaviours and structures that harm others, that is as much as sin as deliberate harm. And what we do to one another, we do to God.

What a joy, then, to be in a community of believers who commit to forgiveness! When you are next invited to share absolution with one another, and to accept your own forgiveness, remember that Christ forgives all of us, even when, “they know not what they do”. Remember also that we are called to accept that forgiveness and seek to turn it into strength to make ourselves anew in the mould of Christ, who resisted taking on any power that suppresses the weak, instead fighting in word and deed for those who are oppressed.