Alton Webteam: March 2016
Dr. Jill Barber — the Vice-President's Easter Message:
The image that fills my mind this Easter is Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Jesus longs to gather us as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but do we want to be saved? When we see the news, it seems we are set on a path to our own destruction.
Ann Carr, one of the early women preachers, was sent to Leeds as a missionary in 1821, to work among the very poor. The majority were women, migrants from the countryside, desperate to find work in the textile industry. Lonely and lost. Displaced from home and family. Young single women, 'fallen women', widows.
In seeking to share the good news, Ann found that the hymns of the time didn't use images that related to women's experience. With Martha Williams, she founded the Female Revivalist Methodists and produced their own hymn book, adapting the words of traditional hymns, and writing their own. They gave women a voice.
Seen through the eyes and hearts of the women who were first at the tomb on Sunday morning, I find some of the Easter hymns particularly moving. 'Bring the sweet spices of your sight, Your contrite hearts and streaming eyes, Your sad complaints and humble fears! Come, and embalm him with your tears.' 'Mary — know thy Saviour's voice, Hear it and reply, My Lord!' 'Happy Magdalene, to whom Christ the Lord vouchsafed to appear.' 'What a change his word can make, Turning darkness into day; Ye who weep for Jesu's sake, He will wipe your tears away.'
This Easter we share Christ's tears for our world in all its pain. For children drowned fleeing from the unimaginable horrors of war. For unaccompanied children in the jungle at Calais. For all those caught up in the bewildering cycle of seemingly endless violence, in which it is not even clear who is fighting whom. Amongst it all we rejoice in signs of hope.
I rejoice in a group of friends, calling themselves the Worldwide Tribe, who decided to go to Calais to stand alongside the migrants in the Jungle. 'They can use force, be inhumane and cruel ... We will respond with love. We will meet their ruthlessness with openness. We will accept their brutality with dignity ... We will stand in solidarity, as brothers and sisters of the world. We will peacefully and gracefully continue towards equality. We will work together, side by side, as one community of international citizens. Violence, fear and oppression will never win.'
The Easter message is one of hope in the midst of despair, life from death, love stronger than hate. At the moment of utter darkness, the light of the risen Christ breaks through.
Dr. Jill Barber
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