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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, May 01, 2003
    Jim gives it the Vees
    "Of course, the main reason they built the Anglican Cathedral was to do this to the Catholics," Jim Hart said, extending his arms and flicking his fingers in enthusiastic v-signs. Jim's historical analysis lacks subtlety, but doubtless carries some truth.

    He once wrote a book called Liverpool: the history we'd like to forget. They don't stock it in the Cathedral shop, but it meant a lot to the inhabitants of the North End of the city who compiled it with Jim during a Lent course. Because it provoked some honest, hard memories. Houses of prayer built on slave trade money, protestant sermons about "The Scum of Ireland", that sort of thing.

    "We [began] by mourning and at the end looking for vision," his Introduction says. "If we face our past honestly we shall not regret its passing so much. The grass and ruins will become our hope and opportunity for a better Liverpool to arise."

    It's the same school of thought which produces articles in the North End's Scottie Press ('Britain's Longest-Running Community Newspaper'), celebrating Kitty Wilkinson, a pioneer of public health, without regretting the passing of the wash-houses she established in Liverpool and throughout the UK.

    Jim's never fitted comfortably into conventional structures but he sat very comfortably in my living room this morning. Perhaps five years after we last sat down together like this, it was good to renew acquaintance with yet another champion of thinking-outside-the-box. I got to know him when I started community work in L8 - he took me on a very long walk around Toxteth, demonstrating an encyclopaedic knowledge of the place's geography and people, and an enthusiasm for working out what it means to be an urban Christian.

    He's devoted many years to resourcing similarly-enthused people in this city and others, he's had many arguments and run-ins with the establishment, and been through deep crises of faith. He's heading on towards 70 now but still rides around on his vast BMW motorbike and writes prolifically. Next venture for Jim - getting his stuff on the web. The establishment might not like it. But it'll be so good for the people.