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

    Sunday, December 16, 2007
    No one you can save that can't be saved
    The Flashmob Operas, the Manchester Passion, the Margate Exodus and tonight the Liverpool Nativity: all of them affirm the ongoing English love of gathering en-masse for a celebration of the deep mysteries which link people, music, story and place. And the latter three events also acknowledge that, as one writer put it this week, "ours is historically a Christian culture." That writer goes on to share a concern that "children who grow up ignorant of biblical literature are diminished, unable to take literary allusions, actually impoverished," and a great thing about events like these is that they play a significant role in helping these narratives resurface and be reborn, in the mainstream.

    The scene in the Liverpool Nativity which will probably remain with me the longest is the one at the Pier Head Landing Stage where Jodie McNee as Mary faces a mob trying to push her asylum-seeker Joseph back onto the Seacombe Ferry. In the middle of the brawl McNee/Mary spits out in brittle Liverpudlian defiance the words, "There's nothing you can do that can't be done / Nothing you can sing that can't be sung... // There's nothing you can make that can't be made / No one you can save that can't be saved / Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time..." Enveloped in trauma at the most difficult time of her young life she sings on through gritted teeth, "It's easy..." And that is powerful, powerful theatre.

    Like the excellent Margate event the Liverpool Nativity places the asylum-seeker / scapegoat scenario at the centre of its narrative, which brings the story home on so many levels, not least the political. It spins the story out into the life of our society with renewed relevance and vigour. Causes me to connect McNee's Mary to three other Liverpool mothers: Kate McCann, Melanie Jones and Gillian Gibbons, each of whom have displayed awesome dignity and personified the brittleness of slender hope in defiance of the terrors and torments visited upon them this year.

    "It's easy..." their stories sing, when they and we all know it's really not easy at all. But The Story somehow continues to offer something substantial to a Christian culture at odds with itself. Who is the writer emphasising the essentialness of The Story for our children's education? Richard Dawkins, in this week's New Statesman.