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

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008
    If we had the power
     
    Gangs do not care
    Their bullets everywhere
    We feel so scared at night
    The guns give us a fright.

    Illegal fighting dogs scare us
    Gangsters throw bricks at our bus
    Needles of death in our street
    Dropped by pale selfish people we meet.

    If we had the power
    We would grow the biggest flower
    We could make a change
    And rearrange the bad for the good.

    Kind people in new parks
    Friendly dogs with quiet barks
    Having fun in the sun
    If we try... all this can be done!
    They don't ask for much, the year 3 children at Croxteth Primary School (Little Croccy, as it's known) who produced this poem last summer, before the shooting of Rhys Jones. These 7 and 8 year-olds are just looking for a little kindness and a place to share it.

    It's not often I quote from a Forward in Faith publication but this poem features in an article published in New Directions last autumn, in which my colleague Ian reflects on the context of Rhys's murder from the deep perspective of 27 years continuous ministry at the heart of the Croxteth estate.
    By 1980, when David Sheppard wrote to ask me to 'come over and help us', he described it as among the most deprived of all the parishes in his diocese, with over 80% of residents on some kind of benefit and nearly 60% unemployment. The Sunday Mass congregation was six on a good day. I was about the twelfth priest approached with the plea to 'build up the congregation and serve the local community.' After much thought and prayer my wife and I accepted the call and began the work in which, twenty-seven years later, we are still engaged.
    They have built it up, because on a good Sunday now they may get 25, and as importantly they have tirelessly served the local community (when I dropped in this afternoon Audrey, off to a meeting carrying boxes and files, stopped to engage me in strategic talk about winning grants for children's work provision; their living room, full of cats, is also a workspace where Ian in his various trustee-treasurer roles has laboured to keep numerous fragile community organisations afloat).

    Though invaluable in helping keep a delicate community together, the church is of course very fragile itself at this time. Twenty-five (on a good day) is not enough to pay the quota which the diocese demands; the Roman Catholics - who have been in Croxteth since the 1400s - closed the doors of St Swithins in August 2004 when their numbers dropped below 200. If we had the power, the children say, we could rearrange the bad for the good. People like Ian and Audrey - rightly - believe them. Power is inevitably held at the diocesan Cathedral buildings, at Bishop's Lodge in posh Woolton, in Westminster; will it be shared with the children and the fragile church in Croxteth?