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

    Monday, June 27, 2005
    Peacemakers in the battleground
    Theme of the day: feisty old Christian agitators of the mid-twentieth century. First, an email from Richard who noticed I'd blogged here about George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester whose condemnation of the Nazi regime from 1933, followed by his wartime efforts towards peace with the people of Germany, campaigns to help German refugees, and his public condemnation of 'saturation bombing' didn't endear him much to the establishment.

    Visiting Chichester recently Richard noticed that the local Education Authority has re-named Bishop Bell First and Middle School, Oaks Primary School. And had a letter published in last Saturday's Brighton Argus asking why. If his instinct is that George Bell's struggle for integrity must not be forgotten, I share it.

    It's unlikely George MacLeod will be forgotten too easily. Especially now that the Iona Community have published a 2xCD set of Every Blessed Thing, Ron Ferguson's one-man play, based on his conversations with George MacLeod, along with material drawn from George's sermons, prayers, diaries, letters and stories. It's performed by Tom Fleming in a voice just like MacLeod's. The publishers tell us that,

    The first CD presents MacLeod in the raw - brilliant, inspiring, annoying, obsessive, provocative, courageous, prophetic, magisterial - in a kaleidoscope which is intended to give the hearer a sense of what it was like to be exposed to the man at the height of his powers. On the second, the old prophet sits in his room and reminisces about his 96 years on earth. George MacLeod would no doubt be pleased that just when people thought it was safe to go out again he was still, through this double CD, hectoring, maddening, inspiring and challenging listeners about the issues so dear to his heart.

    The audio extract [download] whets the appetite, with George saying, "Iona. Sometimes I hated it. People go on about how peaceful and calm it is. For me it was a battleground." Going there felt to him like it had when returning to the front in the First World War.

    "Why did I go to Iona? I had the same kind of nudge I had when I decided to become a minister; and when I decided to go to Govan. I didn't want to go to Iona. But every time I passed that ancient ruin it seemed to be talking to me just simply saying, 'Why doesn't somebody rebuild me?' ... Why do you shout at me, you most uncomfortable ruins?"

    These men, formed and forged in the middle years of the last century, were willing to risk being peacemakers in the battleground of their times. What examples they were - and still are.