Our Autumn Lecture Series began on Wednesday in a packed church. First Brian McLaren, a famous theological voice in USA choosing to give his voice to others. He called a group of volunteers out of the audience, some of them became the crowd, some the teachers and elders, some a woman taken in adultery and then he led us through John 8.1-11 asking us all to imagine it through different eyes, stopping to question the crowd, the elders and the woman herself. Finally he led us through again, through the eyes of Jesus. What does mercy look like? We found our perspectives shifting, it was as though we were discovering it again here and now, feeling the rocks falling from our own hands. Then came Anna Carter Florence. She had chosen the story of two young women down among the reeds, one an Egyptian Princess, the other a Hebrew slave, who together made a radical decision to save a baby left floating in a basket- and in so doing changing the course of history. It was like we were hearing the story of the baby Moses for the first time and what’s more it was as though it was our story and the decisions that we make that have the power to change the narrative of oppression. Finally when we were wondering how the final preacher, Pádraig Ó Tuama, could follow that we heard, another story about mercy that came like a poem from the heart- not pity which is not real mercy at all, but mercy that is gratitude- mercy that allows us to speak truth and have the courage to name God for ourselves and in so doing hear the voices of those who have been oppressed like Hagar cast out- like Mary naming God in verbs. He talked about discovering a true voice, our own Magnificat that we have never allowed ourselves to sing. As we came down stairs to see the new exhibition in our foyer- the f word- stories of forgiveness- it was as though we were carrying the quality of mercy with us- brave and liberating, multi-layered, strong. If you missed it the lecture it was filmed and in a week’s time will be on our website. Mercy is something not to be missed. It can change the course of history.

Revd Richard Carter