From the Minister
What does Easter, with its promise of new life, mean in a society like ours?
If it is no more than an excuse for a public holiday, a profusion of golden daffodils, an epidemic of ornate confectionery or a conjuring trick with dry bones, then it is pointless!
What is the message of Easter in the experience of Danny, Marie, Jane and so many others like them?
Danny is an alcoholic. Unemployed, of no fixed address, long since out of touch with his family, in recent years he has spent more time in than out of prison. Inside, dry, he is affable and friendly. Outside, he starts drinking again; there's even a howff in town 'made' for him. It opens at 7.30am, ideally timed to enable him to walk round from the prison after being liberated at 6.45am. Inevitably, Danny will be picked up for being disorderly, shouting and swearing in the street and be sent back to jail for breach of the peace.
Marie is seventeen years old with a two month old baby. She and her little boy have been living in bed-and- breakfast accommodation and under the Homeless Act, have just been offered tenancy of a council house. The flat is in an area of the city where property is notoriously difficult to rent but Marie knows that she has no option but to accept the offer. Government scrutiny of benefits means that Marie lives on an impoverished income. How does she begin to decorate and furnish her empty apartment, meet heating, lighting and cooking costs, buy food and clean clothes for herself and her baby?
Jane is in her early twenties. Up to the age of ten, she was a happy, intelligent, outgoing child who enjoyed and did well at school. Her move to secondary school, however, coincided with a marked change in personality. She became difficult, secretive and uncooperative. She was unable to concentrate on anything for long, grew disinterested in whether she did well or not in class, preferring to live in a fantasy world rather than learning to cope with reality; masking her deep vulnerability and lack of self-confidence by being extrovert.
What does Easter mean for individuals like Danny, Marie or Jane?
Can it mean anything to Danny, unless there are people around who will not give up on him, who will take time to understand him rather than condemn, who will refuse to accept his own inclination for self- destruction?
Can Easter mean anything to Marie, if there are not people around who will help furnish her flat and offer practical assistance, as well as friendship and support in her loneliness, fear and sense of isolation.
And what can Easter mean to Jane, if there are not those with skills to listen to her, share her pain and anger and help her work through her grief to recover her self-esteem?
Easter, I say, has to be incarnated in our society by those who have staked their lives on the conviction that the God of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, brings life out of death, hope from despair.
“When a stranger is not alone, where the homeless find a home, when a hungry child is fed, seeing wrong and setting right, there’s an Easter spirit in the air.”
Warmly as ever,
Keith F. Hall