St. Alban the Martyr

Vicar's letter for March

28 Feb 2019 • General news

There can be no doubt about the violence endemic in our area. Mohammed Sidali was murdered outside Joseph Chamberlain College and two other students injured in a knife attack. Yesterday another 16-year-old was murdered in a knife attack in Small Heath. Three weeks ago, two students from Ark St Alban’s Academy we’re injured in a knife attack on Horton Square. Since I moved to Birmingham there have been several other knife, and even gun, attacks in the city. Just walking around the Parish, it is obvious that there is plenty of drug dealing and the stink of skunk as I walk around the streets in the evening is overpowering.

The problem is not new; James and Thomas Pollock felt called to serve in this area precisely because of the deprivation, and that would include the crime that came with deprivation. Like James and Thomas, we are called to offer a path to something better. With Lent just around the corner we have the chance to demonstrate a different path to the people of this community.

Lent should not just be a short time of giving up a small pleasure. Lent is subversive and counter cultural. Giving up something for lent is an acknowledgment that the physical things (the flesh) need to take sending place to the spiritual. It’s a chance to examine a culture that values possessions and wealth above truth and humility. Reflecting on recent events, I believe that in a society that defines us by what we own, possessing a knife or a gun becomes a mark of stature. For people of faith, we are not defined by the quality of what we own, but the quality of the lives we live. Lent is a chance to rediscover our true self.

Along with defining ourselves by our possessions is the cult of the individual. Yet individuality itself is subverted by our consumer society. In a society that seems to value individuality so much, the space to be truly individual has never been so limited. We are deceived by multinational companies and corrupted politicians into placing our trust in lies. Religion is not the opiate of the people: consumerism, political extremism and false news is our opium. In Lent we are invited to leave the sedative seduction of consumer satisfaction behind and embrace God. Only then can we find the resurrection of our true identity and become the individual God made us to be.

Let us make the most of this Lent.