Reflection written for MCC North London newsletter the week of 1st November 2010.
All Saints' Day fell on the Monday of this week, and we celebrated on Sunday. I took the opportunity to talk about the saints who are venerated around the world, particularly in Catholic traditions, and what we can learn from them, but I also feel strongly that since we are all called to live lives worthy of the Gospel we can learn as much from everyday people who have not been honoured as saints.
Take Rosa Parks, for example, since we are just reaching the end of Black History Month. All Ms. Parks did was sit down on the front seat of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She refused to give up her seat for a white person - who was no more entitled to it than she was, after all - and this simple act was the beginning of the end for racial segregation in the United States.
Closer to home, women who take the time to vote have to thank Emmeline Pankhurst for the privilege. But as well as her well-documented activism for women's rights, she was also influential in changing the work culture of some of the most deprived parts of the country at the end of the nineteenth century. She launched a parliamentary challenge to the right of factory owners to employ young children and pregnant women to do dangerous work, and she spent many years in her early life working to distribute food to those in Manchester with nothing to eat.
Or David Morley, a man who will not survive in the public consciousness, but who showed extraordinary courage. After being injured in the Soho nail bomb attack in 1999, he returned to work at the Admiral Duncan pub despite the injuries and losses he suffered at the scene. He died in an unprovoked attack in 2004 sparked by the same prejudice that had cost him so much only five years earlier.
I could go on for hours, because the truth is that for every prejudice that is breaking down there have been people standing up for justice who have allowed it to happen. Each of these remarkable individuals has been one of thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of activists from all walks of life. We know that well in MCC and we are blessed to be part of a denomination that is proud to uphold the Gospel tradition of justice for all.