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Trinity is a place of worship, meeting and quietness in a distracted world.
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Holy Trinity Church
Hoghton Street

Revd Canon Dr. Rod Garner
Holy Trinity Vicarage
24 Roe Lane
Tel/Fax: (01704) 538560
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Guest Column for Southport Visiter


November 2016


Since my last column appeared, Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Quite a lot of important writers objected (some snobbery involved there I suspect) but I think the Nobel judges got it right. Dylan’s influence on successive generations has been huge and within some of his greatest songs can be found real depth and beauty. The Bible played a significant part in Dylan’s early artistic formation as a singer/songwriter and helped to shape how he approached writing lyrics. There is a tenderness and rage in his songs that conjure up the prophets of the Old Testament and any music fan prepared to listen carefully is amply repaid. A short time after the Nobel announcement, another poet left us. Leonard Cohen died on the 7th November. A good age and he was more than prepared for his passing. His legacy is large: beautiful songs tinged with melancholy, loss and yearning and a passion for truth-telling that seems ever more urgent in a post-truth age where loud, lazy assertions masquerade as facts. Listen to his Story of Isaac and marvel at how he takes the biblical account of Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22. vv1-19) and turns it into a judgement on contemporary warmongers, who stand ready to eliminate children in pursuit of political gain. The song could be an anthem for the doomed children of Aleppo. To date, Save the Children estimates that 10,000 have perished in the Syrian conflict.

Poetry and truth were both conspicuously absent in the recent US Election. Memories will fade soon enough but not so soon that we should allow ourselves to forget a campaign that was devoid of eloquence and rich in abuse. Short of a crystal ball with a 100% guarantee attached to its base, none of us has a clue how the continuing story of America will unfold in 2017 and beyond, or how that story will affect our world. What we do know is that the Trump campaign vilified opponents and lied repeatedly in order ‘to make America great again.’ Lying is a bad business, especially on the part of those elected to lead their country. It corrupts the soul and tramples common decency in the gutter. It does not make a nation great – certainly not in terms of trust, honesty or international relations. Following the Election result, France’s ambassador to the US was perhaps exaggerating when he said ‘the world is coming apart before our eyes’ but he was right to be anxious. In its religious beginnings more than three centuries ago, America regarded itself as a nation under the special providence of God, a beacon and blessing to the world, a ‘city on a hill’ ( note the scriptural reference Matthew 5.v14 ) and a land where ‘people might be led into all truth.’ Such sentiments seem dated in the aftermath of the election. In Donald Trump, America has a President Elect who knows how to make a deal but appears to know little about its religious history or its inherited moral character. Alongside his new hardline appointments, there are also influential Evangelical Christians offering him advice and support. We must hope and pray that they will rediscover their religious roots and nudge their leader in a more promising direction. This might be an opportune time for them to dig out their old Dylan albums from the cellar or, in some cases, listen to them properly for the first time. Following Leonard Cohen’s most famous song, some of us might then be able to manage a tentative ‘Hallelujah.’

Canon Dr, Rod Garner

Previous columns for 2015 are now available here

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Previous columns for 2012 are now available here