When elephants fight, the grass gets hurt.
There were 500 Christians packed into a London church with a further 200 standing outside. Our reasons for gathering were well summarised by a pithy alliteration – to praise, pray and prophesy . . . and it was followed by a walk.
Some explanation is in order.
Many thousands were converging on Parliament. It was to mark Earth Day (which has been going for over 50 years). We were those who, loving the Lord, responded with a ‘Service and Pilgrimage to Parliament’ and we crowded into St John’s, a large church near Waterloo Station.
We praised God – declaring that he created everything, passed the earth to us to steward and that, despite the current realities, he is sovereign and has plans for this present creation and, beyond it, for the new creation. He is the source of hope.
We prayed together – joining in lament, repentance, and intercession.
We ‘prophesied’ – acting in the pattern of God’s prophets who cried out against injustice and evil and protested against the impact of our human sin and selfishness.
Voices were raised in songs like ‘If the land is parched’ lamenting the ‘now’ and rejoicing in the ‘future’.
Genesis 1 retold in rhyme recalled the Creation story with excitement and engagement.
Bishop John Sentamu joined us from the House of Lords to speak of the prophetic responsibility to be a voice for the vulnerable who are powerless among dominant forces in our world. He expressed their plight in the African proverb ’When elephants fight, the grass gets hurt’ – alluding to the reality that the fate of millions is in the hands of the powerful.
Then we set off.
The theme of the day was ’Unite to Survive‘, recognising that it is only by working together at personal, local, national and international level that we can act effectively:
· to protect the earth
· to treasure the beauty and diversity of nature
· to stand for the vulnerable.
A young woman sensitively and passionately explained why she was walking to Parliament: ’I am walking for and with Jesus. I am walking because Micah, speaking for God, declared that ”the Lord has told you what is good . . . to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”’
Carrying placards and intermittently stopping to pray and sing, we wound our way along the Embankment and over Westminster Bridge to converge on Parliament Square. Drivers looked on. Tourists looked on.
Other groups made their way from different starting points and soon Parliament Square was filled with an array of peaceful protesters, expressing their concern with a variety of inventive messages.
There was music, too. We were led by the Salvation Army. Choirs from various places joined together beautifully. Extinction Rebellion passed by in an orderly fashion to an accompaniment of loud drums.
Perhaps the most powerful ‘visual’ was the silent message delivered by a group dressed in green and processing slowly like a funeral cortège.
Even though our motivation comes from a different origin, it was vital for us Christians to join with others – to protect God’s creation and share his life-giving message.
In the words of the prophet Micah, quoted at the service.
’O people, the LORD has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.’