Prayer for Liverpool
Well, what do you know. It turns out that I am 1/32 Lancastrian! This unexpected fact emerged from a bit of family history research that Stella and I were engaged in last week. One of my 3x great grandfathers, Thomas Davenport, was born in St. Helen’s in the 1820’s. And there was me thinking that I was pretty much the product of agricultural labourers from Sussex and miners from County Durham. In fact, my back-history includes cobblers from Suffolk, plasterers from Gloucester, painters and decorators from Kent, potters from Yorkshire as well as labourers from St. Helen’s. I realise that 1/32 is not much ‘blood’ from these parts, but I guess you could also argue quality and not quantity. Quite what possessed Thomas to forsake his home town and undertake such a significant journey across the Pennines to the North East I do not know. Looking for work, I suppose, in the then rapidly expanding coal-mining industy in County Durham. At some point he met and married a local lass from Gateshead. The rest, as they say, is history.
I find the whole family history thing quite intriguing, as I blogged some weeks ago. Learning about my ancestors gives me a bit of a window into the wider social trends operating in the country at the same time. Maybe, though, there is a deeper and more personal reason; namely a quest for a sense of ‘rootedness’. Because I have moved around England quite a bit in my life, I don’t have the that sense of rootedness as do those who have lived their whole, or most of their lives, in one place. I first noticed this in Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, where I served my curacy. Whilst there were numerous incomers to that market town, there were also many people whose families had been in the area for several generations. They and the land seemed to be deeply fused together – it was almost a spiritual attachment as well as being an emotional one. I certainly found that to be the case in Hull, and have done so in spades in Liverpool where the passion for all things Liverpudlian is very evident and very moving. I am, to be honest, even a bit envious of those who have such a sense of where they originate and belong. Nevertheless, I can still enjoy being inspired by those of you who do have that deeply enmeshed sense of your roots.
Enough of my navel-gazing though! In these unprecedented times in which we find ourselves, such passion for rootedness should be a massive asset. I’ve just been reading a report about the challenges that this city and region face as the full economic and social impacts of Covid-19 begin to surface. It is sobering reading. But the author is convinced that the city is not back on the brink again. The huge advances in the area over the last three decades or so will not all be undone in the twinking of an eye by some global pandemic whose origins are well beyond our control. Nevertheless, it will require a massive amount of effort to make up the lost ground; from local people, from those who care about and visit Liverpool and its environs, and with help from Westminster too. Sagely, it sees this taking a couple of years or more of intentional planning to head off at the pass serious and lasting damage. Naturally, there will be, as the report acknowledges, a tangible fear of going back to the kinds of patterns of living that were the norm before Covid and a reticence to re-enter that which was everyday and taken for granted. At a recent on-line meeting, one person made it clear that it would be some while before she would be comfortable with the thought of being physically in a conference room with a dozen or so other people. I guess that we can all identify with that sentiment. Something seismic has shifted in all our perceptions. The report also calls forth the remarkable resilience of Liverpool people, of the kind that they have shown repeatedly over the years, and urges us to be “creative, innovative, adaptive and collaborative”.
I sense that this is not just possible here, but also probable precisely because of the sense of rootedness that so many local people feel deeply in their bones. Liverpool strikes me as being not just a place on a map but a people who are so connected with the city that it motivates them to contend even harder for it when crises threaten to take away from them all that they cherish most dearly. It will need all of us to dig deep and lead by example, not least those of us who are part of our faith communities. After all, the notion of making sacrifices and extra effort for the sake of the greater good should not come as a surprise to us. Nor of working collaboratively – although I realise that the church through the ages hasn’t always showered itself in glory on this one! Perhaps the rallying cry might be, in a paraphrase of the words of a certain General during the First World War, “Your City needs You!”
So let’s be alert to the ways in which we can step up to the plate and put our shoulder to the wheel – if that is not mixing metaphors. And, as for family history, are we not creating history as we do so? History that we should be proud to pass on to the generations of family and friends that will come after us.
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.
Prayer for Liverpool
brought to you from Liverpool Cathedral
St James Mount
Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter.
Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God