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Reflections at a time of inauguration

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Reflections at a time of inauguration

Post by Jill Segger on Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:26 pm

The inauguration of an American president is a unique mix of razzmatazz and nobility. It is the nobility which must not be lost sight of and which may yet give us hope.

When the former colony set out its founding principles and rules of governance almost two and a half centuries ago, it was striving to give form to something which had never been tried before – the making of an independent democracy that had cast off the structures of empire and was straining upwards in hope and with courage

Despite its failures over that time, despite its excursions into blind alleys of war and injustice and despite the human weaknesses – even criminality in some instances – of the men who have held the office of president in this new form of society, it yet retains at least the potential of being “a shining city on a hill”. I believe this to be why the inauguration of Donald Trump has horrified and cast so many around the world into deep anxiety.

But analysis of the 45th President's character and of his inauguration speech is for another comment piece. On Friday 20 January 2017, a small group from the Quaker Meeting of which I am a member came together in a Friend's home to hold silence during the ceremony in Washington DC.

As we entered into the silence, the late afternoon light died out of the sky, draining it through azure to copper, then to almost black until the faint starlight of a wintry night settled over the Suffolk landscape. It was odd to think that daylight from the same sun which had gone out of our sight still stood over the ceremonial district of the USA's capital city. Odder still, though of great comfort, to know that people from across the United Kingdom and the USA had tweeted me to say they were joining us in their spirits. There was – is – a real need to be silent a while and to reflect beyond the anger and fear that fills newspaper columns, air waves and social media.

We needed to be silent for a space, for Donald Trump, for the divided people of the United States and for ourselves. Despair and rage are powerfully contagious but they have a limited utility. It is beyond doubt that we need to prepare ourselves for right resistance and to be ready for conflict, its resolution and healing.

I can offer no route plan for this journey. We are still in the early stages of shock. But I do know that unless we go within, we will not well go outward. And in our silent gathering, I remembered the challenge George Fox offered in a Cumbrian parish church in 1652 when he rose in his seat to cry out to the congregation: “ What canst thou say?”

Not what do we say, what will we say, but what can we say? It is for everyone of us to find and recognise the unique capacity to which that calls us. And then to combine in an alternative narrative. We will wear a coat of many colours but if we will listen well, it could be a seamless robe.


This blog first appeared on Ekklesia and is reproduced with acknowledgement. www.ekklesia.co.uk
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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.co/quakerpen
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Jill Segger
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