Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

The Journey toward Forgiveness: A Dialogue

Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

The Journey toward Forgiveness: A Dialogue

Article excerpt

This humble building, St Ethelburga's Church, like you yourself, embodies the physical evidence of a journey from survival and brokenness to wholeness and new life. Yet, humble as it is, it has a venerable history. It has existed at its present site since the 13th century and has adapted and changed over the centuries through rebuilding and renovation. Henry Hudson, the navigator, departed from these portals in 1607 for a voyage of discovery that took him to the New World. Later that same century it survived the Great Fire of London. It came through the blitz of the Second World War with minor damage, only to be almost totally destroyed in 1993 by a massive IRA bombing. That bomb did not target St Ethelburga's directly; rather the church was incidental damage, reminding us, as it does, of so many in our world today who also become the unintended victims of conflict between principalities and powers. Nevertheless, St Ethelburga's was not allowed to die. As the then Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, said at the time, "There's been a church on this site for 1000 years--We're not going to be rubbed out by a bomb. That's unacceptable. I believe in continuities, in memories. We pity individuals who have lost their memory. Similarly, any society that loses its memory has real problems." So, through contributions from many sources, secular and religious, the church was rebuilt as a symbol of hope and it now houses our Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. While it is consecrated as a house of worship, it provides a gathering place within its walls for all peace-loving people.

So with that background, let us get on with talking about your work of healing memories.

Father Michael Lapsley: Thank you, Father, it is a privilege to be here and 1 look forward to a rich discussion with you and members of our audience as well.

I would like to begin by picking up on your comments about the church and point out that the architects who designed the church's restoration did not attempt to hide the scars of the past On the contrary, they are visible today in the way the stones salvaged from the rubble are incorporated into the new building. That too mirrors not only my own journey but that of so many others, including Jesus himself, who asked the doubting disciple Thomas to thrust his hand into the wound in his side, which although no longer bleeding was nevertheless still visible. So too our wounds may heal, but they often leave traces that remain throughout our lives. That's not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it can be a good thing if it reminds us that suffering can be transformed into something that is life-giving.

Dr Williams: What happened to you was quite catastrophic and for many people it would have been devastating. What enabled you to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually?

Fr Michael: First of all, I would say that it was devastating for me as well. It is a loss that continues to accompany me every single day of my life. In literally thousands of ways, my life has been irrevocably changed. While I am not bitter and angry, and I certainly am not looking for revenge, a loss of this magnitude is not something you ever get over. So while I have healed, not a day passes that I do not grieve the loss of my hands and one eye.

You asked me what enabled me to heal. Well, I was exceedingly fortunate in several ways. The damage to my body was minimized on the day of the bombing by the skill of a surgeon from the United States, Dr Glen Gordon, who was on the staff of the medical school in Harare, Zimbabwe, where I was bombed. Later, I received expert care in Australia over a period of many months and that enabled me to make a full physical recovery, though of course with a permanent major disability. One of the things that humbles and deeply concerns me is that so many people in my own country, South Africa, and across the globe lack access to the expert care and loving support that I was given. …

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