This is the Letter I have written for Riddlesden Parish News. I know the reference is to the "Riddlesden Voices" project, but the principles remain the same for those of us who live, work or worship in East Morton.
The Vicar writes…
You may already have heard that for 2019 the churches in Riddlesden are promoting a new project under the title “Riddlesden Voices”.
If you go onto the Riddlesden Voices website you will read these words:
“This project will run throughout 2019 to encourage everyone on our hillside to listen and talk to each other, to provide a platform for budding writers, to advertise and record events in the village which promote communicating with each other, and to celebrate the power and enjoyment of …WORDS!”
We launched the project at the “Barn Service” at East Riddlesden Hall in December. We recalled then that the Hebrew Bible (what we call the Old Testament) begins with God speaking creation into existence:
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1-3)
One of the most famous examples of someone hearing the voice of God comes in the story of the Hebrew prophet Elijah. As Elijah fled for his life from the wicked King Ahab and his even more wicked Queen Jezebel he sat down under a solitary broom tree and wished he could die. Eventually, prompted by the voice of an angel he got up and came to Horeb the mount of God. He hid in a cave, and spent the night there. As Elijah was feeling sorry for
himself, we’re told there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces, but the Lord was not in the wind; the wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake - but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire - but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice. And in that soft voice Elijah heard God addressing him.
That incident from the Hebrew Bible has been referenced in one of the most well-loved hymns in the English language, Dear Lord and Father of mankind. The last verse goes like this:
Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm!
The author of that hymn, John Greenleaf Whittier, was a nineteenth century American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. His public career, which encompassed the ending of slavery in America in 1865, is a powerful testament to the power of words to bring about change in the world.
We in our generation are bombarded by words all the time. From radio, television, newspapers, social media, as well as from the people we meet face to face, we hear all sorts of voices every day, clamouring for our attention. The story of Elijah reminds and reassures us that it’s not always the loudest voices that are the best ones to heed or follow.
I hope over the course of this year we will have lots of opportunities to listen and talk to each other in Riddlesden and in East Morton, to learn from one another’s experiences, and to use our words for the good of all in our community.
With best wishes