A Tolstyan moment of much needed peace on Unst, Shetland—“De staar o’peace is risin, may shu never set ageen”

The Peace Pole
Still saddened and shocked, both from the result of the EU Referendum and the increasing reports of an upturn in abuse towards migrants in England (about which I commented in my last posting), yesterday I was spending a wonderful first full day on Britain's most northerly island, Unst in the company of one of our kind hosts, Barbara Priest. Barbara also happens to be the Session Clerk of St John's in Baltasound so, naturally, we stopped by the church and, since the day was sunny and warm, we lingered in the church's peace garden which was lovingly created in connection with the international and inter-religious Peace Pole Project.

As Barbara and I sat quietly in the sun she told me about the project and we talked a little about the current situation and how the British peace movements may now have to devote an unexpectedly huge amount of time energy to promoting peace on the British mainland where nation suddenly seems to be beginning to be set against nation. I had in my bag, as I nearly always do, Tolstoy’s Gospel in Brief and it seemed appropriate read together the following passage where Tolstoy has Jesus offer the following commandment:

“In the previous law it was said: do good to your own people and do harm to the foreigner. But I say to you: love not only your own countrymen, but also the people of other nations. Let others hate you, let them attack you and insult you; but you must praise them and do good to them. If you are only good to your own countrymen, then you are like everyone else who is good to their own countrymen; and it is because of this that wars occur. But you should treat all nations equally, and if you do, you will be the sons [and daughters] of the father. All people are his children, consequently all people should be your brothers. And so, this is the fifth commandment: Keep the same law in regard to other nations that I have asked you to keep amongst yourselves. For the father of all people there is no such thing as different nations, there are no different kingdoms either: all are brothers, all are sons of the one father. Don’t create differences between people based on nations and kingdoms.”

I am so grateful to Barbara (and to Sidney, Martha and Amit with whom we are staying) to be able to have this opportunity in such a beautiful and peaceful place to reflect, not only upon the events of the last week, but also the last eight years of my own ministry and how I might go about approaching the next eight years and beyond.

What ever that approach looks like I'll clearly need to keep the hopeful prayer of Unst’s Peace Pole in my heart:

“De staar o’peace is risin, may shu never set ageen.”
Our first sight of Unst from Yell
Hamar Longhouse or Jacob Johorasen’s house with Balta in the background


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