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Pastoral Letter from the Superintendent – Spring 2023

knife angel

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The Knife Angel is visiting Gloucester Cathedral during the month of February.

The Angel is made entirely from over 100,000 blades that have been handed into the police. Every one of the knives has been used to hurt someone or was carried with the intent of causing harm to another person. Often in the mistaken belief that it will give some kind of protection. Knife crime has become endemic in many parts of Britain.

The Knife Angel has been created to highlight the need for social change. Most readers of this article are unlikely to feel the need to leave their homes carrying a knife as a means of defence or with the desire to attack someone. But we all participate in a society where violence in many forms has been normalised and that has a negative effect on us all. The Knife Angel is intended to prompt everybody to question the way in which our society justifies, accepts and normalises violence.

From a Christian perspective the Knife Angel prompts several reflections. There is a lot of violence in the Bible, some of it attributed to God. However, there is little doubt that Jesus was opposed to violence in all its forms, so he prompts us to read the violent texts with different eyes. It was only after Christianity became an official state religion and began to draw in the trappings of power that ideas like the Just War theory developed.

An angel made of knives is evocative because it graphically symbolises the potential for the transformation of evil with good. It resonates with the prophet Isaiah's vision of God's future when "they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruninghooks." (Isaiah 2: 4).

Jesus' death and resurrection offer another perspective. His crucifixion, the stripping and the flogging that led up to it represent an unimaginable level of abuse and violence. All the gospel writers choose to be sparing in the detail they give of this experience. When he appeared to his friends after rising from the dead John's gospel makes it clear that he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. In his risen life he still identifies with the victims of all forms of violence and without denying the reality of their pain offers the hope of new life. In the realm of God violence is not the last word and transformation is possible.

The Angel is a challenge for us to consider the part we play in the acceptance of violence in society, the need to support those who are victims of all kinds of abuse and violence and, to join in a movement for change.

With every blessing,
John Hellyer

This Pastoral Letter has been published in the (Spring 2023 Preaching Plan)

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