Whilst many were regretting that extra helping of Christmas pudding and contemplating another day on the sofa, I found myself instead occupied with another annual tradition of reflecting on the year passed. It has certainly been quite a year; from dog collar contender, to pilgrim and artist www.instagram.com/pocket_of_art. My physical and spiritual journey have both been strengthened greatly by walking some of the steps of the Camino.
In the cold grey liminal time of late December, I found myself walking other steps, this time following some Ethiopian wooden figures around the market square.
Allow me to explain; to help promote the season of Epiphany within my church of Great St Mary’s, I was invited to temporarily adopt our Magi (Wisemen) and travelled around part of the parish with them as they journeyed towards the stable and Jesus on Epiphany Sunday. I captured their daily adventures on camera to share on social media with the church, Cambridge and beyond.
Much has been written elsewhere about the role of social media in the descension of society to the lowest common denominator of discourse. I agree that for some, particularly in political circles, it has been used as permission to treat others as they would not have them treated themselves, it is nevertheless, neutral and open as much to building up as destroying.
As an example of this building up, as I reflect now on my experience of travelling with three foreign figures, I can say that they brought to me three gifts of insight:
1) We only need to ask – I was somewhat nervous about how people would react to the project and yet I was delighted when I did ask people, how positive they were to engage. – As you can see from the warm smile of Jo from Harvey and Son and her lovely fruit, veg and bedding plants on the market.
2) A sense of humour is vital – my penchant for a good or bad pun, (depending on how you want to see it), helped to connect with people as the Magi went on their wanderings.
3) Different does not have to be scary or wrong – it seemed very apt to be travelling with these strangers in a city with a proud history of welcoming the stranger and showing the unfamiliar in familiar surroundings. Whether it be the Marks & Spencer’s cafe overlooking the market square, the railings of Senate House or the beautiful teleportation machine sculpture between the red telephone boxes, there is beauty to be seen with fresh eyes.
As I followed and documented the Magi’s progress around the market square, I was very much aware of concern, energy, passion and the unknown that was surrounding emerging proposals to improve the market space. Whilst the Magi were still travailing the parish, I was delighted to help host a meeting in the church for this conversation. It was a privilege to continue a rich tradition of centuries of my church offering a neutral space in which a variety of voices can be heard and listened to.
It struck me that this was also a liminal time in our national politics, a hiatus before the next scene in an improvised play, as Britain directs its way in an unwritten drama.
My hope and prayer is that as we journey together into perhaps unfamiliar landscape both locally and nationally this year, we take with us the courage, imagination and wisdom of those three strangers.