Days I’ll remember all my life - Reflection by Canon Andrew


Read Canon Andrew's reflection for Thursday, 18 February, 2021.

In June 2008, Caroline and I were in Damascus. I was there leading a delegation of lawyers to the first ever British Syrian Law Conference. It’s an experience we will never forget.

Damascus was a stunning place, a city founded more than 11000 years ago and still flourishing. As we wandered round the Old City, we saw Churches and Mosques coexisting in harmony side by side. We wandered down the Street called Straight and visited the chapel dedicated to St Paul where his sight returned after his vison on the road. We walked through the ancient Souk where, despite the dazzling array of goods on display, not one trader came to bother us to buy goods. We visited the Umayyad Mosque built on the site of a Christian basilica dedicated to John the Baptist still honoured by Christian and Moslems. The Mosque is also believed to be the place where Moslems expect that Jesus will return at the ‘end of days’.

The conference itself was full of hope for a time of better relations between Syria (then characterised by the US President as part of the Axis of Evil) and Israel. There was even talk of a peace treaty over the Golan Heights. The point of the Conference itself was to establish better relationships between Syrian lawyers and the UK. As part of a small delegation, I was invited to the splendid Palace of Bashir Al Assad on the Hill over-looking the City and spent an hour with the President talking about the rule of law and how to deal with corrupt judges. He appeared a cultured soft spoken man, married to Asma born in London with a degree from Kings College London. Who could have predicted what would occur in the years that followed!

As we enter Lent, we are conscious of the deprivations we have already suffered in the past year. Life has changed for all of us; but sometimes we need to recall how lucky we are to live in a relatively stable society.  We can only imagine the tragedy that has befallen the Syrian people since our visit.  A fortunate few have managed to make it to the UK and some have become our acquaintances through the help we have been able to provide to Asylum Seekers through Micah Liverpool. As these families make a new life here, may they receive the kind of welcome we received in Damascus all those years ago.

Our hope this year is for the lifting of our restrictions so we can once again worship together in our Great Cathedral, share a drink together after worship and even embrace one another if we feel so inclined. It would be so good to meet together for meals in each other’s homes, cheer on our Football teams, hug our friends, parents, children and grandchildren and visit the sick in hospital. So many deprivations in our ways of interacting with each other which make the giving up of chocolate an insignificance.

Will we remember all these days when we learned how much we all depended on one another, how we needed to co-operate to keep each other safe. We needed one another to collect prescriptions and deliver food. We needed our clever scientists working tirelessly to develop vaccines and new life saving treatments. We needed those IT whizzes to keep us all connected and above all those dedicated front line workers who kept on going, despite the personal risks they faced, providing life-saving and palliative help to those who were so sick.

In the Seminar ‘Liverpool responds who cares’, hosted by the University of Liverpool and promoted by Bishop Paul and Archbishop Malcolm we were reminded of what we had learned through the pandemic. No man is an island and definitely, we are our brothers and sisters keepers. How can we respond as a City to our new reality? Can we develop a community where actions were focused on the common good of all?

Pray God we have learned how much we depend on one another and how important it is that we all work together for the common good of humanity. We need to get all the world vaccinated not just our own people. Our businesses need to think about the social value they create, not just consume world resources and focus on their own profit. We have some big collective challenges ahead.

So I pray that during this Lent, as we think of our Lord giving up everything for humanity by dying on a cross, we may prepare for a new way of living, which is not about how much we can take, but how much we can give.  May these days which we will remember all our lives, help us to create a more loving and interconnected community with self-giving love at its heart.


Canon Andrew

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