In January 1983 U2 released one of their most famous anthemic songs that catapulted them into their post-punk world rock domination incarnation. ‘New Year’s Day’ was a tribute to the Polish Solidarity Trade Union movement that at the time was challenging the established communist order, and in so doing became one of the early stepping stones towards the 1989 overthrow of a series of unpopular regimes in Eastern Europe. They followed it up in March the same year with another powerful song, ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’, which described the visceral scenes in Derry/Londonderry a decade earlier in January 1972.
1983 also saw a catastrophic Labour Party defeat at the general election. Led by Michael Foot, the party sunk to its then lowest level of representation which has now been at least matched. So 37 years on at the start of 2020 – the year of maximum and perfect vision – what does history tell us about our chances in the year ahead? It’s not within the brief of this column to be concerned with national and international concerns, although at the time of writing it’s hard not to be engaged with geo-politics and the suggested impact of climate change in Australia. Nor is the column going to try to link the lyrics of U2 songs to the safeguarding agenda you will be relieved to read!
But there is something about the energy and power of music and simple words. The passion that speaks to the heart about family and homeland, peace, justice and security, and the lump in your throat when you sense that transcendence. Coming home from church on Sunday, Classic FM was playing an extract from the Karelia Suite by Sibelius, an elegy to that part of the country annexed by Russia in the 19th century. It was hard not to be moved, and we reflected on the Epiphany sermon we had just heard about travelling, hoping, anticipating and then knowing when you have arrived at a really important place.
For the Methodist Church in 2020, arguably one of those places will be Conference, but for Safeguarding it will come earlier in the year, as we travel to and present our story at the IICSA hearings in mid-March. This will not necessarily be a comfortable homecoming, and we don’t know what we may find or how we might be found. But if we can collectively continue to demonstrate something of the passion for safeguarding that many of us have, the Church will be in a stronger and safer place as we travel the year.