I listened with seething anger and immeasurable sadness to Lemn Sissay reading Marcus Rashford’s post Euro Final statement on Radio 4 this morning. If you didn’t catch it, try to hear it if you can – it's well worth the hard listen. Marcus’ words and Lemn’s voice and intonation were just so right. It followed a profound ‘Thought for the Day’ from an Anglican ordinand reflecting on what it is to be English, now in the context of her marrying into an Italian family, and what Vera Lynn’s song ‘There’ll always be an England’ really means. There was also a piece about Tyrone Mings, an England defender, calling out the Home Secretary for what he saw as her hypocrisy in not supporting taking the knee, whilst tweeting about the abuse suffered by the penalty takers. So all in all, a very emotional roller-coaster 15 minutes of radio as I drove through Sheffield’s bleak and rainy northern suburbs.
The defeat on Sunday night will no doubt pass, but the lingering after-taste will sadly remain a live issue for some time to come. The issues and some of the attitudes involved here run deep in our society, and the Church is not immune. Hence the Conference launch of the Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity, that we will be learning much more about in the coming months. Given the Safeguarding Team’s key focus on supporting survivors of abuse, we are forging links with the colleagues charged with delivering this strategy as there are obvious synergies. Much safeguarding work is about restoring personal wellbeing and confidence, as well as providing reassurance about our organisational capacity to act robustly in the face of inappropriate behaviour or statements. When asked, survivors often mention seeking justice as one of their prime concerns, and engaging with the study guide ’Reflect and Respond’ is one way in which other church members can show solidarity with them.
So, the ambition now is for the England football team to rise above all the current distress and malaise, and focus on the World Cup which is already looming next year. That event in Qatar also comes with issues for reflection, perhaps on another day. In the meantime, those three words – justice, dignity and solidarity – are ones that we can aim to apply as much as, and wherever, we can.