Re-Imagining our City...

I didn't manage to get to last night's 4 Corners Festival event "Imagining a City Without Walls" with journalist Vicky Costtick, which I was frustrated at given that some of the most formative years of my ministry were spent straddling the peacewall between the Springfield Road and Woodvale, but I did manage to get to this evening's "3 Mayors for 4 Corners" event in Fitzroy Presbyterian (it had to be moved from the Ulster Museum because so many people wanted to attend, a pleasantly recurrent problem in this year's festival). At tonight's event Christ Wilson sang a number of songs, to punctuate Steve Stockman's impersonation of Eamonn Mallie interviewing the three most recent Lord Mayors of Belfast, Gavin Robinson, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and current incumbent Nichola Mallon. But he began and finished the evening with the song he wrote for the launch of the Festival in City Hall a couple of weeks back, based on Steve Stockman's response to John Lennon's "Imagine"...

maybe there is a heaven
where wrongs are made right
not some ethereal answer
a place where dark becomes light
what if there is a heaven
a place where neighbours are loved
where captives are set free
but it’s here not above
Image this city without walls
Image a grace with the power to make them fall
and love, love reigns here
oh love, love reigns here
there just might be a heaven
a place where the blind get their sight
a place where every person
finds purpose and life
what if there is a heaven
a place of tangible hope
where every weary traveller
finds rest and love
Image this city without walls
Image a grace with the power to make them fall
and love, love reigns here
oh love, love reigns here
Steve Stockman and Chris Wilson

This in turn set me thinking of that dialogue that I have posted a number of times now, contrasting a vision of our city with John's vision of a heavenly city in Revelation:

JOHN: And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, clear as crystal.
EVERYMAN: I stood on top of the Black Mountain and our city sat in the hollow of the hills, cloaked in smoke and mist.
JOHN: The city had a great, high wall with twelve gates and the wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass, and the foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.
EVERYMAN: There is no wall around our city, but plenty snaking through it, Those walls are made of concrete and steel and razor-wire and their foundations are fear and bitterness.
JOHN: I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
EVERYMAN: I saw a city filled with churches, some full, some empty… pinpricks of light in a dark city… The faithful huddled inside, hands clasped in prayer, or raised in praise… and the doors bolted for fear of the world outside…
JOHN: On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it.
EVERYMAN: A city of which welcomes others but is at war with itself…
JOHN: Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
EVERYMAN: For every life a name, and every name on a list. On monuments, on computers, in little black books, alive and lost and somewhere in between… hit lists, black lists… lists of the unclean, unsound and unforgiven… Those whom we keep outside…
JOHN: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
EVERYMAN: The River Lagan cuts through our city like a scar… But there are other scars that criss-cross our city… Some can be seen… like the stark walls… but others are hidden in human hearts. And we are all on one side or the other… The River that gave birth to this city, the Farset, is hidden, buried beneath its streets… And the trees of this city bear no fruit… indeed their leaves fall prematurely to the ground to be blown down the streets, to form drifts of decay… This city seems cursed…
JOHN: No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

I wrote that back in 2002 for an event by New Irish Arts based on Revelation and I have continued to tinker with it since then, and continue to dream of and work a city that reflects that vision from Revelation just a little bit more. With the leadership of politicians like our 3 most recent Lord Mayors we might just get there.
That vision sees the heavenly city providing "healing for the nations" and tomorrow night at 7.30pm 4 Corners considers what that might look like in "Imagining a World without Human Trafficking" at Fitzwilliam and McCrory Presbyterian in North Belfast, whilst on Thursday we try to give form to the welcome to others as City Hall hosts a Feast for Refugees. If you want to donate to this act of generosity you can do so here...
Then this coming Friday for the first time New Irish Arts will perform in west Belfast in Clonard Monastry, bringing their programme based on the events of the first world war... There are still tickets to be had either here or on the door...
These are just some of the remaining 4 Corners Events aimed at stimulating your imagination as to how we might reshape this city, and indeed world...



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