The Summer holidays are here at last! The schools have broken up! apart from the fact that many children have not been to school for months. I took part in an online leavers service for children from the William Alvey School – a very strange way to end their years at that school. None of the secondary school prizegiving’s took place. In fact, so much of what fills up our usual summer diary has either been cancelled or is happening in such an odd way it bears little relation to what we usually do. Summer fayres have been cancelled (ours included), outdoor theatre and concerts likewise – no brass bands will be found on a park bandstand this year. Cricket has started but a Test Match against the West indies without a crowd of spectators is surreal. Summer holidays – it is possible to get away but unless you are camping it will be a very different experience… and if you try to go abroad it’s possible you might not get back quite so easily!
One thing that hasn’t changed much is the idea of holiday reading – various newspapers and periodicals are publishing their reading suggestions for summer as they always do. As I like books, I generally peruse these lists to see what I have already read and to see if I can spot something interesting that I might otherwise have missed. Choosing the books I will take away on holiday is more important than choosing the clothes I will take! One big difference this year is that my holiday reading has started a bit earlier than usual – mid-March to be precise. Throughout lockdown I have been reading even more than I usually do! My book of the moment is William Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce (who is commemorated by the CofE on 30 July along with fellow anti-slavery campaigners Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano). I was inspired to re-read it because of the events around the toppling of Coulston’s statue in Bristol. Two things have struck me reading this book: the length of time it took to change the hearts and minds of people and the parameters that Wilberforce set for the Parliamentary legislation. Rather than abolish slavery, he sought through Parliament to stop the Trans-Atlantic trade (the Middle Passage) in the hope that once this was achieved slavery itself could be tackled. I was struck by his wisdom in this matter.
In our days when there is so much call for change (some of it radical) I am reminded of the need of Rienhold Niebuhr’s prayer from the early 1930s – a prayer that reminds me of Wilbeforce.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.