Not long after lock-down began here in Northern Ireland, I was chatting with my friend Jonathan Rea, Creative Chief Executive of New Irish Arts. He mentioned in passing that despite the flow of things being so unexpectedly disrupted, and much important work being put on hold for the time being, there were a number of projects that would most likely keep him busy during the weeks and months that lay ahead. And kept busy he certainly has!
I’m always inspired by my creative friends, and during the Covid-19 restrictions I’ve watched the innovation and resilience of artists and writers and musicians with great admiration. My friend Rebekah Durston, for instance, lead a 3,600 strong choir and baroque orchestra in a staggering performance of Handel’s Messiah at Home . A number of Rebekah’s violin pupils, including my daughter, took part in The Benedetti Foundation’s Virtual Benedetti Sessions. My daughter had the unique opportunity, with other young musicians from around the globe, to play the exquisite Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, conducted by Karina Canellakis (you can listen from 50:16). And as for things literary, I know that I have been captivated by poet Malcolm Guite’s enchanting new YouTube channel, A Spell in the Library. The spell featuring the portrait of a young C. S. Lewis by Northern Irish artist and sculptor, our friend Ross Wilson, was a particular delight for us.
Jonathan Rea’s lock-down projects include the orchestration for The Irish Blessing, a very popular Sunday night HymnTime, and a Wednesday evening Jazz Therapy session around his piano, on FaceBook Live. But Jonathan also curated a very beautiful Morning Service for Trinity Sunday, broadcast on BBC Radio 4. This featured a meditation on the comfort that Christians find in the Triune God. Susan McKay, another friend since university days, gave a most moving account in this service of how God has given her strength to live each new day since she lost her beloved husband almost ten years ago.
It was my honour to be asked to write a poem for this service, embracing the high themes of Christian hope and the Trinity. The words draw on Biblical pictures of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit that have proved to be a source of hope to me. I pray they will be helpful to you too.
When unexpected darkness comes
and hearts are heavy and worn,
where is hope?
Hope is a rainbow through rain:
the Father stands with open arms
to welcome us home again.
When all our strength has ended,
and all our resources have gone,
where is hope?
Hope is the love of a friend:
all God’s promises fulfilled
in Heaven’s Risen Son.
When the road ahead is troubled,
and days are uncertain, with fears,
where is hope?
Hope is sunshine through tears:
the Comforter journeys by our side,
God with us all our years.