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Monday, 16 May 2016

Exhibition, service & reception - St Stephen

Clare Paine, London Church Coordinator for Christian Aid, spoke (during Christian Aid Week) in our Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook about St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in relation to Christian Aid's support for partners who serve their communities and who do so, sometimes, in the face of persecution. As an organisation committed to human dignity, Christian Aid wants to see a reduction in the inequalities people face and create a more inclusive world, so Clare told us about Karla Avelar’s experience of exclusion and violence, which is replicated by so many women and men around the world.

Karla Avelar, a Salvadorian transgender activist who survived rape, attempted murder, kidnap and incarceration in a male prison is now Executive Director of Comcavis Trans, an organisation that fights for the legal rights of El Salvador’s transgender population. Comcavis Trans receives support from FESPAD, which is funded by Christian Aid. Karla's coordination with FESPAD started around four years ago because of the assassination of one of her closest friends, Tania. 

As a result, they wanted to press charges at a national and international level, but didn’t have that expertise in their organisation. FESPAD, along with others, gave the technical expertise to submit a case to the American Human Rights Commission [the case had not previously been recognised by the Salvadorian state]. A report was put together based on the evidence and that was anchored in the tangible reality of what trans women were experiencing. The commission passed a resolution that strongly suggested that the Salvadoran state write and pass an identity law-passage for an anti-discrimination law for the LGBTI population. They also suggested reforms of the penal code to recognise hate crimes. In the longer-term Comcavis Trans want access to justice and the creation of laws and to have the same rights as the heterosexuals in the country.

We also used Malcolm Guite's poem about St Stephen and prayed the following prayers:

O Saviour Christ, in whose way of life lies the secret of all life, and the hopes of all the people, we pray for quiet courage to meet this hour. We did not choose to be born or to live in such an age. But let its problems challenge us, its discoveries exhilarate us, its injustice anger us, its possibilities inspire us, and its vigour renew us, for your Kingdom’s sake. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Crying God, we join our voices with those from around the globe, crying out for the plight of the persecuted minorities in El Salvador, Iraq and many other places. We join our hearts with those displaced from their homes, yet again, crying out for the fear, the terror and the madness to end. We join our hope with those who wait for rescue, crying out for food, for water and for the kingdom of heaven to break into their hell. We join our faith with the faith of all who pray, crying out for the slaughter of innocence to end. We join our tears with yours, crying out for us all to know and live by the things that make for peace. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Lord God, your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his resurrection he restores life and peace in all creation. Comfort, we pray, all victims of intolerance and those oppressed by their fellow humans. Remember in your kingdom those who have died. Lead the oppressors towards compassion
and give hope to the suffering. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Gracious Father, who gave the first martyr Stephen grace to pray for those who took up stones against him: grant that in all our sufferings for the truth we may learn to love even our enemies and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt, looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us, Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate. Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today's music sung by the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields was: James MacMillan - Factus est Repente; Orlando Gibbons - Lord with what zeal; Edward Elgar - The Spirit of the Lord; and G.P. da Palestrina - Elegerunt Apostoli.

Next week's Discover & explore service is on Monday 23rd May and explores the life and thought of the Venerable Bede.

Later in the evening we explored Joe Machine's interpretation of the life and legend of St Stephen at the Private View for our latest exhibition. Joe Machine's paintings combine Jewish and Christian iconography in a unique interpretation of the story of the first Christian martyr, who is our Patron Saint. Mysticism, humour, symbolism, narrative and stylized patterning are fused to form these ravishing and reflective icons. Other exhibition events include a concert by Claudio Crismani (Wednesday 18th May, 7.00pm) and a Poetry Evening organised by The London Magazine (Wednesday 25th May, 7.00pm).


Orlando Gibbons - Lord with what zeal.

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