During more than 50 years I have celebrated Workers Day, the first day of May. It is a public holiday in Norway. In many cities and local communities, a parade is part of the celebration. In a small mining village in the northern part of Norway called Sulitjelma, the traditional celebration has been kept almost every year since a famous miners’ strike took place in 1907. Only during the Nazi occupation (1940-45) there was no public celebration. But now, the war against the Corona-pandemic has again silenced the public commemoration of this important day for the Labour-movement in Sulitjelma.
I participated several times as the area bishop on these occasions, being the speaker of the day or the preacher in the festive service in the local church. 1st of May was chosen as a commemoration day by the International Socialist Movement to remember the dramatic events taking place in Haymarket, Chicago in 1886, when the workers arranged an “illegal” demonstration for the eight-hour workday.
To me in my political “awakening” as a theological student in the late 1960-s, former archbishop William Temple was a great inspiration. Times have changed. But the debate about the political involvement of the church is still a question creating debate. To me it is important for the church whatever political tradition we personally feel as ours, to be engaged in the well-being of my neighbour. Being the voice of the voiceless. Seeing those who are unseen. Challenging our politicians to continue to develop a society based on solidarity, equality and justice.
A crisis like the pandemic we now are experiencing, is exposing those who are most vulnerable in our society today: The elderly, the homeless, those without work. Migrants and many of those included in the acronym BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic).
It is my May-hope that the present, unprecedented, dramatic global crisis will create a new spirit of solidarity and responsibility focusing on the values mentioned in the House of Bishops’ letter from 2015: “enhance human dignity, honour the image of God in our neighbour and respect the natural environment”.
The important question also for the members of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain is: How can we be good neighbours in our society? Both during the present crisis and in the days beyond – “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”. (Hebr 12:2)