Our voice will not be stilled
For the briefest moment, I worried that Friday night’s attack on our community, our businesses, our city — and on Christmas itself — would have its intended effect of dampening our enthusiasm for the future, but that instant of doubt has been dispelled by the choristers, carolers and unstoppable singers of Belfast.
What the wreckers — who would dare tell us that we cannot celebrate Christmas — don’t understand is that we have come too far as a people to bow down to the threat of violence. Our voice will not be stilled.
That’s the mellifluous message I received in the sold-out Crescent Arts Centre on Friday night where our gay choir, Quire, swept us off our feet with their rendition of Snow Patrols’ ‘Chasing Cars’:
“I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own”
And it was repeated, in sonic spades, at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church on Saturday night when the cross-community, multi-ethnic magnificent Belfast Community Gospel Choir and its irrepressible director Marie Lacey, lifted us up at another full-house event with an evening of spirituals which represented the true spirit of Belfast. Their new CD ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ (what a motto for Belfast!) is just out and it’s my dream to bring them to New York next year to show America the true face of Belfast. Belfast spirituals in Harlem, now that really would be something.
And earlier today, I travelled to Belfast Castle to present a Lord Mayor’s Commendation Certificate to the wonderful Cavehill Community Choir who have gone further than most music-lovers would go — they invited me to sing with them at rehearsal on Thursday past. To enter the rehearsal room at Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church to a hundred voices booming out ‘Looked over Jordan and what did I see, Coming for to carry me home’ was quite a thrill. Today, I exhorted them to please continue to sing out loud for Belfast.
My conviction is that the people of Belfast will not be diverted from building a united and peaceful city.
Having met the families evacuated from their homes as a result of Friday’s attack — thankfully I was able to leave some of them home in the mayoral limo when the alert ended at Friday midnight — and having sat down with the PSNI officers protecting the city, I am confident, to use the phrase of one restaurateur who lost an entire night’s business, we will not be deflected by this BS.
To close with the words of Nelson Mandela, whose life we celebrated and whose death we mourned at St Anne’s Cathedral on Saturday at the invitation of the Dean of Belfast (and my Church of Ireland Chaplain Rev John Mann): “We have to fight to defeat the primitive tendency towards the glorification of arms, the adulation of force, born of the illusion that injustice can be perpetuated by the capacity to kill, or that disputes are necessarily best resolved by resort to violent means.”