On Ash Wednesday members of the London Catholic Worker, the Catholic Worker Farm, Pax Christi and Christian CND met in Embankment Gardens to take part in the yearly liturgy that bears witness to the moral scandal of our government’s nuclear weapons programme. Ann Kelly and Anne Peacey from the NJPN, Fr Joe Ryan and the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist monks and nuns also joined us.
At the start of the liturgy we laid out the charcoal and ashes to be blessed. After being marked ourselves with ashes, we processed round Whitehall Avenue, under the banner, ‘No Faith in Trident’. When we came to the Ministry of Defence we spread ashes on sackcloth, in the form of the word ‘Repent’ and greeted each other, the police and the taxi drivers who happened to be striking that day with the sign of peace.
When the procession got to the back of the MOD Fr. Martin Newell cp and I clumsily rolled over the fence and marked the back wall, with a charcoal cross. Earlier that day Scott Albrecht from the Catholic Worker Farm and Ray Towey had already marked the front entrance.
Trident is a shadowy, hidden violence, only reported on when there is a debate in Parliament. Yet here in Whitehall sit the people whose job it is to take part in the procurement of the nuclear warheads, missiles and submarines.
In preparing for this day I read Deuteronomy 30:19, ‘I have put before you life and death [..] therefore choose life’. We, together with the people who work in Whitehall, have the power to influence decisions. Our own moral failure means that we still maintain these weapons. Ash Wednesday is a good moment to remember our collective sin.
During vigils and processions such as this one, I’ve often become aware of the heavy masonry buildings seeming to lose their permanence. By focusing on our own faith and prayer we realize their ephemeral nature; they are only full of people just like ourselves. The capacity for repentance, then, is enormous and the Ash Wednesday witness is full of hope.
This article appears in the Summer edition of NJPN Newsletter