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Hallo again to all.

Boston Common The week behind us was fraught with distraction. Its news headlines, from start to finish, were full of stories about human suffering. We learned of major earthquakes in China and beneath the poorly-named Pacific Ocean. We watched with sorrow as the death toll grew higher in an accidental factory explosion in Texas. And most of all, we watched with shock the news of deadly, maiming bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Last Monday's violence was most heart-breaking for us in the precision of its destruction: the loss of limbs for runners—among the most peaceful and dedicated kinds of athletes we know—is a loss of their honed ability to make meaning with their legs. As St Paul knew, racing is believing that one's feet will fall on solid ground again and again. It is the decision to keep stepping forward, to keep breathing, to trust our bodies and the earth underneath us and the air in our lungs. Every runner is alone at the start and finish of an intense and careful journey, but every runner shares the fellowship and concomitant strength that comes from running with others; this is not far at all from our own experience of Christian life. Like Christ, running knows no barriers of language or colour or sex or wealth or station.

Tonight, though, we lament the idea that in addition to their shared wisdom about blisters, stretching, hydration, carb-loading and the right shoes, runners will now have in mind the possibility that their good and faith-filled endeavour can also be the scene of a terrorist attack.

We mentioned recently at dinner with friends that we've tracked a process in the last decade and more of being unable to put the toothpaste of security back into the tube of life once there has been a particularly bad squeeze. Cinemas, summer camps, primary schools and colleges, churches, temples, skyscrapers, aeroplanes, double-decker buses, hotels, post offices and public transit have each in turn become places where very small numbers of violent persons bring about deadly attacks on larger numbers of persons who had the reasonable expectation of safety. We don't stop going to watch films, or keep children away from school, or refuse to take the Tube, or stop visiting skyscrapers. But we also can't unthink that these parts of the 'trivial round, the common task' are changed fundamentally with the heavy memory and faint fresh scent of danger.

Our globalised selves are well aware that recent terrorism in the First World is in fact a narrowing of the gaps between the experience of people in London, Madrid, Boston, New York and Oslo and with the randomised violence known very well to people in Chiapas, Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Aleppo, Kabul or Gaza. This awareness does not reassure us. It rather reinforces our sense that the tide is flowing in the wrong direction, and that we need to sing more.

When we had news of yet another terrorist action, we prayed, to be sure. We contacted the persons dearest to us to share with them our concern and love. In the midst of sorrow, anger, and the futile refreshing of internet browsers, most of all we sang our way through the night.

Every day this week, as every day for many years, we sang inside and out the words of one of our best hymns—whether as a balm or bulwark we aren't certain. It is the soundtrack of our lives, no matter if mingled with sirens, klaxons, blues and twos, the struggling yell of a teething child, the knocking of a radiator, happy laughter, plopping drips of melting roof-snow, or the silent fall of wind-blown cherry blossoms. It keeps the good Hydra of our faith alive in sincerity and truth, and it cannot be vanquished.

Dear Lord and father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service find
In deeper reverence praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord, let us, like them
Without a word rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest of Galilee! O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity interpreted by love.

Drop thy still dew of quietness, till all our strivings cease
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm.

See you next week.

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21 April 2013

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