by Paul Hooker
On the occasion of the adoption of the Belhar Confession
by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
They stood around the room,
unseen saints, hanging
from the rafters, or floating
in the air, or marching
among us, invisible as ghosts—
the dead who ask the living:
Some wore the shackle, some the noose,
some bled from wounds from bullet
or sword, or hobbled, fractured bones
not yet knitted. Some bore the look
of hunger, with bloodshot eyes
hot with tears of hope denied
We took the vote to make
their words our own, to lift
their prayer upon our voice.
And there was silence.
And we knew. The time had come
to rest these ghosts, and make no more
So beautiful. I was in the General Assembly hall when we celebrated this spectacular event, knitting our story into common cause with our brothers and sisters from South Africa. I wasn’t expecting my own emotions.
Theodore J. Wardlaw President
i’m not at GA, but this vote is monumental, and you voiced the keening of the voiceless with this very important poem. i am reading it again and again, on this morning after the Brexit vote, where xenophobia has won,
and the tears flow.