Reflections on 2020 and Hopes for 2021
2020 has been an unusual year for all, and a deeply painful year for many. There have been tangible moments of destruction, captivity, and stagnation. Covid19 has been responsible for much of this, bringing illness, death, fear, and lockdown. It has also formed the backdrop for societal difficulties including deepening divides between opposite ideologies, increasing weaponisation of free speech, and rapidly rising transphobia, racism, and ableism. 2020 has also, however, brought tangible moments of creation, liberation and transformation. Creatives have found new ways of doing things, liberators have found new ways of speaking truth to power, transformation has been central to our lives, as we work out how to adapt to almost continuous change. For me, 2020 has been a year of fear and of hope. I would like to take a moment, now, to reflection on my experiences of 2020 and to look forward to 2021. Lots has happened, which I will skim over here. For more details, visit my ‘year in review’ posts here and here.
My academic work has been a wonderful privilege this year. In particular, I have loved working with ten amazing research participants to begin to shape my PhD thesis, teaching a class on trans and non-binary readings of scripture at the Cambridge Theological Federation, and leading a workshop on gender identity and church for the Council for World Mission. In the area of inclusion and diversity, I have been delighted to lead workshops on trans and non-binary identities for fabulous groups of people, and to continue to write and work as a consultant. I am honoured to have been invited to be co-chair of the open table network. I also enjoyed being interviewed for Songs of Praise by Aled Jones. I had some very difficult times as a result of transphobia, but have been overwhelmed by the support people have given me. Starting and facilitating Churspacious, a social media based church, has been a real highlight this year. I have learned so much about vocation, spirituality and church from our members, and love exploring life together in creative new ways.
In family life, near the end of 2020 Dharma, a second rescue dog, moved in to join Digger! She is a welcome new addition and has made our home that bit more… chaotic. Jo and I have renewed our commitment to, and passion for, eco-justice in the past year, and embarked on a vegan, teetotal lifestyle over the summer. We are still enjoying this new way of living, and are experimenting with other ways to support our planet and our local community. My membership and Jo’s associate membership of the Iona Community is a great support and inspiration in this commitment, and our local family group has been a wonderful source of friendship, support, and new life.
We have also enjoyed opportunities to explore deeply spiritual and life-giving practices of creativity and of time spent in nature. This has included all kinds of craft practices. The ones that seem to have stuck with me have been embroidery and zentangling, whereas Jo has begun to love crochet. In terms of nature, I have discovered kayacking, Jo is very into sea-swimming, and we both enjoy long walks on the beach or in the woods with or without dogs! I have also, much to my surprise, finally managed to stick to fitness classes and a yoga practice. Both have been instrumental in reconnecting with my embodiment and overcoming mental and physical challenges. The latter has also been immensely spiritually valuable.
At the start of this post I mentioned destruction and creation, captivity and liberation, stagnation and transformation. It might be tempting to separate these into two lists, one of ‘bad’ words and one of ‘good’ words, but I’m not convinced that that is how life words. In scripture, we read about God’s people destroying and creating, enslaving and liberating, stagnating and transforming. We see these cycles in nature too. I would suggest, though, that both God and nature are most alive in processes of creation, liberation and transformation.
Idealism is not always helpful. 2021, like 2020, will include elements of destruction, injustice and stagnation. My prayer, however, is that we may experience moments of new life in which we mirror God in our creativity, our work of liberation and our willingness to be transformed every day. I also hope we might find spaces and times to mirror God in resting, in anger at injustice, in joy and celebration, in understanding of difference, in breaking down of institutional walls, in spiritual exploration, in genuine dialogue and in love. Here’s to a new year. Let’s live in it fully.