Just over a month ago I attended an award ceremony for legal aid workers.
It was impressive and moving to hear the stories of barristers of all ages and backgrounds and other legal aid workers, who were working for almost nothing. Representing people who needed (but could not afford) an advocate to ensure justice.
The awards were presented by Doreen Lawrence, who was made a Baroness in 2013 but is known as being the mother of teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in 1993. And whose fight for justice, through the legal aid funded public investigation of her son’s case, is famous. And led to the Metropolitan Police being found to be ‘institutionally racist.’
The lawyer who represented Doreen Lawrence says, due to cuts in the public funding of legal aid, ‘There are [now] not enough hours to be able to make enough money on legal aid to survive. I am working twice as hard as I used to with half or a third of the money.’
So, hearing the stories of recent cases taken on by legal aid lawyers, I could not help being impressed and inspired by their nobility and self-sacrifice in standing up for truth and justice.
One chamber of lawyers gave out free packs of Post-It notes to the audience with their motto printed on them which read Do right. Fear no-one.
The motto comes from an unattributed English 15th century proverb. But I remember thinking what a great motto – Do right. Fear no one. And how I should really adopt it for my church!
The thing is that, at my church St Michael's in Chiswick, we are here in the community to be kind and friendly. I like to think of us as being like a local family and Church being like home – where everyone and anyone is welcome.
But we are also a community committed to truth and justice. Who want to do right. Who want to fear no one and stand up for the weak and powerless.
I think if Jesus had had a motto or strapline them maybe it would have been Do right. Fear no one.
On 23 September we’ll be having our Harvest festival at St Michael’s and this year it’s a Green Harvest. So we are not just bringing in pumpkins and pineapples and saying thank you for our food. We are gathering to encourage each other to stand up for the rights of our planet. To say No to plastic. To say No to waste. And to take on the Goliaths of industry who put profit before environmental accountability.
And we’ll also be starting to prepare for another Winter Night Shelter for local homeless men. Through which we hope not only to provide a hot meal and bed for fifteen individuals. But also to work out and campaign for better ways to combat homelessness and support those who find themselves on the streets. (Let me know if you would like to volunteer to help with this project.)
September is the new January. As a mother of five, after so much of my life revolving around school timetables, I can’t help thinking of September as the start of the year.
So make a new resolution. To do right. And to fear no one. And let’s do that together, in solidarity, as a community.
Come along to Church and help us - as we strive to make a better, fairer world.