From 25th to 27th February, 200 people from all backgrounds gathered together in the Rag Factory, a fantastic arts venue just off Brick Lane in East London. We came by overnight coach from St Andrews, hitch hiked from Holland, enjoyed sharing the experience with others on minibuses from Sheffield and Manchester. Whether we arrived on our own or with others, the Rag Factory and its culturally diverse surroundings soon became our ‘home’ for the a weekend of exploring what it is to live as beacons of hope in a fragile and hurting world. Joel Edwards, from Micah Challenge International, challenged us to find an ‘angry hope’ within ourselves. A hope that does not stand by and tolerate injustice, but does more than simply cry out at the pain and suffering around us. We need to present an alternative vision to the world, offering positive solutions and taking our inspiration from a different kingdom, God’s kingdom. Andy Freeman, a man whose vision helped start the 24-7 prayer movement, reminded us that we cannot bring change to the world through our own strength, but need to place our hope and trust in Jesus for the transformation that we want to see. If we are ‘breathing out’ all the time, we will soon exhaust ourselves; we need to find time to ‘breath in’, spending time in prayer and supporting each other, so that we can sustain this journey towards peace and justice. Soundcheck had a whole range of workshops and discussions to cater for the diverse interests, gifts and skills of all of us in the SPEAK network. From Chris Howson talking about how to link justice into the local church, the latest information on campaigns run by SPEAK and its partners, from ‘water and sanitation’ to ‘prayer’, ‘prophecy’ and ‘parenting’, there were a whole load of practical and thought provoking workshops to inspire us in living out lives of compassion and justice in our communities, workplace or place of study. ‘How to cook for large crowds’ didn’t involve sitting around looking at a recipe book, but getting on and doing it, under the expert supervision of Adrian Platt. Dinner times at Soundcheck will not only be remembered as times when new friendships were made and encouraging stories were shared, but fantastic dishes were enjoyed such as Ethiopian vegetable wat, West African jollof rice, and Tanzanian cardamom-mashed sweet potato. Amazing. Do have a look at the SPEAK facebook page for information on where to find the recipes from the weekend! A fantastic weekend was finished off with our very own ‘redemptions songs’ Music Speaks night featuring some great performances from members of the Network and beyond, speaking and singing out for justice around the world. As part of proceedings we recorded a giant collective MP3 message to add to our MP3 campaign, launched during Soundcheck. As a network, we’re aiming to have 24 hours worth of people speaking out against corporate abuse by the Day of Action 2012, when we will present it to parliament as a giant, creative petition for the rights of workers overseas, to ensure that they companies can be held to account for their working conditions and wages.
Soundcheck 2011: Resurrecting Hope. What a weekend. We came expecting to be challenged, to discover more about unjust situations in the world around us, to be inspired by the stories of others in the SPEAK Network. Most of all we came to claim back a real sense of hope, in a world where pessimism can so often be the response when confronted with the challenges of poverty and oppression.