“I wonder whether the Blood of Christ could cure Coronavirus?”, thought the Rev. Simon Abernathy to himself as he polished that most famous of cups; the Holy Grail, in the extension created especially for it at the back of St Gerald the Damned, the Holy Lance forever floating above it, eternally dripping Christ’s blood down into the golden, jewel encrusted communion cup.
The Holy Grail and the Holy Lance had been in Lower Strangling since AD30 when Joseph of Arimathea visited the incumbent Vicar, Welgrot Aldberoth, after Jesus had been crucified. Joseph told Welgrot the bad news about Jesus, before bestowing him with the Holy Grail and the Holy Lance on the condition that they be kept in Lower Strangling until the day came when it would be needed. Joseph then planted a Yew tree and disappeared into the sunset, never to return to England again.
And so Welgrot kept his word, for centuries the Grail and the Lance were kept in a secret extension inside St Gerald the Damned. The only physical proof of the validity of Christianity, just sitting there at the back of a small English church in a small village in central Warwickshire, waiting for the moment when Communion wine just wasn’t enough. Most people presume this is a legend, only the Guardian of the Holy Grail knows the truth.
For the next 1,990 years, each consecutive Vicar after Welgrot became the Guardian of the Holy Grail. The latest of course, being dear old Simon.
The Grail was never dirty, and so there was no need for it to be cleaned. Simon knew this, of course, but he was doing it anyway so as not to drown in his own thoughts.
You see, Simon had not said a word to anybody else in the village for the whole weekend, except to lead the Sunday service, albeit slightly quieter than usual.
In fact, no one had spoken to anybody in the village for a while. It wasn’t anything to do with the COVID-19 lockdown, but rather the shock and anger of the news of the death of George Floyd, a young black man in Minneapolis in Minnesota in America, who had been brutally murdered by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck for nine minutes purely. George was arrested for supposedly using a fake $20 cheque, but he was murdered because he was black. It seemed like something that happened during the sixties, but it was uncomfortably recent.
George was not the first victim of police brutality, and he unfortunately would probably not be the last.
But it wasn’t just shock that made the village silent, it was a sudden and uncomfortable realisation of their own reality, their situation, their history, their privilege.
Of course, you had to be privileged to be able to afford even the cheapest house in Lower Strangling, everyone knew that. They just didn’t know how privileged. Until now.
Because, as well as being exclusively white, Lower Strangling financially benefitted from the slave trade, and therefore was partially built on racism. The Peterson’s manor, beautiful thought it was, was once owned by a man in the 18th century who had connections in the slave trade, and used the money he earned to add various modifications to the 15th century manor. He even created the extensive garden with it, which eventually became the extraordinary and unique Lower Strangling Botanical Gardens. This meant that Jo Whitely, the head gardener, had to live with the uncomfortable truth that she owed her job to the slave trade… and racism.
Lower Strangling was only part of the villagers white privilege. Just by being white, they were imbedded into a societal system that benefitted them at the expense of people who were different. It didn’t matter that none of them were consciously racists, they all benefitted from white supremacy just by being white.
Simon, in particular, had thought about this for a while, and specifically what he could do to set things right once of for all. The villagers had done all the right things so far; signed the right petitions, donated to various charities, even prayed for the situation.
But Simon felt he had to do something else, but he didn’t know what.
Realising that hiding in a dark stone room polishing a cup that didn’t need to be polished wouldn’t make the situation go away, Simon left the room, walked out of the church, and walked back to the vicarage in the deserted village, underneath the backdrop of a burning orange sky.
It wasn’t Simon’s fault that the systematically racist society he was born into was created. But it was his responsibility to help bring about its downfall.
And it is also our responsibility to help bring about its downfall. George Floyd’s death was the last straw, even people like me who originally vowed never to be political online have to do our bit to contribute to the ending of police brutality, systematic racism, and white supremacy only then can we properly move on.
The ways you can help can be viewed via the URL link listed below, including charities to donate to and petitions to sign, thank you:
Together, we must realise that black lives matter.
Moderate hilarity will resume next week.