I wrote this poem in response to the recent events surrounding the death of Sarah Everard, and in particular the violent policing of protest and vigils in her memory, on Clapham Common and elsewhere. I wanted to explore the questions which I and others had been voicing about where God is in all this, in the injustices of a world where male violence against women is so often normalised and so rarely addressed.
Death and resurrection, pain, hope, and anger are all themes in this poem, along with the complexity of the relationship between those things in women’s lives and our responses to male violence. Christa in this poem stands in solidarity and sisterhood with every woman who has protested or resisted the violent impact of patriarchal misogyny on our lives. She is both risen and scarred, always in the process both of being crucified in the pain and suffering of her sisters, and of rising in their strength, compassion and holy anger.
Christa takes to the streets
She stands among her sisters,
faces streaked with candlelight and grief.
Stories everywhere, like breath on the wind:
groping, grabbing, shouting, stalking,
all those looks, words, touches… you know.
She nods. She knows.
And the silent swell of all that’s still
too big, too raw, too hard to tell,
too small to bother mentioning,
a rolling boil of rage.
She has known death. Her scarred wrists
speak of pain, sorrow, fear
of all that lurks in the shadows,
yet here she stands, rising still.
And all around her in the stillness,
rising: the rising of the women,
her sisters, her body, rising
anger coursing through her,
rising to the surface, bubbling over
in sobbing and singing and silence.
She's crushed again, aching bone-deep
and, burrowing into her bruised and broken body,
the heavy familiarity of betrayal:
the weight, like a knee on her back,
of sin – not hers – that clings and presses
until her face is in the dirt.
She can barely lift her eyes,
sore with sorrow and still weeping,
to greet the creeping grey of dawn.
Yet still from the ground she rises.
Christa – the female figure of Christ – emerges from a tradition of female forms of the Divine which stretches back to the earliest days of Christian history in art and theological writing, though it has often been suppressed by a male-dominated, patriarchal church. For contemporary Christian feminists, Christa can provide a freer and more expansive way of exploring Christological concepts and doctrines, in ways which move away from the patriarchal frameworks in which these theologies have become entangled.
My own journey with Christa has been most strongly influenced by the poetry of Nicola Slee (“Seeking the Risen Christa” (SPCK, 2011)) and the art of Caroline Mackenzie (https://carolinemackenzie.co.uk/).