Saturday, 18 December 2010

Hope sleep and laughter - speech by Stephen Brown at the farewell to ENInews staff

'Hope, sleep and laughter'

Remarks at the farewell to ENInews' staff, 16 December 2010

First of all, my apologies. By the end of my remarks you will probably be asking yourselves what I have learned about post-colonial and gender perspectives during my 16 years at the Ecumenical Centre. For, as you will hear, my comments seem to revolve around the 'dead philosophers' society' - all the members of which, in this case, are white, male and European!!

Karl Marx, the German political economist, once wrote, "People make their own history but not in circumstances of their own choosing". It is no secret, I think, that the circumstances that we are marking today are not ones that I, or many of us here, would have chosen.

Rather than dwell on the circumstances, I prefer to concentrate on the first half of the sentence - the opportunity offered in whatever circumstances to make one's own history. Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher whose name has sometimes been confused with that of our current president, Anders (Gadegaard), put it like this: "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward."

Nevertheless, at an occasion such as this I also need to cast a glance backwards and give thanks for the enormous opportunities I have received over the past 16 years. I am and remain immensely grateful for these opportunities, and immensely proud of what we have achieved at ENInews. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to all those people and organizations who have allowed me these possibilities.

The danger of beginning to single out people for particular thanks is that either you read out a long list of names or that people who should be on the list are not there. So, I have decided to thank several categories of people, but these thanks should be understood as inclusive thanks to all of you.

Firstly, I want to thank the colleagues at ENInews I have worked with over the past 16 years: Eddie, Desirée, Danielle, Samia, Laurie, Peter, Valerie, Jean-Michel, Mylah, Doris, and David. Anything and everything that has been achieved is because we have worked as a team. Secondly, I want to thank the moderators and presidents of ENInews governing boards: Margot Kässmann, Jean-Jacques Bauswein, Robin Gurney, David Lawrence and Anders Gadegaard, for their advice, support - and belief in ENInews. Thirdly, the treasurers that I have worked with: Marianne Ejdersten and David Lawrence.

I also want to pay tribute to Jan Kok, who many of us still miss and who died much too young, for his vision and foresight in believing in ENInews and taking the action that made it a possibility (and Libby (Visinand) who did much of the actual work to prepare for ENInews). I want particularly to thank my current colleagues - Peter, Jean-Michel and David - for being such a great team. Particularly in the last weeks and months, we have been able to pull together, make sure the work gets done and support each other in what have not always been the easiest of times.

If I single out one organization, then it is the World Council of Churches. Without the opportunities I received from the WCC I would not be here today: attending the 1983 Vancouver assembly and a receiving a WCC scholarship to study in East Berlin in the early 1980s.

It was in Berlin that I first came across the saying of another 'dead philosopher', Immanuel Kant: "Three things help to bear the hardships of life: hope, sleep and laughter."

Those who know me know of my proclivity to be able to fall asleep anywhere, and almost at any time. But what I want to wish for all of us for the future, is not sleep, but much hope and laughter.

Stephen Brown