OVER the past few weeks, I have found myself sobbing. No, not at the state of the world, but at perfect tens on Strictly Come Dancing, confessions of love on Married at First Sight, and spectacular bakes on The Great British Bake Off. While I might pretend to be a serious person — one who writes columns for the Church Times — I am a complete sucker for trash TV.
This is the moment in which I come clean and confess that these iconic shows are some of the ways in which I cope with the existential crises that I see all around us. They provide the perfect escape from coronavirus, corruption, and the climate crisis.
Since having a child, I have found myself unable to enjoy the thrillers or psychological dramas that I used to spend my downtime watching. I can no longer find entertainment in the darkness of the world, which is why I turn instead to frivolous shows in which I can completely switch off, resting my weary brain cells with my feet up at the end of busy days. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking forward to all the Christmas specials.
THE majority of this year, for me, has involved working with colleagues at Christian Aid to achieve an impact during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Our aim in all of the events and stunts and talks and panels was to demonstrate that the climate crisis is not just a distant reality, but a current, daily nightmare for those communities with whom we work in the global South, bearing the brunt of floods, droughts, storms, and more.
To no one’s surprise, but everyone’s disappointment, the summit ended without the radical, global changes needed. But indulge me for a moment while I celebrate one of the work achievements I am most proud of, as I spend my last weeks at Christian Aid before moving to Theos (where I’ll be the new director), come the New Year (News, 15 October).
The past few months have involved me negotiating with none other than Sony Music Publishing and the Marvin Gaye estate to obtain permission for Christian Aid to commission the Kingdom Choir to sing one of the most iconic soul songs — which just happens to be about the environment.
Thankfully, the Gaye family did grant permission for the filming of a new version of “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)” — arranged by a choir member, Clint Jordan — which was performed at a special event at Glasgow Cathedral during COP26, alongside Lord Williams, John Bell of the Iona Community, and other church leaders and climate activists. There is power in music to communicate some of the biggest issues of our day.
THIS Advent will be particularly poignant for me as I resonate with Mary’s story more than I ever have before. I’ll be hearing in new ways the story of this expectant mother, awaiting the birth of her child and Lord, as I myself am pregnant with our second child, due to make his or her way into the world in late spring.
Pregnancy is all about that expectant waiting. The counting of the days and weeks and months; the anxiety; the weekly checking to see whether your child is the size of a blueberry, an apple, or a pineapple. The waiting to hold them in your arms for the first time; to take in that new baby smell. The waiting to see what kind of character this small person will develop into. So much waiting and hoping.
I’ll also be resonating with Mary’s strength. All women — whether or not they bear children — go through so much that we are expected to keep quiet about. Over the past few weeks, I have suffered from extreme nausea and vomiting: the familiar yet unwelcome side-effects of the overwhelming hormone takeover that accompanies pregnancy. So brutal can be the effects of so-called “morning” sickness that, at times, I have felt as if I couldn’t go on.
As someone who thrives on being called “Superwoman”, I have realised that I most certainly am not. There are times I have had to cancel events and speaking engagements, ask for help, and simply say “No.” This Advent, as I read Mary’s familiar story, I will be giving thanks for the strength of women.
WE HAVE just got through my son’s fourth-birthday weekend. I had given myself permission to buy a birthday cake for the first time, until I caved and — two days before his birthday — found myself designing a fondant-iced Blaze and the Monster Machines cake.
The weekend included seeing friends; a joint birthday party with his nursery friend at an indoor enchanted woodland; and opening piles of presents, and introducing new toys to the already overflowing toy boxes.
After unwrapping several parcels, my son surveyed the scene before him, the living room littered with cardboard, wrapping paper, and various new toy characters, and said, “I don’t want any more presents.” That’s my boy, I thought. We’ll bear that in mind for Christmas.
Chine McDonald is a writer, broadcaster, and head of public engagement at Christian Aid.