Rev Mark Coleman appeared at the City of London Magistrate’s Court on 25th March, charged with Obstruction of the Highway in the October 2019 Rebellion. Mark didn’t actually finish his statement in time for the hearing, as he explains below, but wrote one later. He says:
“I did not finish my statement in time for the 25 March trial at the central London magistrates court because I focused my energy on presenting our legal defence. I knew that there would be a statement from my co-defendant the Reverend Helen Burnett. In fact she gave the most powerful statement which you can read here. I had the privilege of hearing her in that small court. You could hear a pin drop.
“For me this is one of the joys of being part of the rebelling body of Christ. We don’t all need to do or be everything. When I am less than eloquent others are more than eloquent. When I am weak, others are strong. So I left it to Helen,
“But I do think we should all write our statements. Whether or not we are in court ! And it might be long or short, poetic or scientific or tell a story. It doesn’t matter because it is your statement. So based on the notes I had ready in case I was required to give one at the court here is my statement for the 25 March, as completed today 5 months late!“
Here begins the statement.
The cure of souls
Your worships. I have in my hand here the document where the Bishop of Manchester invited me to share with him the cure of souls of the parish of st. Chad, St. Mary in the Baum and St Edmund Rochdale. The charge by the bishop to have the cure of souls means to care for their well-being, both spiritual and material. When I was arrested I held that responsibility of caring for the well-being of those precious people in that northern milltown. They are and they were God’s own people. I believe Jesus died for them out of love although they were not even a twinkle in their parents eye at that time ! Their hard work increased the wealth of this country in the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps today some of that wealth comes through this City of London surrounding this court.
The terrible floods of Boxing Day 2015 showed to me how much they were at risk from climate change and ecological degradation.
I sat on the highway, it is true. You have seen the police webcam images.
I was doing it as the parish priest of those two parishes in Rochdale. I said on that road as a priest terrified for the future lives of the people in his care.
Hopefully we get through life and learn some wisdom. We learn how to love and do less of the damaging things to each other. But on a dying planet and in a collapsing civilisation there would be no capacity for this journey of wisdom of Grace and of growing truth. My job is to help people to grow closer to Jesus Christ – that needs a certain stability of society.
Your worships, you have heard many people say how they have lobbied MPs and sent letters. I have done that too. I want to tell you about some moments in that journey
Your worships, my wife Wendy is Australian. Her family can be traced back to clog makers in Salford. Perhaps somewhere along the line one of them committed a misdemeanor and came before your predecessors on a Salford bench before deportation.
I cannot shake from my mind those images of that orange glow caused by the bushfires. A number of her family had had to evacuate from their town in Bright. So many people were terrified, so many lost their homes. There were billions of animal deaths. I have a photograph on my desktop of my computer of people sheltering on the beach waiting to be rescued.
And rescue is at the heart of my Christian faith. We are concerned with salvation, rescue from death. Jesus invited us to live life abundantly. I made my decision to join the rebellion because I am a follower of Jesus and I seek his Kindom.
Often nowadays people say that people like me are virtue-signalling. I am not particularly important in this. I would be delighted if I had got it all wrong and the climate emergency was a myth. But I could not bear the thought that I had not acted as this existential threat became so crystal clear. I am a man of faith but I also value reason and science.
The prophet Micah spoke of a God who wants us to love mercy and do justice. Jesus lived that in his life. It is that sort of life I wish to emulate. In my own small way, sitting on that road was a step along that journey. It was also a message to my MPs at Parliament, just 200 yards away.
I hope you will accept our defences and find us not guilty.