Family Lessons 30: City of Liverpool

I spent a day in Liverpool this week. I think it is certainly the finest city in Lancashire if not the north of England. The architecture is stunning, the museums and galleries world-class, while the general feel of the place is warm and vibrant. I much prefer it to Manchester, but then then that city was subjected to the IRA’s demolition experts, to which Liverpool, with its large Irish Catholic community, was generally excepted. Indeed, the old stereotype of a Liverpool as a city of shirkers, car thieves and hard-left councillors is all but gone. The gentrified docks, the celebrated culture quarter with its classical colonnades and the futuristic shopping areas have given it a brighter reputation. As the daylight fled, I was pleased to receive some Christian literature from a street evangelist who claimed he was saved (both spiritually and physically) during the aforementioned Irish terrorists’ bombing of Brighton in 1984.

Liverpool was the birth place of my 4x great grandfather, William Winn, in 1830. His father, also William Winn, was a tailor, but of him no further details can be traced. I imagine that early nineteenth-century Liverpool was not as commodious a place as one finds it today. The most impressive of those buildings were yet to go up; the majority of the populace were poorly fed and over-worked; the wealthiest merchants had made their fortunes selling human flesh to the West Indies. The pollution would have been pretty foul and the housing available to folk of modest means would have been cramped, damp and drafty. So although Grandfathers Winn would have recognised their home town as one of the world’s leading centres of trade and commerce, they may not have benefitted from that greatness, unlike today’s Liverpudlians. A tailor may not have performed heavy manual work, but he would been subjected to the foibles of the maritime economy as well as a client base which might not have known where its next meal was coming from. I met for lunch a former pupil of mine who had just completed a Master’s degree in philosophy. There were certainly plenty of young folk about just like him: intelligent, thoughtful and seeking their fortunes. Like me, he loved the city he had adopted; like me, I suspect he would have been repulsed by that same city two centuries back.

I sometimes imagine the Church Triumphant: departed believers from all times and nations before the throne of God in heaven, glorified and spotless. I then consider the Church Militant on earth: weak, compromised, disappointing and pathetic. One day, we will shine and glow; the bride shall be adorned for her husband and her garment will be ready. Just as old Liverpool shed its post-industrial shame and became this pulsating cultural centre, so the beleaguered church of Christ will one day wonderfully refelect her Bridegroom, as the moon mirrors the sun.

Oh, that fine linen garment
  Which on that day we’ll wear,
E’en now, Lord, work within us
  And stitch by stitch prepare.
For this we would redeem
  Every moment opportune
For the wedding day that’s coming
    Very soon.

-James McGranahan (1840-1907)

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2