“When I Needed a Neighbour - Were You There?”

When Year-End Meeting Delegates became the choir

News November 24, 2022

18 November 2022 | Budva, Montenegro, [David Neal and Vanesa Pizzuto]

It is not difficult to list the multiple global crises; political, economic, environmental, social, spiritual and not forgetting personal challenges. But the world of 2022 was preceeded by the world of 2020, and 2021 which experienced the global Covid pandemic, which has led to Collins dictionary adding a new word ‘Permacrisis’, defined as “An extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.”

Is there a song which speaks to our times? Which song reflects the experience of the displaced, the oppressed and economically challenged in 2022 for whatever reason? Is there a song which calls the Christ-follower to respond?

Composed in 1965 by Sydney Carter, ‘When I Needed a Neighbour” asks a simple question. “When I needed a Neighbour – were you there? As we have watched images on our screens of the terrors of war in Europe, and witnessed displaced people with all the possessions they can carry including pets in suitcases and bags, crossing borders to seek safety and shelter, Carter’s song challenges our response.

A song calling for compassion, it is a reminder of the compassion of Christ who was asked, “And who is my neighbour”? (Luke 1:29). As one commentator said about the song, “While Carter’s plea for love and understanding amongst people has always been relevant – what subject could be more so? – there is also the paradox that at that unique time and place we are wont to call ‘now’, the need for compassion has always seemed greater than ever.”

A major feature of the Friday evening vesper service was the singing of Carter’s song by the congregation of gathered leaders becoming the choir. Led by song leaders Jóhann E. Jóhannsson (Treasurer, Norwegian Union Conference) and Vanesa Pizzuto (TED Associate Communication and Media director) and accompanied on the piano by Lidija Maletic (Lay representative, Slovenian Conference) and caught on camera by James Botha (Scottish Mission president), here is their rendition.

[Photos: Shutterstock, Video: James Botha]

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