This Snow Patrol song has been on my lips for a good few weeks now. As we gathered this morning for the 4 Corners Festival Prayer Event it seemed perfect for the occasion as we sought God to bring peace and prosperity to every corner of Belfast.
Gary Lightbody’s lyric writing has always been romance based, mostly on the broken hearted side. Though he has squeezed some universal profundity into such melancholy, Take Back The City is a new departure. In a Q magazine, at the time of the single’s release, Lightbody explained that the song is about his home city of Belfast which he has learned to fall in love with all over again. When Lightbody left for University in Dundee at the beginning of the nineties Belfast was a besieged city. There were a couple of years when every road into the city had police checks and people were being shot almost daily. By the time Lightbody returned, around 2005, the city had had a decade without bombs and bullets; it was a place revived with new shopping centres, city centre bars and clubs and music venues big enough for Snow Patrol’s success. Just like its returning sons, Belfast is thriving!
Though the negative side of Northern Ireland’s conflict haunts Take Back The City it is a song about loving the city, enjoying the city and reshaping the city. Lightbody sings about the broken record of entrenched political sectarianism and about the futility of picking sides in a historical fight he doesn’t understand. The main thrust of Lightbody’s ode to home though is about sucking the marrow out of the city, sometimes admitting to partying too much. Where I have personally been inspired is in the verse:
“God knows you put your life into its hands
And it's both cradled you and crushed
But now it's time to make your own demands.”
I am sure Gary Lightbody does not have the same missional take on this that those of us who organised the 4 Corners Festival do but this is a very interesting take on our relationship with our home cities, towns or villages. The city shapes us, cradles and crushes us into the adults we become but after that we are the shapers of the city. Our task as the Churches is to engage with our city as “World Formative Christians” to take a phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff. Every time I hear Take Back This City it reminds that the city that I live in, that is the very subject of this song, has made me who I am... now to make it what we in the Churches believe it should look like when “God’s kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.” We hope that the 4 Corners festival has and will begin to help us all take back the city!