UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

‘Bright Wings’

A new, lighthearted novel tells us about disappointment, destruction and death

By Carolyn Pogue

My favourite quote about Richard Solley's debut novel, Bright Wings, is by an English bishop: "Oh dear. We don't do things like that in our diocese."

Bright Wings helps to answer questions about why people of faith take action, whether on the street, at the blockade or in the courtroom. Advocates are often asked: “What's handcuffing yourself to a fence or a tree got to do with Jesus? Why would a church offer sanctuary to an illegal immigrant? What's offshore mining got to do with justice? And the classic, “Politics and religion don't mix; sit down, read your Bible and shut up.” Speaking for myself, it was reading the Bible that turned me into a activist. But I digress.

The subtitle to Bright Wings gives a clue about Kerry, the protagonist: A Lighthearted Tale of Disappointment, Destruction, Desperation and Death. Obviously, this author has a unique sense of humour that permeates his story, even when writing about hard issues. A soft-spoken Brit, Solley knows firsthand the questions people ask about Christian activism, and he has transformed these into a plot that takes readers from England to Central America, and from American reservations to Cree country in northern Canada. Readers will need to hold onto their hats; it's a wild ride.

For example, Solley takes us to meet displaced people and endangered communities. Liberation Theology, preached by leaders like Oscar Romero, underpins parts of the book. Readers will recall that the Salvadoran archbishop was assassinated while serving communion during Lent in 1980. And it is this theology that helps to inspire Kerry, a multilingual translator who seems to bumble from one situation to the next, seeking the Spirit as he goes.

It’s clear that Solley's life has informed his writing; his passion for a just world is poured out onto the pages of this book. I first met the author on the 1988 blockade at Little Buffalo in Cree Territory, Alta. (Aboriginal and church leaders from across North America were there, as well as European parliamentarians.). At the time, the Lubicon Cree made a stand to protect the land from oil and logging companies whose sole purpose was to make money. Moose and other game were fleeing, water and land were polluted, and a new road into the community resulted in many deaths. Tuberculosis and miscarriage rates steadily rose, too. And it was the Lubicon who received all of the negative impacts of this so-called development, but none of the benefits. This was in the days before the fad of wearing plastic wristbands stamped with "WWJD?" (What would Jesus do?). Quite simply, we were there because we believed that the Jesus we knew would stand with the Cree.

Set against a background of community immigration and resistance, environmental destruction, detention, love, repression and high jinks, Bright Wings is the story of a naive young man who makes some surprising choices and, in the end, learns to take a stand. It’s a good book to read anytime, but Lent seems particularly appropriate. After all, as we walk the long road to Golgotha, it’s nice to have fellow travellers in spirit along the way. Bright Wings is an excellent companion.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image


Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image


June 2018

The moment the Pope asked me to pray for him

by Miriam Spies

A United Church minister on the impact of a simple gesture from a powerful man.


July 2018

Best self-care tips for caregivers

by Kate Spencer

Counsellors, teachers and ministers share what it looks like for them.


July 2018

Meet your 2018 moderator nominees

by Mike Milne

Later this month, General Council commissioners will choose the United Church’s next moderator. As of press time, 10 leadership hopefuls had been announced. We asked each of them to sum up their pitch in a tweet.


July 2018

A fond farewell to presbyteries

by Steven Chambers

They will likely be eliminated this year as the United Church restructures. Steven Chambers celebrates the end of an era.


July 2018

Instead of retirement, these two nurses are battling Vancouver's opioid crisis

by Roberta Staley

At age 71 and 65 respectively, Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles embrace their unconventional work in the Downtown Eastside.


June 2018

I hate you, Canada, for teaching people to treat me like this under your name

by Zach Running Coyote

A Cree actor says he blames our country for the racist comments recently directed at him in a McDonald's restaurant.

Promotional Image