Poor Clare

When I was in Seattle it was a joy to experience Lacey’s music and style of leading worship …. Lacey writes great songs with meaningful lyrics (personally I don’t think you can say that for a lot of contemporary worship stuff today).

I love this song ‘I stand with you’ because as Lacey says: ‘This song was written in response to the perpetual injustice faced by marginalized peoples of society. We stand with you. God stands with you.”

Check out the song and check out Poor Clare too. While you are there maybe spend some money too …

end hunger fast

logo_invertIm quite open about my views of the church I am ordained in. I love and hold to the frustration of St Augustine when he says ‘the church is a whore, but she’s our mother’.

I love the church … I’m convinced that the church is ‘of Christ’ …but sometimes she (that’s the church in case any of you sensitive types out there just thought I alluded to a feminine Christ figure!) frustrates the hell out of me. But today … after my sadness earlier in the week I am incredibly proud to be part of the Anglican set up.

It’s an amazing step, and such a right step, to see the Bishops letter signed by 27 Anglican bishops, challenging the government on the horrible reality of poverty in our country. The letter starts; ‘Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry’ before then mentioning ‘one in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children’. That tugs a heart string … I have met some of those mothers in Gillingham High Street … mums that would love to work, but there are no jobs, mums that want the best for their children, and put themselves last.

‘There is an acute moral imperative to act’ is the challenge the bishops give … and indeed there is. The bishops are taking a great step by going public like this. Some will roll out the old saying of ‘church should keep out of politics’ (In fact that was tweeted to me only last week by a prospective MP candidate!) but that betrays a lack of understanding of the gospels, and in particular the political figure of Christ. Christ tells stories to illustrate that our role in society is to stand up for, and help, the poor and those in need … not to ignore, stay silent or walk by on the other side.

The letter comes as part of the End Hunger Fast campaign which headlines with more shocking figures … ‘half a million people used food banks last year … while 5500 were admitted to hospital for malnutrition’. The campaign calls for a national fasting day on April 4th as one way of showing the government we, as a nation, want to see change.

In addition Church Urban Fund has put together this guide to the welfare reforms which outlines the changes and the consequences of them.

The time has come for the government, for Cameron and Clegg in particular, to stand up, admit this is not working, and act …. as Bishop Steven Cottrell says: ‘it’s scandalous in our society that we should need a single food bank, yet along hundreds of them’.

Lets join and pray and act with the aim of never needing a food bank again!

the fight for freedom

Django_Unchained_PosterimgresTwo days, two films. Django Unchained at Chatham Odeon and Lincoln at the BFI IMAX.
Two very different films. One classic Tarantino, the other superb Spielberg.
Two great films essentially exploring the same subject.

Freedom and equality.

Tarantino’s tongue in cheek, and excellently directed, film gave a full on violent account of how to gain justice and freedom. This involved making people ‘pay’ for their crimes so that they could not continue hurting others. Spielberg, on the other hand, outlines the wheeling and dealing within the ‘respectability’ of politics; the half truths told, the scheming and the jobs ‘offered’ to ‘buy’ votes. Both films explored these issues through the backdrop of slavery.

The interesting thing that strikes me from both films is that both methods are immoral. But … both methods work to ensure the freedom of the innocent.  Both films seem to be validating an ‘ends justifies the means’ philosophy. I am not sure how I sit with that … and while most of us would not condone or encourage the Django justice system, we support day after day the Lincoln model …. ‘it’s called democracy’ says the main character somewhere in the film.

Is there any difference?
Does my faith require and demand a different way?
If freedom is at stake do the ends justify the means?
I would argue not …

But back to the films … both are great and both are must see films in my opinion, although I will only be buying one on DVD to add to my ‘favourite director’ collection!

but … what if …

646I receive a daily meditation from Richard Rohr. Today he speaks in a way tyhat echoed what I was trying to express yesterday:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me . . . he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”

~ Isaiah 61:1

In this reading from Isaiah, the prophet describes the coming Servant of Yahweh. It is precisely this quote that Jesus first uses to announce the exact nature of his own ministry (Luke 4:18-19). In each case Jesus describes his work as moving outside of polite and proper limits and boundaries to reunite things that have been marginalized or excluded by society: the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the downtrodden.

Jesus’ ministry is not to gather the so-called good into a private country club, but to reach out to those on the edge and on the bottom—to tell those who are “last” that they might just be first! That is almost the very job description of the Holy Spirit, and therefore of Jesus. Today some call it God’s unique kind of justice or “restorative justice.” God present with us and in us, Emmanuel, justifies things by restoring them to their true and full identity in Himself, as opposed to “retributive justice” which seeks only reward and punishment.

Jesus ministry is not to gather the clean and sanitised and take them into a private club. Jesus ministry is to those who are told they are unwanted, those whose hurting make us feel uncomfortable because we know our easy ‘pat’ answers have no weight,  those who are stuck in the filth of our society.

But … and a big BUT has hit me today while talking with a group of young people. What if Jesus is talking to us from the other side of this passage? By that I mean, we so easily read this from the oppressed point of view, or from a neutral view where we are called to join in helping the oppressed. We read this from a  viewpoint that sees ourselves as part of the answer.

But … what if we are part of the problem …
What if we are the oppressors?
What if we are the people that break hearts?
What if we are those who imprison?

If we take a global view, then we, in the west, could be assessed as such. On a global scale, we are the rich. With that knowledge, how do we hear those words of Jesus? What is our response? What should be our response? What response is there?

During Advent that is quite a sobering thought.

few words …

‘A nations greatness is measured by how it treats it’s weakest members’       Mahatma Ghandi

(for those outside the UK some context is here and here )

emotional heartbeats

The blog has been a bit quiet – I think that is due to Lent. For Lent this year I have been reflecting on ‘stuff’ and making use of CMS’s 40 days of Yes. I know I am a year behind everyone else – but that’s the way I like to be!

I don’t deliberately give things up at Lent. My psyche works against me if I try to do that – if I concentrate on not doing something I seem to end up failing! Instead, I decide to take something on … and inevitably in this ‘taking on’ means I give up time that I was wasting on other things.

I have been challenged by a few things and I think I’m going to start to blog about a couple. Today I have been thinking more about what Rick Warren calls my ’emotional heartbeat’.

I would never ever read any of the Purpose Driven Stuff. I don’t know why but the ‘driven’ language really turn me off, so if it was not for CMS I would not have found this quote from The Purpose Driven Life:

‘God has given us each a unique emotional heartbeat that races when we think about the subjects, activities or circumstances that interest us. We instinctively care about some things and not about others. These are clues to where you should be serving …..’

And so I have been asking myself for quite a few days – what is my emotional heartbeat?

At first sight this seems that it should be an easy question to answer but I am finding there are quite a lot of layers to peel through before I can get an accurate answer. There are the answers that I think I should give as a Christian, let along as an ordained person in the Church of England! Then there are the answers which others have told me which bounce around in my mind. There is also all that ‘stuff’ that was spoken over me as a child from parents as well as a young Christian in churches when I was exploring faith. You can also add the answers that the media, both good and bad, tell me I am passionate about.

I shared recently with Sarah that the Comic Relief is the only thing of its kind that ‘grabs me in the gut’. I cannot watch Comic Relief without tears rolling down my face. Even though other campaigns like Children in Need are amazing they don’t grab me in the same way. Does this mean my emotional heartbeat is in some way connected to that? I’m not sure – but I don’t think so. (I guess this is where my concern with Purpose Driven lies – the language implies an immediate action, to jump to your heart beat … but I wonder how many people have jumped rather than thought and reflected!?)

So – what is my emotional heartbeat? I don’t know … I’m still ‘un-peeling’ but in there somewhere is justice and wanting to speak out for the voiceless, and in there is people and wanting to get to know them, and in there is Christ giving people full lives and in there is something else that I can’t quite put my finger on yet …

So …. emotional heartbeats … and yours is ….?

come on sky … if you are serious … act!

Discrimination in all forms needs to be challenged head on.

I was shocked to read of Gray and Keys (and now Burtons) comments on Sian Massey over the weekend and I am quite, if I am honest,  glad that the storm is continuing so that Gray and Burton cannot just squirm out of this with an apologetic phone call and a one match suspension.

Rom Atkinson was equally discriminatory a while back and had the dignity to realise he needed to go and resigned. He was probably going to be sacked. Why are the comments from Gray and Burton being treated differently? This is discrimination which has caused pain and outrage which surely needs to be dealt with decisively.

If this only results in a slap on the wrist and the loss of one or two television fees what sort of message does this send to our young people? What does it say to the rest of the world about how we value each other? How can we challenge prejudice and injustice in other parts of the world when we allow and tolerate blatant discrimination in our own sports and media?

Come on Sky … if you really are appalled by these comments act decisively!

we want them to …

This week is prisons week which I have thought about more this year in light of the ‘stuff’ in the media recently about whether prisoners should have the vote or not. For a few years now I have been following this blog of a prison chaplain working in Scotland. I think what she writes is very powerful, and today she posts a thought provoking poem from Judge Dennis Challeen:

We want them to have self-worth
So we destroy their self-worth

We want them to be responsible
So we take away all responsibility

We want them to be positive and constructive
So we degrade them and make them useless

We want them to be trustworthy
So we put them where there is no trust

We want them to be non-violent
So we put them where violence is all around them

We want them to be kind and loving people
So we subject them to hatred and cruelty

We want them to quit being the tough guy
So we put them where the tough guy is respected

We want them to quit hanging around losers
So we put all the losers under one roof

We want them to quit exploiting us
So we put them where they exploit each other

We want them to take control of their lives, own problems and quit being a parasite…
So we make them totally dependant on us.

It seems to me that more needs to be done to restore hope and responsibility in our fellow human beings, fellow image carriers of God, who are in prisons. Giving back the vote would seem to be one small step in that long massive process.


I particularly …. I don’t know … like is not the right word. I do ‘like’ the cartoon … but I don’t like the subject matter as it does make me angry. Once again ASBO Jesus hits the nail on the head … as Christians maybe we need to be standing up and speaking out more … if we sit back then the vulnerable on the edges of our society will be ‘taken for a ride’ …. and not to a great place either!!

And before people come back and say its all due to the debt … fine … but lets not pretend the measures of this government are hitting us all equally … my family will probably remain fairly ok (well until Tom goes to university!) … but the vulnerable of our society, those that need support but are having benefits cut and services slashed and even legal aid taken from them … they are paying a far greater price.

I feel myself getting angry for justice (and to be honest I still don’t understand Christians that seemingly do not get angered by the poor in society having unfair burdens placed upon them)  and so I think I’ll end  my post there!

nothing more radical …

“There’s nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary, nothing more subversive against injustice and oppression than the Bible. If you want to keep people subjugated, the last thing you place in their hands is a Bible.”

Archbishop Tutu, September 2008. 

quote thanks to TSK!
(Archbishop Desmund Tutu ‘retired’ this week from public life.)