Jun 022020

It is just over a week since the tragic event that has shocked the world with the killing of George Floyd while in police custody. Many of us will have seen the video of the last few minutes of his life and been horrified by what we saw.

Since then, protests have spread across America, anger and resentment has surfaced, violence has spread. Some of us will have seen Terrence Floyd, George’s younger brother, speaking out against ongoing violence while standing at the place where his brother was killed.

Many people in many countries have spoken out against this act, much has been shared on social media as people seek to stand in solidarity with the injustice and oppresion they see – the inequality that is still seen to divide people of different ethnicities and skin colour.

What can I contribute – as someone who lives under “white privilege”, as someone who hasn’t experienced the abuse and oppression that many round the world do?

As I was thinking about that question I thought back to different times in my life when I had seen examples of racism or, alernatively, privilege.

One time when I particularly experienced privilege due to my being white and from a rich country was when on a trip to Thailand I gashed my leg quite seriously and there were real concerns that it could become infected (which it did). My host took me to a local hospital to be treated and I suddenly became aware that I was being led past a long queue of people waiting to see doctors, nurses. etc. I felt this was wrong – as well as being unnecessary – and tried to protest. But I was told this is “how it is” and that even the people whose queue I was jumping would want this to happen. My position as a tourist who would be benefiting their economy meant I was seen as a higher priority than the local people. A difficult moment.

In my early years in IT, I was working in a team where the boss often referred to his deputy as a “waste of skin”. It was a term that I really struggled with although the person to whom it was addressed – someone from Asia – didn’t seem to mind, but I have no idea what he was thinking. I like to think that I spoke up about it but it is a long time ago and I don’t really know.

On the same trip to Thailand, with a group of other Baptist ministers, we suddenly found out that one of our friends, an African, was only being accepted -within the local church – because he was with a group of white people. If he had been on his own he would not have been received so positively, our status was rubbing off onto him. A really distressing thing for me to realise and to reflect on, but how much more distressing for him.

I have had the privilege of leading a church with people from 20 different nationalities. Their different perspectives and cultural backgrounds brought a buzz, a sense of life. But work continually needed to be done to avoid them being pressured to constrain themselves to the “white way” of doing things.

I have also spent time with people who complain about their new neighbours, saying they are scared of them simply because of the colour of their skin.

These are just some occasions when I have become aware of people being treated differently because of their ethnic background or skin colour. Sometimes I was able to try to do something about it, sometimes – to my shame – I was not.

But I wonder how many times it has happened around me and I have been totally unaware of what was going on? How have people, my friends and colleagues, felt about my lack of understanding and my silence in those situations? I don’t know and, for any to whom I have caused hurt in this way, I am deeply sorry.

What then, particularly as people of God, should we do?

Jesus encourages us to pray that God’s kingdom comes to earth, that His will is done in the same way as it already is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). And in the book of Revelation we get a hint of what that will be like:

Any idea of segregation or relative priority or privilege will be gone and we will be totally united together before Jesus. And the song we will sing reminds us of what He has made possible

This is the bright future we can look forward to – something we are called to pray for, but also something we are called to work towards.

Let’s be prepared to seek that unity, that togetherness, so that we can all enjoy it together now instead of waiting until we get to see Jesus.

A call to be more aware of – and to stand against – racism, oppression, segregation, discrimination, in any form.

And a commitment to seek to do so to the best of my ability.

Jul 072014

As part of the “Monday blog hop”, last week I had a post hosted on the blog of one of my daughters-in-law. This week I am privileged to host a post from one of my good friends, Vic.

Like others participating in this “hop” Vic was asked to respond to four questions:

  1. What am I working on?vic image
  2. Why do I write what I write?
  3. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
  4. How does my writing process work?

and this is what he said.


I was most pleasantly surprised to find myself being asked to take part in a blog hop – something akin to BBC’s ‘Chain reaction’ – a exercise where I answer four questions and nominate next week’s guest blogger. So here goes:

What am I working on?

Much of my time is taken up with my work as an Anglican Parish Priest and Missioner. This is leading me increasingly into the areas of Fresh Expressions (church for those who otherwise would not be in the company of Christians) and the development of ¬†‘missional’ (that is getting out and bridge building, serving and engaging) church. One of the ways of doing this is to train people on Mission Shaped Ministry (MSM) courses and also seek to entice people into ‘being missional by means of Mission Shaped Introduction (MSI) – a shorter and nicely accessible taster for the MSM course.

Outside of this I find my time being taken up by Tamworth Street Angels – a bunch of great people who are helping to put God’s love out on the streets of Tamworth to assist vulnerable people (not a euphemism for ‘drunk’) – The National Memorial Arboretum (where I’m hon. Chaplain) and various other chaplaincies. I’ve also started to find myself getting into print and doing radio work – a new ands exciting direction!

Why do I write what I write?

The answer has to be, ‘For me!’ I started the blog in May 2007 but didn’t start writing until December and it started as a scratch pad for me to hang things on an electronic wall for later consideration and (generally internal) dialogue. I’d come in from a meeting and over a cup of tea check emails and scribble thoughts, promised follow-ups and other things that had come about from the meetings and encounters I’d had.

A ‘for instance’ is when I’ve been doing vocations work and the conversation has turned to something hitherto been ignored by either of us. I’d scribble it and hang it in the hope that during the absence my brain would put pieces together or bring examples, explanation and challenges to the fore so that I could resolve the need and post for the other person to use (and in doing so develop a bit more myself). The act of posting is an invitation to dialogue and, when the need arises, correction and/or suggestions of other places/things to consider.

The topics covered in the blog are everything from encounters in the parish through to struggles in faith or with colleagues or those with opposing views – the blog is a mirror to my personal, faith and ministry and it shows just how weird life can be. Or as they say ‘stranger than fiction’!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’m often told that my blog is a very different animal from other Christian blogs. Combine this with the fact that I’m often told that it’s not very ‘Vicar-like’ (whatever that might mean) -something I take as a compliment.

It differs from others in that I find many Christian blogs tend to post about the same thing because it’s in the news and then having found a topic tend to rush for their prooftexting Bible to pontificate and quote in an attempt to make us Christians look extremely dry and terribly samey. It differs because having finished one course of theological study I went on to do applied theology where my first essay was tossed back at me with the command ‘rewrite’ scrawled on it. I enquired of the lecturer why they might have done something so foolhardy with such sublime theological scribble and was told that theological jargon was great if I wanted to be an academic theologian but if I was going to communicate in the real world I would need to lose the cool words likesoteriology, theodicy, hermeneutics and especially ‘hapax legomenon’ (even if it did only appear once) and write in English.

My job is to communicate the difficult concepts simply so that they became accessible and then make the accessible commonplace (ie. the daily reality of those I pastored). That’s what my blog is about. I’d rather develop concepts and get agreement and directions that start pouring on the references and quotes from my theological heroes. Agree the direction and let them see how the Bible agrees with them later.

How does my writing process work?

It works much like me in that I run multiple strands of thinking and writing and work and diversion all at the same time. I will internally dialogue with something externally acquired and discussed/made aware of and then throw it onto the electronic paper that is the blog in one marvellous splurge and then, purged of the immediate, I enter into another encounter and then having thrown that to the wall I return to the previous splurge for another conversation and so on. At some stage it will appear on the blog (usually within hours if not minutes of the initial stimulus) and ironically, the busier I am the more will appear and so the empty spaces on the blog are actually times when I’m least busy rather than when I’m rushed off of my feet – this is the opposite to everyone I meet’s assumptions.

I dash it all off and then re-arrange the words to see if there is a solution in what others have said and in what I have responded with or thought or realised I didn’t think and then it’s there. everything (this included is) has to fit my five or ten minute rule (this is a ten minute splurge because it’s alien and challengingly introspective). This makes for some real ‘vicisms’ and so excellent typos and grammatical collisions as the editing doesn’t always catch the errors transposition of words begets.

And there you have it – a look behind the scenes of ‘Vic the Vicar’ in which I’ve had to place myself on the psychiatrist’s couch and then walk home wearing nothing but the clothes I bought of of a tailor who used to make finery for some emperor or other (or is this merely something Freudian going on and I am just naked?).

Who knows ūüôā

Nominate someone

I’d love to see the Beaker folk of Husborne Crawley follow this as it’s a place I find entertaining and challenging ¬†http://cyber-coenobites.blogspot.com/

May 242014

voting count

As the political parties respond to the local election results and as we wait to find out what happened in the European elections, we have an opportunity to think about how we engage with our society uk council electionsand with our elected leaders.

A couple of books I have been reading recently provide some interesting insights regarding the nature of government and the responsibility on Christians to engage politically, socially and in many other dimensions.

In¬†Creation, Power and Truth,¬†Tom Wright speaks about God’s desire for the world he had created to be ‘ordered and structured’ and how God calls human beings to be his agents and representatives¬†in it. Within the story of creation and redemption, Wright (p60) suggests a three-stage process:

  1. That God does intend the world to be ordered and, in his time, he will achieve this
  2. Until that time, not wanting the world to descend into chaos, God uses ‘human authorities, even when they don’t acknowledge him’ to bring some degree of order and structure
  3. That¬†God’s people have a ‘vital calling’ to speak truth to those in power and to remind them of God’s purposes and plans

His ideas provide a way of positioning ourselves – in relationship to God’s plan and current power structures – and challenging us as to whether we are fulfilling our role as “consciences to the powerful”.

We see many examples of this sort of role in the Bible with:

  • Prophetic voices in the Old Testament challenging the king and his actions – such as Nathan with David in 2 Samuel 12:1-12, Elijah with Ahab in 1 Kings 18:18 and Isaiah with Hezekiah in Isaiah 39:3-7
  • Jesus speaking to¬†the authorities of his day – criticising the religious leaders in Matthew 23 (and elsewhere) and challenging the Roman authorities to think about the reality of power in John 18:33-38
  • The early disciples recognising that their primary responsibility was to God and that they were prepared to challenge those in authority on that basis – Acts 4:18-21

But for many of us, the extent of our involvement in the political life of our society extends to exercising our democratic right to vote.

In his book,¬†The Crucified God,¬†J√ľrgen¬†Moltmann speaks (pp330-331) about five ‘vicious circles of death’ which feed upon themselves and each other:

five interlocking circles

  1. The circle of poverty – which affects so many in so many different ways, individually and within and between communities
  2. The circle of force – where those who suffer poverty are often dominated by those in power
  3. The circle of racial and cultural alienation – as people, and groups, are robbed of their identity and treated as objects to be manipulated and exploited
  4. The circle of the industrial pollution of nature – where we exploit and abuse the wonders of God’s creation which we were called to steward and care for
  5. The circle of senselessness and godforsakenness – as people lose all hope and sense of purpose as a result of how they are treated

Some of these have been highlighted in the recent election campaigns, they are all things which are seen and experienced continually and we look, among other things, for those in positions of power and authority and influence to do something about them.

But Moltmann doesn’t stop at articulating the problem, as he sees it, rather he goes on to offer suggestions as to how these interlocked, vicious cycles can be broken¬†to bring freedom

five broken circles

He calls (pp332-335) for a society where:

  1. Economic sufficiency and social justice are available to all so that people can be liberated from the circle of poverty
  2. Each person is able to participate in the process of decision making so that they are no longer subject to the forceful control of others
  3. Each person is recognised as valued and important so that the issues associated with alienation are addressed
  4. Nature is seen not as an object but our environment where its needs are understood
  5. People experience meaning and satisfaction which (Moltmann argues) can only be found in the indwelling presence of God

While some would argue with the specific details of the solutions Moltmann outlines, I think that the type of society for which he is calling is one that many of us would aspire to. But what are we to do?

I suggest two things:

  1. We heed the encouragement of Paul to Timothy to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
  2. We take seriously the responsibility¬†(advocated by Wright) to hold¬†our leaders to account, to point out to them where their rhetoric, actions and objectives are not in line with the sort of society advocated by Moltmann, and to suggest where there are better ways of discharging their responsibilities as God’s stewards