Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A vision for my city

This is a kind of poem that sums up the dream I have for the city I call my home, Lincoln. Its adapted from the last book of the bible, the book of Revelation and the idea was taken from a talk I heard last year by Steve Chalke (http://www.faithworks.info/)

Revelation 21

It was 8 o clock on Monday morning,

I was walking down steep hill, looking out across the city

And I saw a new Lincoln coming down from the heavens

I saw a teenager leaping out of bed with joy, laughing at the freshness of the morning

I saw elderly ladies skipping down Monks Rd and up through the arboretum

I saw children paddling and splashing in the Brayford Pool

I saw a football match in Boutlham Park and the teams were mixed people from every people group, students, homeless people, bus drivers, polish workers, prisoners, politicians. People from every race and class laughing in the sun.

I saw a street party, where the people were eating and dancing because there was hope again.

And I looked across the community of Lincoln, a community of hope, a community of grace, a community of warmth

And in the clear of the morning, I looked across to St Giles and to the Ermine and there was no more addiction, no more unwanted pregnancies, no more violence, no more squashed or damp housing and nobody was too busy.

I looked down the hill again and The Brayford Pool was sparkling with crystal clear water

There were no more broken bottles or condoms on the South Common

No more sorrow of family breakdown

No more poverty

No more need

No more cancer

No more unemployment or mind numbing jobs

No more hopelessness

No more robbery

No more bullying

No more saddened and tears, only joy and laughter

No more discrimination

No more anxiety, depression or schizophrenia

No more drunken clubbers or loud students waking families up at 3am on Newland Street West

No threats, no fears

The dividing walls were gone

Families and neighbours were restored

There was no more rubbish, no dealers, no knives, no dangerous dogs

There were no racial tensions, just one harmonious mix in technicolour

And I looked and I saw kids playing football on the streets and neighbours cheering them on.

I saw homes without locks on the doors where a welcome was always guaranteed

I saw a playground with climbing frames that weren’t rusty, where children threw themselves in the air without fear of harm, where the teenagers helped the little ones up the highest climbs.

I saw a Lincoln where neighbours shared favours and returned them without obligation or pressure

I saw a Lincoln where hearts were unbroken, partnerships are lasting, peaceful and happy.

I saw a Lincoln where families eat and play together

I saw a Lincoln where tears were wiped away.

This dream is worth living for, I'm praying it comes in to being but I want to live in a way that makes it happen too! Who is coming with me?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Comprehensive Spending Review, Hits the poorest and most vulnerable.

I read this this morning and thought it was worth posting!

Comprehensive Spending Review

Motion to Take Note - House of Lords 1st November 2010

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I must crave the indulgence of the House for speaking to your Lordships with laryngitis, but my presence is an earnest of the Church of England's profound concern about the issues before us today.

There are aspects of the comprehensive spending review that we on these Benches would be happy to acknowledge and applaud, not least the commitment to protect overseas aid spending, the re-emphasis on the rehabilitation of prisoners and the proper commitment to prevent structural and personal debt running out of control. However, noble Lords will not be surprised to hear that, like most bishops, I am hearing a great deal of genuine anxiety and concern in my diocese among serious people-vice-chancellors, local authority chief executives, health managers and businesspeople-since the Chancellor sat down after delivering his spending review Statement. Local government chief executives express profound concern about the termination of the so-called specific grants and are deeply concerned about the £2 billion black hole in local authority support that was reported in last week's MJ.

I cannot help coming to the conclusion that there is a gap between a London-centred debate about debt reduction and a different debate in the regions about the extremely painful consequences that are having to be managed by those not privy to the initial decisions. There is genuine fear among some of the most vulnerable people that their already difficult lives are to be made effectively impossible by the assault on benefits. As we all know, there is a growing sense of indignation, which I do not necessarily condone but which I certainly understand, that in the City of London and in the boardrooms of too many companies, it is business as usual with inflated salaries, enormous bonuses and apparent disregard for the Government's rhetoric that we are all in this together.

I am not an economist, but I am well aware that professional economists by no means agree that the Government's approach to the deficit is necessarily the right one. Where the discipline of economics is divided, we expect the Chancellor to be light on his feet and ready to change direction if the impact of his policies turns out to be dramatically different from what is predicted. The Treasury does not know, any more than I do, which group of economists is correct, but the well-being of millions of our fellow citizens depends on the Chancellor getting this right and having the courage to change direction if necessary.

I want to make one key point that is not dependent on economic expertise but it is about the kind of society that we think that we are building. How on earth is the so-called big society vision of stable, mutually supportive communities to be enhanced by changes to housing benefit that will drive poorer people into what amount to townships in the undesirable areas of our towns and cities? That is the inexorable logic of capping housing benefit. More than that, how will limited tenure of social housing help us to build the big society? It is precisely the long-standing residents whose family commitments have begun to recede who are the linchpins that bind a neighbourhood together. The very people who will be the foundation of a bigger, more mutual and caring society are being told that they cannot take security of tenure for granted. The importance of stable populations in neighbourhoods and communities appears to count for nothing. I am led to suspect that any money saved by moving people out of their homes will have to be spent many times over on supporting and managing the problems that follow when formerly stable communities become home to transient populations of insecure tenants who have no incentive to act as though they belong to their neighbourhood. Why should they try to belong when successive governments' housing policies have created, not a big society, but a very thin, rootless society among those who rely on social housing?

The reason why people rely on social housing is, basically, not fecklessness or inadequacy but simply because our mismanaged housing market has fallen out of step with our deeply unequal labour market. When hard work does not pay enough to pay for decent housing, we had better act to raise wages or create more houses to bring their price down. On both counts, successive governments have been too shy of acting. The present belief that cutting housing benefit will depress the market and reduce private sector rents might just work if there were more houses to meet the demand. As it is, all the risk is being born by the vulnerable, not the comfortable.

Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, what the country now needs is not blame for the deficit-we all know who is responsible for that. What we want is hope for the future, which is the second of the theological virtues faith, hope and charity. Anybody listening to the Minister's speech will note a very subtle but clear change in what he was saying. It was shot through with hope for the future, and also flexibility. Congratulations to him for doing so.

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, it seems to me that hope for the future depends on ensuring that those who are most vulnerable, those who are most excluded and those who most depend on the state for any kind of security are made secure by these changes. Hope for the future depends on recognising the widespread damages to society and to social justice from ever-widening inequalities, which have been widely researched and established by many authorities. We do not create a fair society-let alone a big society-by placing some of our fellow citizens beyond the reach of social solidarity. I hope that such is not the intention of the Chancellor but I fear that it may be the effect of some aspects of the review. I hope that the indignation of many people in my diocese turns out to be uncalled for, but I fear that this may be just the beginning, for the cuts have not yet begun to bite deeply.

I trust that the Chancellor will prove quick to turn again if the harm caused by his policies becomes a price not worth paying for merely economic rather than fully social recovery. The Church of England remains committed to work with Government and with others to respond to the vision of the big society, but I fear that the comprehensive spending review has made that vision much harder to realise and even more necessary.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

bittersweet nuptials

Three sisters, Faith, Joy and Ruth
My little sister Ruthie is getting married on Saturday to a fabulous bloke called Aaron, he's a great friend of mine and Paul's and we are very excited for them as they start their new journey together as a married couple. My sister is a conscientious eco queen, very principled and full of creative ideas. The wedding is themed English Country Cottage Styleee with lots of bunting, lavender and candles in jam jars. All the food is locally sourced and the guests are being encouraged to car share to the reception venue. Its been quite the community affair as Ruth has enlisted the help of all her friends and family to achieve her dream of a low carbon, but beautiful wedding on a budget. I'm so thrilled that the big day is finally on its way but I feel an acute sense of sadness and loss knowing that our middle sister Faith won't be sharing the joy of the day with us. Faith died 5 years ago, she never knew Aaron. I guess that breaks Ruthie's heart. We will miss her very much on Saturday especially when we know how much she would have been rejoicing in Ruth's happiness. We will be holding you in our hearts on Saturday Faithie, this is a mile stone we never dreamed you would miss out on xxx

The Food Revolution

I've been following Jamie Oliver's  recent TV programme "Jamie's American Food Revolution". Some of the programme felt a bit set up and fake however I can't help feel inspired by Jamie's obvious passion to bring good food and cooking skills to a nation that is getting culinary deskilled and fatter by the year. I've seen TV shows and read articles about America's (and the rest of the West's) obesity crisis but watching Jamie's latest project has brought the issue of poor nutrition and obesity right to the front of my consciousness again. In this programme Jamie goes to a city called Huntingdon in West Virginia which is said to be the fattest town in the fattest state in the fattest country in the world, he works with local schools, hospitals and community groups to get the message across to the community that their eating habits are killing them.

Food is something I am really passionate about, I love it, its sociable and indulgent, it allows me to be creative and to serve my friends and family and it sustains and brings life and health. I believe it has the power to heal but misused it has the power to harm too. I love cooking and eating and thinking about food which has led me to do a fair bit of reading on the subject and as I have read I have found lots and lots of evidence to suggest that the health problems in the west are connected to the food we eat and the way we eat that food.  I also believe that what we eat is a spiritual issue, in the New Testament book of Romans we are implored to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, as our spiritual act of worship. Jesus said He came to give us Life and Life in all its fullness and I believe that part of living in that fullness of life includes our health which can be optimized through good nutrition (amongst other things).

This is why it felt so refreshing to hear of Pastor Steve from the First Baptist Church in Kenova, Huntingdon. Pastor Steve was one of Jamie's first supporters when he started his Food Revolution campaign in West Virginia. I googled Pastor Steve and his church and found out some interesting things. A few years before the report that highlights Huntingdon as the worst town in America for Obesity was published, Pastor Steve noticed that lots of his congregation were getting sick and he associated their various illnesses with obesity and poor nutrition. He started to preach about the importance of honouring God with our bodies and challenged his church to change their eating habits and anyone in the obesity category to drop at least 40 lbs, he offered all kinds of support to do this. Pastor Steve's main premise was that if the church were to be agents of change and help local families they had to start living it out first. He suggested that if there town had the worst problem in the world, then their church needed to be the most passionate in the world to bring about a change.

Pastor Steve had a vision for a church based community centre that taught people in the community how to live well, gave them essential cooking skills and lessons on how to make healthy meals, and also provided a space for family exercise to get the community active. Pastor Steve, in his sermon series which brought the challenge to the church, prayed that God would help them, would send them resources and power, a new passion to the area and favour so they might bring about the change that needs to happen in that town.

A while later Jamie Oliver rocks up and with the backing of ABC media secures funding to amongst other things develop the community centre attached to the First Baptist Church in Kenova. They put in basket ball courts and a brand new kitchen and Jamie stirs up the whole town to want to change and learn how to cook and how to eat well. God answered Pastor Steve's prayer and in a way he never ever imagined. What a brilliant God!

After reading all about that story, I feel inspired and encouraged in two ways.......

Firstly: Food, Nutrition and our health is important to God, he wants us to flourish and to live well and we do this by eating the right amounts of the right kinds of food.

Secondly: God cares about the needs in our community and if we pray and partner with him to meet those needs, he'll bring resources and favour to help us in ways we could never imagine! BRING IT ON!

If you are interested you can listen to Pastor Steve's challenging sermon to his church here http://www.fbckenova.com/home.aspx?igid=129141

Saturday, 9 October 2010

this is my prayer........

May God bless you with dis­com­fort at easy answers, half truths, and super­fi­cial rela­tion­ships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppres­sion and exploit­a­tion of people, so that you may work for justice, free­dom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejec­tion, star­va­tion, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to com­fort them and turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless you with enough fool­ish­ness to believe that you can make a dif­fer­ence in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

When enough is enough

Fin had his second birthday a couple of weeks ago. When he first woke up on the morning of his birthday, we gave him a gift to unwrap. It was the first time he was old enough to know what to do with a present. As he slowly unwrapped it piece by piece he gasped with delight and made exclamations of "wow" and "oh amazing". It was a lunch box with some of his favourite cartoon characters on it, he was so amazed and grateful for it, my heart broke at his innocence. He had no idea what was to come and what to expect from everyone else he would see that day, he had no understanding that this was just one of many presents that were to come. I wanted to cacoon him in his delight and gratitude and never let it change. What a shame that we grow up to become so consumerist and life becomes so much about getting the next thing no matter what it is and no matter whether we really "need" it or not.

I've been thinking a lot about our cultural value of consumerism and how that impacts our sense of self, our sense of who God is, how we relate to God and how that compares to the way Jesus suggests we live.

I want to be someone who is grateful for what I've been given and tp delight in that, not constantly looking for what more I can get my hands on.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Fresh air and sunsets

Sometimes I wish I lived in a more picturesque, hilly and interesting landscape. Lincolnshire is so flat and often boring but it does have the most amazing, wide open, beautiful skies.

I spent this afternoon with some lovely friends, eating roast chicken and yorkshire pudding and sipping merlot, vin rouge. They left around 6pm and although I had enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with them, I suddenly panicked and realised there was only one daylight hour left of the weekend. While Paul was feeding Fin his tea, I snook out the door with my iPod and escaped on to the West Common.

The sunset was stunning, the evening sky was open wide, salmon pink and inky blue. The wind whipped gently around me and as I walked and sang (probably slightly out of tune with my white ear phones plugged in) I met with God and my heart was lifted - I was suddenly grateful for everything God had given me. I sat in the middle of a grassy patch and watched some power kiters enjoy the wind, I thought about sabbath and rest and play. I felt refreshed and inspired!

I thought about thinking a little bit more and a little bit deeper on the subject but was interrupted by an excitable little black dog who bounded over and licked my face (yuk) so I laughed and stood up and went back home just in time for Fin's bath and just as the orange sun disappeared behind a smokey cloud in the huge Lincolnshire sky.

I love my home in Flat-Land and I love my God who created the sky and rest and playtime. yay!