Published in the Church Times 9th February 2018
Have confidence in who you are, the skills and gifts that you have and know that your dyslexia will not be what defines you. Have courage to walk away from the expectations others have of you, for that is when you will discover who you really are. The decision you are making to follow Jesus will be the best decision you have ever made and soon there will be a time when you cannot imagine life without the knowledge of God’s love. In the decades ahead of you, God will become your refuge, strength and inspiration. Hold onto your courage and your anger against injustice – and celebrate the joy that caring for others is beginning to give you.
Although you worry about those you love dying, believe that they will stay with you – in your memories, in who you are, in the faces and nature of your children. Take some more photos of the children and husband you are going to go on to have – though it may be hard for you to imagine now the joy they will give you, your children will grow up far too quickly.
And lastly, don’t give up playing the French Horn and don’t give away your sister’s signed Paul Weller vinyl – you’ll get decades of grief from it!
My grandmother, Emily Louise, was a confident women – she had to be. Like many she lost her first love in the First World War and though she celebrated in 1918 when the first women received the vote she like many had to wait another 6 years before she was 30 and could vote herself. She had her first child at the age of 33 and looked after two boys while my grandfather fought in the Second World War. She continued throughout to work as a comptometer operator (the first commercially successful key driven mechanical calculator). I recall her always assuming that as girls my sisters and I could do whatever we wanted to do and I also remember my grandfather offering the same encouragement. Looking back I have been so grateful for their encouragement, which along with the support of my parents, gave me confidence as a child to believe that anything was possible.
Today we mark the day that Millicent Fawcett, the Pankhursts and other suffrage campaigners won a hard fought victory – the passing of the Representation of Peoples Act 1918 which gave the first votes for some women and paved the way for universal suffrage 10 years later. Today speaks of the efforts of so many which have shaped my opportunities and the life I am able to live today and I am profoundly grateful.
My daughter, whose middle names are Emily Louise, is a confident women of whom I am very proud. I am also aware that research tells us that even with our second female Prime Minster when we think of a powerful person we are likely to think of a man. Mary Beard in her book Women & Power writes that her ‘basic premise is that our mental, cultural template for a powerful person remains resolutely male’. Changing that cultural template will be as hard a fight as that fought a hundred years ago but if we are to shape a more equal future for our children then this culture must be challenged at every possible opportunity.
Mary Beard goes on to make the point that a headline in The Times in early 2017 ‘Women Prepare for a Power Grab in Church, Police and BBC’ suggest that we are taking something to which we are not quite entitled, the article reported the possibility that women might soon gain the positions of Metropolitan Police commissioner, chair of the BBC Unitary Board and the Bishop of London. Two out of three ain’t bad, I suppose. But in the year that I am to be installed as Bishop of London, the year we celebrate the centenary of the vote for some women, then I believe more is possible and not just possible, but necessary. #equallyvalued
Broadcast on BBC Radio Devon Pause for Thought 7th January 2018
Last year I was given the book The White Road by Edmund de Waal. It is wonderful book in which Edmund describes his pilgrimage to walk the history of porcelain. Early on in the book the author paints a picture of how you make porcelain and his own personal journey as a potter. Then on arriving at the base of mount Kao-Ling in China there is a wonderful description of the shards of white porcelain found in the red earth including a base of a 12th century wine cup.
On his departure back to Shanghai Edmund talks about how on the plane there is so much porcelain that all the overhead lockers are filled and the loo is requisitioned. Next to him is a man who had a model of a helicopter and as he spoke to him he realised that many other people were getting on the plane with model helicopters. Edmund realised that he had missed the helicopter side of the city and his companion the porcelain.
It struck me that looking only for what we expect see we may miss the unexpected.
One of the wonderful things about living in Tiverton is being able to walk along the canal path. Now there is no porcelain along the canal path but there are Kingfishers. However, you only see the orange and blue of the Kingfisher as it takes flight if you have time to stop and expect the unexpected.
I hope that in the coming year we will find time to stop and to have eyes to see the unexpected.
Broadcast on BBC Radio Devon Pause for Thought 6th Janaury 2018
Shooting stars, comets, and the movement of planets in the sky have always fascinated people. We love a night when the sky is clear, the night is dark, and away from the glare of the lights of the city, we can witness the evening shower of shooting stars in a moonless night. For centuries people have been fascinated about what happens above us in the heavens.
Today the Church remembers the journey of the magi who as the resident scientist of the sky saw something occurring. What they saw is thought to have been an interplay between the two planets, Jupiter and Saturn and they decided to follow them.
The Magi left behind their summer palaces and journeyed along a way which was rutted and deep. The journey for some must have seemed a folly and the outcome at best uncertain but they persevered to deliver their gift to Jesus which we are told Mary treasured in her heart.
A few years ago with my family I walked 200km of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, also known in English, as the Way of St James. The route runs in north-west Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia where the apostle St James is said to have been laid to rest. It has been a pilgrimage since medieval times but many walk for pleasure (although at the time I had to keep reminding myself that it was for pleasure we were walking!). It is the nature of long distance walks that you have time to encounter people and to exchange stories along the way. It became apparent that as we walked and encountered others we became different. Roads are good places to understand who you are and who others are.
The journey of the Magi is a reminder to us that some of the best won things in our lives do not always come easily, some of the hardest traveled roads are better done with company and some of the greatest gifts require us to risk our all.
Broadcast on Pause for Thought BBC Radio Devon on the 5th Janaury 2018
There is a great debate about when we should take down our Christmas decorations – tonight twelfth night or tomorrow which we call Epiphany? Well you may find that your local church or cathedral haven’t taken down their decorations and will not until the 2nd February which we call Candlemas. Why? Because Christmastide for the church is not over it continues until the day we celebrate Candlemas marking Jesus’ presentation in the temple.
During this time we move from reflecting on the way in which Jesus is revealed as a baby to those very first witnesses, to shepherds, innkeeper, ox and ass, and we began to think more about the way in which Jesus is revealed to the world; Jesus reaching out to the hungry, the outcaste, the sick and dying – with a generosity and inclusivity and with love.
Christianity is not just a system of beliefs or narrowly conceived worship it is about making Jesus seen in the world today – is love with a generosity and inclusivity.
So we continue to see the face of Jesus in the work of those who run the food banks and soup kitchens not just at Christmas but throughout the year, we see the face of Jesus in those providing shelter and housing not just at Christmas but all year round. We see the face of Jesus in those who are welcoming the refugee not just in this season but throughout the year – Loving with a generosity and inclusivity.
Christmastide is a wonderful season which I hope you will savour and revel in; for it is the season of revelation, of pondering and wondering so that we can see the face of God in Jesus Christ.
Broadcast on Radio BBC Devon Pause for Thought on the 3rd January 2018
As the world begins to go back to work and return to normal patterns of life there are some for which normal is loneliness. Age UK in Devon showed that 11% of older people who live alone have less than one contact a month. Loneliness and isolation can lead to poor mental and physical wellbeing.
The Campaign to End Loneliness suggests that almost a million older people say they feel lonelier at Christmas. The Campaign is seeking to inspire thousands of organisations and people to do more to tackle the health threat of loneliness in older age.
Loneliness can be easy overcome by kindness. Kindness is one of the most underrated virtues in today’s world. It isn’t bland or soft or feeble or weak. It isn’t about namby-pambyism or avoidance of conflict. Kindness comes when we dare to offer an opening to humanity and mercy, regardless of cost or reward. It is more than being nice and it can be very demanding in certain circumstances. Kindness can start conversations; kindness is calling by someone you haven’t seen for some time or providing an invitation for a meal, kindness can reduce loneliness.
Small things which make extra ordinary difference to the lives of other; Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said: ‘Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good when put together that overwhelm the world’
My ‘Pause for Thought’ Broadcast on BBC Radio Devon 2nd January 2018
New Year is full of the possibility of new beginnings. Many of us will have made New Year resolutions. The more cynical amongst us may have decided to give the whole idea away. If you are one of these you may consider yourself a realist, having learned by bitter experience how hard it is to maintain resolutions!
Some years ago the charity Mind urged people not to feel they must start the New Year armed with resolutions for self-improvement. The mental charity said resolutions which focus on issues such as the need to lose weight or job worries create a negative self-image. And if the plans fail to materialise, that could trigger feelings of failure and inadequacy.
Instead of making a New Year’s resolution, they urged us to think more positively about the year to come and to take a few steps to improve all-round mental health, including: being active, going green, learning something new and giving back something to the community.
As Christians we have just celebrated God’s great resolution. God resolved, in his infinite wisdom and love, to break into the world of human existence. God became uniquely one with creation through the birth of Jesus Christ – God with us.
It is from this foundation of love that that I hope I will seek to be more active this year, improve my green activities, learn something new and continue to serve people with joy.