Challenges facing young people

My speech in the House of Lords today as Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top moved that his House Take note of the challenges facing young people.

It has been said that young people are our future. They are not – they are our present.  They hold the potential to reimagine the world and see possibilities not obstacles. They are a transformative presence in our present and reshape theirs and our future.

But life is complex for them – the high household income and home ownership rates that were a feature of the 20th century have failed to materialize for younger generations so far in the 21st. Yet, what I recognise more than anything, are the concerns over identity and belonging.

In October BBC Radio 4 announced the results of The Loneliness Experiment, a nationwide survey conducted by BBC Radio 4’s “All In The Mind” in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection.

The survey results indicated that 16-24 year olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group. 40% of respondents aged 16-24 reported feeling lonely often or very often, while only 27% of people aged over 75 said the same.

The young are disproportionately affected by violent crime. This is even truer of those from a Black and minority ethnic or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Last month 250 churches across London gathered with youth workers, our schools, the police and young people to ask what we can do together. As part of their place in the local community, churches made a commitment to work in partnership with other organisations to seek to build on the existing work of our schools, after school clubs and youth projects to make their communities’ places where young people can find their identity, feel they belong and are safe.

One of the greatest challenges is how do we fund, recruit and retain good youth workers?  People who will remain in the community as young people grow up.  Role models are highly important for us psychologically, they help to guide us through life during our development and teach us to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives.

I also know from my previous life as a nurse that the only way to tackle these problems is through a whole-system approach, which I understand is now the consensus view.  Funding is central to this, and I welcome the £250 million allocated by the Mayor of London to establish a Violence Reduction Unit.  But, as the Commission on Youth Violence has spoken of, funding is often given in silos, with youth clubs regularly competing against one another for narrow funding streams.  I understand that the Commission’s final report is forthcoming, and I look forward to reading its findings.

I would like to pay particular testament to the vital youth work which is happening in places of worship and community halls across the country. In part of my own Diocese, in the London Borough of Camden, where according to the End Child Poverty coalition, 40% of children live in poverty, St Mary’s Primrose Hill’s youth workers mentor more than 20 young people a week, and undertake multiple prison visits a month.  The likes of St Mary’s are working hard to give our young people the hope that they deserve.

One of the wonderful characteristic of London is its diversity; it is multi faith and multi-racial yet at the same time we have seen a growth in people feeling marginalized – but I believe that we have more in common than divides us.

I wish to end my remarks today by reminding noble Lords that there is reason to be hopeful. Earlier this year I attended a youth Iftar – an opportunity for young people from a range of religions to celebrate that diversity, and to discover new things about each other.  Our conversations planted seeds which will build community bonds and friendships.  It also helped us to learn to value each other, to help build the peaceful and just society that all our religions seek. I reflected that this type of grand vision begins by taking such simple steps towards each other – but sometime we need to help each other to do it.

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“to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

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Today, as we begin a new Triennium of this Synod, we celebrated the Eucharist and heard from Ephesians 3:14-4:6 and the gospel of John 15:1-12. We reflected on the generous love of God and Jesus’ call to love each other as he loved us, and Paul’s call to bear with each other in love.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)

It has been 8 months since my installation, and a year since I became aware of the new ministry to which God was calling me.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your welcome and support.  It has been a great joy to have begun to get to know you, the Diocese, our churches, and the community to which I have been called.

It has been a privilege to see the way in which the Church in London is responding to God’s call to speak confidently about the hope we have found in Christ, to act with compassion in our communities and to creatively plant new worshipping communities.  There is much to celebrate.

We have seen:

  • 38,000 people sign up as Ambassadors;
  • We have over 55 new worshipping communities, well on the way to our target of 100;
  • There are 153 parishes delivering 230 distinctive projects focusing on tackling poverty and inequality through 1500 volunteers working alongside paid staff to create positive outcomes for over 14,000 lives each year;
  • And we should not forget the 60 thousand children attending one of our 160 schools.

As a city, as a country and as a church we are entering a time of uncertainty. What is it that we are called to be and do at this time?

What are the signs of the time?

  • 123 people have been killed in London so far this year – 71 fatal stabbings and 14 shootings.
  • There are some 8000 people sleeping rough in the capital.
  • St Luke’s healthcare for clergy found in a recent survey of clergy that around 12% of those who responded said they are struggling or barely coping. Two-thirds of those said they frequently considered giving up their role in the Church because of stress
  • The Church in the Diocese of London is growing in confidence. However, while our worshipping community figures are stable, this is a city where still only 1.6% of the population attends church.
  • We are a diocese where only 5 per cent of our some 850 clergy are from Black and Minority Ethnic Groups.
  • The House of Bishops will within this Triennium respond to Living in Love and faith. The project on relationships, marriage and sexuality.

Sometimes the signs of the time may seem overwhelming but we need to keep in mind Paul’s audacious prayer in which he reminds us of the power that is at work in us and the people we have been called to be:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20)

So looking forward, rooted and grounded in love with Christ dwelling in us we have been called in all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

It is rooted and grounded in love with Christ dwelling in us we look forward to the new Triennium and in doing so we begin a new Church year which marks the last two years of Capital Vision 2020, all areas of focus remain but we are going to pay greater attention to:

  • Young people
  • New worshipping communities
  • Increasing vocations
  • Our ambassadors
  • Capital Mass

Paul reminds us that it is not just what we do but how we do it. Central to what we do as a Synod is to reflect on how we support and enable the local church resourcing them to be confident in speaking about their faith, compassionate in their care of the community and creatively planting new worshipping communities.

The Diocesan Lent Appeal has in the past been a way in which we have supported our parishes to consider prayerfully how we can as a Diocese join together and raise awareness of an issue.  This year it is on Modern Day Slavery. Our appeal will build on the work of the Clewer Initiative, part of the national church’s approach to eradicating modern day slavery. We will be partnering with five charities that are already active in London.

There are at least 40 million victims of modern day slavery in the world today, and tens of thousands in the UK.  In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, in a capital city heralded for its history and culture, modern slavery is thriving.  Thousands are forced into domestic servitude, forced labour or sexual exploitation in plain sight of Londoners, and many more are at risk of falling through the cracks, hidden from the view of the authorities, charities and the church.

We as a Synod need to consider prayerfully what God is calling us to do beyond 2020.  We must be rooted and established in Christ, growing deeper into God and towards each other and the world – the fruit of which will be growth, spiritual and numerical.  We need to ask of each other what it is to do this with humility and gentleness, with patience; what it is to bear with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bonds of love.

Together we need to support the clergy of this diocese and set all of God’s people free; we need to work with our church schools. We need a vision which has young people at its heart, underpinned by our values of confidence, compassion and creativity.

20 Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

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“for just such a time as this”

Having just returned from the Diocese of London Senior Staff Residential I look back on our time together with a sense of real hope.

It was both a privilege and fruitful to spend time together; reading scripture (we studied 2 Corinthians 3-5), praying together, working and yes we had some fun!

senior staff

We left with a renewed sense of confidence ‘Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ ( 2 Corinthians 3: 5-6)

We left with a renewed sense of urgency ‘For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all;’ (2 Corinthians 5:14)

We left with a sense that we are here ‘for just such a time as this’ (Esther 14: 14)

You will be aware of the narrative of Esther, Ahasuerus seeks a new wife after his queen, Vashti, refuses to obey him, and Esther is chosen for her beauty. The king’s chief advisor, Haman, is offended by Esther’s cousin and guardian, Mordecai, and gets permission from the king to have all the Jews in the kingdom killed. We then see Esther consider for what has God placed her in the position of Queen.

‘Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”’ Esther 4(13-14)

I have over the last six months spoken about my understanding that God calls, specific people at specific times to specific places for a specific purpose and we see this in the life of the apostles and in the epistles. And I am sure you will recognise this in your own lives and ministries.  As a senior staff team we have a renewed sense that we are called for such a time as this.

Together we prayerfully looked at the signs of the time, we looked back on Capital Vision 2020 and where we should focus for the next and last two years.  We then started to prayerfully consider what our vision beyond 2020 should be and we spoke of our aspirations to begin to engage across London, especially with young people, to begin to develop this.

We have so much for which to thank God. Our hope in what God has done in Christ not only holds us in our present but points us to a future full of hope. I hope that together as the people of the Way across the Diocese of London we will develop a greater understanding to what God has called us to at such a time as this.

‘For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.’ (2 Corinthians 4: 7-11)

 

 

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For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

My message to the Diocese of London

As we enter September, however long it has been since we – or our children – have been at school, it feels like a new term. 

I hope that you have found time for rest over the summer.  I am often reminded that we do not always look after ourselves and we should be reminded of the need for Sabbath rest. Sabbath is central to the rhythm of the week and the makeup of life. The Sabbath commandment brings together God and the human world, the loving of God, loving our neighbour and ourselves.

In our own lives, Sabbath rest is not just about a day but about a rhythm that is played out across days, weeks and years.  The question for me is how best to help those who are in ministry across the diocese to look after themselves, enabling them to find a rhythm of life with a rhythm of the Sabbath.

A new term reminds us that we enter into a new season. Even in London it smells like autumn: it is a reminder that the one certainty about life is change.

At the beginning of the summer the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, announced that he had decided to step back from full time ministry on health grounds. He will withdraw from public duties at the end of October, and the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, will serve as Acting Bishop of Stepney until a successor is appointed.

I am very grateful to have shared, even for such a short time, ministry with Bishop Adrian and I am sure everyone in Stepney and in London will join with me in thanking Bishop Adrian and praying for him, and for Gill and his family, as he makes this life-change.

I am now beginning the process of discernment about his replacement. This process requires us first to consider filling the vacancy and notifying the Dioceses Commission and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unless the Commission considers that the proposal requires further consideration, they will then indicate to the Archbishop that they agree with my proposal to fill the see.

Over the next few months I will want to seek views and discern with others what is the specific calling for the new Bishop of Stepney. While this will naturally involve those in the Stepney episcopal area, others should feel able to contact me at any time with their views.

The news of Bishop Adrian stepping back has also precipitated reflection on my oversight of the Two Cities and I have decided that I will continue to have area oversight.  I am confident that the London Plan will ensure appropriate episcopal oversight for those who do not accept the ordination of women on theological grounds and that the work we are undertaking to reflect on how we support clergy and parishes in the Two Cities will bear fruit.

Right across our Diocese, as we enter this new term, we have much to be grateful for in our schools. Following recent exam results, the vast majority achieved outcomes which will show their students made well above national average rates of progress – this data is published later in the term.

This is the second year of government reforms to qualifications, with the introduction of more demanding exams and of the new 9-1 grading system for GCSEs. With an ever-changing environment, teachers entering a new term will face such challenges as well as opportunities. If you are a teacher, what students will not always tell you is how your enthusiasm for a subject has enthused them, how your stability in the midst of an unstable world has held them and how your belief in them has formed them.  I am very grateful for what all those in our schools do – thank you.

Over the last four months, I have been out and about across the Diocese, and schools have been just part of my diary.  Parishes, homeless hostels, hospitals, food banks, lunch clubs, Sunday and weekday worship – all signs of the hope we have found in Christ Jesus. We should continue to be confident of the hope that we have in Christ, continuing to share that hope in word and action.

What I have also been witnessing has been a growing Diocese. The Strategic Development Grant awarded last year to London by the Church Commissioners will in the coming months and years play a vital role in continuing to revitalise, expand and support mission and ministry across a range of Church traditions in the capital.

Diocesan Synod’s oversight role here is important: to meet in Synod is to meet together ‘as people of the Way and on the Way’ of our shared life of discipleship. I would draw your attention to Synod vacancies, clerical and lay, that still exist, ahead of the meeting of the new Synod on 1 December. Local deanery officers will be able to provide details of by-elections. Similarly, elections to the five Area Councils, start this September. Do consider getting involved and putting yourselves forward.

I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

 

+Sarah Londin

 

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“walking towards and among survivors borrowing some of their courage”

I am very grateful to Jo Kind (MACSAS), Shelia Fish (SCIE) and those survivors who attended the fringe session and the debate at General Synod today. I know that there was a cost for them.

At the fringe event as I listened to their stories and I was again saddened.  I continue to find it hard to comprehend how individuals who speak and preach of the love of God have abused the trust that was put in them.  I also regret that as a church we have not always responded well in the past and I have seen the cost that this has had and continues to have on those individuals. I am sorry that in the midst of this some have lost their sense of God.

It is a personal frustration that we are not moving quicker and I know we have not yet involved survivors and victims in a way that they, or I, would have liked.  The involvement of survivors last night and today demonstrate why we need to move towards co-production. They will help us to understand what good looks like and how we put victims and survivors at the heart of what we do. In the words of Jo Kind “walking towards and among survivors borrowing some of their courage”

I believe that we are on a journey and we have made progress over the last few years including in our culture ‘the way we do things around here.’

For culture to continue to change the leadership for safeguarding must remain within the Church.  I am clear about my responsibility and I believe that that it is time that further work is undertaken to reflect on the balance between responsibility and independence.

We also need to become more sophisticated in drawing a distinction between safeguarding activity:

  • Firstly, the activity which we undertake to keep our churches safe places today; for example policies and procedures must be implemented by those in the parishes who are supported by safeguarding officers appropriately trained and resourced within the diocese to ensure a safe church.
  • Secondly, how we respond to those who chose to disclose abuse in a church context but where the abuse did not occur in the church context again locally provided.
  • And, finally the processes that are in place to respond to those that have been abused by church officers which may be more appropriately provided independently.

Separate activity managed in different and appropriate ways.

Having listened to survivors I do believe that:

  • There is a need for more independent scrutiny of what we do
  • I would support the principle of an independent place where people who have been a victim of abuse by an officer of the church can disclose to, where they will then be appropriately and professionally supported throughout an investigation and an independent advocate allocated.
  • I also think we need to consider how best the mental and physical health of those that disclose can be better met and not just at disclosure but on into the future.

Finally Jo Kind brought us back to the issue of power and trust and its abuse ,this is something which we need to talk about more seriously.

I wish change could occur overnight – it can’t, but I hope to match the tenacity shown by survivors by ensuring that change does occur.  The actions discussed today may not be where we want to get to but it is a point on the way.

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Safeguarding – independence V responsibility?

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18 

Safeguarding from abuse and responding well to it is grounded in the fundamental themes of Christian theology. It should be woven into the fabric of the Church.

Churches should be places where all are welcomed into open and secure communities that make known Christ’s reconciling peace. What we know is that in the past at times we have failed. This is why as a Church we are being investigated by IICSA, and why we have a major safeguarding debate and fringe event at General Synod next month.

What we also know is that we are still on a journey to getting it right. I have heard the voices of survivors and victims of abuse – and met with them – who say we have not moved quickly enough and call for an independent safeguarding systems in the Church of England.

I would agree to some extent that we should be moving quicker and I know we have not yet involved survivors and victims in a way that they, or I, would have liked. I am concerned that we have not yet understood what it is or looks like to put victims and survivors at the heart of what we do. But we have made progress and I do not think we should jump to the conclusion that a safeguarding system which is independent of the Church of England will fix everything. I do not believe that the Church should lose responsibility for ensuring that it is a safe place.

I do, however, believe there is a need for more independent scrutiny and, because of the level of trust in the Church, I would support the principle of an independent place where people can disclose to, where they will then be appropriately and professionally supported throughout an investigation. More work will need to be done on exploring the practicalities of such a system and the options for strengthening the independent investigation against clergy. Ultimately, though, we do need to take the mental and physical health of those that disclose seriously, and their needs will be often better met by others.

Over the last few years I believe that we have begun to see significant changes.  Improved resourcing, new policies and procedures, better designed training, audits of all the dioceses in the Church of England, undertaken by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, and their current research into the Church’s response to survivors.

We are involved in culture change. Culture is about ‘the way we do things around here.’ Culture change is also way more successful if it is understood what good looks like, when it is led by the leaders, informed by those that it affects and when behaviours are reinforced by training, communication, mentoring and audit.

Culture change does not just happen and the ‘way we do things around here’ does not change unless it is owned by those that are part of the culture. The leadership for safeguarding must remain within the Church, as the responsibility of the diocesan bishop.  Policies and procedures must be implemented by those in the parishes who are supported by safeguarding officers appropriately trained and resourced within the diocese to ensure a safe church.  Anything less would turn what are behaviours at the heart of the gospel into something which is seen as a bureaucratic check list. We need to reflect more fully on the balance between independence and responsibility.  The wider public sector has a long tradition of knowing that it needs to get this balance right.

We together are involved in a transformation which has begun, and I long to see. My prayer is that we will see changes of heart and of ‘the way we do things around here’. I hope that this will be reflected in the tone of the debate and fringe event at Synod.

 

 

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70 years of the NHS

Sermon preached today on BBC Sunday Worship Radio 4

FOR 900 years, on this site where we stand today, there has been both a hospital and a place of worship. St Bartholomew’s Hospital traces its roots back to the Augustinian priory that once filled this site. For nine centuries, healing and mercy, compassion and love, the physical and the divine, have brushed up against each other. This very place tells the story of a health service rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The NHS was born out of a vision of healthcare available to all, regardless of wealth or status. Born out of a belief in something called the common good.

It was in the middle of the Second World War, at the height of terrible suffering and loss, that the Beveridge Report dared to dream of a new society that would make provision for the health of the nation and the care of the sick. Remarkably, the NHS was born just six years later, despite the devastation and the exhaustion that war had wreaked on Britain. Or did it perhaps take such despair to give birth to such a radical vision?

Though we may often forget it now, the NHS wasn’t universally welcomed or without controversy when it was set up.  The cost was expected to be great and most doctors believed that it would reduce their fees and their freedom.  Many doctors threatened to resign rather than join it.  So it was born into economic hardship and entrenched opposition.  It took enormous courage and determination on the part of Bevan, Attlee and others to set it up. And their vision of course extended further than the NHS – to providing a wider package of reforms; unemployment benefit, old age pension, widows pensions and death grants. At the heart of their vision was the belief that all people should be treated as of equal value in times of hardship, whether because of sickness, or old age or unemployment. It was a vision of love and compassion given freely, to all.

Before the founding of the NHS, we should remember that those without means didn’t dare call a doctor for fear of the bill that would land on the doormat. They couldn’t afford to go to hospital so they went to work houses to receive the most basic of palliative care. Without the NHS, the poor were left to fend for themselves at their times of direst need, relying on home cures.

Today we celebrate and give thanks for the courage and passion of those behind the NHS  , 70 years on. And we celebrate and give thanks for those who continue that vision in today’s NHS, despite the growing pressures upon them and the Service.

You know that I am a passionate supporter of the NHS. It has touched my life in many ways – through the birth of my children, the death of my parents, and for many years, directly through my work as a nurse. I have seen some of the great changes the NHS has undergone due to our longer lifespans, increases in technology and research, and a growing population. These changes have put pressure on the commitment to equal care, though I know that commitment still underpins the motivation of all who work for the NHS.

In our reading we heard the well known story of the Good Samaritan. It’s a parable, told by Jesus, of a traveller who is beaten and left for dead on the side of the  road, and of the treatment he gets from those who walk past. Two ignore him – a priest and a Levite – but the third, the outsider, the Samaritan, stops. He has compassion. Jesus’s listeners would have known how remarkable this was: at this time enmity between Samaritans and Jews dates back millennia. The injured man was his enemy and yet he treated him as his neighbour. Jesus tells this parable when he’s asked by a lawyer – who is hoping to catch him out – who is my neighbour?

Who is our neighbour?

Ask any nurse on any ward in this country this question and I am pretty sure of the answer you’d get: the patients they tend and care for. The NHS embodies this Gospel vision of compassion for all, regardless of age or race or religion.

The NHS doesn’t of course absolve the rest of us from the need to care for our neighbours. We all have a duty – of compassion – to care for our neighbour, whether they live next door are in the next office, or on the side of a road.

We have to care for the society we live in, the society we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. This care shows in our words and our actions, such as how we choose to spend our money, our leisure time.

Florence Nightingale said why pray for those dying of cholera when raw sewage is flowing in the Thames? I like her believe we need to pray and act.

Despite the huge progress of the NHS, the wonderful achievement that is universal care free at the point of delivery, inequalities still abound. Some of the statistics are stark and should keep any Health Secretary up at night : baby boys born in Blackpool in 2014 can expect to live nine years less than those born in Kensington and Chelsea. Girls in Middlesborough will live an average of seven years less than girls born in Chiltern.

Addressing these inequalities is of course not just about health, but about housing, education, welfare and nutrition.

We are here today to give thanks to God for our NHS and to pledge ourselves anew to make it the best we can. To ensure it serves all who need it with humanity and dignity and compassion. In the coming months and years there will be more pressures upon it. More change. more difficult decisions. We pray today for those making those decisions that they might be true to the vision of the common good which inspired the creation of the NHS seven decades ago.

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him. “What is written in the law? How do you read? And he answered, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus then went on to say “go and do likewise”.

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