“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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Simple Steps of Courage

Yesterday evening I was privileged to attend the London Youth Interfaith Ifar supported by the Naz Legacy Foundation.  I was invited along with the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

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It was a privilege to be there during this special time of Ramadan.

Fasting is an essential spiritual practice for many of faith – it helps us move away from our usual obsessions with the immediate and the short-term. It allows us to dedicate ourselves to God and to God’s eternal concerns for the world.

Being invited to break the fast gave me the opportunity to assure the Muslim community here in London of my prayers – they are a vital part of this city and there commitment to God and to this city and its faith relationships is inspiring

Inter faith engagement seeks both to find common ground and to respect difference. One of the wonderful characteristic of London is its diversity; it is multi faith and multiracial.  It is a city where we live, study and work with people of different and different backgrounds.  That diversity is a reflection of God’s diverse creation.

In London, we celebrate diversity and the integrity of one another’s beliefs. We won’t always agree but we can commit to always love and even in the times we disagree, to do so lovingly and graciously and with respect for each other.

Living with people who are different from ourselves, and learning to cooperate together and collaborate together, whilst accepting our differences, is not always straight forward. But it can be fun and we will grow to be richer individuals through the experience.  I believe that we have more in common than divides us.

Inter faith dialogue makes it possible for the church to be part of building community cohesion and resilience. Interfaith dialogue begins when people meet each other and when they are able to build mutual understanding and respect.

As people of faith, we actively seek the flourishing of each other. We are called to love our neighbours as ourselves and that means we care about each other’s welfare and ability to thrive as whole people: physically, mentally, emotionally, economically, environmentally and spiritually. If we take that call seriously, then we need to commit ourselves to transform the city in which we live, to make it a city of welcome and acceptance for all: friend and stranger alike.

The Iftar was attended by young people who had the ability to re imagine the world and see possibilities and not obstacles – if is from them we should learn.

London Youth Interfaith Iftar

I reflected that this type of grand vision begins by taking simple steps towards each other.

Simple steps such as the Iftar which provided an opportunity to celebrate that diversity, and to discover new things about each other.  Our conversations planted seeds which will build community bonds and friendships.  It will also helped us to learn to value each other and these simple steps help to build the peaceful and just society that all our religions seek.

Simple steps such as the Near Neighbours programme – a joint government and Church of England initiative which has released millions of pounds spent on hundreds of grassroots social transformation projects here in London, begun by people of faith working together. And they all begin by the simple act of meeting together. And for that to happen, somebody needs to take the initiative. Faith gives us the inspiration and the courage to take the first step towards others- it’s both the simplest thing in the world and the hardest, but without somebody taking the initiative, nothing happens.

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In Southall in West London, recently, I met a group of women who identified the need for a safe place where women could meet and speak confidentially. With Near Neighbours seed funding, a small group of women from a church, a mosque and a mandir, got together and arranged counselling training and then opened a weekly coffee morning which they advertised in the community. The project called The Listening Space has taken off and has provided a vital voluntary service in the local community. It has also led to deepening relationships of trust being established between different faith communities and more projects being planned. But it began with simple steps and the willingness to turn a vision into reality by sharing the idea with others.

As a Christian I believe in a God who does not compel but who offers unconditional love and we are called to love our neighbours unconditionally. This must mean caring for the whole person, who may have a completely different understanding of God and God’s will to us or, dare I say it, who may not believe in God at all.

It begins with simple steps….

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knowing their people and being known by them

As part of the liturgy for the consecration of bishops the Archbishop says that bishops are called to serve and care for the flock of Christ. Mindful of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, they are to love and pray for those committed to their charge, knowing their people and being known by them.
So over the last ten days I have been meeting with people across the Diocese of London. They have been an inspiration and it has been a privilege.
I have been struck by the way in which Christians are engaging with their communities for the common good. In Southall women are listening to each other across faiths and building confidence. In East London Christians are working with their community to find land for affordable housing.
I have been encouraged by the way in which Churches are growing like Christ Church Spitalfields or like St Augustine’s Colindale. Different types of Churches in different communities and different traditions but both making the love of Christ known.

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I have been inspired by the young people of London. Today I visited Greig City Academy in Hornsey and met with some wonderful students. They were confident and asked great questions. They also demonstrated some outstanding achievements – not least in sailing.

I had followed them last year as they competed in the Fastnet on the Greig City Academy’s vintage Fres yacht Scaramouche. They spoke today about what this had given them and how important team work had become for them. It was outstanding that an inner city school with all the pressures they were under they had given permission to staff to follow up on their ideas and those thing for which they had a passion and the pupils were flourishing.

The school was encouraging teachers to know their pupils and to be known by them – I prayer that I can do the same as the Bishop of London and for the glory of God.

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More in Common….

One of the wonderful characteristics of London is its diversity; it is multi faith and multi racial city but recent terror events across London, the UK and the world has meant that there has been an increase in the fear of the other. Interfaith dialogue makes it possible for the church to be part of building community cohesion and resilience proclaiming that terror will not win. In the words of Jo Cox in her first speech to parliament ‘We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.’

Interfaith dialogue begins when people meet each other and when they are able to build mutual understanding and respect. Dialogue can become a medium of authentic Christian witness.

In Southall yesterday it was wonderful to be able join with multi faith leaders and members of their community. They were generous in their welcome and it was a joy to be able speak with them.

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It was good to be able to talk about how we can commit ourselves to work with all people in mutual respect, promoting together justice, peace and the common good. It was encouraging to see how people of different faiths were building community living out that they have far more in common than that which divides them.

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Clergy well-being or how to thrive

At the heart of my ministry is the call to an ever deepening relationship with God and his love. I have sought over the years to become what Ian Cowley calls a Contemplative Minister (The Contemplative Minister 2015 BRF), nurturing my faith in what is a hectic world I endeavour to minister from a still centre. I know that many ordained ministers seek to do  the same.

As we seek to minister from that still centre the world often takes over; people have unrealistic expectations of us, we struggle to maintain boundaries, we can lack collegial support, we face pastoral challenges and added to that many of us think we a super human.

So are we surprised that St Luke’s healthcare for clergy found in a recent survey that around 12% of the clergy who responded said they were struggling or barely coping. Two-thirds of those said they frequently considered giving up their role in the Church because of stress.

Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Clergy 2015 states that Bishops and those exercising pastoral care of the clergy should both by word and example actively encourage the clergy to adopt a healthy life style and maintain a commitment to the care and development of themselves and their personal relationships.

If clergy are to care for the flock of Christ we need to ensure that we care for ourselves and each other. So I was delighted that one of my first official activities in the London Diocese was to host a clergy INSET Day on well-being.

 

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Promoting well-being requires us as individuals to take responsibly for ourselves, developing strategies and patterns of ministry which help us to maintain a balanced life of service, rest, prayer and recreation. The church needs to promote and support clergy resilience, helping them to reflect on their practice in safe places and we need to signpost people to access advice and counselling if necessary.

As I listened to The Revd Dr Gillian Straine I was challenged by her suggestion that rather than well-being we should talk about flourishing – finding God’s purpose for our lives, an embodied existence, where mind, body and spirit are united and where we can express our vocation to the increase of God’s kingdom. This allows us to be in that place where we thrive but may not fulfil the narrow definition of being well.

To thrive still requires us to take responsibilities and encourage each other but it does open up a wider understanding of well-being.  A thought for the General Synod group looking at ‘A Covenant for Clergy Well-being?

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