By Helen Richardson, Assistant Diocesan Secretary
This week, BBC Radio 2’s Faith in the World Week reported that more than a third of British adults now live on their own, the largest percentage in history. Interestingly, the survey found that those who practise a religion reported feeling lonelier than those who do not. I wonder if the degree of loneliness reported is partially influenced by how both society and the Church view the status of those who live alone, always placing the family as the ideal. In listening this week to the numerous accounts of single people’s experiences on the radio, numerous callers shared that they felt their single status is often viewed as invalid or incomplete; some described it like a stigma when compared with those in a couple or family setup.
We need to differentiate aloneness from loneliness. Aloneness is a necessary part of the human journey; at the very least we enter and leave this world alone. In terms of faith, whilst we may practise our faith often in communion with others, our faith journey is one travelled and ultimately experienced alone. Have we as a Church ever questioned the limitations of those living in a couple or a family setting? These relationships offer the potential for avoiding ever having to face aloneness, and even denying individuals from fully knowing themselves.
Finding a balance between both states of singleness and togetherness is a challenge for us all. Perhaps if we all struck a better balance then the experience of loneliness may be lessened and the state of aloneness may be enriched.
Every community and every individual is affected to a greater or lesser extent by government cutbacks.
But there is one area of public spending that appears to be attracting little attention and debate, and that is the cost of replacing Trident. This is our submarine-based nuclear deterrent, and within a couple of years, a final decision will be needed about whether or not it should be replaced. The absence of current debate suggests that this will go through without a great deal of public discussion. The Government’s lowest estimated cost of replacing Trident is £15 billion. Greenpeace argues that this is more likely to be in the region of £34 billion. I wonder whether this level of expenditure is justifiable in a time of cuts?
As well as questions about renewing a system that was designed for the Cold War era, there are questions about the morality of nuclear deterrence. Just who are we deterring? And how is Trident, and ‘son of’ Trident, effective here?
I do wonder why this is not even being addressed by our major political parties; and I wonder what has happened to the radical Church that produced ‘The Church and the Bomb’ in 1982, provoking the political establishment at that time.
Reading the prophet Isaiah (see chapter 2) recently reminded me that the technology we invest in clearly expresses our values. Isaiah points towards a complete trust in God; now how is that particular value expressed in technology? I rather think that Trident sits uncomfortably.
by Canon Dr Tudor Griffiths, Rector of St Mary’s with St Matthew’s, Cheltenham
Bishop of Tewkesbury
A mother was convicted last week of starving her four-year-old son to death. The newspaper headlines were stark and the pictures truly shocking. It was two years before the child’s body was found.
But this was far from the first time we have seen such headlines. Indeed according to NSPCC statistics, on average, one child is killed every week in the UK.
Whenever a child dies of abuse or neglect, an inter-agency group conducts a Serious Case Review to see what lessons can be learnt about protecting children. However, in a recent interview, a senior NSPCC official stated starkly that such Serious Case Reviews have been saying the same things for years, but we don’t seem to be able to learn the lessons.
The blame of course is laid at the feet of government agencies who are quick to respond that they are under-resourced and demoralised. But I wonder if its time to move this discussion on. What does it say about us as a society, that our most vulnerable are not properly protected. We need to move beyond scapegoating (its too easy to simply blame others) and we need to ask: what is our role and the role of our local community in caring for those most in need.
Resilient communities are made up of groups who take seriously their responsibility for the care of the most vulnerable. They look out for the warning signs of neglect or abuse and they refuse to stay silent. They also know their limits, with partnerships already in place with the professionals who must deal with the complex issues which surround this work.
Who cares? Its time we all did.
By the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow
Once again Pope Francis has hit the headlines, this time for revealing his anxiety over becoming Pope. Before his name was announced to the world, he sat in silence in a quiet room with his eyes closed wondering whether to decline. He describes being filled with a great light and the anxiety fading away. How refreshing to hear that a public figure such as the Pope admits his vulnerability. Somehow, it makes him more human, more approachable, more ‘one of us’.
Clearly Pope Francis is determined to do things differently, refusing to embrace pomp and ceremony, embracing dialogue, choosing to live simply and to speak directly. He wants to open up the Catholic Church to the young, the old and the marginalised who feel ignored by society – something that all churches should want to do.
Last month the Pope was given a new car. Well, actually it was an old one. Instead of being driven around Rome in a limo, Pope Francis is driving himself in a 1984, Renault 4 GTL with 200,000 miles on the clock. This is a Pope who understands very well that actions speak louder than words. He speaks about wanting a Church that connects with the lives of ordinary people. What could be more ordinary than driving an old car?
Honest vulnerability and simple living. The Pope challenges us all, regardless of our religious affiliation – or none.
The Revd Canon Nikki Arthy