Who will stop me?

Anne Baynham2Recently, I have been reminded of a scene from The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand’s tribute to the creative freethinker.  As the story opens, Howard Roark is being expelled from ArchitecturalSchool for “insubordination”.  The Dean and faculty advocate traditional designs; Roark is an innovative architect whose designs are radically new.  The Dean wants Roark to build in accordance with the established styles of the past.  Roark refuses. 

The Dean, incredulous and bemused: “Who will let you [build your designs]?”

Roark: “That’s not the point.  The point is, who will stop me?”  He continues, “I’ve chosen the work I want to do….and I can find joy [in it] only if I do my work in the best way possible to me.  But the best is a matter of standards – and I set my own standards.  I inherit nothing.  I stand at the end of no tradition.  I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.” 

I first read this book in my early twenties.  Typically, as an ambitious university student, Rand’s words spurred me on.  In my quixotic youth, I slew imaginary foes, shadowy figures who stood in my way.  I never met them or knew who they were, but I struggled valiantly against them.  It wasn’t until I revisited the book a decade later, as a mother and author of unrealised dreams, that I discovered the true identity of my greatest obstacle: myself! 

Rand has purposefully given her hero no history, he simply emerges from the page as the perfect personification of integrity and independent functioning: a man above reproach.  For better or worse, we, on the other hand, all stand at the end of a tradition, a history of our own making, partially funded by an inheritance of conditioning.  What does it tell us?  Have you set your standards high?  Have you lived with integrity?  Have you lived a life that is true to your self?  If we’re being honest, I don’t think many of us can answer with a resounding yes.  But here’s the good news!  You now stand at the beginning of a new tradition.  As of this moment, reset your standards, default to your best.  And when you ask yourself, “who will stop me?” let the answer be an emphatic: no one!

Anne Baynham, Dept of Education

Whether the weather be wet

ElizabethReayWhen at school I learnt the following:

“Whether the weather be wet or fine, We will weather the weather whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not.”

And we certainly do in this country!

Last week I was in Derby for the Mothers’ Union Worldwide Council and luckily I decided to travel up a day early in order to prepare myself for this annual event.  Just as well I did, the through train I had booked  from Oxford did not run due to flooding and I was requested to alight any train travelling north and to change in Birmingham which I had not planned to do

When we are confronted with a challenge we all pull together to overcome the problem before us. Everyone was so helpful at the stations and everyone spoke to one another !!  We can communicate in person when an emergency arises and not find most people just looking at their modern devices or wired for sound, unaware of who is around them.  Anyone who has been affected by the floods has my sympathy as I needed to be rescued in the 2007 floods.

I am currently writing a report for members of the Mothers’ Union on my Derby trip and making further preparations for our awareness day being held in the Cathedral on Saturday 28 June. The event is called Families Come First – please do come to see the work we do throughout the world. Everyone is welcome – especially children.

by Elizabeth Reay, president of Diocese of Gloucester Mother’s Union

End Hunger Fast

steveclarkeIt is just over two weeks until Lent begins, traditionally a time of prayer and fasting, where we focus our minds and hearts on the centre of our faith; the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus often used the image of food and banqueting as an image of heaven, where there was plenty for all. We see in the miracle of water turned into wine and in the feeding of the five thousand that under God’s provision there is enough for all. It is fascinating that in both of these miracle stories others participate to bring the miracle to people. In participating they get to be the hands of Jesus as he blesses and instructs.

Recent research reveals that in the UK that there is not enough for all with an increasing number of families relying on the use of Foodbanks and other assistance:

“Half a million people are now dependent on food aid, relying on a rapidly expanding network of food banks and support programmes . One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children  and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition this year compared with 3,000 in 2008 .” (the growth of hunger in the UK’- endhungerfast.co.uk)

Jesus taught us to pray ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ If a sign of the kingdom of God is enough for all then how can we partner with Jesus to see this become a reality in our communities?

Keith Hebden, former curate within Gloucester Diocese and now Pioneer Minister for ‘Seeking Justice’ in Mansfield, has launched a national Lent Campaign called ‘End Hunger Fast.’ The campaign calls people to pray, fast and call for social change to end hunger in the UK.

In response to this call we are going to participate in this campaign by hosting a couple of prayer spaces.

The first is a 40-day prayer installation in Gloucester Cathedral that journeys through the Lord’s Prayer. Each week we will use a different phrase of the Lord’s prayer to help us pray and participate in ending hunger fast. Alongside this we will also host a 24 hour prayer room in the Lady Chapel from 7am on Sunday 6th April to 8am the following day.

You can check out the End Hunger Fast Website for information and creative ways to pray and campaign during Lent.

by the Revd Steve Clarke, Pioneer Minister in Gloucester city centre and curate at Gloucester Cathedral

Paying for a decent education

neil_heavisides_acting_dean“Education, education, education” was the cri de coeur of Tony Blair when he became Prime Minister, and apparently the present Education Secretary’s battle with the educational establishment was inspired in part by the former leader.

The former Prime Minister, according to a recent article in The Times, warned him that there would be intense opposition to his plans but he must face it down.

I am sure we are all behind Mr. Gove in his desire to improve the standard of state education. Broadening the curricula to offer more structured after-school activities, plans to support non-specialist teachers in state schools to teach classics and other initiatives are to be encouraged. But when is a Secretary of State really going to listen to our head teachers in both primary and secondary schools when it comes to the fundamental resources that they need to do their work effectively?

Unfortunately, no government and maybe not enough people are prepared to pay for the obvious solution to our predicament. Every state primary and secondary school needs the pupil/teacher ratio that exists in our best independent schools. If we want our state schools to achieve the best for all children and young people we need to aim at around one teacher for every 15 pupils. Of course this is costly but so is everything that is of value.

It seems to me very sad that no Government is prepared to tell us, the people, that such a cost is worthwhile.

by Revd Canon Neil Heaviside, Precentor of Gloucester Cathedral