My thoughts are taken up with the Joint Core Strategy between Tewkesbury Borough Council, Cheltenham Borough Council and Gloucester City to find sites to build 33,200 new homes in the area covered by the three organisations. There are negative feelings towards the plans. Being an accountant, I question how the figure was arrived at and what would be the source of the 21,800 new jobs that are projected. Have the factors of increasing single living and of ageing population, kept healthier by modern medicine techniques also been taken into account? Other points spring to mind – what efforts are being made to transform the lower High Street in Cheltenham into an affordable housing area? There must be areas of Gloucester that can be dealt with in a similar fashion.
I am minded to look on the positive side of the proposals. For example, there is one piece of land to the North West of Cheltenham that has been earmarked for a development of over 4,000 homes. The land is neither suitable for economic farming, nor is it in a scenic part of the general Cotswol d landscape. What better place to build a Christian community with a Church of England primary school with a secondary school, accepted into our own Diocese of Gloucester Academy Trust to preserve our Christian ethos. Furthermore, build a community centre, annexed and allied to the church, with playgroups, youth centres, supermarket, small specialist shops, doctors and dentists surgeries, not forgetting a Day Care centre for those of us requiring additional care as we grow older.
As for the villages that are destined to have hundreds of extra homes built, think of a regeneration process. The communities of some of the villages and small towns are dying as they steadily become commuter bases. With careful and thoughtful planning, new communities can be encouraged to grow and thrive as the local schools expand, the congregation numbers swell, the village shop has more visitors and local sports facilities are built and used.
What appears to be a negative can be turned into a positive.
Mary Adlard, Chair, Diocesan Board of Finance
The London Marathon is a huge event now in our sporting calendar. Literally thousands of runners attempt to conquer the 26 miles on London’s streets and many succeed. But the question in my mind is one the star of the academy award winning film Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell, asked: ‘Where does the power come from to see the race to the end?’
Perhaps we all ask that question at some point in our lives: how do I keep going, in the face of mounting difficulties? Life is indeed a marathon, not a sprint and we need a source of strength to keep going. Eric Liddell answered that question by simply saying: ‘From within’.
And he should know. After his victory in Paris in he went on to be a missionary in China. My parents had the privilege of knowing him as they were interned in the same prisoner of war camp. Life in an Internment camp is nightmarish: little food, cramped living conditions and days without freedom to venture outside the barbed wire fences – very hard for children.
How did they and Eric Liddell see the race to the end? Only with the help of the God they trusted. Prayer was a comfort, and they encouraged each other in the face of harsh treatment. These words from one of the ancient prophets still holds true for all runners of the race of life: ‘Even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired; they walk and don’t lag behind.’
The Revd Bruce Goodwin, Senior Chaplain to the University of Gloucestershire
Last month saw the publication of a sobering report on violence (physical, sexual and psychological) against women by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. They found that “one third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15”. The UK was tied for fourth worst among EU countries.
I wish I could say I was shocked, but I have long known of this woefully under-reported situation. Gender-based abuse goes on mostly behind closed doors and, when it does come to light, the victim is often shamed and blamed. The report itself got a two-minute slot on breakfast telly and one day in the papers. I have to ask myself, “why?”.
Might it have something to do with the pervasive devaluing of women in our society? Women can expect to earn less than men for the same work and to be passed over for leadership posts. We are expected to laugh off slights and slurs and put-downs both socially and in the workplace and to tolerate intrusive remarks about our appearance and actions. Our strengths are often negatively valued (he is assertive, she is pushy). Even our public identity is frequently derivative, based on a relationship rather than ourselves.
It pains me that the church is no different, and indeed is lagging behind in several areas (women bishops?). The Jesus I see in the gospels is unusually respectful and welcoming to women. He takes them seriously and entrusts his message to them as well as counting them among his friends. I believe that it is only when we recover this kind of attitude toward women that we can begin to deal with gender-based discrimination and violence.
The Revd Canon Robbin Clark, Dean of Women Clergy
The disappearance of the Malaysian airline has taken the world by surprise. How can a plane just vanish? The world as we know it has never experienced such a bizarre event. In a world, where technology has advanced so much and where we can claim to have the wherewithal to know everything about anything and anyone, can a plane just “disappear”? The Malaysian authorities have been criticised in how they’ve handled the case – why has information been so slow in coming out? The newspapers and TV have shown us pictures of crowds of people screaming and crying in frustration and grief, desperate for news, still daring to hope. And now, three weeks after the event, the media are not saying very much at all – other events have squeezed it out.
And yet, in this world where we have got used to technology being able to give us instant answers and where we’re perplexed as to why we have no immediate explanation for the disappearance of this plane, there are people overwhelmed with grief and loss.
It was brought home to me when a weeping woman came into one of my churches last week. As I sat with her, she poured out her grief: she had been desperately trying to get in touch with her father who lives in Thailand. He travelled regularly to China and she thought he’d been on that particular plane. She waits and weeps. She can do nothing else. And all we can do is pray and journey with her.
Waiting throws us onto God. When instant answers are not there, God still is. At times, waiting is a terrible thing to have to do. We have no answers; we don’t know whether to hope or what to hope for. But in the midst of all that agony of waiting, God invites us to put our trust in him.
The Revd Canon Jane Kenchington is Rector of the Sodbury Vale Benefice and Area Dean of Wotton