Since the referendum on independence last week in Scotland, I have heard lots of talk in the media, and from our politicians, about power. Where power should reside and who should hold it. For now, independence for Scotland is not going to happen but there is talk of further devolution of power, to Scottish, to Welsh, to English, and to regional, governments.
Am I alone in worrying about the emphasis on power and who holds it? When we look at the world at the moment, we see too many cases of power being wielded in parts of the world in a most unhealthy and dangerous manner by individuals or minority groups.
Perhaps we would do well to ponder once again the words of Uncle Ben in the first Spiderman movie when he tells his nephew ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. All of us, politicians or not, hold some power over others. How should we use it and what is our responsibility?
This morning I read the obituary in the Church Times of The Revd Dr Ian Paisley who died a couple of weeks ago. However we feel about him and his politics, he was a man, who certainly in latter years changed the way he viewed power. The Church Times (19th Sept 2014) states ‘by 2007, Paisley was ready for the unthinkable: a sharing of power as First Minister in a new Northern Ireland Assembly with Sinn Fein’. Sharing power, which meant compromise and generosity, for the sake of peace and reconciliation and a new future. It was incredibly moving to read the tribute paid to Ian Paisley by his former enemy, now friend, Martin McGuinness.
With great power comes great responsibility. What power do we hold and what are our responsibilities?
The Revd Rachel Rosborough, Rector of Bourton on the Water with Clapton & the Rissingtons
My eye was this week caught by a string of articles based on surveys about teenagers becoming more sober, and a reduction in the number of teenage pregnancies. The media list of possible for causes included more strictly observant teens from other cultures and the rise of Facebook and Twitter. Whilst this story is good news in itself, as our young people hopefully live more healthily, the particular sideline I enjoyed was the comment that “many youngsters are now more likely to spend time knitting than sitting in a pub.”
As a born again knitter myself, I am amused by the media’s presentation of this craft as the antithesis of drink and drugs for teens. I wonder whether the current loom band craze will eventually mature into other more traditional crafts, but I also remember the craze for friendship bracelets and sitting up in bed whilst I ought to have been studying making bracelet after bracelet stretching from my bedpost.
We in the Diocesan offices are ahead of this trend, although mainly too old to be caught in the surveys. We have a weekly craft club which meets during our lunch hour, to do anything creative. This summer with its beautiful weather has proven rather a distraction from our crafting activities, but with the weather getting less sunny, and Christmas on the horizon (and unfortunately already in every shop), our thoughts have returned to our craft. The group pulls together staff from different parts of the diocese and cathedral and offers us a relaxing calm space to share our enjoyments and sometimes our moans. It is wonderful to meet and share both laughter and quiet together and feel productive at the same time. I hope those knitting teenagers find the comfort of this in what are becoming stressful lives full of tests and worry, and that they enjoy the beauty of what they produce, even if they then feel the need to ‘Instagram it’.
Rebecca Shorter, Trust and Pastoral Officer, Diocese of Gloucester
After all the dire news from around the world in recent weeks, at last some good news – a royal announcement, William and Kate are expecting a second child. The announcement has been made early because of what is misleadingly called ‘morning sickness’. I have every sympathy, having experienced ‘all day and all night sickness’ for over four months during my pregnancies – the Spanish have a saying that there’s none so thin as a woman three months pregnant, which fits the bill very well. I wish the Duchess of Cambridge a speedy recovery and an enjoyable pregnancy, and with all the media, I rejoice in having some good news to celebrate.
It is, though, a big deal to bring a child into a world such as this. I suppose this particular family may not have the worries that many young parents have about finance and support, but it is still an awesome responsibility. What sort of world will they grow up in? How will they find and take their place in this world? Will they be safe? When we think of the next generation, we become aware that decisions we make, and decisions made on our behalf by governments and councils, must be wise long term decisions, not just decisions that will ease our lives or lead to re-election. And thinking about babies born into this time, we are reminded that it is the responsibility of all of us to work and pray for peace and justice and for the stability of this world, for their sake as much as ours.
So to the royal couple and to all who share good news with friends and family – Congratulations! And thank you for giving cause for celebration and the reminder to work for a hopeful and peaceful future.
The Venerable Jackie Searle, Archdeacon of Gloucester
Are you, I wonder, a compulsive picture-straightener? Do things which appear unbalanced offend your sense of how the world should be? Many people seem, on the surface at least, to have a great sense of symmetry, and that is reflected in much of the architecture and environment we create for ourselves. We appreciate symmetry. We give prizes at the garden show for perfectly round onions and dead straight carrots – not that it makes them taste any better. We talk of a balanced diet, of work-life balance, and of a balanced personality, all as being good things to which we should aspire.
More seriously, the Cold War era was dominated by an apparent need to ensure a balance of power between Soviet and NATO forces – the reality of course was both sides secretly striving to see whether they could achieve some technological superiority over the other. Even when it is clear that things are very much out of balance – poverty, civil wars, climate change, etc – there are too many of us who think that all could be solved if only everyone else would start to play by our rules: western, democratic, Christian, capitalist, and whatever other adjectives you care to add.
Since the end of the Cold War, military thinking and doctrine has been dominated by “unbalance” by so-called asymmetric warfare. In simple terms, not only do the warring factions at the heart of the world’s current trouble spots not play by “our” rules – they’re not even playing the “our” game. Before we think of committing our service men and women to yet another Middle East conflict, we need to remind ourselves that ISIL and their like are playing by a very different set of rules. We need to be prepared to adapt our own methods in ways which might appear unpalatable, but if our team has to continue to play cricket, there’s no point in sending them against an opposition who are determined to play rugby.
The Revd David Smith, Parish Priest St George’s Tuffley & St Margaret’s Whaddon and Area Dean, Gloucester City Deanery