What price community?

Ian SerjeantI recently went back to Liverpool to see an exhibition of photographs in the Bluecoat Gallery. They were taken by a friend, Trisha Porter, over forty years ago in Liverpool 8, now more commonly known as Toxteth. It was an area where she lived, as did I and my wife.

The Liverpool Echo covered the story under the by-line “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times”. I pondered over this. At the exhibition I met some people who lived in the area at the time. The photographs showed some of their contemporaries or relatives. Talking with them they observed what family life had been like. Yes, it had been rough, the surroundings far removed from mostly rural Gloucestershire, and there was crime and there was poverty – all this is evident in the photographs. Yet many commented on the sense of community that existed. Was this just nostalgia? I don’t think so. After all, I lived there too and think I agree that much had been lost.

Looking at the images you see families together, kids playing, ordinary life being lived. When interviewed Trisha said “I was trying to capture some of the humanity really.” I think she succeeded and also captured something of the sense of community. So I ask myself “What am I doing to foster a sense of community where I live?” Perhaps we should all ask this question. Perhaps all churches should.

You can see photos from the exhibition at: www.thebluecoat.org.uk/events/view/exhibitions/2726

Ian Serjeant, Churches Officer

Politics – Why risk it?

David SmithIn unpacking the meaning and usage of the currently ubiquitous word “manifesto”, the BBC website notes that a political manifesto is usually made up of a series of promises or pledges. It goes on to remind us that: “One sense of “pledge” – as the object given to a pawnbroker which is forfeited if a debt is not repaid – retains the meaning not just of a promise, but of risking something if it is not kept.

There will be a plethora of pledges from our political parties prior to the election, but I wonder just how much those making the pledges are taking a personal risk. Whichever party is in government after the election, most of the senior politicians will still have a seat and a job, whether they win or lose. When they leave parliament, either voluntarily or through the ballot box, and whether they have won or lost, they still seem to have significant income potential from lecture tours, public speaking engagements, autobiographies etc.

Without real personal risk on the part of those who make these manifesto pledges, what faith can we really have that they will be honored? In contrast, in this season of Easter, our tradition is that at any Holy Communion service, whatever else we have as readings, we will always have a reading from the Acts of the Apostles. This whole story of the building of the early church is one of personal risk-taking by the apostles, inspired by the events of Easter and Pentecost, often risking and losing their lives for the cause of the Gospel, so that we might know and have faith in the risen Christ.

O that our politicians were equally inspiring!

Revd Canon David Smith, Team Rector North Cheltenham Team Ministry

Lets talk about the weather

Pauline BruntThere is a general assumption that we British have a fixation with the weather. Five years ago a study found that 70% of us check the weather forecast at least once a day.  A quarter of us use it as an icebreaker and half of us will mention it in conversation at least once every 6 hours. Five years on we have more ways of checking the weather, here and around the world, with regular updates on the website and numerous weather ‘apps’, but there is always the warning that ‘things can change…’

It seems that whatever the improvement in weather forecasting there is still much that can vary. The old sayings such as ‘red sky at night shepherds delight; red sky in the morning shepherds warning’ are still good indicators. Here, if I see dark clouds gathering from the west I know we will have rain and if there is mist in the valley it is likely to come up the hill and then clear to leave a sunny day.

The weather is always of interest and importance especially for farmers, sailors and other travellers, emergency services and so much more. Our very being depends on there being enough sun and rain at the right time to grow crops to feed us. Too much of anything leads to major problems from flooding to drought.

The Bible reminds us that God is the creator of all things and that the weather has always been an important feature of life on earth including in spiritual terms. Jesus calmed a storm at sea and brought peace. He spoke of the wonder of physical and spiritual seeds growing and producing harvest. He reminded us that the wind blows where it will and so it is with everyone born of the Holy Spirit. On Good Friday the sky turned black as Jesus was crucified. On Easter Day the sun rose on an empty tomb and a risen Lord.

In this Easter season, we can see signs of God all around us and know his presence in all things, whatever the weather and whatever the circumstances!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The Revd Canon Philippa Brunt, Forest South Area Dean and Vicar of Parkend and Viney Hill  

What do we want from our MPs?

A RobertThe starting gun has been fired and we are now into the long race to the election. I suspect it is not just the politicians who will feel relieved come May 8th, though at this moment it is anyone’s guess what our political landscape will look like then.

Over the next few weeks we will, I am sure, be offered many contrasting policies and forecasts of the future from which we will have to make up our mind as to how we will vote, but to do this we will first need to ask ourselves first ‘what are we looking for?’ What do we expect of our politicians and their policies, what are our questions to which we look to them to address.

It was with this question in mind that the House of Bishops of the Church of England issued a pastoral letter in February. It does not make comfortable reading. They comment that ‘In Britain, we have become so used to believing that self-interest drives every decision’ and that we need to use our votes with the good of others in mind, to break free and vote for the ‘common good’. They don’t of course tell us who to vote for, rather they provoke us to challenge and test all those who would seek our support.

Ultimately we will get the government we vote for, a government made in the image of the choices and priorities we choose. Come what may it is surely therefore our civic responsibility to vote and to do so in an informed way with wisdom not just for our own needs but for the good of all.

The Venerable Robert Springett, Archdeacon of Cheltenham