Thinking back on all that’s happened to me in the past five years is a long list of the usual ups and down of life! Children have grown up and left home; friends have moved on in their lives and we stay in touch through the ever popular developments of social media: Twitter, Facebook and FaceTime; I have had amazing opportunities at work and been able to develop professionally; sadly, some family members have died; others are growing older and frailer and some have moved into residential care; grandchildren have come along…
All of this is the day to day stuff of life but, for some, how to cope with the ups and downs of their lives is blighted by their past; a past where their sexual abuse went unrecognised or unchallenged. And, of course, the Church has its part to play in this.
Throughout the next five years, the independent Goddard Inquiry will investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions in England and Wales – of which the Church is one – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The inquiry plans to identify institutional failings and to demand accountability for these.(You can read the inquiry here: www.csa-inquiry.independent.gov.uk)
As the inquiry progresses many victims and survivors will share their experiences of abuse and none of this will be easy to hear. Our churches should be safe spaces for all people, but we know there have been times where people have been badly let down.
The next few years may highlight more situations where the Church and other institutions should and could have done better. But we can help ensure now that in our churches our safeguarding work grows and develops so that, for both children and adults who may be at risk, we remain vigilant; that we appoint and train people and volunteers well; that we dare to ask those ‘what if?’ questions; and that we act, raising concerns appropriately. Most importantly we need to listen carefully and support victims and survivors of abuse.
Judith Knight, Head of Human Resources and Safeguarding
Let’s get one thing straight – Jesus was from the Middle East and he was a refugee. Fleeing persecution and likely death, his parents fled from their home, on foot, in search of sanctuary. Their intention was always to return to their homeland, which in time they did, perhaps about four years later. Life as a refugee was the first life the Son of God knew.
And let’s get another thing straight – the Israelites fled oppression and became God’s people, our ancestors in the faith, through a disorganised headlong rush for freedom. The Passover meal, consumed in a rush as an emergency top up, not knowing when or where the next food would come from, became the Jewish rite of self-identity and from it the Christian Eucharist, celebrated here in the cathedral every day, became our staple diet of sacrificial hope.
And let’s get one more thing straight – all through the Bible, Old and New Testament, the imperative for the believer and for society in general is a morality of generous welcome, of open doors, of help at the point of need.
How many little children like poor Aylan Kurdi have died without the publicity of a journalist’s photograph? Aylan was the age Jesus was when he was a refugee.
For the Christian and for those who claim any kind of political or moral high ground based on Christian principles, the only response we can make to a refugee is compassion first. This is what we need to get straight – compassion comes first.
The Very Revd Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral
This week, Her Majesty the Queen became the longest reigning monarch in British history. At 63 years and 7 months, she has now passed the record previously set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Many of us have never known anyone else on the throne.
The Queen’s reign has been an extraordinary example of duty and service. She has been a wise ruler and counsellor to no fewer than 12 Prime Ministers and seven Archbishops of Canterbury. Throughout this second Elizabethan Age, she has been a focus of unity and stability amidst a time of unprecedented social change.
One of Her Majesty’s titles is ‘Defender of the Faith’. It was originally conferred on Henry VIII by the Pope, but subsequent kings and queens have adopted the same title. She is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Not ‘Head of the Church’, of course! Jesus Christ alone is our Head, and as a thoughtful Christian she would be horrified at such a suggestion.
Certainly the Queen would willingly acknowledge that she rules by the Grace of God. Her Christmas Day broadcasts are masterpieces of gentle Christian witness. Her faith is softly stated but crystal clear. Many of us have used the following prayer this week as we gave thanks for her long reign:
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ exchanged the glory of a heavenly throne for the form of a servant, we thank you that you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people, and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her: encourage us by her example to serve one another, and to seek the common good, until you call us all to reign with Christ in your eternal kingdom. Amen.
The Revd John Paul Hoskins, Bishop’s Chaplain
The ‘migrant crisis’ continues to dominate the headlines. The Prime Minister has argued that ‘bringing peace and stability’ to Syria and the region needs to be the focus for the UK’s efforts. Working towards this is surely right, but it doesn’t answer the pressing needs of those seeking asylum now.
United Nations figures show that the UK receives far fewer asylum applications than many other countries. In 2014 the UK received less than 40,000, compared to over 70,000 for Sweden, over 80,000 for Turkey and well over 150,000 for Germany. Crucially, the biggest driver for migration continues to be conflict, notably in Syria and Afghanistan.
In recent years, the government has spent £900m on aid in Syria and the region, while almost 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum here in the last four years. This is to be welcomed. But we need to recognise our on-going responsibility in responding to this very human crisis for two reasons. First, a humanitarian concern for those risking so much to seek a new start. Talk of the ‘migrant crisis’ can put the blame on those seeking asylum and turn attention away from the desperate situations faced by those seeking a new life. Secondly, much of the current instability is, in no small part, the result of policies actively pursued by the UK and its allies. We need to have the moral courage not to walk away from the consequences of our own actions and, accepting our part in the creation of the current crisis, play a full part in responding to it.
The Revd Canon Dr Andrew Braddock, Director of the Department of Mission and Ministry and Canon Residentiary, Gloucester Cathedral