How’s your vision?

Jo Wetherall squareMy colleague raised his glasses to the light and peering through the smears and spots of the blurred lenses he declared; “It’s hard to be optimistic when you wear a misty optic!”

The truth of Patrick’s words has stayed with me. When our vision is blurred we just don’t see fully, our eyes take in an image and our minds form an opinion.

Jesus’ words to Simon the Pharisee ask the same question ‘do you see this woman?’ (Luke 7:44)

Not, ‘Are you aware of her?’ but ‘Do you really see her? Do you see a full human being or is your vision blurred? Do you view her through a lens which is smeared and spotted?’

I became aware of how it can feel when people look at you and form an opinion the first time I stood on a busy train station wearing a dog collar. ‘Ask me’, I wanted to say; ‘Ask me why I am dressed this way, ask me to tell you my story, find out why I believe what I do. Please, don’t think you know me because of a piece of white plastic around my neck’.

Our failure to really see each other, to be like Simon the Pharisee and categorise each other as ‘sinners’, (Luke 7:39) has been highlighted in recent weeks by heart breaking news from all over the world. Writing this before the referendum result I pray optimistically that, in spite of a process which seemed determined to blur our vision, these stories have helped us look closer at our shared humanity, to see people not categories.

By Jo Wetherall, Children and Families Officer for the Diocese of Gloucester.


Will it be Remain or Leave?

WithRichard Mitchellin a week we’ll all be making one of the most important decisions of our lives. Our political leaders have told us this and we recognise the issues are significant, so, we can sense it too.

I know it sounds anti-all things democratic, but, I don’t think we should be having this referendum at all. Let’s be honest, at heart, it’s an attempt to lance a particular long-standing boil in the Conservative party. This is no basis for a decision that has the potential to shape all our lives for a long time.

There’s no culture of referendums in this country; it’s not how we make decisions. The last one in 1975 wasn’t really about Europe either, but about shoring up the Labour Party.

To my mind, referendums create more questions that they answer. The polls are close, and, whichever way the vote goes, the arguments will continue, except that, now, we’ve further fractured our political and cultural life and seen Conservatives rubbishing their own policies. We didn’t have a referendum to enter the EEC in 1973; we, rightly left it to those we’d voted into parliament according to their policies.

None of the parties know what the future will hold in or out of the EU. What is clear is that no-one questions the need for further negotiation of terms with the EU and the need for reform of the EU itself.

Our national heart has never really been in the EU, or out of it. I suspect what we want is what we’ve always had, one foot in Remain and one in Leave. I worry that our national creative tension on this issue might be turning into, what Jesus called, ’a house divided against itself’. Let the political parties be divided, not the nation.

The Revd Canon Richard Mitchell



It was all their fault…


Peter CheesmanTaking into account the context, the Bible can often be stunningly accurate in describing human nature. When I heard Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, present “The Blame Game” on Radio 4 last month my thoughts went straight to Leviticus 16 – I’m sure you know it my heart! The programme described how when something goes wrong some one person had to be found to blame, freeing everyone else from responsibility. It’s wasn’t about truth, putting things right or even justice..

In Leviticus, Aaron, lays his hands on the goat’s head confessing the people’s sins and the goat is sent out into the wilderness taking the sins with it. William Tyndale, my hero of faith and English, named it the scapegoat.

Of course sometimes people do have to face the music for what they have done. However, finding a scapegoat doesn’t necessarily make things better. For example, the Air Accident Investigation Branch’s purpose is “to improve aviation safety… by determining the causes of air accidents… and making safety recommendations… It is not to apportion blame or liability.” Flying is very safe.

Perhaps in, say, medical accidents, hospital overcrowding, school performance and many walks of life a similar approach might cause greater improvement. Could it be that the scapegoat we wish to send out into the wilderness has the knowledge, skill and especially the incentive to make the difference?

By the Revd Peter Cheesman, Civil Protection Advisor, Gloucestershire Churches Together and the Diocese of Gloucester.