A ship called dignity

simon-howellFor me, the last word on the extraordinary American election season was a tweet from Irish author Damien Owens. It has the now infamous image of Donald Trump at a mass rally in South Carolina in the throws of a mocking impression of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski. The tweet says:

“As long as I live, I will never understand how this alone wasn’t the end of it.”


It could be said that the last word on the Christian hope is the restoration of lost dignity. We see it in a glimpse of the Final Banquet at the end of time in the scriptures. As we look at those who have a particular invite to the banquet, we notice that it is those with tear-stained faces, those who have known disgrace, disappointment and disapproval. And, as they gather, we see that those who have known disgrace will have their disgrace removed – their dignity will be restored (Isaiah 25v8). I guess this resonates so strongly because most of us have true-life stories of having our self-worth pulled out from under us and our dignity shattered. The paradox is that this experience often has unlocked a strength in us – the strength of the wounded healer to those we encounter in situations of lost dignity.

I love the mythical tale of a boat carrying someone who has just departed this life to a new shore at the other side – where many welcome them home. In the manner of Deacon Blue’s classic hit-song, I like to think of that boat as “a ship called dignity.”

By the Revd Simon Howell, Stroud Pioneer Minister, Vicar of Holy Trinity Stroud and Inter Faith Adviser in the Diocese of Gloucester.



fullsizerender-frances-quist2When it comes to matters around systems of belief, Prof Kwame Appiah, cultural theorist, in his Reith lectures argues that changing practices change belief overtime.  His additional talks on Country and Colour are stimulating; a topic on culture is to follow shortly.

I did struggle with bits (or the whole) of his philosophical arguments on the Creed.  To say that ‘religions or creeds are changing in order for it to survive’ is a misnomer; rather interpreting sacred texts in accessible language survives it.

Every time one confesses ‘I believe in God the Father the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth and in Jesus Christ…..’ is a certainty and conviction that will never change for me and for many Christians.  Interpretation of religious practices may change over time, like views on women in the Church, race and current debates on human sexuality, has nothing to do with Creed.   I believe in the Creator of Heaven and Earth whose love abounds over and beyond our choices, practices and reinterpretation of sacred texts.

With some modesty, my faith also allows me to respect other people’s varying views, presentations and understandings of God.   Multicultural and multi faiths practices were also another matter that could shift or muddy the water; again difference and diversity reinforces the unchanging and unchangeable nature of Holy Scriptures.

If one knows what and how home feels like, why worry? I believe in God the Father the Almighty, who is able to absolve perceived systems of truths and changing orthopraxis.

By the Revd Frances Quist, Priest in Charge, Matson.


sam-squareI thought I’d explain why God allows suffering in the world, knock that one on the head because, let’s face it, the question’s been rumbling on for a while now. You’re welcome, don’t mention it.

Watching my kids grow from babies, it occurred to me there’s a bunch of wonderful things baked into us; things like justice, creativity, and love. When my daughter was 8 months old she’d cry when witnessing another kid have something taken off them. Compassion and justice are pretty difficult concepts to get across to what is basically a big crying, weeing chicken nugget that NEVER sleeps – so I’m pretty sure we didn’t teach her what justice was.

I reckon we have enough of these little Godly things built into us, that if we used them properly we’d live in paradise. But we don’t, do we? Anyone who’s been to Swindon can confirm that. And God doesn’t seem to step in when he really should, so what gives? Why do some kids get blood cancer? Why Rupert Murdoch?

Looking at the long game, the human race has very nearly solved cancer, in fact when we put some effort in, great things happen; look at the global efforts to eradicate smallpox in the ‘50s, or initiatives like Medecins Sans Frontieres. But when you put metrics to the effort, another picture is revealed. Yes we’ve spent X thousand man-hours trying to cure a certain type of blood cancer, but then we’ve spent 188 million man-hours watching Gangnam Style on Youtube, haven’t we? Yes we have.

In the UK, we’ve just dug deep and finally invested £130 million in radiotherapy kit; a whole nations’-worth of cancer treatment. That sounds good. But then a Spanish football team just spent £293 million getting a single chap to play football for them. We’re an interesting species, let’s face it.

The point of the Adam and Eve story was that we [humans] are capable of living in paradise, but we choose not to, we choose Gangnam Style and Donald Trump. We choose Sunny Delight and Wonga. We choose to turn our backs on God-given abilities. I do it, you do it, we all do it. As theological writer Francis Spufford put it, we share this “human propensity to f*ck things up”.

We are magnificent, ethereal, productive little so-and-so’s, created and clothed in wonder and joy, and called to walk with a creator in such a way that reveals the paradise just out of reach.

The question is not ‘Why does God allow suffering’, the question is why do we?

Blog by Sam Cavender, Senior Communications Officer