On Keeping Penguins

Judith Knight I have no knowledge of penguins, let alone keeping one, and I’m never really quite sure which ‘arctic’ they come from.  For me they had always been the stuff of Life on Earth, comedy films and cartoons.

But a book I was given for Christmas (and which all my family and friends are now receiving – fair warning all!) has made me think about the possibility of ‘keeping a penguin’ or, in the context of my world, what happens when you take on the challenge of the moment with little or no consideration of the consequences.

‘The Penguin Lessons’ by Tom Michell is a heartwarming true story about how as a young English teacher in the 1970s he rescued a penguin from an oil slick on a beach in Uruguay where hundreds of penguins had already perished.  The rescue comes in a spontaneous moment of compassion and with no thought for what might come next.  But the hilarity, the poignancy, and the drama of what comes next is precisely what the book is about. I couldn’t put it down.

It tells of how the little penguin was saved, fed and cared for, and came to live with Tom Michell at the boarding school in Argentina where he taught for a year, and of the lasting impact that Juan Salvador Pingüino had on the children and staff there.

It is a delight to read and, of course, you learn quite a bit about penguins, the environment and natural history.

But for me, all the way through, I kept asking myself, “What would I have done?”  Would I have had the nerve, the care, the determination to see it through?  In my very different contexts when needs be, would I have the courage to take action or speak out?

So, this year my new year’s resolution is to try and look at each new situation as if I’m meeting my very own bright beady eyed Juan Salvador Pingüino!

 

By Judith Knight, Head of HR and Safeguarding

Heavy Snow

Adam Klups.jpgA couple of weeks ago the country heard alarming news: ‘The snow is on its way!’ Apocalyptic visions, whipped up by the mainstream media triggered a great panic, despite the fact that snow in January should by no means be considered an anomaly. While many of us initiated last minute preparations, anticipating the worst, on hearing the news many children’s eyes opened wider in the hope that they might get a chance to build a snowman.

I always find it curious that every couple of years parts of the country come to a standstill as a result of winter frost and snow, which considering its low, but regular incidence rate should not be a great surprise in winter months. Once again this month I watched with fascination as the panic levels escalated, only to switch back to ‘business as usual’ mode a few hours later, when the snow became a distant memory. Will the snow forecast come as a surprise to us again next time? I am convinced that to some it will. Others will have learnt the lesson and might invest in a shovel, warmer boots and new car tyres.

As I was pondering on the above I realised that while disruption, change of plans or facing a longer wait are rarely welcome in our lives, they can also create opportunities or teach us a valuable lesson.

The other day I was in a meeting where one of my invitees raised the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), which prompts Christians to always be ready for the Second Coming.

Ten young ladies got chosen to participate in a wedding. Their role was to accompany the bridegroom’s procession, part of traditional Jewish wedding celebrations. All were told to be ready and wait their turn. Five of them came well-prepared with an extra supply of lamp oil, which came in handy when the bridegroom was still nowhere to be seen after the sunset. The other five quickly run out of oil and had to abandon their posts to get more of it. While they were away, the bridegroom arrived. Only the virgins who came prepared accompanied him to the celebrations.

As we begin a new year it is worth asking ourselves whether there is enough oil in our lamps and if we are prepared for the next heavy snow in our lives.

By Adam Klups, Assistant Churches Officer. 

Let us stand together

Ruth FitterIt cannot have escaped your notice during the last few months that Donald Trump is a figure that divides opinion.  It cannot also have escaped your notice that we are coming closer and closer to the day when we see him as President of the United States – one of the most powerful men in the world.  It has perhaps also not escaped your notice that this powerful man (whatever you might believe about the latest allegations) has sought to use his power to put down the weak and to trample over the lives of those whom he perceives to be ugly, different in any capacity you can think of, poor or in need.

I am absolutely in favour of free speech – we should not be frightened to say what we think is wrong in our world and should not be scared to challenge injustice or the actions of those around us.  Just because someone is different from us that does not mean we should not be able to challenge them but we should also be open to challenge about our own lives from others.  However, those with power and responsibility need to work for harmony not division.

This week we celebrated Epiphany – the revelation that the Christ child was King, Priest and Saviour.  He did not come to wield His power over the poor and the weak, the dis-eased or the emotionally and spiritually needy. Instead He came to those who had travelled from foreign countries, to the lowest of the low and to a teenage mother to say that God wants only justice and joy in the world.  He came to lift the humble, to strengthen the weak and to heal the sick in body, mind and spirit.  We, who count ourselves as his disciples need to keep this in mind now as our world seems to polarise itself more and more.

This week sees the launch of ‘Faith’, an exhibition of portraits of people of faith from our local community.  They have all been painted by Russell Haines and are on display in the Cathedral cloisters until 26 February.  If you get chance to go and see them please do.  The overwhelmingly powerful aspect of this exhibition is that from an atheist has come the gathering of people from all nations to show themselves standing together for love, tolerance and understanding in the world.

Jo Cox MP said “We have much more in common than divides us” and she was right.  It is called humanity.  We all bleed the same way; we all hurt; we all get ill; we all need to be loved.

Please, at a time when the powerful seem more intent on causing division than ever before let us stand together for what we say we believe in.  God come to dwell with every man, woman and child – wherever we come from, whoever we are and wherever we are going.

By the Revd Ruth Fitter, St Pauls and St Stephens, Gloucester

A new broom for 2017

stuart-hutton As one year ends and another begins, many of us will spend moments contemplating the time that has past and that which is to come. Much of this shared over the past week has been about the seemingly higher than usual passing of so many famous household names. We also saw an unprecedented period of a refugee crisis -a rather disappointing feature of 2016!

When asked to write the first post for 2017, I thought about sharing the hopes that a new year unwittingly offers; however, this does not quite feel right. The turning of the clock at midnight on 31 December does not necessarily offer many a new broom, a fresh start, or opportunities for resolutions. However, each year many of us perceive that we have this chance to make a difference.

Perhaps it would be better to see this moment each year as a refreshing point?

We ask our Lord for repentance of our sins as a way of being refreshed “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” [Acts 3:19]

So perhaps this year, rather than promising those extra days down the gym, eating healthier or even writing well versed blogs; perhaps some time in reflection and repentance, to seek the way we should change will be of greater benefit to us and those we meet.

Happy New Year to all who read this & I wish 2017 brings you hope, joy & love, which you can share and help others around you to find their ‘new broom’ and sweep clean for a refreshed start to our continued journey in our following of Christ.