British Values?

The headteacher said: “We’ve got to do assemblies on British Values – can you do one for us?  We’ve done Churchill and Wellington, but seem to have left out Shakespeare.” Well, I wasn’t sure that those three really were ‘British Values’ however you define them, but I also wasn’t sure what a British Value was anyway!  It seemed I wasn’t alone – the staff had thought that passing the problem onto the vicar might solve their inability to work out what we were supposed to be celebrating and promoting. Pity the government hadn’t thought of that one.

Perhaps standing in queues is a British Value, or always apologising even when it clearly isn’t your fault? Anyway, what primary age children have a well developed sense of is when something is fair or not. You’ll soon be told “Sir, that’s not fair!” if you transgress.

The whole sorry affair of FIFA and Sepp Blatter is an illustration of lack of being fair worked out at international level. There is no doubt that FIFA under Blatter’s presidency enabled major developments in access to sport in Africa and India to my knowledge, and probably other areas as well.  European and British criticism does not play well given the undeniable level of corruption present in some areas of the game close to home.  Yet the level of alleged bribery, sweeteners and excessive hospitality could have provided twice the resources delivered.

The reason why corruption and bribery is not fair is because it is always the poor, the marginalised and those with no voice who end up without. If being fair is a British Value then we ought to export it more. The Old Testament prophets will be cheering us on.

The Revd Canon Dr Mike Parsons, Priest-in-Charge, St Oswald Coney Hill with St Aldate

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Pope signs up to Big Bang theory!

Mike_IndiaPope signs up to Big Bang theory! So a recent headline goes. Others were more restrained, reporting that in addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences he said that the Big Bang is compatible with the Catholic Church’s teaching on creation. Belief in both is possible. He also saw no problem with believing in a creator God and the theory of evolution.

Why should this be news? The Vatican has had an astronomical observatory at Castel Gandolpho (above the Papal summer residence) since 1789 , staffed by Jesuit priests who also work at the sharp end of academic astronomy up a mountain in Arizona. The first theoretical suggestion of the Big Bang as a theory of origin of the universe came from a Belgian catholic priest, Fr Georges Lemaitre, in 1927. Saying that the big bang is the best account of the creation of the universe and that evolution was God’s way of bring life into being is nothing new for Popes: Pius XII and John Paul II signed up to this.

Pope Francis was more concerned to say that “When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so”. That is more interesting: God cannot do everything!

God has given the permission for this amazing universe to come into being and with a mechanism that produces free, self-aware, moral beings – me and you. He has set in motion a universe that is able to create itself. Our blood contains hydrogen that was created in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago and iron that was formed by the explosion of primary stars many million years ago. We are indeed star dust. And Francis is quite right: God cannot wave a magic wand. Not having given us a self-creating universe. He also waits to see what his creation will reveal. We are fearfully and wonderfully formed.

The Revd Canon Dr Mike Parsons, Priest in Charge for St Oswald Coney Hill with St Aldate, Gloucester