Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ten marks of leadership - more from Prodigal Kiwis

I have lots and lots I want to actually write and blog about - hypermobilitiy, the improbability of the good Christmas sermon, the role of design in building up community and relationships, lots of books and more thoughts about Venice - but for the moment I'm just using my blog as a way to keep track of some of the things I've been reading on leadership. Below is yet more from Paul Fromont at Prodigal Kiwis on the book pictured here. I find it partiuclarly interesting that much of the thinking around leadership in the churches is coming from those thinking about mission.
Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development
~ Paul Aitken (Author), Malcolm Higgs

Here's what Paul Fromont wrote:

Mike Crowl, writing from “the mainland”, recently pointed me to what sounds like a fascinating "leadership" read – Developing Change Leaders (US: Nov. 2009 / 318 pages / pb.) written by Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs.

Mike writes:

“...In the latest NZ Institute of Management newsletter there's a short piece on some master classes held by visiting speaker, Paul Aitken (the author of Developing Change Leaders). Aitken calls the following ten points the 'dynamic capabilities' needed by change leaders.

  1. Dealing with ambivalence – having the capacities to “wait and see”, keep an open mind and be comfortable with contradiction;
  2. Accessing the diverse range of capabilities across the leadership team;
  3. Creating a learning environment;
  4. Future sense-making combined with strategic thinking which requires a strong external focus;
  5. “Total” or authentic leadership – i.e., an ability to continually walk the talk;
  6. Trans-cultural competence – an awareness that one size doesn’t fit all;
  7. Relational skills – the ability to coach;
  8. Dialogue skills – or process consulting;
  9. Emotional intelligence;
  10. The ability to manage the high quality performance challenge, culture and dialogue.

Aitken says, “If people can’t relate well or have quality conversations with people, then they’re not going to be leading anyone.” Church leaders, take note!”

Thanks Mike; that was a useful distillation of some key themes in relation to leadership at this point of time and on into the future.

You can find a 15 minute radio interview (can be listened to online or downloaded as an Mp3) here. Gill South offered a few thoughts on Aitken’s understanding of leadership here in a NZ Herald story (14/12/09).


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Leadership, diversity and Hauerwas

As ever I benefit from the reading and erudition of others as I continue thinking and writing about leadership. Prodigal Kiwis are a great read and a good reality check for clergy like myself. There are many, many people out there who love God, are fascinated by theology but really cannot hack the church at all ... a real challenge for those like me who work for the institution.
Anyway more on that another time for now here are some of Stanley Hauerwas' quotes on leadership that Paul Fromont has put on the Kiwis blog. I was surprised to read this - not quite what I expected Hauerwas to be saying which just shows I need to read more! In the model of leadership that Hauerwas encourages here there is a spiritual discipline which makes for an interesting challenge for church leaders.

Part of your responsibility as an administrator and leader is to help members of the community own them as contributing to the overall good of the community. To be in a position of power means that you recognize how fragile the power is. You wouldn’t have it otherwise. And you have enough confidence that you don’t have to win all the time. That’s a real ascetic discipline, a discipline of the ego, which is absolutely crucial for being an administrator and to allow the institution to go on once you’re no longer there...
... For any person that wants to be in leadership, if they try to lead in a way that means they don’t have to deal with people, they automatically defeat community. It is everyday interactions that make it possible for there to be people who tell the truth to us one at a time in the hopes that in that process we will be a truthful community...”

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Im Herzen Kanadierin - a book by Claudia Bauder

I met Claudia Bauder while interpreting for some development and human rights work recently. I had a tricky time getting some of the financial information she was presenting into French - she was being quite clear I'm just not all that used to interpreting financial and accountancy matters.
I was impressed at the coffee break to hear a bit about her own background and about her book "At heart I'm a Canadian".
What I've read so far shows that it's a moving and honest memoir of her German family's life on the move - Claudia was born in Venezuela, grew up in the USA and Canada and then moved back to Germany. Quite a lot to be dealing with emotionally and I admire her for writing about it with such clarity and humour. Claudia also has a great website to promote the book so why not drop by and learn more about it.
Meanwhile it made me wonder - at heart, what am I?

Books, printing, letters, love and Venice


I finished a satisfyingly long and good read on my last evening in Venice - after all what is a holiday without a book?
Michelle Lovric lives in Venice and her book The Floating Book is set at a time when the first printing presses arrive in the city of scribes. Her characteristion of people from diverse backgrounds in the Venice of that time and the great way that she weaves the story of Catullus' poems, the delight in type-face, the shape of letters, feel of paper, love stories and different religious themes make it a really good read. I also enjoyed the fact that I immediately recognised her translation of the only poem by Catullus that I could remember in Latin and had quoted to Dr B the previous day - he knew it too of course, ah the joys of the Cambridge Latin course! (Still going strong it would seem.)

The Floating Book is one product of Lovric's love affair with Venice, she's also written an anthology about the city. On her website she has written more about Venice and also some interesting things about the process for her of writing in poetry and then in prose. Anyway whether you are travelling to Venice or not it's well worth a read.


People who read The Floating Book may be surprised to learn one other thing about it. Large sections of the book were originally written as poems and only later deconstructed into prose. For me it is important that the words have an auditory flavour, but more to the point, the discipline of poetry forces the writer to ask more of each phrase. Being a book about poetry, this exercise was all the more purposeful. In London I belong to several writers’ workshops, where I ‘expose’ my fledgling novels in their poetic forms. Now I have helped to set up a poetry school in Venice for English-speaking writers. Venice can block and obfuscate some writers, just as she goads others into torrents of words. They don’t even have to be about Venice …
Once a writer-friend came to Venice to stay with me, and we wrote in industrious, companionable silence in the same room overlooking the Grand Canal for two weeks. I drafted chapters of The Floating Book and she worked on her own novel. We did not discuss or read each other’s work. But back in London she did show me what she had written. I was astonished, not to say vaguely offended, to see that Venice featured not at all, except in the form of a postcard propped up on her heroine’s mantelpiece. It was brilliant, subtle.
I could never be so abstemious.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Some words from Venice

Not much to say, too busy having a great time relaxing, discovering and getting lost in the amazingly lovely and enchanting streets and lanes.
On Christmas Eve the flood sirens sounded at about 10pm and when we woke on Christmas morning the Agua Alta had been but was already well on its way to receding and the rain had stopped. We attended a Book of Common Prayer service at St George's English church - the small congregation invited everyone to prosecco and panetone afterwards to celebrate Christmas. (I am not a fan of the BCP - well I am a non-conformist - but it seems to be much loved by expat Anglican communities, the thees and thous are almost unpronounceable even for mother tongue English speakers ... and as for the theology, far too much concentration on sin and not enough on grace.)
Then we set off for a day on the vaparettos enjoying sunshine and amazing views across the lagoon as the mists gave way to blue skies. We took far too many photos and found our way to a great little osteria in the early afternoon for some freshly cut parma ham with more prosecco.
Today we attended the German-speaking church, a good sermon and a rather low church Lutheran liturgy - followed by more panetone. Tomorrow a service in Italian may be tried. Quite fun to be ecclesiastical tourists in this place which seems even more international than Geneva, much to think about.
Ah yes and I've mentioned the prosecco but not the coffee, each espresso I drink is the best I've ever had. Wonderful.

More photos from Venice





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Some photos from Venice




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Thursday, 24 December 2009

And the angels sing - just for men or for humanity or for the world?

At our Advent service in the ecumenical centre we sang the angels' song from Luke's gospel Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des cieux paix sur la terre, sur la terre, bonne volonté envers le monde. Amen Alleluia
Of course the original French version in the hymn books says envers les hommes but I doctored that to say "le monde".
Meanwhile Suzanne Mccarthy, JK Gayle and the Better Bibles Blog have been having more erudite discussions about this than I am able to.
I do passionately believe that the Good News song is for all and hope that you too will hear some echo of it sung for you, those you love and those you find it hard to love this Christmas.
May we all become more angelic.

Buon natale! Christmas Eve greetings from Venice

The train from Geneva to Venice is direct but yesterday it was two hours late arriving, partly due to the usual delays around the Swiss Italian border. The journey was lovely and we looked out over snow covered Alpine landscapes as we ate breakfast in the restaurant carriage. Then in Milan irate passengers with tickets for other trains borded and squatted our train leading to a further hour's delay as the police tried to clear the train. An interesting start to the holiday!
The advantage to this delay was that it had stopped raining by the time we arrived in Venice and borded the vaparetto to take us along the Grand Canal to our hotel. It was amazing to be in this extraordinary city for the first time as dusk fell and the Christmas lights came on.
Last night we walked and walked and got lost and drank prosecco and ate pasta. Venice must be one of the few places in the world where coffee is more expensive than in Ferney Voltaire!
So here we are and today we have found the Protestant church and visited the baroque delights of some Venice Catholic churches.
We are reading and sleeping and thinking and laughing and amazed to be here. Such a privilege, so beautiful and a great break. Photos will follow I promise, what's the point of having a blog if you can't bore the everyone with your holiday snaps.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The most significant insignificant thing I do

Some years ago when preparing for a big congress, working long hours and not always getting to the end or even the beginning of my to do list, sitting in meetings, feeling stressed ... I remember saying to a friend as we met to sing Holden Evening Prayer at the end of the day that possibly praying was the only useful thing I had done all day.
Of course prayer is not work, the old motto goes ora et labora, pray and work. Yet often contemplatives will say that work is prayerful. Could prayer then be work?
Anyway, this week, last week, all through Advent and any day of the year probably the most significant thing I have done is pray. Before God I have remembered individuals, people in distress or joy, experiences and situations distant from my own, sometimes all I have offered was silence or tears, other times my heart has sung. I'm not very good at praying, not very regular or disciplined. I don't find it easy to pray for my enemies, or even to pray for my friends. My praying is pretty insignificant, and yet ... and yet.

Christ stands before me
and peace is in his mind.
Sleep, O sleep
in the calm of all calm.
Sleep, O sleep
in the love of all loves.
Sleep I this night
in the God of all life.

From Each Day and Each Night Celtic Prayers from Iona J. Philip Newell

Off to Venice for Christmas

The Stranzblog is taking the train to Venice early in the morning. It's likely to be a watery feast and not just because of the canals, in Venice as in Ferney it is raining. The snow that has delayed our great new bus service these past few days is all washed away and a damp and not very frosty Christmas is in preparation.
Meanwhile my first reason to celebrate tomorrow offers six hours in a train, reading restaurant cars and relaxation. Let the holiday begin!

Monday, 21 December 2009

The mysterious word becomes flesh

Working and worshiping in a multilingual environment I end up having not entirely theological thoughts about the vagaries of biblical translation.
Does it change the meaning when the glories of the prologue to John's gospel are translated in the masculine, feminine or neuter? Suzanne Mccarthy has written much more eruditely than I could on whether logos is best translated as he, she or it.
This morning as we met for the final Monday morning prayers of the year I pondered the meaning or significance of gendered renderings of logos into our various langauges. German is clear with its neuter das Wort, French varies between le Verbe and la Parole depending on the translation. English - a normally ungendered language - nearly always refers to the Word as he, sometimes even as He.
Suzanne quotes Joel on John's prologue:
I believe that by using ‘it’, we allow John to breathe a bit, free of theology and dogma.

This morning I realised that the different translations and languages helped me to glimpse and comprehend in some small way the significance of the mystery of the ungendered gendered word becoming flesh.
The first of the great Advent antiphones begins with wisdom, sophia or logos. As we prayed and lit candles, sang and listened and kept silence we celebrated something of the known unknown mystery of the word or wisdom becoming flesh.

O wisdom, coming forth from the Most High,
filling all creation and reigning to the ends of the earth;
come and teach us the way of truth. Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Mirabile Dictu - Carol Ann Duffy










Mirabile Dictu
Ring out, ring out, the city bell.
So wonderful to tell -
sing out, sing out the Christams Tale
Mirabile Dictu

Mirabile Mirabile
Mirabile Dictu.
It holds, it holds us in its spell.
So wonderful to tell
the old, the gold, the Christmas Tale
Mirabile Dictu

Our joy, our joy we can not quell.
So wonderful to tell -
a boy, a girl, the Christmas Tale.
Mirabile Dictu.

A gift we cannot buy or sell.
So wonderful to tell -
uplift, uplift, the Christmas Tale.
Mirabile Dictu.

Ring out, ring out, the city bell.
So wonderful to tell -
sing out, sing out the Christams Tale
Mirabile Dictu.

copyright (c) Carol Ann Duffy

We recieved this on a Christmas card for St Ann's Hospice, the refrain picked out in the calligraphy pictured above.

Meanwhile Janet has also been blogging about Duffy's brilliant 12 Days of Christmas poem which is full of cultural reference to international and British politics and life.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The loneliness of conscience

Last week I posted a quote from some editing I was doing to my facbook page. Written by Alison Phipps who is a member of the Iona community, you'll be able to find the quote in the new year in a book called "telling Peace" linked to the Advent resources which the WCC has put online. The book is about story-telling as a way of encouraging peace-building, story telling as a way of overcoming the violence inherent in our lives.
The quote I put on my facebook status was "I worry for the colleague I found in tears at his desk, overwhelmed, just utterly overwhelmed by the unrelenting slaveries of unmeetable deadlines, inflexible colleagues, the loneliness of conscience."
That phrase "the loneliness of conscience" really struck a chord with me as I know that it did with another friend who has gone through a very difficult time.
In terms of leadership and of organisational systems the loneliness of conscience is quite a challenge. How do you encourage "conscience" in and among colleagues? If an organisation relies upon "lonely conscience" is this actually a way of scapegoating people, pushing work downwards onto those already doing too much? I have also been thinking about Social Darwinist ideas and how it is very easy for work place structures to passively fall back on social darwinist ways of operating when there is not sufficient relational trust in the systems. Making life for the lonely conscientious individual even more difficult.
So how do we tell our stories of the workplace in ways that build peace, increase trust and create healthier non social-darwinist organisational strucutures?
The workplace is a professional environment but it is also a social and emotional environment which can end up making individuals very lonely. Telling the stories of the complex places we work in is challenging, it's not just a leadership and management task, it's also a theological task.
"Blessed are those whose conscience is lonely, for the dawn shall rise warmly upon them."

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Not done yet - keep beating the climate change drum and ringing the bells

The world was ready but it seems global leaders were not, and of course most of them are not walking but flying home ...
So we need to be vigilant and keep up the pressure. It's not done yet and the clock still goes on ticking. So keep on beating the drum and ringing the bells to get the message across.

More than 250 partner organisations have come together to form an unprecedented alliance under the TckTckTck banner – including development, human rights, environment, religious and youth groups, trade unions and scout groups. Over three days of global action, these partners have mobilized unprecedented numbers of people campaigning for urgent action on climate change. In Copenhagen on December 12, one hundred thousand people marched in a powerful manifestation of this unity.

And, when naysayers, fearmongers, and the business-as-usual-crowd try to usurp the issue, they will be met by a surging sea of people from all around the globe and all walks of life unified in their demand for a real deal.

The global climate movement - more diverse than ever before - stands united in the face of tonight's disappointing news. This weekend we are mounting an unprecedented response, with joint messaging appearing on the global public websites of our partners, to ensure world leaders know we are unimpressed with their lack of real progress and failure to deliver a real deal.

We have come so far in a short space of time. Millions around the world look to the future and see hope, justice, and opportunity. It is up to each of us to make our voices heard and to get the real deal that the world needs.

The world’s leaders still have a chance to get it right. They must realize that we expect, and will not accept, anything less.

A Celtic blessing for the end of a very difficult day

God be with you in every pass
Jesus be with you on every hill
Spirit be with you on every stream
Headland and ridge and lawn;
Each sea and land, each moor and meadow,
Each lying down, each rising up,
On the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows -
Each step of the journey you go

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Quest for responsibility - update and read more

Dr B is doing some editing work at the moment and came across this book on the Quest for responsibility by Mark Boyens which looks very interesting. "Famous names have over the last few years became tarnished and venerable institutions have been brought into discredit ..."
I've been thinking alot about responsibility recently - taking responsibility is quite a Calvinist thing. What is interesting about this book are the links it tries to make between citizenship, organisations and accountability in complex systems. Simply the contents page looks fascinating. The epilogue at the end of chapter 12 modestly states "the quest for resposnibility never ends". That made me smile. It also seems to build in places on some of the ideas from Exit, Voice and Loyalty. Lots more thoughts for the leadership reflexion - so much to read so little time ...

The modern world is dominated by complex organizations. In this book Mark Bovens analyzes the questions associated with the search for responsiblity within such organizations. In organizations with many people contributing in many different ways, how can we determine who is accountable for organizational behavior? How do we define responsible behavior within organizations? Can different notions of responsibility prevent abuses? His analysis is multidisciplinary, combining law, social science, ethics, and organizational design, and provides a number of suggestions for institutional reform.

Resistance


This year year Leeds postcards turned 30. Their fun designs and feminist cards were part of my radical youthful past. This one is qutie tame compared with much of what. I'm going to have go scrabbling through my papers and files to find my favourite one.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Original blessing - an Advent promise

We met to pray, rejoice celebrate and lament together last night for an advent service on the theme of original blessing. Children painted stars on bands of papers with the word blessing in many languages. Terry Macarthur led out singing and music in wonderful ways and Theo Gill preached a funny and profound sermon.
The new CEC central committee joined us as they are meeting in Geneva at the moment and had just elected their new president, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.
Here's an extract from Theo's sermon:

This blessing comes before that first infraction, that earliest act of disobedience, that willing submission to the serpent’s wiles. From the beginning, God’s will has been for our well-being; the operative verb in God’s intent for us is not “to judge”, nor “to punish” nor even “to predestine”, but “to bless” – to bless with the gift of light, even in a land of deep darkness – especially in a land of deep darkness – to bless with the gifts of life and grace and truth.

The Hebrew word for “bless” is barak.

(Where I come from, the president is called “Barack”. His name originates from that same Semitic root, making its way through Kenya to Hawaii, and then by way of
Indonesia, Columbia University, Harvard Law School and Chicago into the White House.
Barack… A word of blessing from the White House! And phrased in Arabic! So far, it is more a sign of hope than attainment – rather like the Nobel Prize… or the angelic vision of Peace on earth.)

sorry I really couldn't resist posting this

Sorry, couldn't resist posting this. I think tomorrow I'll have to begin posting some of my favourite feminist cartoon from the 1980s...

A New Zealand church has sparked outrage by erecting a billboard depicting Mary and Joseph lying semi-nude beneath the sheets.

In an unorthodox take on the Christmas tale, the billboard depicts a forlorn Joseph and Mary looking to the sky with a caption which reads:

"Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow."

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Polar bears for climate justice

There is an empty plinth outside Copenhagen's cathedral and at the moment the plint houses an ice sculpture of a polar pear. At the Oxfam climate justice demonstrations in the UK some of the demonstrators were dressed up as polar bears with slogans saying on their costumes saying "Help us save the human race".
No one is quite sure how long the polar bear ice sculpture will last - it depends on the climate ...
Read more in ENI.
"People here are very excited about the bear. It is a creature those who are not familiar with life north of the Arctic can easily relate to," Storø told Ecumenical News International as another passerby asked the sculptor to pose for a photograph next to his bear. "It is easy for people to understand climate change when they see a 500 kilogram bear slowly melt and disappear," the artist said.

Monday, 14 December 2009

My favourite photo from Copenhagen

Tutu rocks.
But then I was a strange teenager and even all those decades ago I had a poster of him and not of a rock star on my bedroom wall.
Check out the WCC Media photostream for more great photos.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Escalade bellringing


































Across the world today inside and outside churches bells have been ringing, drums have been beating 350 times. Here are friends outside Geneva's Lutheran Church in the heart of the old town ringing handbells for climate justice while all around the festivities of Escalade continued.
In the small french Protestant Church in Orange the bells rang out. The pastor there is Caspar Visser 't Hooft. Like many others across the world he was taking part in a global action but in his local church. His grandfather W. A. Visser 't Hooft was the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the body organising the campaign. In Copenhagen the bells of the cathedral rang out as the ecumenical service drew to a close. The bells were saying - don't try to tell us a different story - don't sell the earth off cheap. Our great grandchildren will also need air to breathe and water to drink.
Many more stories will no doubt come in over the next few days about how people acted locally to show they were thinking globally.
Let the bells ring out for climate justice.

Desmond Tutu speaking in Copenhagen

You can listen to Desmond Tutu speaking in Copenhagen this afternoon here and here.
He is always inspiring and motivating.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon in Copenhagen

you can find teh the full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon online here. Because of teh strange way the text is displaed it will come up in the left hand blue column. It's as always a good and thoughtfull sermon. Here's an extract:

Love casts out fear. If we begin from the belief that God wants us to rejoice and delight in the created world, our basic attitude to the environment will not be anxiety or the desperate search for ways of controlling it; it will be the excited and hopeful search for understanding it and honouring its goodness and its complex, interdependent beauty. If there is any 'fear' around here, it should be fear of spoiling the heritage given us, of forgetting the overwhelming scale and depth of the gift and of our responsibility and care for it, fear of forgetting that we are called to show consistent and sacrificial love for the created world as we must show towards our fellow-human beings. And, as we should have learned by now, the truth is that we cannot show the right kind of love for our fellow-humans unless we also work at keeping the earth as a place that is a secure home for all people and for future generations.

Rowan Williams - poetry, icons; pacifism and resistance

As daylight fades to the darkest day of the year I've been turning to my poetry shelves and in recent days reading in the poems of Rowan Williams. Inspiring and enriching. I started at the back of the book with some of the poetry he has translated. I particularly like those from the Welsh poet and pacifist Waldo Williams.
Rowan Williams quoted the Welsh poet in a sermon he preached on "What is life" saying that Waldo was as close as any to a definition in his poem Pa Beth Yw Dyn (What Is Man), when he wrote ‘Cael neuadd fawr/Rhwng cyfyng furiau’ “Inhabiting a great hall/between narrow walls".
Unfortunately an English version of that poem is not in this 2002 collection. Let's hope that the Archbishop will have time soon to translate some more. In the meantime,
I was particularly moved by one titled Die Bibelforscher (for the Protestant martyrs of the Third Reich). Here's an extract:

Earth is a hard text to read; but the king
has put his message in our hands, for us to carry
sweating, whether the trumpets of his court
sound near or far. So for these men:
they were the bearers of the royal writ,
clinging to it through spite and hurts and wounding.

However I've turned again and again this week to Williams poem meditating on Rublev's icon, pictured here, the first line just hooks me in time and again. Not sure I can say much more than it speaks to me and moves me. That's poetry.

Rublev

One day, God walked in, pale from the grey steppe,
slit-eyed against the wind, and stopped,
said, Colour me, breathe your blood into my mouth.

I said Here is the blood of all our people,
these are their bruises, blue and purple,
gold, brown, and pale green wash of death.

These (god) are chromatic pains of flesh.
I said, I trust I make you blush,
O I shall stain you with the scars of birth

For ever. I shall root you in the wood,
under the sun shall bake you bread
of beechmast, never let you forth

to the white desert, to the starving sand.
But we shall sit and speak around
one table, share one food, one earth.

copyright (c) Rowan Williams

Sing a new version of jingle bells for climate justice

Over at novice blogger Janet has written a new version of jingle bells for climate justice. This is her creative response to the bellringing campaign that is underway today - and there are many other imaginative activities underway today across the whole world today. Make sure that you let the WCC's climate change desk know about your event - even if was modest, we're all part of a global event taking place locally. It's great, it's fun, it's creative and it's serious.
As Fred Pratt Green's great Advent hymn says:
Ring, bells, ring, ring, ring!
Sing, choirs, sing, sing, sing!

So get ringing, singing and jingling. Here's Janet's jingle bells theme adpated for climate change ringers everywhere:

A ringing good day

Bells ring out
Bells ring out
Bells ring out all day
As bells ring out around the world:
Protect the world today!

Bells ring out
Are you listening?
Ring out loud
Are you listening?
We’re happy today
To worship and pray
Working for a much fairer world

Bells ring out
Bells ring out
Bells ring out all day
As bells ring out around the world:
Protect the world today!

Drums beat out
Are you listening?
Beat out loud
Are you listening?
We’ll beat a loud song
As we right the wrong
Working for a much fairer world

Bells ring out
Bells ring out
Bells ring out all day
As bells ring out around the world:
Protect the world today!

copyright (c) JAL: 12.12.2009
To a well known Christmas tune

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Get ready to ring church bells across the world tomorrow!

There's still time to get ready to ring your church bells 350 times tomorrow. If you've not got bells then use some drums or maybe get a trumpet player to play a 350 note fanfare, be creative to protect creation. Make sure everyone can hear. Friends in Geneva are planning to ring hand bells outside their church tomorrow - get to the Lutheran Church on the place Bourg le Four.
The bells of Copenhagen's Cathedral of our Lady will ring 350 times at the end of the ecumenical service there tomorrow afternoon. Across the whole world churches have signed up, and many, many more will be taking part who haven't signed up. At the moment the Netherlands has the largest number of churches registered but Switzerland is doing well with over 540 churches registered. France has only four registrations and Brazil is not doing much better, the UK is also looking a bit quiet according to the lists so if you do ring bells or do something remember to tell us about it afterwards too please!
And remember action for climate justice doesn't stop with Copenhagen it starts so keep getting creative and use the resources.
One of my favourites is the song "Bells of the World" composed by Torsten Borbye Nielsen for 13 December 2009 - honouring a Danish tradition to compose particular songs for special events. The song, which has 7 verses with 50 notes each, can be sung by congregations or played by church bells, for those who have a carillon able to play tunes. With the alternative lyrics "First was God's Word", it can also be used in other climate-related services.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Can the west be converted?

This morning at prayers Theodore Gill read an extended passage from Lesslie Newbigin's essay "Can the West be converted?". Earlier in the week our general secretary Samuel Kobia in his valedictory sermon remembered Newbigin who would have been 100 on 8 December.
I was fortunate to have been taught mission by Lesslie - though as is the way of youth I was not entirely convinced that this was a privilege at the time! I was very sure about the church's role in politics (this was in the midst of Thatcherism), I was also not at all convinced by the anti-enlightenment agenda that Newbigin seemed to pushing at the time - we used to have quite animated discussions about this at West Midlands Synod meetings. He was always polite, errudite and attentive - and very good company as well as being much more left wing than I expected! (His son was writing speeches at the time for Neil Kinnock the then leader of the labour party.) He found it a bit surprising that most of those interested in his ideas in those days were on the evangelical wing of the church.
Having been "away" from what might be termed home for nearly 20 years now I can sympathise better with some of his displacement problems. Missionaries go home and find neither the church they had left behind - yet taken with them in their heart and memory - nor do they find the vibrancy of the church they discovered and served in the mission field. Lesslie served in retirement at Winson Green URC - an urban priority area with a very multicultural population and quite extreme poverty. That humbles me - that was the sort of area I was intending to serve in and somehow I seem to have ended up in one of the richest parts of the world talking alot about poverty and justice ...
When he moved back to the UK Lesslie began his retirement by reading the whole of Barth's Dogmatics - something for Dr B to look forward to perhaps (however, Barth will not be the book on my desert island!).
Listening to what was read this morning I was struck by how very reasonable what he said seemed - and doubtless how wrong I had been ... 25 years on the tectonic plates in the church in the west have really moved and the resonance of the need to take the gospel outside the institutions is felt all the more keenly. Perhaps the churches as institutions - denominations in particular - are killing off the gospel rather than bearing witness to it.
So the question remains - can the west be converted?
Over on Open Source Ecumenism Dr B has also been remembering Lesslie Newbigin and there are some good links to further articles there. Like many missionaries he was also an excellent linguist, using those skills to serve, translate, listen and understand. Dr B has also posted Newbigin's hilarious account of writing the final message of the WCC's first assembly in 1948. Very funny in whichever language you read it.

Word of the day "le splitting intégral"

When you go to the local French boulangerie and and try to be good rather than be tempted by delicious croissants and pains au chocolat, you might ask for "un pain intégral" or a wholemeal loaf.
However there is nothing wholemeal about the meaning of intégral in the letter I received from the Swiss tax authorities today - although I live in France I am taxed in the country I work in. They informed me that from next year they would be applying "le splitting intégral" to all married and cohabiting couples alike. This led me to say to my French translator colleague that French needed something like the Plain English Campaign. Certainly if French had something like the German Unwort des Jahres then this term would get my vote.
If I have understood correctly then what it means is that the whole salary of both partners will be taken into account before being once more "split" to determine what each one should pay in terms of tax individually.
The canton of Geneva is one of the few places which taxes married couples (who both work and don't have children) at a much higher rate than cohabiting couples. All this wholemeal splitting will apparently lead to that changing.
Perhaps I should just stick to going to the Boulangerie!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Glad tidings of great joy about public transport in the Pay de Gex

This Sunday the Genevan bus timetable changes and it will really revolutionise things for someone like me who does not drive. Today the latest Ferney Magazine had the complete new timetable, many more F buses - and every other bus will go all the way to and from Gex. This is brilliant - but even more amazing - we are about to ge the Y bus which will take us directly to the airport and to Meyrin and to Thoiry.
All that remains now is for us to set up a blog about "Les restos depuis les bus F et Y" - doing the research could be quite fun!

A walk to the edge of organisational chaos - even in a tidy office

So one of the problems with the internet is the opportunity for almost endless (perhaps that should be eternal?) distraction.
I should be writing my diploma - instead I keep on researching and finding new books which could really help me understand organisations and leadership - this is my own personal walk to edge of organisational chaos - yes even after I have tidied my office! The other problem is that Dr B gets almost as interested in my research as I do and adds to the level of distraction by saying from behind his computer screen "ooh that's interesting I'll send you the link."
So last night this led in the direction of a small publishing house called Triarchy press which seems to have a series of fascinating titles on trying to improve understanding of organisations.

The name 'triarchy' refers to the three fundamental ways of getting things done in organizations: hierarchy, heterarchy and responsible autonomy.
All organizations use a mixture of these three ways, but the proportions can differ widely. At present, hierarchy is usually considered essential for all organizations. Heterarchy and responsible autonomy are often misunderstood or neglected. Here is an outline;Triarchy theory suggests that our "addiction to hierarchy" drains the energy from collaborative projects and sometimes fails to recognise the input of able individuals whose contributions can be overlooked in a formal reporting structure.
Pictured here is Adventures in complexity, for organisations near the edge of chaos by Lesley Kuhn.

A complexity approach removes simplistic hopes of an ordered and controllable existence where, if only we had the right ‘keys’ or ‘tools’, we would be able to fashion a successful organisation. Instead, it offers a way to identify underlying patterns of order and indicators for influencing future sustainable practice; it shows how simple recurrent rules result in complex behaviour and that ‘influential interventions’ do not take a neat cause-and-effect path but may generate unexpected outcomes.
The focus of Adventures in Complexity is not so much organisations as the ‘life of organisations’. Author Lesley Kuhn sees organisations as ‘collectives of human activity’ and here describes how complexity theory can be applied in and to organisations.
Complexity theory acknowledges that people are self-organising, dynamic and emergent beings who are capable of discerning thoughtfulness and innovative responses to change both within and between organisations. It argues that sustainability is best served by tapping into this entire pool of potential.
It embraces uncertainty and change. It uses terms like non-equilibrium and turbulence to show that, when systems reach ‘the edge of chaos’, they are most likely to exhibit creative, innovative responses and new patterns and structures are most likely to emerge. In the current unpredictable climate many organisations may consider themselves 'near the edge of chaos'. Yet most will not realise that this is where the greatest potential for success lies.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Luke 21 and the theme of resistance

Tonight we sang Holden Evening Prayer for the last time before Christmas. Quite apart from the wonderful music and times of silence and breathing that this simple order of evening prayer offers, the thing that strikes me time and again is how powerfully the Bible texts speak when they are not going to be commented on but simply meditated in silence.
This evening we heard from Isaiah 25.1-5 and then a long reading from Luke 21 beginning with the widow's mite and ending "You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish."
Listening to this text this evening - wonderfully and powerfully read by my colleague Theodore Gill - I was struck once more by how enriching it is to listen to longer passages from the gospels than are often read at public worship. I was also thinking about difficult issues in my own life, broken relationships, things that have gone wrong, times when I have felt if not persecuted then certainly harrassed ... this passage gave me great succour thinking about all of that. I realised too that any who in turn felt harrassed by me would also gain succour from this text.
So in the silence while feeling upheld by God I also felt deeply challenged by the text. All of us can be victims - life is like that. Victims of illness, of accidents, of war, of ideological conflict, of depression, of doubt, of violence. With the Advent candles glowing and prayers still waiting to be sung I pondered the ambiguity of life, my own potential to be an oppressor as well as a resister. Sometimes it's too easy to think of oneself as a victim. This evening listening to the the very strong words towards the end of the passage I thought about how much we all so want to believe that God is on our side, that we are right. Stig Dagerman would say that our need for consolation is insatiable, yet the image of God that comes across is that in both extreme and more minor suffering we will be endlessly and continually upheld. A God who believes in resistance and knows all about endurance. In the silence I found this not only consoling but comforting and reassuring.
I gave thanks also for a beautiful and reassuring day.

Here's the text that led to these rambling candlelit thoughts:

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.'


5
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
9 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Can women ever be authentic? Must we always have the role of being "alibi" women, mere tokens? Or is ambiguity really where it is at?

I have just come back from another wonderful evening at the feminist theology group which was led this evening by my friend Karin Achtelstetter, director of the office for communication services at the Lutheran World Federation.
Karin encouraged the group to read the story of Huldah and work on various hypotheses about Huldah and her almost forgotten role as the prophetess who is consulted to confirm the scriptural canon and determine its interpretation. What might the text tell us about the complex roles women assume in leadership? You can see some of the background to our evening in an earlier post I made about Karin's work on Huldah.
Tonight we were intrigued at all the male envoys sent to consult Huldah - why on earth did the chief of priests not know how to evaluate or interpret the scroll of scripture found in the temple? Did they consult a woman to have her as an "alibi" (femme alibi is a bit like token woman), "hey we can destroy all of these objects in the temple that venerate Ashara (Yahweh's female companion) if a woman says we can". Is Huldah's voice a compromised one? After all it is a delegation of men who get sent to see her by the king - they are the ones telling the story, can we trust them? Not surprisingly they almost bury Huldah's role in determining the canon by being so insistent about naming themselves and writing precise minutes of their roles in King Josias' great reform! Some critics claim Huldah compromised herself, siding with power - but did she ever get the chance to tell her own story?
Tonight Karin put words into Huldah's mouth, explaining what she was trying to do.
We had very thoughtful and passionate discussions about women having the right to speak, to study, be listened to - and to get it wrong.
What moved me particularly this evening was listening to an ordination prayer for deaconesses from the 4th century which mentions Huldah. Yet today she is almost forgotten - though the director of Faith and Order assures me that some modern liturgies do remember her name and role.
As we ended our evening Karin explained that the reason she as a woman who exercises leadership was interested by Huldah was because of the ambiguities around her story - interpretation, speaking out, compromise, being a woman who plays the men's game. As she worked on the text she realised that despite justified criticism of being the "alibi" woman, Huldah nevertheless speaks with an authentic voice. It may even be the ambiguities that give her story and witness authenticity. I found that enormously reassuring and quite energising.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Calvin and Hobbes - international symposium


When I first saw the announcement for the Calvin and Hobbes symposium organised by the French Protestant Faculty of Theology in Paris I had to do a bit of a double take. It is about looking at links between the thought of the English philosopher and the French reformer and lloks very interesting.

However when I first saw it, in my rather uncouth way I thought it was about the cartoon characters Calvin and Hobbes. theyare not so well known in France but I would have thought that would have made for a really interesting comparison! Perhaps someone will present a paper about that!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Open source ecumenism, the Ravenna document and Metropolitan John of Pergamon

Dr B has a new blog called Open Source Ecumenism. He's hoping to share passing thoughts about ecumenism and encourage discussion about some of the things he only gets a chance to talk about over coffee with colleagues at the ecumenical centre.
Some of the posts he's made here have now been reposted there, which will mean that my blog will now be rather less errudite.
Anyway do visit and plase send him some ideas abotu what to write abotu next.
One of the most recent articles asks whether we are moving towards Christian convergence or a united christianity and was triggered by an assertion made by Adrian Pabst on the Guardian's Comment is Free site.
Here's an extract:

Metropolitan John of Pergamon, the Orthodox co-chair of the international Roman Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue, has been particularly outspoken against the understanding oif the Bishop of Rome as the Patriarch of the West, saying that while this development was historically understandable it does not offer a theological solution to help convergence between East and West. Metropolitan John instead argiues for an understanding of primacy and conciliarity at all levels of the church, including at the universal level. And it is precisely this issue that is at the centre of the Ravenna document produced by the commission in 2007, and about which discussions are still continuing. But if these discussions do make significant progress, does this not also open the way to theological convergence with Anglican perspectives such as those articulated by the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Let me know if you would you like to review this book?

Disabled Church - Disabled Society: The Implications of Autism for Philosophy, Theology and Politics by John Gillibrand with a foreword by Rowan Williams.
The book pictured here is due to be published in January 2010 and I'm looking forward to reading it - or should that be looking forward to the idea that I might have the time to read it! I'm also just about to order a review copy for the Ecumenical Review - writing this post is my way of reminding myself to do that - so if you're interested in writing a review of it then do get in touch.
Here's some of what the blurb says:
In this moving and intelligent book John Gillibrand, an Anglican priest, draws on his experience of caring for his non-verbal son, Adam, who has autism and is now a teenager. He reflects on how the experience has changed not just his life, but also his whole way of thinking about theology, politics and philosophy. Illuminated by an account of his day to day experiences with Adam, and deeper reflection upon the meaning of that experience, John Gillibrand considers the challenges that autism - and disability in general - present to the western tradition of thought in theology and philosophy.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Of libraries, broadening our horizons and learning

Last week Dr B and I attended two events to honour former WCC general secretary Philip Potter. At the first event the Ecumenical Centre Library was renamed the Philip Potter Library. Philip is now 88 and it fell to his wife bishop Bärbel Wartenburg Potter to speak about how fitting it was that a library was being named after him. As a young man growing up on the island of Dominica it was the local public library that gave Philip the opportunity to discover other shores, peoples, countries and churches; other ways of thinking. It was reading that helped form Potter as a world citizen and not remain a "little islander" well before he was able to travel. Thus began a lifeling love of books.
Even today librarians and archivists will tell you that the only thing we can be sure will have some chance of still being around in 100 years time is paper or books.
Makes me think about our obsession with technology - will ipods still be being used in 100 years time? Will all that we digitise today still be available to people 100 years hence if there are no paper copies available?
The second event honouring Potter was a special dinner to launch the WSCF's Philip Potter centennial fund. It was a wonderful evening with great speeches from amongst others the irrepressiblly communicative Pauline Webb. It was also wonderful to listen to such a strong and politically well-organised selection of women from the past - there was a great story from Lois Wilson who talked about how the women would meet before central committee meetings and make sure that they got to the microphone at central committee before a particular Archbishop! (No, I'm not going to tell you which one!)
The evening taught me once again that the past has much to tell us about how to understand the present. It may actually turn out to be those things that are most problematic, most difficult and painful that in the long run will prove to be where the prophetic mission of the world church has been. However, while it's important to use the past to gain perspective, it shouldn't be used an excuse to try to find easy relevance in the present.
Once, a couple of decades ago, I was a historian. The challenge for historians remains to let the past speak to the present in a way that makes sense and offers meaning for today - a today that is ever changing. Our horizons can be broadened by libraries and books, but more often they are also broadened by encounters with extraordinary people and their stories. Philip Potter and many of those who gathered to be with him and pay tribute to him are some of those extraordinary people for me. I was lucky to spend a few hours in their company.
You can find out more about contributing to the WSCF Fund here.

Christian history at KT - confessions, divisions ... and chance of unity?

I've spent part of today teaching KT. It's always good for me, helps me centre on people outside myself. Compared with the UK there is very little teaching about religion or the differences between religions at state schools in France. So we decided that with the vote about the minarets in Switzerland last weekend, and the interest that the young people had shown at the beginning of the year in learning about other religions we would try to do some of that today.
We began with Christianity before going on to look at Judaism and Islam.
In everyday French it's fairly difficult to trace the fairly key nuance between a different confession and a different religion. I was shocked at my first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity meetings in France to have people from the Catholic Church come up to me and say "we must do more inter-religious dialogue like this".
Today we started by looking at the different Christian confessions and by tracing where each of the many branches of Protestantism came from and then going back to what had preceded the Reformation and the great schism of 1054.
So we moved from the complex diversity of Christianity to looking briefly at Judaism and Islam. I was impressed by how genuinely the coung people voiced their concern that all people should be allowed to worship as they see fit. There is also an enormous ignorance of what the beliefs and practices of other religions are and part of me felt that we should try in local churches to offer an opportunity to discover other religions - not just for young people but for their parents and grandparents.
After lunch we did some remembered Bible of Christ's nativity with them. Fascinating to remember the story and then to read first Matthew and then Luke. I was struck by the different kind of Messiah each evangelist seemed to be expecting - in Matthew the baby is portrayed as the equal of kings and great Eastern intelectuals; in Luke this birth brings hope to excluded shepherds on the hillside. The beginnings of Christian diversity are right there in the way the gospels each tell their story of Christ. Christian unity and reconciled diversity are perhaps only possible if we dare - across our confessional differences - to go on telling our own and Christ's story to one another.

Bible translation can help promote long term ecumenism

So here's a little story from ENI about how Bible translation can contribute to understanding between Christians - as well of course to people becoming Christians.

Baguio City, Philippines (ENI). Cooperation between Protestants, Evangelicals and Roman Catholics is growing strong a century after the Bible was translated into a local language in the Philippines, say Christian leaders. "We now come and celebrate together for this great gift of God through which his word, through translation, has become alive in us since 100 years ago," said Methodist Bishop Nathanael Lazaro, president of the Philippine Bible Society. Lazaro was speaking on 2 December during centennial celebrations in Baguio City of the translation of the Bible into Ilokano, one of seven major languages in the Philippines, which has more than 80 languages and dialects.

Let them eat cake ...

Occasionally at work we get glimpses of edible works of art brought in for delivery to clients of the multi-talented Gabriela's Délices du Sud. Her cakes are really quite something - it's not often you get someone phoning you to say "you absolutely must come and see the beautiful cake Gabriela has made for my grand daughter". You can get some ideas of the three dimensional cakes here and here the slightly simpler designs here - I particularly like the Sherlock Holmes design. I do hope though that there are going to be photos on the site of the extraordinary cake I admired today, covered in playing cards and casino tokens I don't think this was for a child's birthday but it was brilliant.
Délices du Sud also does utterly delicious Alfajores and Medialunas ... hmm
The diet will once again not begin in the New Year!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Water, politics and justice in Palestine and Israel

In the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Change talks two of the Ecumenical Accompaniers in Palestine-Israel have written a powerful story about how the human right to water is being rationed for Palestinians in the Holy Land.
You can learn more about the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and you can also find EAPPI on facebook and follow EAPPI on twitter. You can also find out more about the human right to water through the Ecumenical Water Network and its campaigns.

Rows of neat suburban houses stand on the parched, barren hillside. A water tower looms over them, irrigating lush greenery in the gardens. But outside this West Bank settlement's perimeter fence sits the tiny Bedouin community of Umm Al Kher, whose residents are desperate for water.
Here in the South Hebron Hills, there has been scarce rainfall for many months. Grey rock and dry, rugged earth spread off in every direction. But locals who met observers from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel said the effects of the recent drought are exacerbating a man-made water crisis.The community is not connected to any water supply network and the Israeli army will not issue permits to dig wells. The community is forced to buy tanked water from Mekorot, the Israeli national water company, which charges 5 shekels (around $1.30) per cubic meter. That cost prohibits the shepherds of Umm Al Kher from irrigating crops. Umm Al Kher's only other water supply is a pipe no bigger than a garden hose that trails across from the pump in the settlement.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

In search of ...

This seems like the right week to mention some of the excellent interreligious work and projects that exist in Switzerland.
The news of the Swiss referendum vote against the building of new minarets is leading to much comment and discussion well beyond the borders of this small federal state known in the past for its neutrality.
Pictured here is this year's interreligious calender from Geneva's Inter-religious Platform. This year the ascetic life and mysticism are the theme - in previous years themes have included food, death, pilgrimage and ecology.
The Calender always runs from September in one year through to December of the next year. It's a great thematic resource and also shows the dates of major religious and non religious festivals. Click on the link to order a copy.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

In mourning for the creator of the Ampelmann

Our household is sad to hear that Karl Peglau designer of the wonderful East German Ampelmann has died.
You can read more about the context of the Ampelmann on Holy Disorder here.
If you have a photo of a green or red sign for crossing or not crossing the road we would love to see it, send me the link. We have a great poster of red and green persons from around the worldin our downstairs toilet . On special days when crossing the road Dr B will cross the road while trying to make the shape indicated by whichever green man appears.
Bizarrely in centralised France there is no unified "Euroman" - or europerson - but a plethora of quite strange red and green personnages at pedestrian crossings, including some very 1950s looking gentlemen wearing hats.

Twenty years ago today Gorbachev visited the Vatican

More from my GDR diary. I had completely forgotten that this happened until listening to the radio last night. Then I discover I had mentioned it in my diary 20 years ago. Now I just have to ask Dr B to do some research and find out if anyone from the WCC attended the meeting.

10 years ago and a strange tingling feeling ...

Yesterday for various reasons I will not bore you with I spent alot of time waiting for and seeing health care professionals - I was not in a very good way by the end of the day but at leaset I had managed to get vaccinated aginst H1N1 and got some decent painkillers for the split tumour (benign, panic not!) in my mouth. Surgery in 17 days and counting.
Thinking about my brother campaigning in Paris for HIV/AIDS and my colleagues at work and the WHO campaigning for access to drugs and against stigmatisation, I realised just how much I have to give thanks for in terms of my own health care.
Ten years ago on December 1st Dr B and I were in London. We spent nearly the whole day at John Lewis in Oxford Street, finally choosing two sofas and the material to cover them in - this was the end of a 7 year search for the right sofa. Five months later they arrived in Ferney and I remember heaving a sigh of relief - phew they are not hideous. (10 years on they are however looking a bit worn.)
Later on that December 1st evening as I was putting on my tights prior to going out with friends I noticed a strange tingling feeling on the sole's of both my feet. Everything seemed to be working all right and wasn't painful, so only about 5 days later when the tingling had reached my knees did I actually make it to the doctors. By the time I got to see a neurologist the tingling had reached my pubic bone. Everything was still working fine and I set off for a meeting in Paris before going into hospital on the Monday. That of course was when I started to feel ill, a lumbar puncture, MRI scan and mega doses of intravenous cortisone all saw to that.
My parishioners came to visit me and I had to try an politely get them to leave so that I could get a few moments with Stephen and tell him about the probable diagnosis. La sclérose en plaques, lesions in the myelin protecting the brain and spinal column which get inflamed and put pressure on the brain, the nerves and muscular functioning ... speech and sight sometimes too, and of course bladder and bowel control ...
Ah yes and if you have an MS episode the headaches are really utterly, spectacularly horrible.
On a cortisone high I took the Christmas festival service and then collapsed. That was the year Dr B cooked Christmas dinner for the first time and we cancelled our millenium trip to Paris. I could not sit up let alone dance! The plus side to being in this state was being able to take opiates which killed the pain but made me feel even worse.
It all sounds quite dramatic and it wasn't alot of fun but actually I have so far been extremely lucky, my form of the illness is relatively benign. When I had my second episode 18 months later I got speedy treatment and encouragement to take the new interferon B treatment - if I had been in Britain at that point I would have had to do battle to get access to those drugs.
So there we go. Perhaps now, ten years on I should at last start looking after myself ... that really would be a challenge.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

World Aids Day - liturgy and photos from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance

For the 21st international world Aids day colleagues from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance organised a lunchtime serivce in the chapel at the Ecumenical Centre, you can see some of the photos. The service was put together by the brilliant Terry Macarthur and you can download versions in various languages. Here's an extract:

People: Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame.
Reader: I lift up Mary from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. She was raped and afterwards unable to find medical care. Many in the camp are living with HIV but she is afraid to take the test. She defends herself, “I have no friends. No one talks to me and the worst thing is that no one, no one wants to hold my baby.”
Leader: Let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
People: Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.