#Brexit:2

I wrote a post before the Referendum and one of my fears about ‘Brexit’ was that the language used about immigration ran the risk of promoting the fear of the ‘other’.

It was starting to do so and since the result hate crimes have risen against Eastern Europeans and British Asian Muslims. The Prime Minister and leading faith leaders have condemned it: it is not just the fantasy of a biased leftie blogger.

In hindsight, it was sadly easy to see that this would be the case. The official Leave campaign majored on migration and distorted the issue re: Turkey etc. This allowed the UKIP campaign to enter the mainstream and now casual and actual racism has become part of mainstream political discourse.

Attempts by the victorious campaign to distance themselves from this in my opinion are too little and too late: the horse has left the stable and the stable cannot be bolted. I fear that the cause of race relations has gone back many years. If I were an Eastern European or a British Asian, I would be in fear- many are.

Some people should not be given the slogan ‘Taking our country back’- it just adds fuel to an already burning fire. There is also the issue of who ‘our’ is and then ‘our country’: I had thought that this came across as mainly  English and not British (the results largely seem to have shown that).

It makes you weep for Britain: what have we done?

 

#Brexit:1

I am not a political analyst, and I am not a fan of long,windy speeches- there is much I could say about the Referendum, but I will confine myself to two posts.

It seems that now the vote has been cast, that Brexit has no clear plans. Perhaps it was harsh to expect it to be so- they were never a political party with a long history of attempting to formulate ideas. In fact, apart from one the one clear idea; ‘we want to leave the EU’, the rest was a half formed collection of disparate intentions or slogans.

I think that is in the nature of protest movements against something big; an unlikely coalition is formed, united against what they oppose but without a coherent vision outside of that. In some ways it was a protest by disenfranchised ‘have nots’ who are left out of most political calculations. Ignore people long enough and eventually they will rise up; often with incoherent rage against the ‘establishment’

The worst thing for me is that this disparate, unformed group won, there are no clear plans, and so we plough on into stormy and unpredictable seas. It seems that ‘Project Fear’ (something that I was not happy about) seems close to ‘Project Reality’.

I hope as we sail upon these seas, we can look outward , I hope that those who voted Leave out of anger and disenfranchisement are listened to, I hope that ‘Little Englanderism’ does not take over…

I hope…

Random snapshots of the ‘official chaplain’ over the years.

-From someone who has never been to any church I have ever led but knows we live in the same village: ‘You are my pastor’.

– A long, long conversation with a 20 year old about his drug use and what did I think about it?

-More conversations with those I have conducted family funerals for than I could shake a stick at.

-someone wanting prayer before they took to the stage in drag.

-a long conversation with someone I hardly knew about the emotional strain of fertility treatment.

-A lengthy chat with someone about their growing Christian commitment.

-Lots of random banter about wearing a t shirt with ‘God squad’ on it.

All these, and many, many more about those times when I realised I was actually doing something really useful..

Eulogy for The Cornshed

I suppose I could write a eulogy for the amount of money this festival raised for charity, the dedicated team that gave up their own time to run it, Judy Kitching and her family, the music, the community it brings together, the ‘rite of passage’ it represented for local youths or a whole host of other aspects.

I could and it was all that, and more.

But I want to say a big thank you for the effect it had on my faith and ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the music, the beer , the people and everything, but for me there was always something extra.

I was asked to be ‘official chaplain’ 8 years ago. I had no idea what that meant- I felt uncomfortable with hanging around, being ‘useless’, helping out so that I could at least earn a hearing. In hindsight it had a massive influence on me getting my current job: I had discovered something of how a chaplain acted- you are always on someone else’s territory by permission, not by authority. Gradually I got used to it and got to know the wonderful team that run it. I have lost count of the number of drinks I have made for them or the number of attempts I have made to do heavy manual labour…

…but I have also lost count of the number of people who have opened up their lives and spoken in depth about things that have troubled them, the number of prayers I have prayed and the sheer privilege of being around people and sometimes being invited into their space just because I was there at the right time.

Oh: and I shall miss the beer and music too…

A new experience

This morning, bleary eyed from 2 very late nights/early mornings, I will be in church.

I won’t be the minister, but I will be a godparent/ sponsor for someone I know in this village. This person, whom I have known (and acted with- at various times I have had an affair with her and been her mother...) wants to be baptised.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I bumped into her at the pub and asked her about it and I don’t have the language to describe what happened. If I was to use shorthand, I would say that she has become a Christian, but it was something better, richer than that. I found I had no words, I was bowled over by the joy and the insight…and lack of jargon…this person was still the same…. but different.

…and this tired, cynical old soul, begins to hope again; and by being asked to be a godparent/sponsor is being ‘blessed’ more than he deserves…

When to stop

Tonight is the last Cornshed ever.

It started in 1987 to raise money as a way of saying thank you to the hospital where Jim Kitching died following a farm accident and it just grew. This one is the 30th and last one. It will also be the biggest: yesterday sold out (700) a week ago and tonight (1000) should be sold out. It has raised over £250,000 for charity and Judy Kitching-the founder- has an MBE.

But it is finishing.

It could have gone on for many years I guess: it had a niche and a following, but circumstances change and sometimes we have to say ‘enough’ or ‘it was good, but now let’s give thanks and stop’.

I could learn from that. These last 18 months have been a time of stopping and of change. Some of that stopping has been hard, but necessary: after all- new things cannot begin until the old has died.

But tonight-as with so many others- I will enjoy it. Even though the feeling will be tinged with sadness as well as gratitude.

Friday Music

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I don’t really like this song.

Aside from the mindblowing imagery (have you ever tried to set sex on fire? And how would you?), there is the innate predictability of where the song is going. Or maybe I am just a musical snob, mind dulled through an overexposed song. Heck: what do I know- they have sold millions and I can barely play 3 chords.

But I digress.

I am putting this up as it is ‘The Cornshed’ tonight: my 9th year of being the ‘official chaplain’. I can bet that I will hear a bad cover version of this several times over the weekend. When I do, I will make a sly comment or try and drop a witty aside.

But I will secretly love it; The Cornshed is one of my ‘happy places’.

#Bremain

I am, despite a BA (Hons) in politics, no expert. Today I will vote Remain.

I know of the issues with the EU and the faults therein. I also know of its limitations and how parts of the Remain camp have tended towards exaggerated hyperbole. If I was to point you to articulate articles that say in different ways what I want t say, here are a sample:-

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21700637-vote-leave-european-union-would-diminish-both-britain-and-europe-divided-we-fall?frsc=dg%7Ca

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/20/english-working-class-victims-brexit-vote-false-patriotism

or- from another country http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/opinion/sunday/from-great-britain-to-little-england.html?_r=0

There are many, many more, but the above picture says what I want to say better:- -I feel that much of the Leave campaign has majored on fear of the other (the official election communication was appalling) and an unsubtle stoking of xenophobia.

This worries me a lot; once you have stoked it, you cannot back away from it. I think this will alter British politics for the worse.

And then: can I trust people who have advocated cuts and a right wing agenda to suddenly advocate more NHS etc spending if we leave the EU. I can’t.

Do I believe we serve Britain by withdrawing from relationship with other nations? No I don’t. At its worst, the Leave campaign seems to be all about ‘Little Englanderism’ and with little positive vision of the future.

I know there are good arguments against what I have said, but ultimately I want to ‘Vote Love’ and hope, not fear, withdrawal and suspicion of the other. However, I think we will leave and I believe there are dark days ahead for Europe.

Embrace

I walked into the cathedral with someone I am working with. We spoke with the person on the welcome desk about why we like this cathedral so much; it had more to do with the welcome & the ‘feel’ than the architecture.

‘I know’ said the woman at the counter ‘Every time I come here, it feels like the place is wrapping the warmth of its arms around me: daft, isn’t it?’

No

It isn’t- I feel it to. I wish more churches would feel like this.

Watching

From a distance, across the Cathedral and whilst the tourists passed by, I could see them: a small group of faithful worshippers celebrating communion in a side chapel.

I was most taken with the minister, however- he just carried on, focused on what he was doing; following a set liturgy with feeling and without artifice.

I thought back over all the times I had tried to be ‘different’ and try new things: all for good reasons, and mostly really trying not to be gimmicky. In the end, I guess I was tired by it all.

As I watched that minister lead the service, I thought that sometimes (or even often) that is all you need; simplicity, no gimmicks, short and where the focus is not on pzazz or words, words, endless words. Where an act of worship is not an ‘event’, but just ‘is’