Monday, 22 February 2010

If anybody's out there ... help!

I am never too sure who reads this blog (if anyone) but if you are then please do not just read it, today i am asking that you do something too. Something that could radically change three lives for the better. Those lives are Robert Swinfen, and Alison Phipps, friends of mine in Glasgow and Rima. This is Rima's story.

Rima, now 17 years old, arrived in the UK in March 2008, fleeing persecution in Eritrea and then racist neglect, destitution and physical harm in Italy. She came to stay with Robert Swinfen and Alison Phipps in Glasgow in March 2009, and they have become a close-knit family unit. Rima has a strong case for asylum from Eritrea, but under the Dublin Regulation is now liable to be returned to Italy.
She has come to love Robert and Alison as her Dad and Mum, and they have very strong parental feelings for her too. For the past year they, with some help from friends, have provided her entire support as if she were indeed their foster daughter. Rima is extremely vulnerable and in need of a secure family to recover from the trauma and chaos of the past three years of her life. She is doing very well, but is far from ready to live on her own and both wants and needs to continue living with her British Mum and Dad. Rima is now in real danger of being forcibly taken from her home in Scotland, in the next week, sent into Yarl’s Wood, and then deported to Italy.
You can make a difference by writing to your MP, MEP and the Home Secretary or even just by signing an on line petition to get the Home Sec. to intervene in this case to allow Rima to remain in the UK because she now has many strong relationships and a foster-family who will continue to support and love her for as long as she needs.

Rima will be 18 on 1st July this year, but the trauma and upheaval which she has suffered mean that she will need to be part of a family for some years to come. It would be so cruel to tear her away from parents for a second time, repeating the trauma from which she is beginning to recover, and so I am asking that you do what ever you can to help her to stay in the UK.
Please go to and or email me if you want a sample letter to send to the relevant people which you can do on line by
If you feel unable to do any of that and you believe in prayer, then please pray.

Friday, 12 February 2010

High Heels or Trainers

Yesterday I was sitting in St Giles Cathedral Edinburgh having a quiet moment or two, marvelling at the sunlight coming through the stained glass windows and how quickly the early morning sounds of the city disappear in sacred silence when I became aware of a teetering muffle behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and watched as a women in high clicky heels tried very hard, (but unsuccessfully) not to break the quiet. In fact the more effort she gave to hushing her steps the less she seemed to achieve.

I am not sure what it was she wanted to preserve from disturbance. Not my silence, I doubt thtat she had noticed me. I wonder did she fear that her stillettoed reverberations would awaken the holiness of God or perhaps the holiness in herself.

Either way this well posed icon of fashionable elegance seemed less in balance with her location than the curly haired three year old who refused to be shushed into being quiet by her father. As he whispered to her 'shh ... its a church... you have to be quiet' she climbed on a pew and decalimed with free abandon, 'Why do I have to be quiet when its pretty.'

Well that made up for missing Radio 4's Thought for the Day.
But she had more to offer.
The slip-slapping footsteps of this lassie as she then out-manouvred her father and cheekily ran towards a side chapel somehow seemed more at home with the joy of holiness than the self conscious tiptoing of the earlier lady. But for all that I'm sure God found pleasure in them both ... I know I did.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Ssshh ... its the sound of God

A few years ago I was fascinated by a radio 4 broadcast featuring Noirin Ni Riain, renowned Irish singer, talking about theosony, the sound of God. She spoke with passion of how we learn to be silent and listen with the ear of the heart.

I contacted her as she said that she'd just completed a PhD in Limerick on this theme and i was able to get a copy. It is a powerful piece of theological reflection but to my knowledge it has not been more widely published. So I was happy to discover that her autobiography has just been released by Veritas books in Ireland.

I have just finished it and apart from making me nostalgic for an Ireland I never really knew, it also many theological and spiritual insights that made me stop for a moment or two: including this one.

'No two silent listenings to the inner voice of God's self-disclosure are the same either. The God who reveals will be known not only in names but also silence. This silence does not reduce God to absence or mere emptiness, but is fullness, which is a Trinity of Persons. It is almost as if the Trinity is not composed of just three parts but of four: the fourth is the silence that reveals the triune God to the universe and wherein cosmic sound disappears into the silent mist. Human silence, which human ears can perceive, arises out of the silence that cannot be heard, yet which is drawn back to the world by an organic momentum. The Word is the fruit of the silent seed of Divine/human encounter. To taste the full fruit is to taste the revelation of God in and through the dialogical Trinity' (p78)

Friday, 5 February 2010

It's a sin ... or maybe not ... please convince me!

Yesterday I did something I've not done in a very long time ... its been about fifteen years or so since I last enjoyed this particular pleasure and it felt so good to do it again but I'm not sure if it was a sin.
I ate a Nestle's Kitkat.

For a long time now and for the much documented reasons of some of Nestles ethical policies I have avoided their products where possible. Hardly a huge sacrifice in the plethora of commercial alternatives but some products were missed more that others, a certain chocolate bar among them. But now the long lamented Kitkat has gone Fair trade. No less a man that the Archbishop of York John Sentamu endorsed the move so I thought to myself that can't be bad ... in fact, I reasoned I almost have a moral duty to make a purchase to applaud them for their actions and encourage them further down the road of chocolate fairness.

But now, wrapper in the bin, crumbs licked off my fingers, I am thinking that while KitKat may have gone Fair-trade and proudly sports its new ethical credentials with the obligatory advertising logo, but the Company haven't reversed the policies to which I have long objected. In which case what has really changed? Is this all no more than marketing smoke and mirrors? What does it mean for the Fair-Trade Dairy Milk now that Kraft are taking over? I know there is lots of chocolate on sale who's company credentials are more sound ... most of it tastes great in the mouth and in the Spirit too but then again that Kit Kat didn't half taste good. That said, perhaps it's 'mea culpa' on the ethics and so it may have been the last one that I eat for some time yet. Unless you all convince me otherwise.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Papa Don't Preach ... or maybe do ... really I'm not sure.

I am not sure what to think about the Pope's latest comments. What about you?
Usually I blog here with fully formed opinions or at least considered reflections ...
now I only have a bunch of questions.

As an clearly intended attack on the equality legislation that seeks to bring much needed justice for gay and lesbian people in many places in this country, I am not happy with what the Pope has said. Such equality is long overdue. I make no comment here on whether it should apply directly to Church except to say as someone who does not like the state interfering with religious liberty I kind of understand where the Pope is coming from as well. I value the freedom of conscience that I, my congregation and others in my denomination enjoy. There is a self determiantion (albeit a covenantal one) that has long stood up for its convicitons. But historically the Papal position has always been tied to the Power and Authority of Christendom and to the conflicts and / or alliances within that structure that can be made with the Secular Powers nad legislature. And that's where we part company. My tradition (at its best) has been ever been a dissenting or confessing one, we have historically has come under persecution from such powers adn authorities, religious and/ or state, and many followers have paid the price of their convictions.

And so I suppose I think that if the law of the land demands of me something which i believe to be unconscionable and a fundamental point of my essential confession of Christ as Lord then for sure I will protest the law in its making but if it then is passed, then there seems no alternative but to break it and suffer the consequences. I am not so sure that this is the case for me in this surrounding debate although it may yet prove to be so for my denomination. And I'm not so sure that the Pope is advocating large-scale Catholic civil disobedience here either. Although I will confess that prospect is appealing to me not least for the precedent it might set for other matters and the shift that it might herald in how the Church behaves.

Either way it does look like the forthcoming Papal visit will draw people, their energy and resources into choosing one side or another, pitting them against each other, which is the thing that saddens me most when there is so much good that might be done in the world if we learnt to work together.