Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Welby in Nairobi


Welby's sermon to GAFCON is interesting and worth a listen for what it reveals about his thinking. Welby is renowned for his abilities in diplomacy and arbitration, and this sermon, or so it seemed to me, tried  both to speak to GAFCON's concerns about faithfulness, righteousness and obeying the bible while delivering food for thought, or even a rebuke. Welby spoke of how reading the bible in a complicated world is hard work and we cannot settle for easy answers or those which give us power. The extent to which the establishment of GAFCON is driven by the politics of power for its movers and shakers is not something often raised within the Church, even so obliquely, so all credit to him there. Welby reminded GAFCON that scripture can and has been misused and cited the use of scripture to support Apartheid in South Africa, a fairly stark comparison. He said that differences had existed throughout Christianity and that it was not difference, but the way we deal with our difference that matters. The problem arises when we "cannot settle our difference in a way which points to Jesus."

This was a clever sermon, challenging yet affirming. It was as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.  What it will not do is to bring about reconciliation in an unreconcilable situation.

Perhaps Welby knows that because he spoke of the need for new structures within the Anglican communion, and GAFCON itself is a new structure, one hedged with barbed wire barricades.

Two thoughts stayed with me most strongly. The first was that observation that, " we have not settled our differences in a way which points to Jesus." I have seen this so often. The other was that, "we need a new way of being together." The question that kept asking itself here was what he means by together and whether the Anglican Communion can really lay claim to that word any longer.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Foodbanks and frugality

 The news that food bank use has tripled this year should be a cause for concern to everyone. The largest food bank charity, The Trussel Trust, has backed calls for an enquiry into this increase. The likelihood of this happening seems remote given that the Government seems quite confident that the cause is that more food banks are opening (not the changes to the benefit system then?) On the subject of benefits, another idiot Government spokesperson said that their was "no robust evidence (does that mean there was some evidence then?) that welfare reforms were linked to increased use of food banks" and that "90% of benefits are now paid within 16 days." I wonder if the people responsible for making this statement have ever tried not eating for 16 days? I wonder if ten percent of them have tried going for longer than that without money for food?
 If you have concerns that some of those using food banks simply manage their money poorly, or that they have injudiciously got into debt, or that food banks encourage dependency, then you are not alone. I share those concerns. However, I am pretty sure that many people using food banks are desperate and I feel disinclined to try to judge whether they rank as the deserving or undeserving poor. The food I donate to my local food bank is largely cheap stuff, value brands. If anyone is desperate enough to want £15 pounds worth of this kind of food, I reckon they must be in need of one sort or another and they are welcome to it.
   I am in the fortunate position that I have never really felt short of money or gone hungry. However, a few years ago, when Mr M gave up work and we were relying purely on my salary, we did find that we were spending more than we had coming in some months and we had to think about money more carefully. We were used to pretty much spending what we liked and suddenly the big bills that came in, such as the clutch on the car and the washing machine both needing to be replaced in the same month, were a real problem. We had savings, but I began to understand why people without any reserves might resort to pay day loans and get caught up in the  iniquitous interest rates charged by companies such as Wonga with their evil little puppets  masquerading as benevolent old folk.
Mr M soon learnt to economise, he now works an average of two days a week and we have  more coming in than we have going out, but we do still try to live simply as a point of principle. One of the things that I've have noticed about Quaker friends is how simply they live, and this remains a touchstone of Quakerism. It is also true that Christians ought not to value money or material possessions. How anyone can find any justification for the prosperity gospel  given the frankly bloody uncomfortable things Jesus has to say about money, I don't know.
So here are my ideas for living more simply.

1. Recognise that we are pressurised by a consumer society which is constantly telling us we need more and that our lives are not worthwhile without things. This is the you deserve it culture. It goes to great lengths to make you spend money when you will quite often be just as happy and comfortable (more so in fact) without the new clothes, new TV, new computer, new sofa. Really think about whether you need to replace something or whether you need new shoes, or a phone or whatever it is. The "because you're worth it" AKA "we long to rip you off" guff was used to market L'Oreal shampoo. Measure your worth in something more important than a bottle of shampoo anyway and, rather than thinking about what you deserve, think about the fact that L'Oreal shampoo costs anything from 5.99 to 17.99 per 250 ml bottle ( I kid you not) and that any bottle of shampoo ( I like the Creighton's range at 99p for 250ml at Bodycare but that's just one of my little luxuries) will do exactly the same job. Honesty, it will.

2. Given the frightening cost of fuel and energy, not to mention the impact on the environment, turn the heating off and put on a jumper! David Cameron can't admit to saying that with his millions but I can. I do admit to being a bit of a wimp when it comes to the cold, but I live with a family of hard men (... they wish...:) "What cold, Me? No I'm fine" is the standard response in our family when I am shivering. As a result we don't usually put the heating on until the October half term, but Mr M (now also known as Scrooge) has vetoed it this year due to the weather this half term being so mild. When it comes to the lights on, the whole situation is reversed and I am the one who goes around turning lights off and giving lectures about the environment.

3. Don't waste food! I get really passionate about this one and I constantly try to curb food waste in our family because I hate  throwing away food when so much of the world is starving and food prices are rising across the world. Plan out your food use for the week. Write a menu. Go out with a shopping list and stick to it. Use up the stuff in your cupboards and freezer. Check your fridge for stuff you could use lying unloved at the back. Think about how to use up leftovers creatively. Don't worry too much about best before dates and be aware that some food can be eaten after the "use by" date - use your nose and your common sense and read the advice on Love Food, Hate Waste. Cook more vegetarian meals because this reduces your carbon footprint. Go foraging and make nettle soup (OK, I haven't done this yet, but I will if we fall on hard times...)

4. Keep on giving to charity. Unless you are incredibly short of money/ heavily in debt then always aim to give. See frugality as a means not just to save more but also to give more. If you don't give, or if you begrudge giving, you will become a miser. Then your life will be impoverished. God loves a cheerful giver, and giving should be a source of joy.

5. The same goes for yourself. Don't become so obsessed with saving money that you deprive yourself of the things that you need or truly enjoy. Don't be pressurised into spending money, think about what you spend and whether you really want or need what you buy, but enjoy your possessions and treat yourself and others sometimes! If you have lots of precious things in your life that aren't money,  you enjoy what you do have, you are in the incredibly fortunate position of having enough to live on, and you have enough to be able to give to others, then you are truly rich.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Finding our rest in God


I'm not a great fan of modern worship/ Christian songs as I find they all sound much the same. But this one, taken from the wonderful Blue Eyed Ennis blog, just reminded me of my recent thoughts about where we find ourselves at home and the idea of finding our rest, our refuge- and indeed ourselves- in God.