Friday, 24 October 2014

Odds and Evens













On October 3rd, the JEP published bookmakers odds given by CB Sports, in which the core statement was that “Sir Philip Bailhach is currently ‘hot’ favourite to top the Island-wide vote”. Well, he wasn’t! Here’s a look at those odds, and how they actually worked out.

In general, intelligent guesswork would have probably yielded as good result. In some cases, probably better. I would have always assumed Judy Martin would top her poll, but the bookmaker put her third.

Clearly CB Sports has a long way to go before they reach the accuracy of “Honest Nev”!

Senators:2/9 - Sir Philip Bailhache – IN BUT WRONG PLACE
5/2 - Ian Gorst - IN BUT WRONG PLACE
9/2 - Paul Routier - IN BUT WRONG PLACE
9/2 - Sarah Ferguson – WRONG, VOTE OUT
5/1 - Andrew Green - IN BUT WRONG PLACE
8/1 - Lyndon Farnham - RIGHT
8/1 - John Young – WRONG, VOTED OUT
9/1 - Philip Ozouf – WRONG, VOTED IN
10/1 - Sean Power
12/1 - Alan Maclean – WRONG, VOTED IN
20/1 - Zoe Cameron = WRONG, VOTED IN
25/1 - Malcolm Ferey
33/1 - Geoff Habin
80/1 - Guy de Faye
200/1 - Anne Southern
500/1 - Konrad Kruszyski
500/1 - Chris Magee
500/1 - David Richardson
1/5 odds - each way (1,2,3)

The odds for Senators were way out, and even if you consider “in but wrong place”, are still very poor.

Of those getting in:
5 out of 8 were right, but in the wrong place. Only 1 was right, and in the right place.

St Saviour No 1:4/7 - Peter McLinton, RIGHT BUT WRONG PLACE
6/4 - Rob Duhamel - WRONG

5/2 - Jeremy Macon – WRONG

It was Rob Duhamel, not Jeremy Macon who lost his seat.

St Saviour No 2:2/7 - Kevin Lewis - RIGHT
6/4 - Louise Doublet - RIGHT

6/1 - Maureen Morgan - RIGHT

This one was spot on.

Trinity:4/6 - Anne Pryke - RIGHT

Evens - Hugh Raymond - RIGHT

Guess work would have given a similar result.

St Peter:1/80 - Kristina Moore - RIGHT

25/1 - Debbie Hardisty - RIGHT

This was spot on, but blindingly obvious.

St Helier No 3 and 4:
11/10 - Mike Higgins – IN BUT WRONG PLACE
11/10 - Jackie Hilton – IN BUT WRONG PLACE
9/4 - Richard Rondel - IN BUT WRONG PLACE
5/2 - Christian May - WRONG

5/1 - Andrew Lewis – WRONG
6/1 - Ted Vibert
8/1 - Mary Osmond
10/1 - Laura Millen
12/1 - Mary Ayling-Phillips
16/1 - John Ttokkallos

It was Andrew Lewis who crept in to the last seat, not Christian May.

St Mary:10/11 - David Johnson

10/11 - Mark Evans

Correct

St Brelade No 1:
2/11 - Mike Jackson - WRONG

5/2 - Murray Norton - WRONG
8/1 - Angela Jeune - RIGHT

Murray got in, but my guesses were that it was close. The only certainty was Angela Jeune being last, and guesswork suggested that was very likely.

St Brelade No 2:
4/6 - Montfort Tadier – IN BUT WRONG PLACE
7/4 - Peter Troy – WRONG, CAME BELOW JEFF HATHAWAY
3/1 - Natalie Duffy - RIGHT
9/2 - Graham Truscott – WRONG, GOT IN
9/2 - Jane Blakeley – WRONG, CAME LAST
8/1 - Jeff Hathaway – WRONG, CAME FOURTH
10/1 Beatriz Porée – WRONG PLACE

Graham Truscott zoomed in, while Montfort came second (and lost voter share). Peter Troy was way down below Jeff Hathaway, and Jane Blakely was bottom. This bookmaker odds could not have been more wrong.

St Clement:2/7 - Susie Pinel - RIGHT
7/4 - Gerard Baudains - WRONG
3/1 - Simon Brée - WRONG
8/1 - Darius Pearce - RIGHT

Simon Bree was the man coming in; Gerard Baudains out again.

St Helier No 1:11/10 - Scott Wickenden – RIGHT BUT WRONG PLACE
11/10 - Russell Labey - RIGHT
9/4 - Judy Martin – RIGHT BUT WRONG PLACE

7/2 - Nick Le Cornu – LOST BUT WRONG PLACE
5/1 - Shannen Kerrigan – LOST BUT WRONG PLACE
20/1 - Gino Risoli - RIGHT

Judy Martin romped home, and Scott was the last to get in. Of those losing, Nick Le Cornu did worse that the odds.

St Helier No 2:10/11 - Rod Bryans - RIGHT
Evens - Sam Mézec - RIGHT
3/1 - Geoff Southern - RIGHT

6/1 - Bernie Manning - RIGHT
6/1 - Martin Greene - RIGHT

This was extraordinary in that it was all correct, even the order.

St Ouen:
1/2 - Richard Renouf - RIGHT

7/4 - Chris Lamy - RIGHT

This was also right, but a foregone conclusion.

Constables:
St Mary:Evens - Juliette Gallichan - RIGHT

10/1 - John Le Bailly – RIGHT

This was what guesswork suggested, a close call.

The Parable of the King’s Feast















The lesson last Sunday was from Matthew’s Gospel, the Parable of the Great Banquet, and here is a modern take upon it. Parables often make points sharply, and this one inverts the story told in Matthew’s gospel to do so.

The Parable of the King’s Feast

The Lord spoke to them in parables saying:

A certain king was holding a feast, and sent out all his servants to call those were invited to the feast, and many of those called chose to attend.

They made light of the invitation, and said to each other, “Here is food in plenty, and much to eat, and we shall dine and banquet and eat and drink and make merry”.

And so they said they would attend the banquet, and the servant reported to his master, “What you have ordered has been done, and there is no more room at the feast”

And the King went on his way to the banquet, and those who had been invited came also, dressed in fine raiment.

And on their way, they went through the streets and alleys of the town and passed by the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

And the feast was filled with guests, and those who came to petition the King were left at the gates, and the doors were closed against them.

And they remained in the outer darkness, weeping and grinding their teeth,

For few are called, but many are not chosen.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Some Local Political Matters











Recounting Election Night

On Saturday, the Senatorial elections are recounted. I’ve heard it said that it is unlikely that Sarah Ferguson’s loss could be out by around 250 votes, and if one thinks of individual votes counted, that does seem improbable.

Unfortunately, the count is not just about individual votes all counted up. It uses various techniques to tally the vote in blocks, and I have heard, from a reliable source, of someone in Trinity who nearly used the wrong figure in a calculator at one stage of the totalling. Fortunately, this was spotted by an eagled eyed and very numerate observer. But what if it had not been?

Both Rob Duhamel and Adrian Lee on BBC Radio Jersey’s Election Call after the election noted that this general election had not been run as smoothly as previous elections. Rob Duhamel intimated that the oversight of the process, and announcement of results, had not followed the same pattern as all the previous elections he has been at.

Adrian Lee also said there had been problems with one of the St Brelade Parish, and one of St Saviour, while St Helier 3&4 managed to initially overlook the whole of the pre-poll votes until they were fortunately discovered just after what was thought to be the final count. He also said the long delay in providing election statistics on numbers voting, turnout, pre-poll and postal votes was unprecedented.

My Trinity friend, who spotted the mistake and was able to correct it, thought that there was also a problem to do with the competitive nature of getting results out ahead of other Parishes. Accuracy might have been sacrificed for speed.

There seems to have been a certain degree of slackness in the election night, and it will be interesting to see if the Senatorial results come out with the same tally. Clearly significant enough errors could have crept in to make the result different. If I was Sarah Ferguson, I’d want to make sure the counting was accurate, and I’d be watching as an observer on Saturday.

And on related slackness, Scott Wickenden sent in his nomination paper which should have been checked by the Town Hall. Someone evidently failed to check it properly, but I suspect we’ll never know the official concerned.

The electoral roll itself is, of course, riddled with inaccuracies. These are probably not significant in the larger scheme of things, but perhaps amount to around 10-20 wrong entries where names have been input into the wrong district, or people have moved but their old name and electoral number is on the roll in their old Parish. This is what happens if you simply update sheets held on Excel rather than using a central database. If Digital Jersey is to have any credibility, this needs to be put right.

Dinner Date

One matter that seems to have escaped everyone’s notice about the Bailiff’s Dinner is the cost of cancellation. Usually there is a price to pay, especially if it is a set meal, for a late cancellation, especially if the numbers attending are in double figures.

But what I want to mention here is a quote from the Bailiff:

“The Bailiff's Dinner is a traditional way to mark the retirement of those States Members who are leaving the Assembly. I have spoken with the Chief Minister and the Chairman of the Privileges and Procedures Committee and we are in agreement that this year's dinner should go ahead.”

That was reported on CTV News. What crucially they did not say was what else the Bailiff said, and by leaving that out, I think they gave an extremely misleading representation on what Sir Michael Birt said.

At this stage, cancellation would probably not be a viable option. But what Sir Michael Birt did do was to make a suggestion that the incoming States review this tradition before the next election, and decide if it is to continue, and on what basis. That seems eminently sensible.

And also the diners are asked to make, on the night, a donation to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal. This is again the Bailiff’s initiative, and I think is a sensible compromise this time round.

In fact, I was discussing the whole matter of the dinner with some colleagues on Tuesday night, and I made the same suggestion that there should be a collection for charity. So I am probably biased! But it does show that while States members get the meal for free, they are expected to dip into their pockets and make what I trust will be a generous donation to the Poppy Appeal.

I think than rather than a protest as such, a formal and dignified handing over of the petition should be arranged to take place, perhaps before or just outside the dinner. The point would have been made.

The suggestions and steps made by the Bailiff show that he has taken the concerns of the petitioners into account, and has not – as the CTV report seems to imply – ignored them. He should be commended rather than condemned for his response which, if you will excuse the pun, is a judicial one.

John V Taylor, a former Bishop of Winchester, once wrote these words:

“Our enemy is not possessions but excess. Our battle-cry is not ‘nothing!’ but ‘enough!'”

The Bailiff has taken this into account by his actions in asking for diners to donate. It is up to the States to decide what to do next, but I would suggest along the lines of John Taylor’s quotation, that the tradition be continued, but not in a form that smacks of excess.

And that of course, is surely the key issue here.

Referendum Conundrum

The results of the Referendum are a resounding victory for keeping the Constables. Even in St Helier, the gap was only 22 votes. The States may well be asked for a proposition to endorse the result, so where does that leave those who voted no?

Clearly if they said they would simply endorse the results of the Referendum, their only option, to keep faith with the electorate, is to vote to endorse that result, even if they personally disagree. So Montfort Tadier should clearly vote to endorse the Referendum.

In St Helier, 3 of the 4 districts voted against it, but the vote was narrowed overall by the result in St Helier District 2, where the Yes vote was more than the No vote. So will Geoff Southern and Sam Mezec respect the wishes of their own electorate? Or will we get excuses? It will be interesting to see!

Immigrant Representation

Some discussion this morning on radio about whether the Polish and Portuguese communities were somehow missing out because they didn't have their own nationals standing in the States of Jersey. We were told that the one Polish candidate failed to get in. And there is no Portuguese member of the States. 

Isn't there a foreign language bias here? After all, the Irish from Eire are not part of Great Britain or the United Kingdom. Strictly speaking, they are just as much immigrants as Polish and Portuguese. And they have just lost their one Irish member of the States, Sean Power. But we don't notice that because Irish people speak the same language as the rest of us. Well, more or less, that's the craic!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Jersey Overseas Aid Commission 2015 Projects







The Jersey Overseas Aid Commission launched its 2015 projects last night. I've always thought that Jersey's approach to overseas aid is an excellent one.

There's a line I always remember from "Goodbye Mr Chips" when Chips' wife Katherine admonishes him with the words - "You can't satisfy your conscience by writing a check for a few guineas and keeping them at arm's length."

That is something which JOAC never does, as the volunteers literally roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the projects. It's that element of direct contact which is important, both to keep a real link with those countries we are helping, and also the experience of being out in the field, helping other human beings, will impact positively on those who volunteer.

I saw that the projects were being launched, and contacted Senator Paul Routier, who very kindly let me have the details of the projects as listed below in advance of the launch, so I could prepare this blog (my blogs are usually prepared the night before).

The work of JOAC is on their website, and otherwise publicised, but I wanted to just ensure that it went to a wider audience still.

Beliefs

The Jersey Overseas Aid Commission has the following list of beliefs listed on their website:

· It is our moral duty to care about other people and to help them help themselves;

· It is our duty to our children and grandchildren to address issues of poverty which may in the long-term threaten global security;

· It is the States’ duty to meet existing international obligations. Jersey is a signatory to Agenda 21, www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/, which is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organisations of the United Nations System, Governments and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the enviroment, committing Jersey to moving to a target of overseas aid funding which is comparable with that of other nation states.

That the great need for overseas aid is illustrated by the following:-

· There are 1.7 billion people who continue to live in extreme poverty

· Over 925 million people were undernourished in 2010. This equates to 13.6% of the estimated world populationof 6.8 billion. Nearly all of the undernourished are in developing countries. Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5.

· Some 40 million children are living without access to basic healthcare

· More than 30% of children in developing countries - about 600 million- live on less that USD 1 a day

· 10 million people aged 15-24 are infected with HIV

· Two thirds of the worlds 800 million illiterate adults aged 15 and over, are women

The Commission helps by both emergency funding towards help in disaster areas, and work on the ground.

Bangladesh 2015: Community Works Project

The aim of the Bangladesh 2015 project is to build additional classrooms, latrines, headmasters office and staff room at Little Stars Primary School in Muktaram Village which is in the Kurigram district in Northern Bangladesh. The Kurigram district has a population of approx. 2 million people, 17 rivers and its main crop is rice. This will be the third visit for a JOAC team. A team visited the school in April 2012 to help build classrooms and a team visited in 2013 to help construct a health clinic.

Zambia 2015: Community Works Project

The aim of the Zambia 2015 project is to build additional classrooms, latrines, and staff accommodation at Ng’andu Primary School in Mukuni Chiefdom of the Southern Province, Zambia. The school was opened in 1938 and although it has had some renovation work done it is one of the oldest in the area. Many of the children attending are orphans as a result of the high incidence of HIV/Aids in the area.

Uganda 2015: Community Works Project

The aim of the Uganda 2015 project is to build nursery classrooms, latrines, and staff accommodation at Sermon on the Mountain Primary School in Luweero, Uganda. A team of JOAC volunteers helped to build primary classrooms, admin offices and a kitchen block at this school in 2007.

Applications

Application forms are available to download from the website :
www.jerseyoverseasaid.org.je

Or by contacting Karen Nisbet on Tel 865801 or email knisbet.joac@hotmail.com.

Application forms will also be available at The States Greffe Book Shop, Mourier House, St Helier.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Looking After the Pennies










"Thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money is to be spent wining and dining States Members at a black tie dinner next week. Following years of cutbacks, tax rises and job losses across the Island, dozens of politicians and their partners - even those who are retiring or failed to get re-elected - will be treated to a night of fine food at Jersey’s luxury La Mare Wine Estate - all at the public’s expense." (Jersey Evening Post)

I have signed this petition, but this blog posting is a “disclaimer” as while I am in some sympathy with the petitioners, I nevertheless find a simple, black and white, good or bad, binary judgement to be too simplistic.

I would also note in passing that this event also took place in 2011, when there was also an economic downturn, and when GST was set to rise to 5%. The Jersey Evening Post took no stance then against this, no headline editorial, no thundering denunciation of any kind. Why has the mood changed? Is this a change in editor? Or is it that the JEP is moving its headlines more towards tabloid sensationalism?

Moreover, I do not object in principle to the idea of having some kind of celebratory meal to thank long term States members who are leaving the House. I do not think such an event should not happen.

I've signed it, but after much thought. I have no issue with giving long term States members a leaving "do", as after all that often happens at many companies, although usually it is a "go dutch" occasion except for the leaving member who have their meal paid for by the rest.

But quite a lot of companies usually pay for a Christmas "do" for their staff. The staff have to pay nothing (except extra drinks) for those; usually bottles of wine on the table are included.

Now such events do not usually include the spouse or partner of the members of staff, as that would bump up the cost significantly. Back in the 1980s, spouses and partners were normally invited, but increased costs in the private sector have largely curtailed these expenses. They have made economies, while still celebrating.

As Philip Ozouf has pointed out in his statement, some of those present are long serving, and receive no pension, and have served the States selflessly for many years. This is their “gold watch” meal. I think they deserve some kind of tribute to be paid to that.

But since we are into Tennerfest territory, a good sized Tennerfest meal for sitting States members, even at £20 (towards the top of the range) would only amount to £980, perhaps £1,500 inclusive of bottles of wine.

I could do them a disservice, and perhaps La Mare are doing a Tennerfest deal, but I doubt it, or we would have heard!

So it is not having a dinner, it is the level of expense - and including partners, and not going for a budget option, that concerns me more than anything. It is not a case that - as I would like to have seen - we will do this, but we must balance it with prudence because these are hard times.

Now as Sam Mezec has pointed out, in the grand scheme of things, £5,000 is not a huge sum of money. But he fails to see the significance of small things in the larger scheme, just as Marie Antoinette, in the apocryphal tale, failed to see that it wasn’t the cake that was important, it was the attitude that went with it.

It is, I believe, a shame that while still holding the event, no gesture had been made towards economy, That would have been a sensible “via media”, sending a signal that the States were both giving due respect to long serving States members, while at the same time showing the public that they too could make economies. It would send out the message “We share your world, and we have also cut our cloth to suit the times”.

It would be a symbolic gesture, but a gesture that would be worth making, none the less. As the maxim has it, “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” I would have welcomed that kind of gesture.

And in that respect, Philip Ozouf has certainly taken the initiative in stating that he will be reimbursing the cost for himself and his partner to attend the function. He states that he does not expect any other people attending should feel the requirement to pay their way, which I think is quite right, but he has made that symbolic gesture, and it will be interesting to see if more members follow suit, or at least reimburse part of the cost.

Symbolic actions may not seem important to some, but I think that like Caesar crossing the Rubicon, their importance should not be underestimated. In times of economic stringency, the States should avoid anything which perhaps appears profligate, and might engender a politics of envy.


Postscript

Deputy John Young who unsuccessfully stood for "promotion" to the Senatorial benches said that the meal should go ahead, but that politicians and former politicians should put their hands in their pockets, not dump the bill on the taxpayer.

"I do not think that the event should be cancelled, but I do think that Members should pay for themselves," he said.

"I'd like to go to say goodbye to the people that I've worked with, but I shall be paying for myself and my wife. If they won't take it, I'll make an equivalent donation to charity. It's up to Members what they want to do, but I will certainly be communicating with them and saying that."

Monday, 20 October 2014

Old Faces in the States










Some people have commented on this election that it is the “same old faces” in the States. That’s not entirely true, as there has been an influx of new members since 2011 across the board, although only one Senator as a new States Member, two new Constables, and a smattering of new Deputies.

But it is very much the case that most of the faces in the States are old faces. The average age of the States member is 53 ½ years old, while the median age (with as many members below as above) is 55. The average is just that bit lower than the median because of a few younger members pulling it down.

If we look at age bands, we see a heavy bias towards the older age range, with most States members being over 50.

20-29: 2
30-39: 5
40-49: 3
50-59: 24
60-69: 15

In the UK, Andrew Marr has said recently that MPs should not enter the House of Commons until they reach the age of 40. While there are some under 40 in our States, it would appear that the electorate favours Marr’s suggestion.

The greatest range is the Deputies whose ages range from Sam Mezec at 23 at the lower end of the range to David Johnson at 68 at the upper reach.

Although the Senators have a much narrower age range than Deputies, the average is only slightly higher at 55, while the median is 52 ½, slightly lower. The breakdown by banding is given below:

40-49: 2
50-59: 3
60-69: 3

The Senators range from Philip Ozouf at 44 to Sir Philip Bailhache at 68.

And so we come to the “golden oldies”, the Constables, who are clearly in the older age ranges. It was difficult to track down Michael Paddock’s age, as he declined to give it. Fortunately for my statistics, his age 3 years ago did appear in the JEP questions to candidates in 2011, when he faced an election for the post of Constable of St Ouen.

The youngest Constable is Juliette Gallichan at 52 and the oldest is Sadie Rennard at 69. The median is 58 ½ while the average is 59 2/3. The banding is as follows:

50-59: 7
60-69: 5

So while it is not the same old faces, it is definitely the case that most States members fall into an older age bracket from upper middle age (50-59) to near pension age (or indeed perhaps pension age).

And what of the three members of Reform? Their ages are 23 (Sam Mezec), 35 (Montfort Tadier) and 64 (Geoff Southern).

Their average age is 41, while the median is 35.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Icon of St Brelade



















The piece for this Sunday is from an edition of the 1994 “Pilot” magazine, in which Michael Halliwell, Rector of St Brelade, gave a meditation on the icon of St Brelade, which you can still see if you visit the church today.

This icon is not to be confused with the modern set of paintings of icons done for all the Island’s Parish Churches, and pre-dates it.

On a personal note, I always prefer religious icons to statues. Statues are very static, whereas icons are replete with symbolism, and are not meant to be realistic depictions of the world, but to draw us into exploring the inner world by means of the outer.

The Icon of St Brelade
By Michael Halliwell

Our Church at St Brelade has recently been given an icon of its patron saint.. It is based. on a collage made, after much prayer, by a group of young Christians of our church, and was executed, also. after much prayer, .by Brother Anselm, a monk of Alton Abbey.

Icons are not very familiar to Western Christians; a special kind of Christian art, they perhaps can be likened to a poem. in a visual form, in which the believer writes the words. Inevitably icons will mean different things to different people,, but certain factors will strike the observer right at the outset.

In this icon, firstly we: see Brelade with his head back, looking over his shoulder to the Father, listening to his voice and doubtless affirming his desire to do his will.

Secondly we may note the cross, on his breast, affirming his trust in salvation through Christ.

Thirdly we see that there are steps leading off to the right, perhaps signifying the willingness of the saint to be led by the Spirit.of'God wherever he maybe called in his mission.

Fourthly we may note that he has taken off his shoes and hold them in his hand. Like Moses of old he stands on holy ground, sanctified .by prayers and containing a place of worship where especially, but not exclusively, he meets a holy God.

Who were these Celtic men and women and what motivated them as they travelled the seaways of Western Europe? They went firstly to seek God wherever they might find him. The monastery served -as.a powerhouse for their mission, and there the worship of God was .offered as a top priority. To be allowed to leave the monastery as a "pilgrim" was a very special privilege, and it required the spiritual discernment of the abbot to recognise the call. In this context Brelade, or Branwalader, was the first to bring the faith to these shores

What was their message?

When Patrick, who was actually a Scot, picked a clover leaf to explain to the Irish princesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity, he was not just propounding a formula, but touching on a real and deep mystery. The Celts were firmly trinitarian, holding the threeness and the oneness of the mighty God, thus perhaps enabling themselves to hold together other great truths which others might seek to oppose.

The first leaf stood for THE FATHER.

These people had a very great love and reverence for the Creator and his creation. They discerned his hand in all his handiwork. The hymn "How great thou art ..." echoes these sentiments. These Christians can teach our generation a new respect for the world in all its fragile beauty. They call us to fight pollution of all kinds, the exploitation of lands and people. They can teach us respect for human beings, made, as each one is, in the image of God. When the great monastery was built at Lastingham the brothers spent the 40 days of Lent fasting and praying to cleanse the site from its pagan associations, and. when they came to Jersey to the bay named after Branwalader and his companions, they will have prayed for the cleansing and healing of the land, turning over the standing stones and building a. house, of God on the site. One and possibly two such stones have been identified, buried horizontally under the foundations of the present church.

The second leaf stood for THE SON.

These Christians had a deep love and reverence for Jesus, by whom they knew themselves saved from the darkness of :the paganism which surrounded them.. Their whole lives were given to the establishment and deepening of their relationship with him. They had a constant awareness of the need to go apart, in a world that even then was overwhelmingly busy, to the lonely rocks and islands amongst which they lived, in order to hear him. From this flowed a deep desire to make him known, but this was no aggressive evangelism, no railroading of folk into the kingdom. On his journeys the great northern saint. Aidan would ask those whom he met "Are you a Christian??' If they answered "Yes, he would say "May I help you to become a better one?" If they replied "No;" he would say "May I help you to become one?" We could not find a better way for evangelisation in our day;

The third leaf stands for THE SPIRIT.

These Christians were noteworthy for their constant openness to the Holy Spirit - 'their advocate, guide; and strengthener. This leads to an awareness of God's desire to communicate, with them; which he did through dreams, prophecy, words of wisdom and knowledge. This alertness to the Spirit was not a special programme for a particular group of people, but the normal way of life of Christians who knew their entire dependence on God and his Holy Spirit. It is often recounted of them: that they would set ail in their tiny coracles and allow themselves to be driven wherever wind and tide may carry them! Perhaps they seem, to have succeeded because they waited for God's prompting before deciding on which tide to sail!:

In this spirit, they engaged in spiritual warfare, which would often mean silent contemplative prayer late into the night or in the early hours of the morning, holding up the world and its lostness to God. The Church badly needs more of such people today.

Because these Christians lived before the two great divisions which rent Christendom asunder, the great division of East and West in the 11th century, and the upheaval of the Reformation in the 16th, they tended to see many of these concerns in another, more primitive light, and perhaps they reveal .some of its agonisings as less relevant to the central thrust of the Gospel message than we are sometimes led to believe. 

In many ways they reveal, in their life and mission, a harmony and balance of the catholic, evangelical and charismatic elements in Christianity which our contemporary Church needs badly to recover if it is to speak with relevance to our generation.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dark Shadows

Today's poem is a rather bleak one, rather despondent in many ways, for which I offer no apology. We have only to look out at today's world, and see the suffering, the cruelty, the evil, and see that sometimes life is dark, bleak, and without much hope, and the forces of darkness seem triumphant.

Dark Shadows

Shadows fall from Sauron's hand
In Minas Morgul, behind the gate
And darkness covering the land
Hope stifled by such fickle fate
 
The Nine Riders bringing fear
Night cries coming from above
Threatening all that we hold dear
All the Shire, and those we love
 
The Balrog comes in blazing fire
An evil left from Morgoth's day
Crushes hope, a creature dire
Leaves us bereft, in sad dismay
 
Yet we wait in hope for returning king
And an ending of that evil ring