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A crisis of Care ?

A crisis of Care ?

Contrast two scenes. The first is a restaurant – where the food is carefully prepared and warmly served in an atmosphere which seeks to delight its customers.  The second is a hospital.  Parking the car is nearly impossible – the long impersonal corridors where people avoid eye contact.  The noisy ward – the short temered administrator; the disinterested receptionist; the doctor talking over the patient who feels ignored.  There is no space or time or sensitivity.  If we were treated like in a restaurant we would complain and ensure that we warned friends against any contact with that place.

We are proud of the NHS and its values.  It is deeply rooted in a philosophy of care for all – it aspires to mend and heal; to prevent and support.  It inspires great public service from energetic practitioners who want the best for those they serve.  We have all benefited from the developments and investments in health.

However, there is a crisis deep within our culture.  It is a crisis of care – the way we treat people; how we engage and listen to our service users.  If we believed that patients paid our salaries then we simply would not go on failing them.  Managers have a responsibility to oversee the shape of the culture within which health targets are delivered.  We are shapers of both systems and structures.  Are they fit for ‘care’ purpose?  How radical is our commitment to the patient and their experience in all its complexity?  How responsive and people-centred are our transport access, reception areas, our wards or consulting rooms?  Would an ordinary older woman be empowered to respond to her doctor with gratitude for his time and compassion?  Are hospitals places of understanding?  Is the  Board meeting a place where feedback from the patients is as important as the financial results or the latest set of targets?  If we want to develop and grow, then managers should take a lead in asking: ‘Don’t tell me what is going well here – let’s look at what is wrong!’  I do not doubt the intentions of those who work in the service – but there are preciously few people who are angry at not getting it right enough for people.  We exploit their fear and dependence at very vulnerable moments of life by failing to enlarge humanity through the sharing of power and control.

Dismiss this plea at your peril.  There can be no improvement of quality without attention to creating communities of compassion where the person is the beating heart of our work.  We must make the jump from seeing things from others’ perspectives.  Here are some actions that might help you explore the added value of putting care firmly on your organisational agenda.

1.  Find time and places where you can observe your organisation at work.  Take note of those things that would be unacceptable to anyone about whom you care.

2. Invest in listening to the patient experience.  Respond to complaints as opportunities to deepen care.

3. Ask others how they would describe your place of work with one adjective.  Be energised by the gaps between how we describe our aspirations and what the actual practice is!  Let us do away with the minimalist functionality of much of the space where we deliver care.  What about the imaginative use of colour, light and texture?

4.  How much power and control do we give to the patient?  Are they partners in decision making?  Let them decide what is appropriate – we do not always know what is best!  In Birmingham, our Palliative Care Network has launched a compaign to ensure that choice is given back to people at the end of their life.  What shape would your campaign take?

5. Discover what makes your staff tired and de-motivated.  Invest in programmes of staff support so that we can be energised by service.  Too often our staff makes the experience of going into hospital like going to a foreign country – an alien land where no-one tries to understand your language let alone engage with your vulnerability.  Our staff need to be supported to deliver care differently.

Holiday reading (1) Gordon Brown My life, Our Times Bodley Head 2017.

Holiday reading (1) Gordon Brown My life, Our Times Bodley Head 2017.



Having  successfully downsized my living and therefore ‘storage’ arrangements I  think twice about buying a book! I was, however,  immediately drawn to this political autobiography, not least because on the two occasions I met Gordon Brown I found him humane, reflective and generous. Retired politicians, we are told, are generally more attractive than practising ones because possibly they can no longer do any harm.

This is a life meticulously well written with a careful attention to detail. There is an openness and self-awareness to his narrative alongside some inspiringly articulated set of  convictions about wanting to create a better and more equal world,

Politics was more than the art of the possible; it was about making the desirable possible’.

Interesting to ask how any of us maintain a balance between the pragmatic and the ideal. In this at the beginning of the first chapter Brown describes the leadership in this way:

‘leaders need a command of substance, mastery of detail, problem-solving skills and an ability to see the big picture… Leaders need to communicate a positive vision of the future that can inspire and motivate people and mobilise enthusiasm for progress and change’.

I share some sympathy with Brown as is honest about the relationship between the public and the private in his life and character. Over and again he stresses how private he is, how out of sympathy with what he calls “public displays of emotion” in a “touchy-feely era”.

And lest we moved too quickly into judgement or condemnation we all want to feel that ours is a life well lived and even perhaps that we have left the world a better place as a result of our energy and passion? It is understandable therefore that Brown wants to put the record straight and indeed go further in articulating what he felt he achieved in high public office.

Brown tells us very clearly that Blair did break a promise that he would step down as prime minister in favour of Brown during the second term. We also learn, despite a wide variety of accounts to the contrary that she and Blair were not permanently at loggerheads. Brown put some distance between his role in the Iraqi war and informs his reader that it was he that saved Britain from membership of the euro. It is, perhaps, impossible for any reader to evaluate some of these judgements except to say for this one  there is a quality of reflectiveness in this text that was encouraging, illuminating and  convincing. We glimpse a picture of the almost impossibility of survival in 10 Downing Street given the sheer pace of change and movement in communication. The relentlessness of it all is tiring even in the reading of events, challenges and difficulties.

Brown is most disarming when he describes his upbringing. The security and influence of being born a minister’s son clearly shaped his values and worldview. His passion for Scotland and especially Fife where he now lives. His fortitude and driven us at Edinburgh University. His love for John Smith and a reminder of the sheer unpredictability of politics. His heart-breaking loss of the death of his baby daughter Jennifer and his own, quite literal, blindness in one of his eyes. Brown’s honesty and vulnerability are disarming and attractive in equal measure.

Brown reveals himself as a profound intellect and thinker. He knows about the depth and seriousness of our alienation from politics. He describes accurately the fraudulent Tory rhetoric misrepresenting a global banking collapse as a failure of Labour politics. He connects this decade’s two referendums (Scotland and Brexit) on the consequence of previous political dishonesty. His anger, his greatest anger is kept for what he describes as a callous enforcement of austerity that has generated inequality and inflicted needless suffering on the poor and unprotected. We would all do well to consider, whatever our political allegiances, the fact that the financial sector has paid out a total of £128 billion in bonuses since 2008.

Such a life narrated will have its limitations, its shortcomings and even flaws. The reader will take a variety of judgements on those. We need more stories that can help us understand the world we are living in. We need more people to empower individuals and communities to work together for sustainable inclusion and change. Politics is part of the picture not the whole canvas and we would be right to be cautious in so assigning responsibility for failure in the direction of politicians that we absolve ourselves of any part in working for solutions to some of the serious challenges that face us.

We all have partial sight and live with significant dollops of ignorance which constrain and limit us. Self-knowledge is a long, a lifelong journey. Honesty is painful. With this in mind we might forgive Gordon some of his own limitations but also be prepared to honour and respect his contribution, his struggle, his challenge to us all to play our part in delivering a bigger, fairer and more equal society.

Bradbury on Practical theology and Pierre-Andre Liege : Book Review

Bradbury on Practical theology and Pierre-Andre Liege : Book Review

Practical theology and Pierre-Andre Liege : Radical Dominican and Vatican II Pioneer

Nicholas Bradbury

AshGate 2015 £65.00 ISBN 9781472418708


This is giant of a text from the priest with long experience of ministry, learning, leadership and reflective practice. The coherence and authority of this experience and skill as a reflective practitioner is demonstrated through the ten chapters that explore the life and work of Pierre-Andre Liege. One of the foremost French theologians of the 20th century, Liege influenced John XXIII and Paul VI. He was present during some of the committee work of the Vatican II with both the future John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Bradbury establishes a legacy forged out of struggle, critical engagement with the nature of theology and some innovative pioneering pastoral work. There is an authenticity about this work, which is rooted in decades of engagement, reflection and practice.

Its central thesis is that this French Catholic friar, who died nearly four decades ago has much to teach us about Pastoral theology. The arguments set out in these 10 chapters is all the more compelling as Bradbury applies some of this theological legacy to engage with ministry and theological learning 21st-century Britain. Here is a framework that offers us the opportunity to see the world in the name of the gospel. In order to do this we have to be both inculturated and countercultural.


Timothy Radcliffe in the forward offers us this image,


‘The church is like a tree. She can only flourish if she is herself, with her own character and life… But the church is only alive if it is interacting with all that is around it, like the tree, open to the air and the soil, in constant exchange with its environment’ (p ix)

A challenging and organising presupposition of this volume is transformation and a commitment to theology as a source for rejuvenating the People of God. It follows that in order to deepen the wisdom of our faith as something which is both pastoral and practical then we shall need to fall in love (again) with theology. This is a significant task as we learn the language of theology and connect it with the struggle to live authentically.

Very few research projects do not have a significant element of personal autobiography. In the introduction, Bradbury explains his journey of faith influenced by the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield and as a choirboy at Christ Church Oxford. Theological study is influenced by Nineham, Tillich and H.A. Williams and was put to work in testing and demanding communities in South London and North London. As these influences are mapped, the reader notes the fundamental importance of how and where we learn our theology. The process of growing and maturing that takes place across the life-cycle opens up an acknowledgement of our ‘knowing’ as a constant and never-ending process. Bradbury sets a tone in these opening pages of being ready to live with questions and seek always to go deeper into our experience.

Chapter One sets Liege in the context of mid-20th-century French Catholicism and an anachronistic theology largely inherited from the Middle Ages that had become defensive and created a church under siege. Perhaps implicit in this picture is the encouragement to 21st-century European Christians that ironically and paradoxically despite all of the marginalisation and decline of the Church the years from 1930 to 1960 became the golden age for French theology. If we in our day are feeling marginalised, misunderstood or dismissed then what might be the potentiality for theological transformation? Bradbury is drawn into the militant and progressive voice. We learn about a movement of lay people demanding to be taught a realistic apologetic. Rejecting authoritarian prohibitions there was a call for a spirituality, which takes human love seriously.


The argument here is that those of us who would wish to develop a systematic and coherent Pastoral theology must be fully immersed in new contexts and practices. What might it mean for us to re-constitute theological soil for new and different practice for human flourishing? What does theological renewal look like? There are some implications here as Bradbury describes the significant and ongoing conflict with Rome (pages 19ff) for the necessary resistance of any centralised authority (in this case the Pope) to control belief or practice for mission and ministry. We need, perhaps to reassess the nature of authority and how it is exercised in order to become more radical, more theological, and more transformational. The context within which Liege wrote was not in any way anti-intellectual or obsessive about social activism. It committed itself to a deeper understanding of theology which liberated its ideas from second-hand constructs locked into doctrinal  armour. The adventure of learning theology was to engage with the sources of the faith so as to be able to know and love them personally.


Chapter 2 paints a portrait of Liege the man. His family background, education, Dominican studies, ministry and theology are described giving the reader a sense of the man and his motivations, his church and his drivenness. Here is innovation, a deep desire to make a difference and a theology that manages to be both concrete and experimental. We learn of his work with the Second Vatican Council (p42ff) and something of Liege’s personality, his passionate confidence in God and rootedness in faith. ‘Where was the eloquent witness of joy in life and freedom as children of God who were able to radiate simply because of the knowledge of being immensely loved? ( Liege asks) It follows that it is up to each of us to show the Church as an assembly of free people, concerned with the liberation of the whole being’ (p49).


In Chapter 3 Bradbury looks set how theology, and what kind of theology shapes Pastoral theology. He is realistic about both the possibilities and problems associated with getting inside Liege’s thought world and modes of expression. Here perhaps we see some of the foundations of why Bradbury finds the tradition of French Catholic theology so attractive. There is a quality of the training in depth in philosophy (and possibly history too) before theology. This rigorous and lengthy process seems hardly imaginable in today’s academy or church. Bradbury describes a distinctive quadrilateral – the Word of God; faith; theology and the life of the church as set out by Liege. The Section on the description of faith is especially compelling – we learn about a grasp of the nature of faith, which is always and successively seen as conversion, justification, illumination and penetration of the Christian mystery. (Page 66). Faith is also described as knowledge of interiority (page 68). We should also note the originality of Liege, especially as a theologian who used the phrase –People of God – long before its popularisation. We are drawn into an admiration for the argument for a modern, reformed approach to the world. The world belongs to the divine intention and should not be regarded as alien or godless.


Bradbury sets out Liege’s pioneering pastoral theology from 1955 to 1977 in Chapter 4. There is something contemporary in this discussion. How do we make theology more practical? (page 81). Our sense of the man is enlarged as we read, ‘for Liege faith was a living, breathing affair; a personal adventure and commitment costing not less than everything. It combined head and heart. It was not an emotional enthusiasm disconnected from thought. On the contrary, it was the fruit of hard philosophical and theological labour enriched with sharp observation of people and nature, a passion for literature and an interest in the human sciences.’ (p77). There is here also some anticipation of some of the realities of 21st Century church life. During this period in the mid-20th century we learn of the conviction that the era of Christianity was over and that it was important to move forward and articulate the gospel to the modern world in different and more credible ways. Traditional Christianity as currently expressed by the church is described as moribund and theology had an inability to communicate, inspiring more fear than love; more negativity and constriction than life and creativity. (p79). Liege expresses a deep desire for human, spiritual and congregational growth.


As Bradbury describes this pioneering pastoral theology it is clear that there is a heavy emphasis on content and its relationship to dogmatics. It is always related to action (‘Pastoral theology’s task is to work out how faithfully to adapt appropriately rather than to get stuck in unmoving, fixed positions. It must unite freedom and truth as the spirit is united to history’ (p88)). The inevitable implication for this is the integration of Pastoral and practical theology in every aspect of Christian living in community. We note the radical place of this discipline in building a transformed picture of the church and its very purposes (page 127). This is a Pastoral theology, which has many functions: contemplative and doxological, apologetic, critical, hermeneutic and poetic (p100).


Chapter 5 discusses Liege and practical theology in France and Canada since his death in 1979. It is interesting to note that Protestant theologians did not keep abreast of Roman Catholic Pastoral theology. Bradbury argues (page 114) the Church of England’s failure to read the signs of the time and engage critically with its culture is part of its defensive resistance to new and different thinking. There are important and ongoing questions about who does theology and the relationship of power and agency within those institutions that make competing claims about the authority and ownership of the tasks of theological education. Bradbury reminds us that there has been an institutional loss of authority and a general loss of faith as the gap increases between what is official and what people actually practice. (Page 117).


Chapter 6 is an impressive contextualisation of Liege in the place of British Pastoral theology as an emerging and developing discipline. The reader is faced with intriguing questions about how we train clergy and what the curriculum might look like. We are asked to reflect on why British practical theology has no equivalent to writing like Liege’s. Bradbury asserts that corporate Christian life and the Church of England seems more a matter of taste or local tradition. There is no corporate catechetics, mission or formation (page 127).


Here we see articulated by Bradbury what we might learn from the distinctive vision of Liege – ‘Deep in the Church of England’s mind-set there is a reluctance to act on the corporate nature of belonging to the church. It seems acceptable to belong as a consumer on your own terms to suit your own tastes.….. Learning and mission are not its core activities. Learning is optional.’ (p127).


It is worth noting that Bradbury offers a very realistic but often unarticulated view of the role of the writing of Wesley Carr. He critiques Carr’s work and its language as too abstract, too difficult, too theoretical and insufficiently illustrated with concrete examples to be of any practical use (page 141). We listen to a plea for a popular and accessible discourse that can change practice. How can we interpret people’s experience of life in relation to God and thus put them into a divine perspective? The challenge continues when we explore an ecclesiology of Anglicanism which is described as an organisation more based on religion than on faith (page 147). If religious attitudes in Britain are an amalgam of beliefs constructed from upbringing, education and the culture of eclectic secular pluralism then we need a theological revolution with pastoral and practical theology at the heart of the task of learning and making connections.


Chapter 7 translates some significant and at times over stated assertions into a fictional narrative about a parish and its life between the years 1948 and 1984. Bradbury demonstrates what putting Liege’s theology into practice might look like. He maps out a programme of teaching, a model of ministry, an approach to witness and discipleship. Bradbury emphasises the importance of the training of the leader. This is a playful, aspirational narrative but one which could be profitably used for theological formation and reflection. Bradbury demonstrates his own ability as a practical theologian in offering a plan of action for praxis.


Finally chapter 8 and chapter 9 articulate learning about catechetics and practical theology. How is the lived experience of the church to be one in which Christians are nurtured in faith? How is the call to lifelong conversion into Christ to be realised in practice? How are Christians to relate to the culture around them? What does it mean to be a holy congregation? How is the sacramental life of the church to find practical expression in a congregation and issue inappropriate missionary, Pastoral and political response to the world? (Page 182). Part of the solution, Bradbury is convinced by, is that the Church of England will continue to slowly die if it continues to neglect the shape and content of catechesis. We need leaders, especially bishops who can continue to ask fundamental practical theological questions.


Bradbury argues that it is diffuse and needs to recover a heart and a centre.

‘British practical theologians seem willing to let this discipline be a meeting room in which diverse conversations are encouraged. The role of practical theologians is to hold the ring, provide methods, ask questions and contribute some, always fragmentary, ideas from their own, nearly always highly specialised, particular area of interest and research’ (page 190). Bradbury challenges the practical theologian to develop a much more systematic approach, with a controlling centre and clear paths to the periphery. Is it possible to have a systematic British Pastoral theology? This is perhaps the heart of Bradbury’s learning from the work of Liege.


In the final section of chapter 9 Bradbury offers what he describes as a plan of action – a proposal for a response to the challenges of the church in the British context. He organises his schema around the following areas of reflection and question: a wholescale review of church praxis; a map of where we are; establishing why the gospel is still good news for today; the organisation of parish life on the basis of theological criteria; the forging of accessible discourse; the rediscovery of French practical theology and finally establishing a vision of what the church is for and why – and how this should be expressed in practice.


The final chapter offers a short reflection on Liege’s legacy. Bradbury sums up the radical prophetic approach in this way – ‘to do the wrong thing is a serious as to believe the wrong thing’ (page 203.). This establishes radical criteria for action by attacking the non-theological pragmatism of current catechetics that offer no clear principles or content to practical theology.   Bradbury offers this attractive summary,


‘He (Liege) was committed to incarnating the love of God in action. Despite the depth of his loyalty to the church, faithfulness to God as his theology understood God, required him to stay true to his thought and convictions even when they brought him into conflict with the church in terms of theology, church practice or moral teaching. He did not compromise his beliefs for any institution. He was a man of friendship for whom shared eating and drinking were milestones of life and a primary model of celebration.…

British prophets like Trevor Huddleston or Ken Leech are perhaps parallels. But in general the British model of Christian life is more compromised and more domestic. ‘Liege would press practical theologians to face up to a radical question, his abiding challenge to 21st-century church: what form of Eucharistic community living is suitable for Christians in an era of post Christianity?’ (Page 208)


There is a comprehensive bibliography of over 30 pages, which indicates the nature, and scope of the author’s readership and scholarship together with a comprehensive index. The questions and challenges that Bradbury faces us with some of the work core to the aspiration of this journal and demands how we integrate our theology into practice.



Professor James Woodward

Sarum College





Conundrums in Practical Theology : Book Review

Conundrums in Practical Theology : Book Review


Conundrums in Practical Theology. By Joyce Ann Mercer and Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Boston: Brill, 2016. 320 pages. $76. (PBK). ISBN 978-90-04-32423-7.

Reviewed by: James Woodward, Principal of Sarum College, Salisbury and Visiting Professor of Theology, the University Winchester UK


All those engaged in learning and teaching will have a system for organising books and resources of information. They may be, inevitably, a number of systems that may range from ad-hoc freedom through to absolute order. I have never had the courage to organise my books according to the colour of their spines but was assured that the academic who followed this colour-guided rule never had any difficulty in finding a book!

Consider what kind of system might enable the section of the library to ‘organise’ those volumes that might fall broadly within the area of pastoral and practical theology. To give a sense of the complexity of this area of theological study, consider the broad headings of volumes that might fall within this section of a library: history and development of pastoral care; textbooks or readers in this area; sociology; psychology; cultural studies; theological reflection; political and public theology; leadership; reflective practice; chaplaincy; ministry and mission; ecclesiology; ethics; self-care and volumes dealing with specific issues (disability, the nature of pain, end-of-life care, etc.).

This review article begins with an acknowledgement of the scope of the field of practical theology. This discipline embraces a number of interconnecting fields. How do they connect? How should practical theology be taught?

It is against this image and these questions that this significant contribution to the literature is reviewed. The book is demanding, informative and fundamentally challenging in its framing of a range of conundrums. The editors and authors are to be commended for consistency and quality across 11 chapters. Practical theology, as we have acknowledged, has a complex identity and a variety of aims and locations. This book seeks to explore how we navigate academic structures that shape and distort intellectual life in this field. It engages our imagination with some arresting images and metaphors. The reader is asked to be a boarder crosser, a boundary walker and even a scavenger that should look for truth in many places.

At heart is this question – what does it mean to be a practical theologian? Mercer and Miller-McLemore gather 11 contributions from American pastoral theologians alongside a Scandinavian pastoral theologian. The areas covered include the theological nature of practice; the use of case studies in practical theological research; the public benefit of scholarship; the nature of reflexivity, normativity and interdisciplinarity in practical theology; racism; the politics and complexity of practical knowledge and the nature of the Roman Catholic contribution to the reframing of practical theology.

The introduction opens up the field by exploring definitions and acknowledging the complicated position and history of the discipline of practical theology. It articulates an ambitious aspiration that hopes practical theologians might be facilitators of change by contributing to the transformation of individual and communal life through putting to work the practices of religious traditions. This narrative holds together a realistic dynamic and tension between academy and context. Pastoral theology involves engagement with the conceptual, the emotional, and the political (3). Good pastoral theology begins in conversation and community. In relation to our sources of information in the work of practical theology, there is a question of naming and even locating the audiences of practical theology. We are asked to consider how far this body of knowledge contributes to the common good in our social and political arenas.

Chapter 1 establishes the importance of experience and practice as a source of theological engagement and knowledge. Theologians in this field must explore how they develop the capacity to show how practice constitutes theological knowledge. A clear sense of distance is maintained between the activity of theological reflection and the work of Christian churches. A broader more outward facing focus should challenge some of the internal contradictions and conflicts of religious institutions. What becomes clear here is the significant distance of thought, culture, and experience between American and European contexts. There are some key questions for us to consider: What is our experience of theology and where and how might we find it boring, irrelevant, or just wrong? How does theology help us or enable us to come to terms with living? How independent should theology be from the church? In what way is theology the servant of the church? (17) This is picked up in more detail in Chapter 3 (The Tension between Scholarship and Service) as Cruz explores the nature of service as empathetic knowing. There is an insightful exploration of the vocation of the reflective practitioner (64–65) with key discussions about ways of knowing and the importance of developing enough intelligence to discern what can be solved and what simply needs to be lived with (79). In this context, the Pastoral theologian needs always to evaluate scholarship and develop the skill of making space for adaptive change in patterns of teaching, learning, and scholarship especially in times of institutional transition (81).

Chapters 2, 6 and 10 by Campbell-Reed, Kaufman, and Turpin highlight the limitations, problems, and difficulties around interpretation. We are reminded by a number of writers in this volume that whenever a story is narrated, there are always issues around power. Our view is limited and interpretation partial. We always only see part of the story. We are asked to consider how far theology runs the risk of self-justification and the extent to which we see the dangers of summarisation – and therefore by implication oversimplification? Campbell-Reed argues that there is a continuing uncritical use of the word theory, which runs the risk of practical theology either overpromising or mispromising what can be delivered. This results in an ongoing maintenance of the split between theory and practice (47).

Turpin offers some useful and practical tools to enable students to reflect on their experience particularly if they are being trained for public ministry. She asks how far meanings are so contextualised to the history of a particular community in time and place that it is difficult to imagine whether it might be translated or related to similar practices elsewhere. Turpin articulates the layers of complexity in shaping an account of local knowledge and describes why this complexity matters both in the context of professional practice and in the ‘production’ of the Christian tradition. It follows that irreducible complexity is a hallmark of the practical wisdom necessary for the discipline. It follows, further, that we need to be observers that are more creative and attentive to the multidimensional realities of lived religion.

In this context, we should attend carefully to the social, cultural, and political challenges posed by the power of racism and the ways in which we devalue and underestimate the diversity and necessity of looking beyond a particular ‘white’ perspective on life. Shepherd explores this in Chapter 9 (Raced Bodies: Portraying Bodies, Reifying Racism) and it has particular relevance in the light of Trump’s election and the decision of the British people to exit the European Union. Here is the core challenge, ‘the vocation of the Christian theologian is to hold tightly the spirit filled, prophetic, critical and creative edge … Our theology must stand with society’s most abject, despised and oppressed. In the twilight of American culture, telling the truth about white racist supremacy is a theological obligation, no matter how cauterizing those truths may be. To speak about theology as truth telling is to accentuate its core responsibility … ’ (245)

In terms of listening to different and too often minority voices, Wolfteich in Chapter 11 offers us a plea to listen more carefully to Roman Catholic contributions and conundrums as she asks how far practical theology has a home in Catholic structures. The reader is reminded about the critical nature of attending to the content of theology as we are asked to explore the development of a theology that moves from life to Christian faith to renewed faith for life. The Roman Catholic tradition has much to offer in this generative task of articulating the content of faith.

The theme of the conundrum (as a puzzle or riddle without an apparent solution, an enigma that baffles, frustrates, and evades resolution) continues throughout the volume but particularly in Chapters 4, 5, and 6. Dreyer (91) reminds the researcher that all knowledge is mediated knowledge, and that there is a constant conflict of interpretation. Bias, researcher subjectivity, and positionality play a role in these interpretations. This is described as a basic epistemological dilemma: ‘the point of this chapter is that reflexivity cannot heal the epistemological wound of researcher subjectivity, bias and personality … Our reflexive efforts will therefore always be trapped between apodictic certainty and perpetual suspicion. This is the conundrum of reflexivity’ (92). Gotto picks up some of these themes as we are asked to appreciate diversity especially in the areas of race and gender. In other words, ‘through whose eyes do we view theology and theological task?’ (116). Researchers should explore the significance of power and privilege within their discipline. Kaufmann (Chapter 6) asks about the nature of normativity. What do we mean when we critique a text as being insufficiently theological or insufficiently normative? He discusses (137) the correlational approach – what should be given priority in a mutual, critical conversation between human experience and theological tradition or normative systematic theology? Where does authority lie? Who decides? Some important connections are made with systematic theology as this chapter asks us to consider the shape and content of our theological anthropology (154)

Finally Chapters 7 and 8, written by the editors (Mercer and Miller-McLemore), explore interdisciplinarity as a practical theological conundrum and the politics of the theory-practice binary. Mercer asks how we are to define interdisciplinarity and in doing so reminds us that practical theology, with its focus on the lived practices of a person and communities within their social contexts, is inherently interdisciplinary, since this kind of work necessitates not only knowledge of theology but also of human personhood alongside social and contextual knowledge. (163)

This takes us into fundamental questions about understanding the nature of personhood and the limits of divine revelation. In dialogue we are bidden to consider that we do not add theology to social science, nor do we add social science to theology. Both are present and interacting in a practical theological analysis of a person or community. Mercer is constantly aware of the complexity of the teacher’s task in enabling students to grasp a complex range of subjects. The skill and contribution of the teacher of practical theology are affirmed, Practical theologians become quite adept, even expert, scanning and selecting the usable element from a much larger canon of literature. We become skilled in the art of collaborating with others who can assist us toward a more appropriate and adequate level of knowledge in a new field we need to employ. (145)

Miller-McLemore reminds us of the modern divorce of academic theology and life (193) adding to the authority of this discipline as one that aspires to empower and transform living and understanding.

This volume of essays is to be commended for its range and scope. The authors are consistently committed to opening up confusing and conflicting problems and questions. Together the volume highlights the state of a discipline in the process, on a journey of discovery and development. Part of establishing our authority within the field of theology will depend upon our ability and preparedness to tackle some of the difficult questions posed here.

I return to those bookshelves and the acknowledgement of the sheer scope of the field and discipline of pastoral and practical theology. This book perhaps encourages us to sit lightly to over defined boundaries and make deeper and more imaginative connections between the disciplines that shape practical theology. While this is not a book for undergraduate study, it is essential reading for researchers and supervisors. It demands close attention and careful reflection. It is the task of practical theology to continue to articulate its conundrums and to attract a range of voices into its life and work.

    Advent Offers an Invitation to Wait and Hope

    Advent Offers an Invitation to Wait and Hope


    We are midway through the season running up to Christmas, which is called Advent. One of its key themes is the importance for us to see the possibilities that waiting might bring or us.

    I overheard a child in Tesco this week say to her brother, “I can’t wait for Christmas”. In her eyes, I glimpsed how children are caught up in the excitement of waiting. The experience of waiting is a common one and it shapes the rhythm of all our lives. We wait for trains, for the postman, or for pay day.

    When I think of waiting, my own mind most immediately goes to the hospital as a place of waiting. Patients waiting at the start of the day for a bath, waiting for the doctor to come, for the bed to be made. They wait for the results of tests, for surgery, for the day of discharge or perhaps, they even wait for their death.

    Experiences of waiting can lead to what we might call enlarged perceptions. Waiting might just help us to see things differently. In waiting, instances of enduring, because they are intimate, are vexingly uncomfortable. We fidget, we pace, we complain, we consult our watches.

    Although the experience of waiting is a common human experience – we live in a world where we want or create a culture within which waiting is undesirable. This shapes our financial culture. Do you remember the advert with the first credit card: “Access takes the waiting out of wanting”? At regular intervals, the bank sends me offers for the loan of money with suggestions how to spend it. It is a sharp contrast to my grandmother telling me before I went to university that I should never buy anything until I had saved up enough money to pay for it. We live in a world where we are promised that we can have what we want and have it now – and more than that, that we can have now what we do not want or need.

    Waiting has its own value and dignity. Advent is the invitation to wait with hope. We live in a time when thoughts of the future may fill people with fear – and not with hope and joy. We must learn to hope, to rest, even to pray and to wait.

    So think about waiting this week. Spare a thought for those who wait anxiously or are in need. May these days running up to Christmas be for us a time when we open to see living in a different light and in a deeper trust in hope and love.


    First published by the Salisbury Journal 14th December 2017


    Please pray for me

    Please pray for me


    As a priest, I should not be surprised at how often sometimes perfect strangers ask me to pray for them.  Sometimes it is related to a specific difficulty or crisis – more often than not people understandably take comfort from the reality of being prayed for.

    Intercession, prayer that is to ask God for something or somebody, is a very complex reality and problem.  Intercessory prayer centres on prayers of asking, but God is not insensitive, deaf or unyielding, and we need to be careful not to try and twist God’s arm.  One wonders whether God answers prayer, or, indeed, how boring it must be to hear the stream of intercessions that flow from earth to heaven!  This image and the presuppositions that lie behind it raise another set of questions for another day.   But, let’s remind ourselves of what this balance of thanks and praise, pointing up local events and world events, might be about.

    We place all in the palm of God’s hand, letting go of our control and waiting to discern, in trust, how God will take and shape situations with us.  This means we have to be sensitive and alert, to discern and respond with action and commitment to the shaping that God gives us.  Bearing up a situation faithfully before God is as important as being an agent of change for Christ in that situation.

    But God does not need reminding that we need to offer certain of our hopes and feelings to him.  We do not need to be too long in our asking, but need to try and pick up what is deeply felt by others.  My daily prayer is enriched by the needs and concerns that are shared by such diverse number of people in various places and situations.

    So prayer is about being in close attention with God and growing into God’s presence in a self-forgetful way.  But in our praying we ought to search out and grasp some measure of integrity and balance.  There are always two sides to a story and we should try to achieve that balance in the words we choose for prayer.  I wonder what petitions have been offered in and around the present complex situation in Iraq?  Praying for both sides and for common understanding in a dispute, strife or war enlarges our humanity.

    So today, I thank God for all those people who ask me to pray and I offer the following list as a challenge to deepen our intercession which is no less than:

    Standing before God

    Longing for God’s grace

    Asking for those in need

    Naming those needs before God

    Hoping for grace and love.

    And so, in the standing, longing, asking, naming and hoping we pray that we might be changed as the Kingdom of God is proclaimed.

    Waiting and Wondering

    Waiting and Wondering

    I find myself along with others caught up in quite absurd activity as ‘ the Christmas rush’ bears down. I discover that in this maddness I have no evenings free before Christmas and wonder how much of this is of my own making! An early flurry of sleet and the promise of snow for some tomorrow  took me back to my childhood and our open fire – filled with coal not wood as in this image. The heat and warmth and reassurance from a coal fire is one of those extraordinary experiences of life….my only essential requirement from a retirement house will be an open fire!

    The fire somehow slowed things down – it transfixed its glow and helped those in the room to stop and wonder. Contemplation – the here and now – the nourishment that comes from Doing Nothing ( as Stephen Cottrell puts it in his book Do Nothing to Change your Life ). We all need to slow up and dig deeper – allow some time to wait and wonder – and see what emerges from this process.

    RS Thomas expresses it in this way:

    Life is not hurrying

    on to a receding future, nor hankering after

    and imagined past. It is the turning

    aside like Moses to the miracle

    of the lit bush, to a brightness

    that seemed as transitory as your youth

    once, but it is the eternity that awaits you.

    One of the things that older people teach me is the deep joy that can emerge out of this waiting and contemplation of the ordinary in everyday life. Its there if we will but stop and see and wonder.

    Visiting the Memory Café ; Embracing better Dementia Care

    Visiting the Memory Café ; Embracing better Dementia Care

    Visiting the Memory Café and other Dementia Care Activities      

    Evidence-based Interventions for Care Homes

    Edited by Caroline Baker and Jason Corrigan-Charlesworth.

    Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2017, ISBN: 9781785922527


    They can be few families who are not affected by an individual who is engaging with some degree of significant memory loss. For some the prospect of old age is rather haunted by the possibility of having to embrace dementia. Understandably we fear the loss of our memory and its instrumental part of our well-being and personhood.

    Jessica Kingsley continues to seek to resource our understanding of dementia, and a compassionate and practical approach to person centred care. This book works on the widespread assumption that activity and engagement are vital to our well-being throughout our lives and this is carried on and through with people living with dementia. Maintaining and developing this activity and engagement is necessary at every stage of our independence and dependence.

    The editors draw together a rich and skilled collection of writers and   practioners who explore aspects of how particular interventions with people living with dementia can improve and develop quality of life. This volume consistently challenges us to think about what we have to learn from people living with dementia. Underlying this approach is a commitment to the fundamental importance of getting to know the individual well.

    Chapter 1 explores and discusses to life story activity that helps an individual document key memories as part of embracing a deeper knowledge of the person and their living. Chapter 2 introduces an intervention designed and developed to encompass a digital approach to reminiscence therapy. Chapter 3 discusses the use of Namaste and how this has helped one particular care home improve well-being and nutrition. We learn about the implementation of empathy dolls in chapter 4 and chapter 5 informs the reader about the introduction of memory Cafés within a home care setting. Chapter 6 explores the introduction programmes of physical activity and in chapter 7 we discover something of the use of guided imagery accompanied by smells and sounds. There is an impressive commitment in all of these case study based chapters to focus on the individual and provide them with an environment within which they can thrive.     Chapter 8 discusses the maintenance of daily living skills; chapter 9 reminds us of the importance of environment and chapter 10 evaluates some of this practice-based research.

    The editors are clear that this is  work in progress emerging out of the Barchester Charitable Foundation.      It is distinctive, well written and grounded in practice. It not only offers many practical suggestions about programs and therapies but challenges us to think differently about how best to embrace memory change and memory loss within ourselves and others.

    This book should become essential reading for all those who are tasked to provide care for people living with dementia. However I think it also would help families to think through how best to support loved ones.

    As ever with Jessica Kingsley Publishing this book is well designed and printed and is easy to read and follow. There is a good index and a comprehensive bibliography.



    Professor James Woodward

    Sarum College



    Enlarging our Hearts at the Cinema with Paddington2 and Wonder

    Enlarging our Hearts at the Cinema with Paddington2 and Wonder

    The Salisbury Odeon is one of the oldest buildings in town with an impressive mediaeval hall which leads into four or perhaps five screens. Friends will know that it is a favourite haunt of mine – sometimes just a very helpful release from work – at other times important for us all to see beyond the horizon and have our hearts and imaginations enlarged.


    Here is a small reflection on a couple of recent visits.

    I did not get round to seeing the first Paddington but this sequel offers us a reminder that our lives are always better if we nurture the virtues of decency, good manners and the generosity of spirit. We follow Paddington as he sets out to earn money to buy handmade pop-up book for his aunt Lucy’s birthday. Enter a showboating actor in the shape of Hugh Grant who snatches away the book. Paddington battles on with endearing goodness.

    It is funny and warming. Do not resist this. It was for every age in screen three a reminder of what life can be like if we see the best – really the best in everyone!


    Hollywood has always been in the business of finding a million ways to teach us lessons. We need that – and especially in these rather dark and confusing times. In wonder the main character is Auggie played with consummate skill by Jacob Tremblay. He is a 10-year-old New York boy who was born with a rare genetic condition which makes him look different. Until the point when the film begins he has been entirely home schooled by his parents – played by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts – and he takes refuge from staring eyes by wearing an astronaut’s helmet.

    We follow him into school on his first day and feel with him as his fellow classmates stare and recoil. The story is as much about their collective growth and learning to look beneath the surface as it is about Auggies maturing encourage to face the world.

    There is a clever use of multiple narrators that include Auggies older sister, a fellow classmate Jack will to try is the hardest to befriend Auggie.

    Be warned :  this will hug on your heartstrings – there is a reality and a harshness around some very raw emotions which are played out so imaginatively. Vulnerability, anxiety, pain and tears shape the unfolding of the story. I think it’s an extraordinary way in understanding impairment and through this asks that we drop our guard.

    Despite our awareness perhaps that this story will move to the happiest of endings – I reckon you need a handkerchief close to hand.

    There are some wonderful lines – Mr Browne, the teacher of Auggie’s class, tells them, “Given the choice between being right and being kind, be kind”.


    And there is some advice – from headmaster Mr Tushman “Auggie can’t change the way he looks. Maybe we can change the way we see.”






    Where do we look for treasure ?

    Where do we look for treasure ?



    There once was a pious rabbi, Eisik of Kracow, capital of Poland, who had  a dream in which a voice told him to go to far-off Prague, where under the great bridge  to the royal castle he would discover a hidden treasure. This same commanding dream  was repeated twice. He finally decided to go, making the long journey by foot. On  arriving in Prague he found the bridge; but as there were sentinels posted there day  and night, he did not venture to dig.      However, day after day he returned and loitered around, unostentatiously trying  to study the situation. Finally, he attracted the attention of one of the guards. ‘Have you  lost anything, my good man?’ he asked. The rabbi told him of his dream. The officer laughed and exclaimed, ‘You poor man, to have worn out a pair of shoes traveling all  this way only because of a dream! Why I had a foolish dream once. A voice commanded  me to go to Kracow and search for the home of a rabbi Eisik, son of Jekel, where I would find a great treasure buried in a dirty corner behind the stove. Imagine believing is such a dream,’ and he laughed again.


    Rabbi Eisik bowing politely bid the officer farewell. He then hurried back  to Kracow. There he dug under the neglected corner behind his stove and found the  treasure, thus putting an end to his poverty.


    Heinrich Zimmer, in The Choice is Always Ours, writes:      ‘Now the real treasure, to end our misery and trials, is never far away; it is not to  be sought in any distant region, it lies buried in the innermost recesses of our own home, that is to say, our own being. And it lies behind the stove, the life  and warmth giving  center of the structure of our existence, our heart of hearts if we could only dig. But  there is the odd and persistent fact that it is only after a faithful journey to a distant region,  a foreign country, a strange land, that the meaning of the inner voice that is to guide our quest can be revealed to us.’

    Sunday Pause for Thought Trinity 15 : God has No Favourites

    Sunday Pause for Thought Trinity 15 : God has No Favourites

    Sunday 24 September 2017

    The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity


    Common Worship Lectionary

    Proper 20

    Exodus 16.2–15 The Lord sends manna from heaven
    Psalm 105.1–6, 37–45* God’s faithfulness to Israel
    Philippians 1.21–30 Living is Christ and dying is gain: live worthy lives
    Matthew 20.1–16 Parable of the labourers in the vineyard


    Discipline is the dominant note as God’s people grumble their way through the wilderness. God’s care is firm but tangible. In our struggles we need encouragement and Paul shows his converts at Philippi what good and wise encouragement looks like. No parable of Jesus strikes us more shockingly than Matthew 20 – what sort of world is it about? It is not about our world, but God’s – where fortunately for us, his grace takes no account of our deserts. Pray to be glad that God has no favourites.


    These lectionary resources were originally written for RSCM Sunday by Sunday magazine and are reprinted here with their permission.

    For further information about their work do visit

    Planning worship

    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity


    The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

    Common Worship Lectionary

    Proper 19


    Exodus 14.19–31 Israel saved by Moses parting the waters
    Psalm 114 or Israel fled from Egypt to sanctuary in Judah


    Canticle: Exodus 15.1b–11, 20, 21 Moses’ song after the Exodus
    Romans 14.1–12 Do not judge, for we are all accountable to God
    Matthew 18.21–35 Seventy-seven times forgiveness? The unforgiving servant


    The parable in Matthew is terrifying and brings dramatically home the message of the Lord’s Prayer – to forgive readily as we ourselves are forgiven by God. Christians, like others, can squabble and divide about matters that seem to be in the end of minor importance. Paul reminds us that only love can restore a true sense of proportion. It is hard to trust that, even despite all appearances, all shall be well. Pray always to hold to the great signs of God’s love.



    The Moral Heart of Public Service

    The Moral Heart of Public Service

    The Moral Heart of Public Service – Edited by Claire Foster Gilbert Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2017) ISBN 9781785922558  £18.99

    Westminster Abbey takes its location to serve our national life with utmost seriousness. As well as attracting visitors from across the world the Abbey also seeks to engage with a range of major institutions and public figures, not least the British Parliament.

    The Westminster Abbey Institute was founded in 2013 to build and develop mutual concern about the world we live in and what values might shape policy and politics. This volume of essays, carefully organised offer insight into the shape of some of these conversations.

    Claire Foster Gilbert is a reflective, engaged and creative public theologian. She sets the scene in the introduction by outlining the shape and content of the book:

    ‘The essays and dialogues can be read individually or as a collection. They will appeal in different ways. None is intended to moralise, rather to share the skill, the effort, the camaraderie and the humour involved in making robust moral decision, in everything that is involved in sailing the ship wards a good destination, which should, after all, be seen as a profound and defining human endeavour for us all’ (p23)

    The first essay, by the former foreign secretary William Hague explores the role of Britain as a moral force on the world stage. He asks us to think about our political vocation has one of service to the international community. There is a refreshing questioning of dogma and a restless openness in his reflections.

    Three essays follow, written by Foster Gilbert, with a practical focus offers a framework for moral decision-making with some measure of sophistication and subtlety as the text reminds us that almost all decisions cannot claim moral perfection or indeed understand the consequences of the decisions that we make. There is in the process both virtue and truth but an implicit call for a deeper reflectiveness on analysis, perception and practice. This section of the book asks us all to consider how we nurture moral character.

    Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland is in dialogue with John Hall the Dean of Westminster in a chapter which explores building communities (p93). This need for reconciliation and the absolute necessity for emotional intelligence as we engage with one another is failings offers a deeply attractive appeal to the nurture of shrewdness and humanity. These are so often qualities lacking in some of public life including within our religious organisations.

    Vernon White, Canon theologian at Westminster Abbey, offers three pieces, in a section entitled idealism and compromise. How do we live up to our convictions and ideals in a way which understands human fallibility and limitedness? There is a subtlety and depth to White’s writing which demands careful attention.

    One of the great public thinkers of our nation, Rowan Williams, offers a reflection on the relevance of Benedict and his example and teaching in the public space of Parliament Square. Benedictine values in public life are then explored by Vernon White (stability) Andrew Tremlett (community) and Claire Foster Gilbert (the conversion of manners). The flow of this text in narrative is carefully integrated across the social, political, cultural, theological and spiritual worlds within which we all move.

    Finally, one of our great political historians, Peter Hennessy is featured in conversation with Claire foster Gilbert, which took place during the profoundly destabilising political events of 2016. Here we see the value of a wise and reflective historian infused with a quiet confidence in the abiding transformation of spiritual values.

    In the light of this positive review it would seem churlish to pick at (perhaps) obvious limitations ? However there are fundamental questions to be asked about the traction and purchase of such dialogue and reflection. Whose voices matter? Who do we listen to ? Where does power lie? What are the dangers of class complacency as public service is a matter (literally) of life and death for some. How far does our context collude with our view of what might need changing in order to really recover a moral heart? In a nation so divided geographically what hope might there be for a greater diversity of colour, age, sex and experience and an attention to their narratives?

    This is of course too much to ask for – but the book stimulated these questions about what needs to change and how it might change. Dialogue and reflection, are important but only one step in building a better future where there is justice, equality and freedom for all.

    Jessica Kingsley has done us a great service in publishing this book. It is to be hoped that those of us taken by its quality and depth might find ways of helping individuals and communities access both its content and the quality of its reflectiveness.

    Professor James Woodward

    Principal of Sarum College



    On Inhabiting Creation Tide ( on taking notice)

    On Inhabiting Creation Tide ( on taking notice)

    Almighty God

    We stand before the mirror of your eternity, within

    the radiance of your majesty.

    Through your Holy Spirit, enlighten the darkness of

    our minds, challenge the comfort of our perception,

    giving us a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love;

    that the world may behold your glory

    through Jesus Christ our Lord








    ‘Creationtide ’or the ‘Season of Creation’ is the period in the annual church calendar (from 1st September to 4th October) dedicated to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life.  I will post some further information about the resources available in due course. This is a personal reflection and part of a number of blogs where I want to reflect about the meaning and possibility of attending closely to this season.

    I am fortunate to be able to walk into work each day and so experience a little of the joys, wonders and unpredictability of creation.  The season is changing. The leaves are turning and the rain is bringing out the colour and texture of the grass and slightly fading late summer flowers.



    It has been damp this past week but amidst the rather drab weather there are glimpses of colour and life!


    So my first simple and potentially life changing action is this. We should slow down, stop, look and notice what is around us. On your next journey – what do you notice? What strikes you about what lies in your pathway? What does creation, life, our world mean to you?  How do we each stand back and  behold the glory of God in the routine, the demanding, stretching and sometimes overwhelming busy lives we lead?

    How are we to see the glory of God in the changing shape of Autumn? As we consider the uncertainty of our world – threats and counter threats between Korea and America, natural disasters of hurricanes and floods in India and beyond, together with the political uncertainties of Brexit and the battle for power – as we rest and look we become aware that we cannot know the future.  Karl Popper said in ‘The Poverty of Historicism’, the future cannot be predicted, because how it will happen depends on discoveries that cannot be predicted, because if they could be predicted they would already have been discovered. That is why every attempt to foretell the shape of things to come is at best guess work, and usually bad guess work.

    We cannot control the moment. We can rest and be still and look and reflect.  We do this in faith and trust. . We are called to be a community that does not live on the basis of probabilities but rather possibilities.  Jonathan Sacks speaks of faith as the defeat of probability by the power of possibility. All the great human achievements in art and science as well as the life of the spirit, came through people who ignored the probable and had faith in the possible.  This means – I think – that we might want to engage in some social action that might safeguard creation – as people who aspire to making the world a better place for our children. Perhaps if we journey with trust in the God of all life and all seasons, then it’s bound to be a process which takes us beyond the knowable, beyond that which we can be certain of in advance beyond doubt.

    As Jonathan Sacks puts it:

    “Faith is a risk and there is no way of minimising that risk, of playing it safe. Hamlets soliloquy: “for in that sleep of death what dreams may come?” – tells us that there is no death, let alone life without risk. Those who are unprepared to take a risk are unprepared to be fully alive.”

    So ask yourself  are you becoming more relaxed, more comfortable and more at peace with your world – with what you see – with what you know ? God has called you by name and made you His own and God wants you to find your own particular and unique way of walking the abundant life with your community.


    It is in paying attention that we will perhaps come to see more of the glory of God. We learn that we may journey through the world as those who are valued and loved. Despite what we are. Despite all life’s unpredictable and sometimes cruel nature. We are not to doubt that we are loved.  We  need to have learned and learned again to see ourselves with love.


    So :

    stop –

    look –


    and know the love of God refracted through creation.



    Almighty God

    We stand before the mirror of your eternity, within

    the radiance of your majesty.

    Through your Holy Spirit, enlighten the darkness of

    our minds, challenge the comfort of our perception,

    giving us a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love;

    that the world may behold your glory

    through Jesus Christ our Lord








    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


    The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


    Common Worship Lectionary

    Proper 18


    Exodus 12.1–14 Instructions for celebrating the first Passover
    Psalm 149 God is on Israel’s side
    Romans 13.8–14 Awake from sleep – put on the armour of light
    Matthew 18.15–20 Reprove sinners; bind and loose on earth and in heaven


    We all live with the past – a wonderful combination of blessings and burdens. Let us pray that we commemorate past blessings with joy. The Passover meal tells of the great release to which the meal was the preview and gives us a promise of Jesus as active redeemer. Paul reminds us of the commands to love and to live the good life, always in the setting of the urgency of God’s call. We need to heed the wise teaching that we hear and to ask others to support us on our journey of discipleship.


    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

    The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity


    Common Worship Lectionary

    Proper 17


    Exodus 3.1–15 God reveals the divine name to Moses at the burning bush
    Psalm 105.1–6, 23–26, 45b* Seek the Lord, make known his deeds
    Romans 12.9–21 Let love be genuine; overcome evil with good
    Matthew 16.21–28 Jesus predicts his death; ‘Take up your cross’


    In Exodus, Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush is crucial – a sacred moment with the name of God. Jeremiah reminds us that the service of God is not an easy ride and we can protest to him at its impossibility, but he will surely see us through. Paul gives simple and basic moral teaching and we are asked to accept and follow in God’s grace. The Gospel reading asks us to consider whether we can bear to become nothing for the sake of having everything in the end. Let us pray to accept ill from others with true patience.


    Poetry on Sunday

    Poetry on Sunday




    a lyrical manifesto for large-hearted living.



    Walk through life

    Beautiful more than anything

    Stand in the sunlight

    Walk through life

    Love all the things

    That make you strong,

    be lovers, be anything

    For all the people

    of Earth


    You have brothers

    You love each other, change up

    And look at the world

    Now, it’s

    Our’s, take it slow

    We’ve got a long time,

    a long way To go,


    We have

    Each other,

    and the World,

    Don’t be sorry

    Walk on out through sunlight life

    and know We’re on the go

    For love

    To open

    Our lives

    To walk


    the sunshine

    Of Life.


    LeRoi Jones, better known as Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934–January 9, 2014).


    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

    Sunday Pause for Thought – The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

    The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

    Saying yes to Jesus leads straight into a practical role. Peter, the rock, signifies the church in its day-to-day life – its ultimate victory on behalf of God is sure. We are reminded in the Old Testament readings that the greatness of God dwarfs us all and that we are constantly being challenged to choose death or life. Paul tells us that we should be a distinctive presence – in the world but not of it. Perhaps we should reassess our sense of importance before God. We pray that confession of Christ leads us to an active part in his purpose.

    Readings :

    Exodus 1.8 – 2.10

    The Israelites in Egypt are oppressed; Moses is born
    Psalm 124 Our help is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth
    Romans 12.1–8 Present your bodies as holy, for we are members together
    Matthew 16.13–20

    Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah




    Lingering Ghosts and the challenges of Public Art

    Lingering Ghosts and the challenges of Public Art


    For those of you who know Sarum College you will be aware that we have a long tradition of exhibiting Art. At the moment we are showing some arresting and disturbing portraits crafted by Sam Ivin (pictured above)

    Sam Ivin is a photographer whose work focuses on social issues and the people connected with them. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport, graduating in 2014.

    This exhibition, Lingering Ghosts, consists of hand-scratched portraits of those seeking asylum in the UK. These are people living in a state of limbo as they await news of their application for months or even years. Their stories recount the experience of lost identity and frustration as they wait to learn their fate. Yet as we learn from the documented conversations, we recognise them as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters – human beings, after all.

    Sam chose to scratch the portraits by hand, rather than altering them digitally: ‘When you systematically scrape at the image of a person’s face, it is very visceral way of expressing what it means to lose your identity.’

    Look closely at this picture and consider some of the thoughts expressed by asylum seekers that Sam has gathered together:

    ‘I feel it is very difficult, honestly. I mean, I can’t enjoy my life because I don’t know what is coming up for my future. I am scared.’ (Afghanistan, 8 years waiting)

    ‘Life has been like up and down for me and it was really frustrating, me coming here in the UK. I don’t want them to treat me like a King or whatever but like a human, you know.’ (Cameroon, 6 years waiting)

    ‘You’re not forwarding your life. Which means you’re just like stuck or somewhere. You can’t do nothing. You can’t study. You can’t work. If you are qualified you staying at home and waiting for benefit. No one come down here for benefit, they want to make their life better.’ (Sri Lanka, 8 years waiting)

     So – what is Art?

    As I pass these pictures and pick up a sense of the some responses to them it is  intriguing to consider what the purpose of art might be.

    We all too often imagine that art should be limited to the portrayal of the beautiful, the rich and glorious world we live in. Art is partly about hope – the holding of and picturing  the colour and beauty of the world around us – the countryside, a vase of flowers, an iconic building. We need this kind of hope in a complex, disturbing and sometimes fractured world.

    And while of course, there are many other purposes to Art, we might consider within the context of Sam’s work the role of Art in protest.

    Sam asks us through these pictures to consider what kind of world we want to live in. How high are we prepared to build our walls to protect us and our world against the stranger, the alien, the asylum seeker? What are the limits to our communal and societal hospitality? What might we learn from someone who is so completely other or different? In our post Brexit Society reconfiguration of alliances and, perhaps our fundamental cultural values, Sam’s work might best be described as prophetic images for our day. He challenges us to think about what we do to the humanity of others and how easily it is for some to lose their identity through depersonalisation and a lack of compassion which fails to engage with fear and genuine aspiration.

    We might even  go one step further and suggest that the process that Sam undertook in altering the portraits and removing some of the key features of these human beings faces reflects the restricting, shocking, depersonalising attitudes that seem to be so obviously present in the public domain.

    I keep on asking as I familiarise myself with these portraits – what can I do to change what we do to those waiting for asylum: hoping for a better world? Sam’s work leads us into an important social and political engagement in the shaping of a society that might be different for those we marginalise. In our unimaginative attempt to connect with their vulnerability we surely are changed for the good? Hearts and lives enlarged and sympathies deepened. what would you like to change about the world ? How can Art empower us to change?


    Come and see these images  at Sarum College for yourself and decide what art is for and look closely to see what might be revealed through them.



    Grateful thanks to Fabrica for the loan of these nine works from their collection.


    Padre Addison VC and Sarum College

    Padre Addison VC and Sarum College

    It was a great pleasure and privilege yesterday for us to welcome guests to Sarum College to mark the centenary of the award of the Victoria Cross to one of our former students ( The Reverend William Addison )


                        William Addison                         Addison’s Medals (VC far left)

    Here are my opening remarks

    Memory and Meaning in the Commemoration of the First World War

    Padre Addison VC


    A warm welcome to you all this afternoon and especially to those of you who are visiting Sarum College for the first time.


    The 2014–18 Centenary Commemoration cycle has given us rich opportunity to develop public knowledge of the First World War. The events that have surrounded the commemoration have captured our imagination. And so it should. In this place of learning we might bear in mind that factual knowledge of the wider history of the war among the broader population of the United Kingdom remains problematic. A survey reported in the Daily Telegraph in November 2012 found that only 46 per cent of respondents aged 16–24 were able to correctly name 1914 as the year that the First World War started, and only 40 per cent knew it ended in 1918. This surely has changed as a result of our resolve to remember the people and events of the Frist World War?


    In our modest way, as part of remembering, we gather here at Sarum College to commemorate Padre Addison, and his award of the Victoria Cross one of just three awarded to army chaplains in the history of the medal. William Addison became an army chaplain in WW1 shortly after he trained for the priesthood at Salisbury Theological College in these buildings. He is one of our most distinguished alumni.

    I should like to express my gratitude to Padre Addison’s grandson, Tim Addison, for bringing us this medal to make this a very special commemoration and for his presence with us. Gratitude is also due to Allan Mallinson, a military historian and friend of the College for his support and encouragement too. We shall hear from Tim in a moment and see the original VC but just also to remind you that there will be a permanent display of the replica VC, and thank the Army Museum Ogilby Trust for this


    After a Curacy here in Salisbury William volunteered as a Chaplain. He accompanied a number of army regiments landing in Basra in March 1916. He experienced at first hand the human price of war and in April over five days endured the horror of hundreds of men massacred in appalling conditions. On April 9, 1916 Padre Addison carried a wounded man to cover and assisted others to safety under heavy fire. His Victoria Cross citation reads: ‘by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.’ Padre Addison was awarded the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on August 3, 1917.

    In remembering William Addison what reflections might we  have on the nature of Christian Ministry? Though his story of valour is exceptional, it reminds us that Christians – and especially the clergy – are called to stand alongside their fellow human beings in all circumstances of life – and especially in times of extremis- sickness, injury and death.

    Also Christian ministry takes on practical shape – it is not sympathy expressed from afar, but involvement in concrete way. This can come at great cost, and requires sacrifice. We should reflect therefore that this award for valour is expressed in the form of a cross – the emblem of suffering and salvation of Christ.

    The ultimate message of the commemoration of War and the sacrifice, bravery and courage of such individuals like William, Tim’s grandfather, is that we must both learn lessons for the future – the shape of tolerance, the meaning of justice and reconciliation, as well as lamenting the vast cost of War in the tragedy of lost lives.

    At Sarum College we are proud to have William as one of our former students and we shall continue to remember his life and legacy.


      Tim Addison, grandson of William Addison VC, who brought the VC to Sarum College for us to celebrate the legacy of this distinguished priest.