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Back to my Roots? The legacy of Brooke Foss Westcott

Back to my Roots? The legacy of Brooke Foss Westcott

I finished reading Isabel Hardman on turned to thoroughly researched life of Westcott. There were many resonances and connections. As the son of a miner the title was arresting. Ordained in Durham after theological studies at Westcott House Cambridge there were further connections. I have a copy of his commentaries on Hebrews and St Johns Gospel and am in awe of this great mans scholarship, though his style of prose makes its demand on the reader !   Graham Patricks attention to detail in this  carefully researched portrait did not disappoint.

Of course we live in a different age and as a new year beckons us the Church of England faces particular challenges and opportunities. It is always wrong to idealise the past but equally reprehensible not to learn from is and especially those whose lives have been grounded, faithful and prophetic.

In Westcott we are struck in this biography by his scholarship. His prodigious devotion ( with Hort) on their edition of the Greek New Testament took years of care and devotion. Westcott show us what reverence of Scripture looks like and how these words have the power to transform. Much is made in our day of our distracted busy lives but there is something here about attention, reflection and the wisdom that comes from listening to the tradition. Theology isn’t a luxury but a necessity for love and growth in the Way.

In Westcott this study was grounded and contextualised in a deep sense of community. From the incarnation he derived a belief in universal human connectivity. He cared about the poor and disposed within an urban context.in Birmingham and Durham.In 1892, he helped miners to a strike settlement.

Westcott House Jesus Lane Cambridge

Westcott House, the durable theological college at Cambridge that issued from his efforts to nature an educated clergy. It stands in a tradition of open, generous orthodoxy of forming men and women for ministry within a broad and liberal tradition. Unconcerned about his own comfort Westcott ( we are told ) treated people as human beings. He was a pastoral Bishop who bothered very much about people and their lives.

 

An enriching read with plenty of connections and challenges. An encouragement to see the value of theology, to relate faith into the context of peoples lives and above all to nurture the value of a pastoral heart.

Brooke Foss Westcott

Reminiscence Work with Older Adults

Reminiscence Work with Older Adults

The Multi-Sensory Reminiscence Activity Book

52 Weekly Group Session Plans for Working with Older Adults

Sophie Jopling and Sarah Mousley

Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2017 ISBN: 9781785922398

 

There are few of us in early middle age who do not know someone who is living with some of the opportunities and challenges of growing older. Sadly for some of our loved ones this includes a significant amount of confusion and memory loss caused by dementia -related illness.

Jessica Kingsley continues its reputation for providing practical books informed by learning and theory to support professionals in their engagement with older adults. This book offers what it describes as multi-sensory group sessions for each day of the year.

Here is an indication of the range and scope of the starting points: train travel, coffee, the Queen and her Coronation, summer, apples, bonfire night, chocolate and  school days. Reminiscence is used to stimulate memory and sensory function.  When reading and reflecting on the exercises it is possible to glimpse the carefulness with which each session is planned to see and feel the difference that this engagement might make.

The authors are state registered occupational therapists and as such are aware of the importance of clarity both in relation to objectives and resources. Activities range from word games and poetry to food tasting, music and group discussions. Downloadable colour photographs and word cards are offered in addition as tools for conversation.

We should also note the carefulness with which the writers have planned activities for people with a range of abilities in order to support memory, sensory function communication and connection. There is imagination and fun – engagement and practicality running throughout this workbook.

Faced with significant fear around memory loss and the immediate sense of not being able to connect and help it is not an overstatement to note that this book has real capacity for transformative support and care. It is much needed as we consider how best to support and develop our responsibility to older adults and their experience and place within the community.

 

James Woodward

 

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.

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.

Longing for a deeper Church ?

Longing for a deeper Church ?

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Andrew Walker, Notes From A Wayward Son: A Miscellany, ed. by Andrew D. Kinsey (Cascade, 2015), 322pp. no price marked. ISBN 978 – 1– 62564 – 161 – 8.

 

This is an intriguing, stimulating and rewarding book that offers a space within which Andrew Walkers rather original and distinctive voice can be heard. Some will know Walker through his groundbreaking study of the 1970s and 80s house church movement Restoring the Kingdom (Guildford Eagle, 1998). Others will have been influenced by him through his teaching and oversight of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture at King’s College London.

For over 45 years, Walker has witnessed the church change, die, move and grow – and the central question for him (and for us) is this ‘what kind of church will survive and flourish in the twenty-first century?’ For Walker only a ‘deep church’ will suffice and one that is attuned to the impact of modernity and therefore appropriately and suitably able to resist it. You will find in these chapters astute observation and intelligent interpretation of both church and culture. These gifts and skills are very often absent in contemporary ecclesiological strategy.

The book is divided into five probing and chapters. Part I: “Journey into the Spirit: Pentecostalism, Charismatic, and Restorationist Christianity” offers history and sociology in an analysis of self-styled renewal Christianity. The piercing questions about such approaches to the gospel provide the reader and reviewer with endless opportunity for marking the text. Walker speaks as an insider and an outsider within such the particular Christian tribe.

Part II: “Mere Christianity and the Search for Orthodoxy” offers pieces on C.S. Lewis, potential affinities between Lewis and Orthodoxy. The pieces on Lewis are especially good and offer shape to the ambition and shape of what a deep church might be.

Part III: “Orthodox Perspectives”, takes us inside Walker’s own denomination and as an orthodox Walker argues for the prophetic contribution Orthodoxy can give to our culture. The highlight of this part is the interview with Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.

Part IV: “Ecumenical Thoughts on Church and Culture” includes an interview with Bishop Leslie Newbigin. Walker is unafraid to distinguish between good and bad religion and points out the distortions of a faddish, privatised, pop church that simply distorts both religion and Christianity. Trendy and attractive but in the end failing to nurture a deep wisdom.

Part V: “Shorter Pieces” offers a number of articles that continue to demonstrate the thinness of much modern Christianity. Here we have a lifetime of study, prayer, theological adventure that shape Walker’s questions about has so much of modern religion masks the face of God.

Do not be deceived by this book – it is as radical and searching a narrative as my desk has seen for some time. It will demand a disciplined to pay attention and listen to its voices. We need more wayward sons and daughters to offer to both church and world a maturity of presence and engagement that can deconstruct our fetishisms and build a deeper well from which our thirst for the mystery and knowledge of God can be quenched.

 

James Woodward

Sarum College

 

Jim Birren

Jim Birren

REMEMBERING JIM BIRREN

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One of the towering figures in gerontology has died : James E. Birren, founding

Director of the Andrus Gerontology Center, at the University of Southern California,

died at the age of 97.  His achievements were extraordinary   Foremost among these,

is creation of the Andrus Gerontology Center at USC, as well as the Leonard Davis

School of Gerontology.  His books and other publications are extensive, and many

distinguished gerontologists have been  nurtured by Jim Birren.  To get just a glimpse of

these, visit:

http://gero.usc.edu/2016/01/15/remembering-james-e-birren/

 

Jim Birren, then in his late sixties, was only getting started. His 30-year

retirement would witness pioneering work in areas far removed from the behavioral

psychology in which he began his own academic work in the 1940s.  Like a small

number of distinguished psychologists (e.g., Jerome Bruner and Leon Festinger),

Birren would “go boldly where no one has gone before” toward the in-depth

exploration of wisdom, autobiography, and the search for meaning.  His generativity

didn’t stop with his retirement nor will it stop now that he has left our world.  Instead,

we are all inheritors of the vision of “positive aging” that he has left behind.

This is the book that has been hugely influential in my own thinking about old age

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For more on guided autobiography, visit:

http://www.guidedautobiography.com/

The Look

The Look

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the look

 

“The World is not something to
look at, it is something to be in.”
Mark Rudman

I look and look.
Looking’s a way of being: one becomes,
sometimes, a pair of eyes walking.
Walking wherever looking takes one.

The eyes
dig and burrow into the world.
They touch
fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.
World and the past of it,
not only
visible present, solid and shadow
that looks at one looking.

And language? Rhythms
of echo and interruption?
That’s
a way of breathing.

breathing to sustain
looking,
walking and looking,
through the world,
in it.

 

Denise Levertov, Looking, Walking, Being

What is Age?

What is Age?

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“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were

interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more

intense as I age…

 

We who are old know that age is more than a disability. It is an intense

and varied experience, almost beyond our capacity at times, but something

to be carried high.”

 

-Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days

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understanding people ?

understanding people ?

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Affinity

Consider this man in the field beneath,
Gaitered with mud, lost in his own breath,
Without joy, without sorrow,
Without children, without wife,
Stumbling insensitively from furrow to furrow,
A vague somnambulist; but hold your tears,
For his name also is written in the Book of Life.

Ransack your brainbox, pull out the drawers
That rot in your heart’s dust, and what have you to give
To enrich his spirit or the way he lives?
From the standpoint of education or caste or creed
Is there anything to show that your essential need
Is less than his, who has the world for church,
And stands bare-headed in the woods’ wide porch
Morning and evening to hear God’s choir
Scatter their praises? Don’t be taken in
By stinking garments or an aimless grin;
He also is human, and the same small star,
That lights you homeward, has inflamed his mind
With the old hunger, born of his kind.

R. S. Thomas

Memories

Memories

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We, unaccustomed to courage

exiles from delight

live coiled in shells of loneliness

until love leaves its high holy temple

and comes into our sight

to liberate us into life.

 

Love arrives

and in its train come ecstasies

old memories of pleasure

ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,

love strikes away the chains of fear

from our souls.

 

We are weaned from our timidity

In the flush of love’s light

we dare be brave

And suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet it is only love

which sets us free.

                Maya Angelou, Touched by an angel

Remembering Maya Angelou

Remembering Maya Angelou

 

I started my blogging life in 2008 partly as a way of capturing my experience of a sabbatical in America. In the spring of that year I spent a month in Washington DC followed by three months in Chicago. It was a rejuvenating and very significant time. I managed to get over to Washington for the annual American Society of Ageing conference and here is my blog from that day.

I kept the rather incidental comments about  the conference and meeting up  with an old friend as a way into  the profound effect that  this extraordinary woman had  on  me and hundreds of other people  gathered in that enormous ballroom.  What a legacy she has left ..

Picture the scene. 3,600 delegates crammed into the Ball Room of a Washington Hotel listening to a choir of ‘seniors’ as they call them over here. I am feeling the after effects of too little sleep and some jet lag having just flown from London yesterday. It is the Aging in America conference and the start of a sabbatical. I’m findng hard to unwind from work and home but the conference programme is 269 pages long and only covers four days!

I have already been taken on a journey through the demographic time bomb of China by a group of academics and bump into an old friend from Princeton Theological Seminary. We met eight or nine years ago and she still remembers Temple Balsall and the lunch I cooked all that time age ago. Abigal Evans is Professor of Practical Theology and we share an interest in health, ethics and death! Despite the queue lunch was good! I firmly resisted chips!

The first day ended with the most extraordinary reflection from Maya Angelou – she sat in a chair – and without a note talked about her life and especially the meanings and humour of ageing. Moving – tender – rich – honest – wise and deeply spiritual. Her love has been carved out of the rock of pain, rejection and deep oppression. She showed 3 600 people how to laugh at themselves and how important was the work of presence with older people. She reminded us of how badly we can treat older people but above all of the power and virtue of courage.

We listened to her poetry and she asked us to change the world through our influence. Her smile and eyes will remain in my memory for a very long time.

A Tree….

A Tree….

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a tree telling of Orpheus

 

he spoke, and as no tree listens I listened, and language
came into my roots out of the earth, into my bark
out of the air, into the pores of my greenest shoots
gently as dew and there was no word he sang but I knew its meaning.
He told me of journeys, of where sun and moon go while we stand in dark, of an earth-journey he dreamed he would take some day deeper than roots …
He told of the dreams of man, wars, passions, griefs,
and I, a tree, understood words – ah, it seemed
my thick bark would split like a sapling’s that grew too fast in the spring when a late frost wounds it.

Fire he sang, that trees fear, and I, a tree, rejoiced in its flames.
New buds broke forth from me though it was full summer.
As though his lyre (now I knew its name) were both frost and fire, its chords flamed up to the crown of me.
I was seed again. I was fern in the swamp. I was coal.

 

Denise Levertov

bouquet, sunlight

bouquet, sunlight

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Our sense of these things changes and they change,

Not as in metaphor, but in our sense

Of them. So sense exceeds all metaphor.

 

It exceeds the heavy changes of the light.

It is like a flow of meanings with no speech

And of as many meanings as of men.

 

We are two that use these roses as we are,

In seeing them. This is what makes them seem

So far beyond the rhetorician’s touch.

 

Wallace Stevens, Bouquet of roses in sunlight

The Reverend Jeremy Sampson

The Reverend Jeremy Sampson

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(from The Church Times Obits)

SAMPSON. –

On 11 July, the Revd Jeremy John Egerton Sampson: Vicar of North Perak, Malaya (1951-52); Priest-in-Charge of Johore Bahru (1952-57); Vicar of St John the Divine, Ipoh (1957-62); Killingworth (1962-76); Consett (1976-90); Rural Dean of Lanchester (1980-85); aged 89.

 

It was with a mixture of sadness and gratitude that I learnt about Jeremy’s death this week. Jeremy was my first Vicar or training incumbent when I was ordained to a title in the Durham Diocese in 1985. A wise and very modest man Jeremy and his wife Rosemary were a solid team – dependable, un-stuffy, straightforward and steady. He was thoughtful and grounded in the Anglican tradition with forty years of parish experience both here and abroad.

He taught me the bedrock value of the daily office and care over every Baptism, Marriage and Funeral. He was practical and avoided the extremes of Anglican piety – he had a way of smiling at some of the irrelevance of much of modern Church life. His Parish Councils meetings were slow but collaborative – he took care to ensure that all voices were heard. He had an eye for detail and showed his curates how to run a parish with a minimum of fuss or anxiety!

He took a lead when the Steel works closed down and ensured that the Churches voice was heard in the efforts to build up and reconstruct community after the closure and its devastating effects on families. He was a bridge builder bringing all kinds of people together. The parish admired and respected him – he became well know as he waked the dog and made his visits across the community. Folks found in him a trusted pastor.

He was patient with this young curate and I was glad he made considerable efforts to  come to my installation in Windsor in 2009 – he had himself been a curate to the young Robin Woods who was himself to become the Dean of Windsor in the 1960’s. The best advice he ever gave me was this : ‘make sure that every sermon has good news’!

A kind and good man and a faithful servant of the Church. My life has been all the better for my working with and learning from his example.

Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell

If anyone has any doubt about the sheer complexity and difficulty of the work of a modern-day Prime Minister then this book and all 730 pages of it should dispel any lingering lack of understanding! It takes us into the heart of the work of government, the handling of the press, the management of a political party and the holding together of complex personalities and egos of politicians, their ambitions and their fantasies.

It is the fourth in a series of books completing this particular stage of Campbell’s work. It begins with the harrowing circumstances around 9/11 and ends with Campbell’s resignation. It is properly entitled ‘The Burden of Power’ and the reader can see the way 10 years of holding the office of Prime Minister has aged Mr Blair. Whatever you think of his politics then you will come out of this journey through the days and weeks of political struggle with some greater sympathy of the huge pressure that comes with responsibility.

The relationship with Brown is splashed out across the pages and little is spared – speculation, argument, disappointment, anger and even despair – it is surprisingly that government worked as well as it did considering the dysfunction between number 10 and number 11 Downing Street! Campbell is not of course an unbiased commentator and we await other narratives that might provide perhaps a more balanced perspective on this relationship, including, of course that of Mr Brown.

Campbell is reflective about himself, his depression and the pressures that working in 10 Downing Street put upon his relationship with his partner and his children. Despite the extraordinary aggressive and unrelenting style of Campbell there is a rather endearing vulnerability, self doubt, and redemptive self-knowledge about his strengths and weaknesses.

Campbell is sour about the media and these pages will make unpleasant   reading for many journalists – some of whom he dismisses with brutal and sneering disregard.

Any historian of the conflict over Iraq will certainly need to examine the course of events as described in some detail here. No doubt strategists working for the Labour Party will look at some of what Campbell says in relation to evaluating the success of new Labour and the prospects of what may lie ahead of the present Conservative and Liberal coalition.

It was certainly a long read but hugely worthwhile. When I get some time I shall have too cross reference some what Campbell says with Mr Blair’s memoir – in the meantime the grisly business of politics  continues and we need to ask ourselves what kind of political culture best supports our living and aspirations as individuals, families and communities.

We have not heard the last of Mr Campbell – there’s another story waiting to be told. A good read and worth persevering with as the nights draw in.

Befriending Strangers?

Befriending Strangers?

 

During Lent we should recall the challenge of Jesus to wel­come and pay attention to the stranger. This was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry because it is at the heart of God’s relationship to creation.

 The stranger represents the one different to us. The Pharisees sought to establish a Jewish comfort zone beyond which strangers were kept. Rhetorically it was about equating God’s hospitable space with a carefully delineated expression of the Torah. Jesus welcomed the latter into God’s hospitable space, regarding God’s reign as the intended implication of the Torah. This was to be a reign which, by reflecting the character of God, necessarily included invitations to those beyond the pale.

Min­istry is about going out and welcoming the stranger and not seeking to require that the stranger become one of us in advance or necessarily at all. As someone once said to me, it is about host­ing, hearing and hallowing.

The seven deadly sins CEOs won’t admit

The seven deadly sins CEOs won’t admit

It’s a classic job interview question: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

At the top of the business world, people seem to have taken to heart the advice to admit no negative traits, just positives in disguise, says Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times. Every week for the past year and a half, the Financial Times has asked business leaders 20 questions including: “What are your three worst features?” Here are the findings:

 CEO Sins

They are:

Control freaks

Vain

Ditherers

Bad at listening Bullies

Afraid of conflict

 No good at small talk

The three worst traits of chief executives are a lack of self-knowledge, a lack of self-knowledge and a quite extraordinary willingness to give themselves the benefit of the doubt.

When it comes to describing their dark sides, 58 out of 60 leaders felt bound by the same rule – any weakness is perfectly admissible, so long as it is really a strength. They almost all cite impatience, perfectionism and being too demanding – all of which turn out to be things that it’s rather good for a CEO to be.

What is particularly interesting about this mass outpouring of faux weaknesses is that there is no difference between men and women, and no difference between Americans and Europeans. All are as bad as each other. Psychobabble Anyone who has ever spent five minutes talking to a CEO can tell you that they have more faults than the next person, because they are extreme versions of humanity. 

Given that most of the 60 interview candidates were probably guilty of at least one of the above, why did none of them own up? The first possibility is that they didn’t dare. But I suspect the real problem is worse: they don’t know what their faults are. A decade of psychobabble, coaching and 360-degree feedback has made no difference.

It has not changed the most basic truth – people never speak truth to power.

Honesty prize This denial of flaws is a pity. We like people better when they wear their blemishes openly. It makes them seem more human. There is only one senior leader I know who has no obvious faults at all. His lack of weaknesses does not make me think him the most brilliant executive I’ve ever met. Instead it makes me think him flimsy and slightly untrustworthy.

Marcus Wareing owned up to one of the most common yet unmentionable sins – he doesn’t listen. But then he’s a chef, and chefs aren’t meant to be listening. They are meant to be making sure the iles flottantes are taken to table six – now!

My prize for honesty goes to Jon Moulton, the private equity tycoon, who has made enough money to be able to say what he likes. His declared weakness is absolutely taboo, yet goes with the territory. Indeed, it is a weakness the other 59 leaders demonstrated through the self-serving answers they gave. His stated fault – “excess of ego”.

AM I NO LONGER YOUNG?

AM I NO LONGER YOUNG?

     Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?  Let me
         Keep my mind on what matters,
      which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning
         to be astonished.                            

                                 -Mary Oliver

Growing Older?

Growing Older?

The first fifty years of life give us the text;
        the next thirty supply the commentary on it.

                             -Arthur Schopenhauer