Death of Prince Philip

I write this immediately following the announcement of the death of Prince Philip by Buckingham Palace on Friday 9 April 2021 at the age of 99, one that has brought me near to tears.

A huge loss for one prominent family, a significant loss for our nation and commonwealth, and one which touches us all. Sometimes, the death of a public figure affects us deeply because it powerfully reminds us of our own bereavements and losses.

I’ve become more of a Republican than a Monarchist (for a variety of reasons) but this is a very significant event that has moved me.

We’ll all need time to process it, and much will be said in the media. In the meantime, I offer my sincere love and prayers to the Royal Family and especially the Queen.

Good Friday Agreement and Brexit

In September 2018, Boris Johnson published a plan for a better Brexit. This was Patrick Kielty‘s reply on Twitter at the time, even more important now as we see an increase of violence in Northern Ireland following Brexit…

Northern Ireland is made up of a majority of Unionists (as in the Conservative and Unionist Party) and, believe it or not, a rather large minority of Nationalists (as in Irish Nationalists).

These Irish Nationalists don’t see themselves as British but rather inconveniently as Irish (who knew?).

For over 30 years we killed each other because of these differences which means Northern Ireland is nothing like Camden or Westminster.

The Good Friday Agreement ended that violence by the following devious magic:

Unionists were guaranteed that Northern Ireland would be part of the UK until the majority voted otherwise.

The Irish was border was removed and the island linked so Nationalists could pretend they were already living in a United Ireland (yes, Tony Blair did slight of hand much better than you).

Some of these Nationalists then accepted being part of the UK as their day to day lives were essentially Irish.

This cunning plan was sold to us on the basis that we were all part of the EU therefore fixation on nationality was so last World War.

Implementing the Good Friday Agreement was torturous (think Brexit with actual bombs, not metaphorical suicide vests) but we finally made peace. Yet 20 years later NI remains a divided society.

Thanks to your glorious Brexit vision Northern Ireland will become more divided as some form of economic border checks will become part of daily lives.

If those checks take place between NI and Ireland, the Nationalists who were once happy being part of the UK will change their mind.

If they take place in the Irish Sea some Unionists will be livid. However they’ll still support being part of the UK (the clue is in the Unionist bit).

Your Brexit lies have opened a Pandora’s box for Northern Ireland. It’s one reason why the majority of people in NI voted to remain in the EU (almost as if they knew more about the fragile equilibrium of their politics than you).

Barely mentioned before Brexit, a border poll is now inevitable thanks to your monumental ignorance.

When that poll is eventually held the Nationalists who were once content being part of a Northern Ireland within the UK and EU will vote to leave the UK to feel as Irish and European as they did before Brexit.

The poll will be much closer thanks to your Brexit folly and could easily be lost by Unionists, breaking up the UK.

Any break up of the Union will be your fault (a tad inconvenient as a member of the Conservative and er, Unionist party).

The EU is not responsible for your blundering lack of foresight. Like most people in Northern Ireland they were happy with the status quo.

By the time the penny drops that you can’t preserve the Union you want without the one you don’t, it will be too late.

You will be remembered not as the Churchillian visionary you delude yourself to be but the ignoramus who triggered the break up of the UK.

If there’s any justice all this will come to pass when you’re Prime Minister so you can finally swim in the constitutional sewage you’ve created (though we all know you’ll be in Nice with your trotters up).

Meantime, if you’re so concerned about keeping Northern Ireland totally aligned with the rest of the UK where’s your support for our same sex marriage and women’s right to choose? Your silence is deafening.

Any questions?

Flying the Flag

There’s a current trend of flying the flag by government ministers, in the background of video calls on news broadcasts (for example), and in the order to fly the Union Jack on official buildings.

My feeling is that it demonstrates a fragile and insecure patriotism, because it devalues the times when it’s currently used to celebrate achievements and special days. You can be patriotic without flying the flag every day.

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with flying the flag per se, the problem I (and many others) have is that the government appear to be doing it for political reasons. When the flag is used in this contrived way it will inevitably lead to division, because the purpose of a flag is to unite. It simply highlights the divisions that already exist within the Union.

Twitter (as always) has a perfect hashtag for what the government is doing, but I’m not going to share it here!

Men need to be part of the solution

Whatever the story (which will become clear in the coming days) behind the murder of Sarah Everard, it’s raised the issue of verbal and physical violence against women on the streets. I’ve shared my thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, and have now put them together in this blog post.

Women shouldn’t be expected to change their behaviour, men should change theirs. And before you say SOME men, I mean ALL men. Cross the road, put your hood down, start a phone conversation – anything to demonstrate you’re not a threat. Empathy is NOT difficult, it’s NOT a dirty word, it’s NOT being a snowflake, it’s NOT taking anyone’s freedom away. Men, listen to your female friends in humility without giving your opinion, it’s NOT about you!

Women know it’s not ALL men, but they don’t know WHICH men, so they stay wary of ALL men. It’s not rocket science!

As a man, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day is a global day for celebrating the achievements of women and raising awareness about women’s equality. It’s an annual event held on 8 March, It marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. You can find out more by clicking here.

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge. How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality. Source

See also: Franciscan Prayer for Women’s Day

Ellen Turner’s Abduction (1826)

On this day (7 March) in 1826, fifteen-year-old Ellen Turner climbed into a carriage at her school gates thinking she was being picked up to see her mother who’d been taken ill.

Instead, she was being abducted to be forced into marriage to Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who was twice her age. Through this marriage he hoped to gain a large marriage settlement and inherit her family fortune. It wasn’t the first time he’d done something like this.

The case eventually came to trial, and Wakefield was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in Newgate Prison and the marriage was annulled by Parliament.

I share this story on the eve of International Women’s Day 2021 (8 March) because this case was at the centre of public debate at the time, highlighting the lack of rights for women and girls in a deeply patriarchal society. That was then, but in 2021 there’s still work to be done to secure women’s rights and equality.

St David’s Day

Saint David is the patron saint of Wales, and his feast day is celebrated on 1 March, the date of his death in 589 CE. I have fond memories of eight years lived in South Wales during my working life as a Salvation Army Officer and celebrating this special day with my family.

The Welsh will be especially celebrating this year (2021) after their victory over England in the Six Nations Championship, only two days prior to this traditional festival. I’ve always supported Wales (and still do) as long as they’re not playing England, but it never worked the other way round – England being seen as the ‘enemy’. It was often the subject of gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) teasing during the welcome and announcements on Sunday in worship at the Salvation Army, I gave as good as I got and often fully deserved the reaction I provoked.

Traditional symbols of daffodils (Wales) and leeks (Saint David) are worn, traditional Welsh food eaten, and traditional Welsh dress worn by the women and girls. I well remember my (now grown-up) English daughter proudly going to school in her Welsh costume. Teasing aside, we’re all enriched by appreciating and (when and where appropriate) respectfully sharing in the traditions of others.

Coronavirus Vaccination

To say I was excited when I received my vaccination appointment would be an understatement.

However, you would be wrong to think I’ve been living in fear since March 2020, although I’ve had a measure of concern because of my age, susceptibility to chest infections, and underlying asthma (although well-controlled). And, even though I’m generally fit and healthy, I’ve been scrupulous in protecting myself and my family from coronavirus.

Our surgery was really well organised, and the longest wait was fifteen minutes afterwards (in a marquee) to make sure I was OK. I received my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and I’ll get my second dose in twelve weeks time.

I do encourage you to have the coronavirus vaccine when your turn comes, please ignore all the rubbish that’s spoken and written about them.

The coronavirus vaccines are based on decades of scientific progress and practice. Yes, the development has been speeded up because we’re in a crisis, but scientific corners haven’t been cut. Remember, the flu vaccine is a new vaccine every year, and is based on the same scientific foundations. Be grateful for the 24/7 commitment to this cause, and please don’t spread misinformation. See here.

As a friend pointed out: The only corners that have been cut are the waiting for funding for each step through the process (it’s been made available immediately instead of waiting until the next financial period or whatever), and the hunt for a suitable selection of people to test the vaccine on (they have been inundated with volunteers). It just shows what can be done when there is the motivation.

Five Covid-19 vaccine false theories – debunked

The Woman at the Well (Lent 1)

Whataboutery annoys me. It’s when someone responds to criticism, or an opposing view, by accusing someone else of similar or worse faults. Whataboutery is a shallow way of diverting attention away from yourself (often, but not always) when criticised. Irritating in children and pathetic in adults. You find it everywhere, in Facebook conversations, in politics, and in media interviews etc.

Often it’s simply trying to change the subject, at other times it’s trying to start a diversionary argument when the truth becomes too hot to handle. I think sometimes it comes out of instinct, a learned response, especially since it’s so prevalent today, not least in news media.

Equally, whataboutery is nothing new, it’s been around as long as humans have. In the third chapter of the first book of the Bible, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake! Genesis 3

When the Risen Jesus challenged Peter to follow him despite all the challenges, Peter pointed to another disciple and said, ‘Lord, what about him?’ John 21:21

But the Bible passage I have in mind is John 4:1-42, read it now and look for examples of whataboutery.

In this reading from John’s Gospel we see an act of kindness with enormous consequences, the fact that Jesus and the Samaritan woman even began a conversation. For centuries Jews and Samaritans had been hostile to one another. The safest way to live together was to keep their distance, live in their own little world and not notice the other’s presence.

Most people would have considered Jesus to have been very brave, or very foolish, to have been in Samaritan territory at all. And to stop at a well was double trouble, because that was where the women came to draw water, and in a society where the sexes were carefully separated it wasn’t the place for a man and woman to be found on their own.

The modern equivalent of a well is the water cooler, an opportunity for conversation. But far from getting off to a good start, it looks like the conversation will get bogged down in whataboutery, misunderstanding, and cross purposes.

I’m not going to go over what you can read for yourself, but a careful reading and re-reading of the passage will pay dividends.

You’ll notice how Jesus wisely refuses to become engaged in an argument, and how often we fail in this respect when we want to score points on social media, for example. He doesn’t take the opportunity to reinforce a partisan position, but rather he proposes that the true worship that God desires is worship in spirit and truth, not dependent on any particular place or shrine. He keeps a level head.

The story is about evangelism, and how it can start with a simple encounter and a conversation that broke down prejudices, and allowing entry into a new world shaped by God.

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:11-14

Here is the universal longing of the human condition, that our spiritually emptiness might be filled, and this thirst is something Jesus satisfies. Here is God’s continuing presence with his people, and he nourishes us day by day in our journey of faith.

Jesus said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6), but he also demonstrated the perfect example in his response to whataboutery.

Note: This Sunday (21 February 2021) is the first Sunday in Lent. I’ve not mentioned Lent in this devotional, but you can click here for one of today’s Lectionary readings and find out more here.

Mars Perseverance (Album)

To commemorate the new Mars Perseverance Rover landing on February 18, 2021, Aural Films presents a collection of new music inspired by the Mars Mission composed by 37 artists from around the world. Listen to this extended soundtrack of more than 4 hours of new music celebrating the Mars Perseverance Rover landing.

All proceeds from this project will be donated to the Feeding America project who are working to support over 25 million people that do not have food. Please lend a hand by purchasing this album to help others and get over 4 hours of great space music for your support.

Read more (with links) here: Mars Perseverance