Tuesday, 20 April 2010

"Try, try, try a little harder . . ."

So sang Janis Joplin, noticing that the hookers who hit the streets at noon did more business than she did, getting up mid-afternoon.

Not exactly the best parallel, but : I'm hard at work canvassing as Green Party candidate in St Mary's Ward for Oxford City Council election. It strikes me that in order to get people to give up ten minutes of their time to call in at a polling station and put a cross on a piece of paper - a privilege that, though hard-won, costs them nothing - every one of 4,000 or so doors will be knocked on at least twice in the space of a month and have three separate news-sheet and/or leaflet drops. The stall will be up and running outside Cowley Road Tescos every Saturday for three hours. And then about 30% will respond (though, who knows, maybe it will be better this time).

And we sit in our churches hoping that people will just come - not just once for ten minutes but weekly, for at least an hour . . .

Friday, 9 April 2010

. . . and again

On the day we were treated to a depressing and pointless shouting match about National Insurance contributions during Prime Minister's Questions - again, given the lead story by the BBC - elsewhere in Parliament something significant actually happened. A bill was passed making it much more difficult for so-called 'Vulture Funds' to prey on the world's poorest - see http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/Landmark%20Law%20Passed%20to%20Tackle%20Vulture%20Funds+6006.twl

Sunday, 4 April 2010

BBC News fails again

Somebody senior in the BBC's radio news management is determined to seize any opportunity to knock Archbishop Rowan Williams. After the fiasco of the 'sharia law for Britain' episode in 2008 you'd have thought they'd have learned. But somebody thought it newsworthy to give last night's leading main news headline to a leaked interview in which Rowan Williams referred to the worrying possibility of the Roman Catholic Church losing "all credibility" in Ireland. Senior Catholic prelates were reported as 'dismayed' by the 'outburst'.

If so, then presumably they were even more dismayed by their own pope's 'outburst' in a pastoral letter they were instructed to have read in their parishes the week before in which Benedict XVI prayed that "the (Roman Catholic) Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and goodness of Almighty God", described a "present crisis" in which "child sexual abuse . . has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings", and told his "brother bishops" that "some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. . . grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility." Rowan Williams referred to the humiliation being suffered by innocent priests on the streets, echoing the pope's own words to the "priests and Religious of Ireland" : "many of you feel personally discouraged, even abandoned . . tainted by association." In some Dublin parishes, Mass attendance has plummeted by two thirds.

But underlying this non-news item lies either a piece of (possibly malicious) mischief or a complete misunderstanding of the Church. What the news chief is looking to stir up is a division between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church - it's the only way I can make sense of such a non-story as a headline.

But nowhere in the Church have I heard any sense of schadenfreude expressed about the Catholic Church's misfortune. All Christians - Catholics and non-Catholics alike - are tainted by the abuses. Willams's tone is not an accusatory one but a sympathetic one. None of us wants to see the Christian faith losing credibility. And every religious organisation knows that 'there for but for the grace of God go we' - as, no doubt, does every Education Authority, Social Services Department etc.