Mental Health - Thoughts from a GP

mental_health_(2).jpgAs Christians, we need to do more in relation to mental health. 

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Jeremy Corbyn, Demon or Messiah? - He's neither but this is why as a Christian I voted for him

I was not originally going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. I was going to vote for Andy Burnham. A much safer bet I thought.  Jeremy was just the wrong type of leader , who couldn't possibly win a general election. He was too old, too scruffy, hadn’t gone to the right university and had the wrong track record as a rebel rather than a front bencher. Most of all he was too extreme and controversial. On Facebook I publicly endorsed this widely shared view of Jeremy Corbyn. Yet when I thought and prayed about it I realised I'd been looking at it all the wrong way. (An examination inspired ironically by a sermon by my Tory-supporting Pastor!) It was when I tried to look at it from God’s perspective, a biblical perspective, that I had my Damascus road type conversion. I realised to my surprise that Jeremy was the right choice, because he was the one who best fits what God requires of a leader (and indeed of all of us): “and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6 v 8

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Thoughts on Corbyn's First Weeks as Leader

Christians on the Left Member Jeremy Horton shares his thoughts on the new Labour Party leader.

Whatever you may think of Jeremy Corbyn  (views range from political Messiah to dangerous crackpot and every shade in between), you can’t help but be impressed at what he pulled off. It’s the “upside-downness” of it all that particularly tickles me. A scruffily dressed OAP, a veteran left wing rebel and career protest politician. The only thing fashionable about him is his beard and that’s only by accident. How did he gate-crash the Labour leadership election? He only threw his hat into the ring because his left-wing friends threw it in there for him- "go on Jeremy it’s your turn". He scrapped onto the ballot paper with minutes to go, after a few MPs reluctantly lent him their nominations . He was then only supposed to be in it to make up the numbers, make it look more democratic. Just a bit of stage left scenery (opposite Liz Kendall's stage right) on a stage set up for the two real candidates; the younger, prettier candidates, the solid, safe, centrist/soft left candidates, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. 

Only it seems Jeremy hadn't read the script. Instead of sticking to his lines, he performed an entirely different play all of his own.

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Book Review - God on Mute by Pete Greig

God on mute is a book about unanswered prayer; I began to read it reluctantly because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read about unanswered prayer, I would much rather read uplifting stories of miracles and amazing answers to prayer.   I like to think that God answers prayer not that he might not, or appear not to.

Despite my heart not been in it, the book is very well written, and I was engaged very quickly with the author’s style of writing and began to understand and even enjoy the book. I loved how he broke the book into sections, and related to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday; it reminded me of my favourite song at Easter its Friday but Sunday’s coming.

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The recent Refugee and Migrant situation

serbia-migrant-2.jpgAs you will be aware, Europe and the Middle East has been hit by a refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes from troubled lands.  The question is why should we do anything about it? 

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CSW launches the ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief Parliamentary toolkit’

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Freedom of speech is a Human Right, yet one that is constantly infringed.  

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Setting out on a political pilgrimage

GettyImages-490417636.jpgBarton Creeth shares his experience of the Brighton Labour conference.

Setting out on a political pilgrimage: after my first Labour conference, the real work has just begun.

On the Saturday afternoon before the start of this year’s Labour Party conference, worn down from a long work week and sitting in my London flat, a thought ran through my head: I won’t really know anybody down in Brighton, and really, what difference will it make if I just stay home? I only recently got involved with Labour back in April, when I moved to London from Belfast for work. While I’ve been involved in politics for some years, the culture and machinery of the Labour movement in Britain is all very new to me. When an email went around asking if I wanted to volunteer with Christians on the Left at conference fringe events, I said yes, but now that I was supposed to get on the train to Brighton, I was feeling a bit insecure and tired, and for a minute, on my sofa, in the comfort of my living room, I contemplated not showing up.

It’s a natural temptation, when presented with doing something different, something heretofore unknown to you, to begin thinking of reasons to excuse yourself from participation. We fear the awkwardness and embarrassment of meeting new people, the pain of feeling like an outsider in a world of insiders, and in the case of politics, that either we don’t know enough about the issues to fully participate, or that perhaps, we’re just not the political sort of person after all. And because we fear these things, our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, or at the very least, save ourselves the trouble of experiencing the discomfort that comes with putting ourselves in new kinds of situations.

We’re all, to some extent, political beings, because we’re social beings, but for decades, a political culture has developed which has felt exclusionary to most people. The current political culture, which drapes itself in a slick veneer of suits and spun rhetoric, can leave the average person feeling distant from, if not intimidated by, the workings of democracy. Currently, only one percent of the UK electorate belongs to a political party, one of the lowest rates in Europe. With a system that’s dependent on robust party politics, this isn’t good for democracy, and it’s not good for the country. Part of the appeal of the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is his ability to make people feel that politics belongs to more than simply a Westminster elite. Incidentally, I voted for Yvette Cooper, but having seen Corbyn speak at our Christians on the Left service, I think I understand his overwhelming appeal. When people say they’re drawn to his authenticity, they mean, at least partly, that he looks like people they know, and talks like people they know, and even more important, that they feel they can belong to, and will be included by, the political community he represents.

Relationships and a sense of belonging are crucial aspects to building a healthy democratic culture, but for those new to politics, it can be hard to figure out how to move from a position of feeling on the outside, towards a feeling of inclusion. This is the type of question those already involved in politics should be helping newcomers to answer, and the answer usually has something to do with commitment, responsibility and relationships. Mark Scott, writing in Christianity Today, talks about getting involved in politics as setting out on a pilgrimage. “A political pilgrimage,” he says, “awaits those who want to engage beyond the election. It's a slow journey, embarked upon in community with others, working together for the common good.” I have a lot of political energy, I engage in heated debate on social media, and I read intensively about current affairs. But as Scott puts it, the political pilgrimage begins in the presence of others: “It's about showing up now that the attention has shifted but the real work has begun.”

I feel very blessed that my political pilgrimage in British politics was initiated by Christians on the Left. In my situation, being new to London and new to Labour, I’d feel really at a loss as to how to crack into politics, and build the friendships and acquaintanceships necessary to get involved if I hadn’t connected with Andy and others. In the end, I got on the train, because I felt that, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable I may feel, it’s important that I show up and contribute. And the end result? Not only did I meet MPs, councilors and activists who inspired me and introduced me to different ways to progress on my pilgrimage, but I had the opportunity to take responsibility for encouraging others to get involved with Labour and Christians on the Left. I also made new friends and saw old friends. The experience was one of joy and belonging. Since returning, I’ve registered my address with central office, and I now await my new member pack and my first constituency party meeting. The real work has just begun.

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Organising for the common good

graham_hunter_300_wide.jpg'Organising for the common good' is a sermon that Revd Graham Hunter gave at the Chapel Service of the Tulpuddle Festival in July. He encourages us to to work with Christ to ‘repave the road to Jericho’ that it may be safe for others. 

Introduction

It’s an honour to be invited to speak with you this evening at the annual Tolpuddle Festival. It’s a festival with emotional resonance for me – for although this is my first visit, and I’m not actively involved in the Trade Unions movement, I remember my step mother’s collection of political plates which adorned the walls of the living-room and stairs while I was growing up – and which included a ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ plate.

I’m not active in the Trade Union movement, but I am active in Citizens UK – the home of broad-based community organising in this country. I serve on the Executive Committee of my local Hackney Citizens branch, and I’m involved in delivering training for new members and organisers. I’m also an Anglican priest – a representative of a body which has not always been sympathetic to those who agitate for political reform and change. However, I’m a Vicar in Hoxton, which – situated just outside the historic City of London – has historically been a hotbed of political dissent.

I see Community Organising as a natural and necessary counterpart to the Trade Unions movement. Indeed a renewal and continuation of the tradition. It’s necessary, because many people do not identify themselves as located within one trade or sector such as are typically represented by unions. Rather, they assimilate and integrate to other institutions: schools and college, residents associations, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other institutional bodies for voluntary association. Natural because we share an appetite for justice and equality.

Indeed, the same things could be said of the relationship between Community Organising and the Christian church. The are natural and necessary bedfellows, and the methodologies of Community Organising actually help the Church to be the Church.

Citizens UK community organisers were behind perhaps the most notable and recognisable of its campaigns – that for a nationally recognised ‘Living Wage’ to which employers and associations could be persuaded voluntarily to subscribe. The ‘Living Wage’ is a campaign not of the market nor the state, but rather of civic society – citizens acting together for their common good.

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Does Assisting Dying, Eradicate Suffering?

Haydon Spenceley's opinion on the Assisted Dying Bill. 

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Foolishness to Greeks: Article on the Assisted Dying Bill

On 11 September a Private Members Bill will be debated in the House of Commons. This Bill, an attempt to legalise a means of assisted dying is of immense significance. Through the heart of this debate run themes which are shaping public policy in our nation; attempting to normalise pre-suppositions that do not accord with a Christian worldview.

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