Blogging

My Manchester


Today marks a very sad and poignant anniversary in my Manchester’s history. It was exactly 12 months ago today that a terrorist bomb was detonated in the Manchester Arena at the end of a concert given by Ariana Grande. In its aftermath, there was a tremendous outpouring of love and support, of music and poetry, of community coming together and a defiance that this horrific act would not stop Manchester and Mancunians being what we are and who we are. There was a determination that the very fabric of Manchester would be strengthened by this, not destroyed by it, and it would go down in Manchester’s history as just another thing that has happened to us.

You’ll notice I refer to my Manchester, and to us. That’s deliberate, because I am a proud Mancunian and I am so glad I was born in this wonderful place. This city runs in my DNA as much as my blood does, as it does with the million of other folk who get to call this city “home”.

I got to thinking about what being a Manc means, and how the demonstration of our spirit in these last 12 months can be an example to the rest of the world. Yes, we might seem to be territorial about our city, but it is a territory without boundaries and borders – anyone can call themselves a Mancunian so long as they play by the rules.

And the rules are simple:

  1. Keep strong – in the face of adversity (and that includes the weather). You may be battered about, but Mancunians stay strong. Together.
  2. Keep calm – get the job done, then go away and weep about it. You’ll find no hand-wringing here.
  3. Keep it together – look after your mate, your brother, the stranger in front of you or next door to you.
  4. Keep loving – don’t let hatred in, don’t let hatred win. Give love until it feels like you are going to empty yourself, then keep giving. It wells up from a deeper place and will only ever get bigger and stronger. Don’t look back in anger. Ever.
  5. Keep singing – it’s what we do best. From the textile mills to the coal mines, on the canals, in the workshops, on the football terraces, in schools, in places of worship, on street corners, in clubs and bars, singing is what we do. It draws us together and anyone can do it. Let that song live within you.

If you can live by those 5 rules, you can come in and be counted as a Manc. Blue or red, doesn’t matter. Christian, Muslim or Jew, doesn’t matter which. Man, woman, child, adult, doesn’t matter. However you see yourself so long as you can do those 5 things you can be one of us and you will join the biggest set of mates you will ever know.

We might not get on from time to time and we know we have our problems – which city doesn’t? – but the thread that holds this city together has been woven over centuries and the people here all play by the rules. Most of the time.

So what can we teach the rest of the world? Manchester’s symbol is the bee. It symbolises our industrial past – the worker bees supplying the world with our produce and goods – and it has become a true icon of our great city particularly in these last 12 months. What the bee can teach the rest of the world is that true sweetness can only come from a lot of people all working together, not against each other, and Manchester’s lesson to the rest of the world is just that: let’s work together to make the world a sweeter place.

Now, make us a brew while you’re up, yeah?

#onelove #dontlookbackinanger #loveistheway #lovewins #allyouneedislove

 

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Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Give”


Part of the Lenten discipline is to give – to charity, of your time, of yourself, help to others – and this picture represents one of those.

It’s not always possible for me to give cash to charity, but something that I’ve been trying to do is to crochet some hats to give to a homeless charity here in Manchester. They probably won’t be needed much now that the worst of winter has gone, but I have given some already and there will be some more to give when autumn comes around again later this year.

I wish I did have the cash to give, but like Jesus taught us, giving what you can is enough. Paul wrote of it too, and said: “For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12). Put another way Paul is saying that you should give in proportion to what God has given you. God has given me the gift of creativity and at the moment it’s the best way I can of contributing and making someone’s life better somewhere.

 

Blogging, Uncategorized

Stormy Weather


It’s a tad breezy out there tonight (she says in massive understatement). The wind actually sounds like someone is having a motorbike race on the roof!

I just hope our wobbly chimney stack will make it through the night. If you hear a big crash followed by lots of swearing you’ll know it has been blown in.

I’ll let you know tomorrow…

History

One Hundred Years On


I don’t usually do political posts, but today is different. Today marks the 100th anniversary of a turning point in women’s history, when in the UK an act of Parliament was passed allowing certain women the right to vote in the political system. It was only a turning point and it represents a huge step forward for the rights of women in society, and enabled some – a very privileged few – to have a voice in how our society was organised, judged, policed, financed and ultimately how it evolved.

Manchester

As you may know, I am a proud Manc. I was born and brought up in Manchester, and I am not ashamed to align myself with the history of this great city. It is a city that gave birth to all sorts of innovation and creativity, and the people of Manchester are not shy at coming forward and bucking the trend of fashionable “trendy” thinking. It was the people of Manchester and surrounding Lancashire who stood by Abraham Lincoln and other anti-slavery campaigners at tremendous cost to themselves, facing starvation and extreme poverty because there was no work for them when cotton supplies were halted. The prevailing thinking of the governing classes all around the world was to turn a blind eye to the fact that cotton was grown by slaves, but the people of Manchester stood up and said “no”.

 

The Pankhursts

Manchester was the birthplace of the first national movement for women’s suffrage in the 1870s, and later was the home of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation which began to formalise numerous other societies and movements around the country. Emmeline, along with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, were ardent campaigners and activists for the cause, often taking part in large parades and engaged in disruptive activities to bring attention to the work of the suffragists. There are some who still say that their actions were more akin to terrorism than demonstration and activism, and I guess when we look at what they did through our 21st century eyes we cannot fully understand or appreciate just how desperate women like them were to get society to recognise that women had a voice too. The desire for women to have a say who in who governed them, and to stand for election themselves simply cannot be fully understood from our viewpoint today.

Emmeline Pankhurst with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia pictured in 1911

Media interest

There is a lot in the media today about this anniversary today and so there’s not much I can add to the story, only that the event 100 years ago was a turning point in a fight that still goes on today. It is a universal fight for women to be heard all over the world and it is a fight that has not been won yet. There are still parts of our world where women are classed and treated as inferior to men, and it’s not just in the so-called “third world” countries that we perhaps automatically think of.

Women in positions of power today

Even now, one hundred years after the first women were granted a voice in our political system, men outnumber women 2 to 1. According to the House of Commons Library 208 women were elected as Members of Parliament in 2017 (our last General Election), which represents 32% of all MPs. I don’t know what astonishes me more, the fact that even today, in 2018, only a third of our MPs are female or the fact that since 1918 less than 500 women have EVER been Members. The split between male and female MPs is different depending on the party (Conservatives 21%, Labour 45%, SNP 34%, LibDem 33%) which I suppose tells its own story (source BBC).

According to the Telegraph in September 2017, only 7 of the FTSE 100 companies in the UK have a female CEO, and even leaders in an organisation which is very dear to my heart – the Church of England – men outnumber women at a ratio of around 2 to 1. However, this is a glimmer of good news in that there has been a recent upswing in the number of women coming forward to be ordained, and last year’s figures show that there was an even split between men and women in training (source The Church Times).

 

Where are we now?

It may have started with a cry for “votes for women”, but it surely doesn’t end there. A quick dip into the European Commission’s 2017 Annual Report on Gender Equality tells us that women’s inequality is still as much alive today as it was back then. With sections of the report entitled “Reducing gender pay, earnings and pension gaps and thus fighting poverty among women”, and “Promoting equality in decision-making”, or even “Combating gender-based violence and protecting and supporting victims” among others, it shows us that women’s voices still struggle to be heard and there is more that divides us than unites us.

The movement that began in the Victorian era with John Stuart Mill raising the issue of women’s suffrage in the House of Commons in 1867 has evolved in the intervening years, but it still goes on. There are groups and activists today who campaign for more women in business, in politics, in sport, in boardrooms etc, and there is still a long way to go.

 

So, to finish, what happened one hundred years ago today in the UK was a turning point, a marker post, a landmark in women’s history, and I appreciate what those women Suffragettes and Suffragists put themselves through in order to get the ball rolling for us who have come after them. I think we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to not only keep that ball rolling, but to knock it out of the park completely and to keep striving for equality among ALL people regardless of  age, gender, sex, race, creed, income, privilege, nationality, education, or any of the other labels that we insist on putting on ourselves to set ourselves apart from each other.

 

Christianity

Christenings and Baptisms


One of the ways I serve my church is to be involved with families who bring their children for baptism. My role is twofold: first there is the administration side of things – have they filled in the application form? Have I booked a priest? Have I got certificates ready? – and so on. But for me, the other bit of my role is the best bit and that’s when we do the baptism preparation session together.

At the session, we bring together several families who are asking for baptisms and we have some activities and discussions around the different bits of faith and what it means to be baptised. Locally, here in North Manchester, it is more common for families to bring children to be Christened, and to be honest, even though I know there is a difference between being Baptised and being Christened, I don’t think I know enough about it to be able to explain it or argue about it!

So to make life easier, when I talk about “baptism” I also mean “Christening” and when I talk about “Christening” I also mean “baptism”. For now, at least. Wait until I’m further into my training and I might be able to split them and explain them better than I can now.

There is going to be a session of baptism preparation tomorrow evening, and we are going to be running out our “new and improved” version, which Hils (our curate) and myself have been working on. We have an icebreaker activity and some discussion activities before we get to the real crux of what we’re there for and that is the discussion and explanation about what the baptism service entails.

Our baptism invitation and instruction leaflet for families who want their children “done”, and a stack of coloured cards for cutting out for an activity at tomorrow night’s preparation session.

For babies and infants, this is the bit that parents do on their behalf, but for older children and adults they do this bit for themselves. And that is where they are asked about rejecting certain things and turning towards Christ, before they are dipped in the water and blessed.

I am always moved by this part of both the preparation and the baptism service itself. At the preparation, there is a moment of hush when parents think about what it is they are turning away from, and to whom they turn and there is a palpable awe in the air which is similar to the moment of baptism itself in church. It is a real sacramental moment, where God makes himself known in our presence and where his glory is revealed. It is fascinating to hear how the different families have arrived at this particular point, but the moment of baptism is always something special, wondrous and touching in so many ways.

I wonder what your experience of baptism is. Do you believe in it, or is it just another thing that we do with children along with the MMR jab to protect them in childhood? Have you been “done” yourself, or is it something you have never considered or thought about? What about the practices where you are in the world? In the Church of England, it is common for the font in churches to be used in baptism, but now and again, full immersion baptisms are done in small pools or even natural waters such as rivers or lakes too. How is it done where you live?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment below.

 

Comment

Manchester 


In the wake of the atrocious attack in Manchester last night, I feel have to say something. But like so many people today there are simply not enough words to express just how sad,  shocked, upset, fearful, determined, defiant and united we feel as a city.

Mancunians are renowned for our understated attitude to getting on with things and coming together as a community to stand in the face of adversity. This isn’t the first time Manchester has experienced violence like this and I don’t suppose it will be the last. While that saddens and angers me, I am reassured by the resilience of my fellow Mancs in that we will carry on.

For those who are pointing the finger and trying to divide us, my message is that we are all children of the same God and we would do well to remember that. Darkness will never overcome darkness, only light can do that. Hatred can never overcome hatred, only love can do that.

For the people of Manchester my message is, stay strong our kid.

Blogging

Manchester Storm


Wow! The weather in Manchester tonight has been AMAZING!

It started at about teatime when the sky went green – yes, green – and there was a terrific rumble of thunder. Shortly afterwards, the lightening started and we were treated to the best light show all year.

This was the view from the back of our house at 6.30pm:

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This from the front showing the torrential rain and the grid which was struggling to cope a bit:

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Apologies for the Manc accents on these, but two short videos I shot out of Ethan’s bedroom window:

The thunder boomed and cracked for about an hour (including the LOUDEST thunderbolt I have ever heard at about 6.45pm) before it started to ease off. The rain kept up for a while longer and the lightning was going for about two hours or so. Thankfully the thunder rolled off to the north – I don’t like it when the thunder cracks like it did tonight. It puts me in full Chicken Little mode!

There have been lots of photos shared on social media this evening including this one from “I Love Manchester” on Facebook.

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As well as having an affect on transport around the city it also caused the Manchester City vs Borussia Munchengladbach match to be cancelled. The fans were prevented from getting to the stadium because the trams were stopped and the roads were gridlocked, but as you can see from this photo from the BBC, there was quite a lot of surface water on the pitch just before it was due to kick off. Not surprising really!

 

My favourite video of the night has got to be this one – it shows the Etihad stadium lit up by magnificent purple lightning. Awesome!