Monthly Archives: Sep 2014

Ashton-under-Lyne – Heritage Weekend

imgresAshton-under-Lyne held a successful heritage weekend – an attempt on a world record, a Victorian seaside event, some amazing buildings open to the public. A great community event!

I hope you didn’t miss out on the fun!

Some videos.

And photos of some buildings open over the weekend!

The Market.



St. Michael’s, (Ashton Parish Church)



The Old Baths


St. Peter’s Church


Albion Church


St. James Church held a British night in competition with the Last Night of the Proms.imgres

Just as an addendum. If you smoke cigars – here is a way to remember the weekend!



Matthew 18:21-35 – Forgiveness

The last thing we want to do when we have been hurt, is to forgive!

When Peter comes to Jesus to ask how often he should forgive someone – he believes that he is setting a high standard: “How often should I forgive? 7 times?” And Jesus response leaves him reeling – not seven times but seventy-seven times – or in some translations seventy times seven – 490 times. “As often as is necessary,” is Jesus’ response. ‘Keep forgiving until you completely lose count!’

Jesus then tells a story to help us understand that it is because we have been loved so much, forgiven so much ourselves by God, that we should forgive others. Jesus’ story is about a servant who has a wife and children and has overspent on all his credit cards, someone who has maxed out. He has stacked up a huge amount of debt with his boss.

The Boss calls for his servant and demands repayment of what is owed. The servant falls on his knees and begs to be given more time to pay. The master, the boss, feels sorry for his servant and lets him off the whole debt! Just like that! The debt is cancelled. How does the servant feel?

So, here is this happy, free servant. He’s wandering back from the house of his master, his boss, to tell his family the good news. He’s over the moon, he’s delighted, it is wonderful. And he meets a fellow servant of his boss, his master. This fellow servant owes him a few quid.

And the same thing happens; this other servant falls on his knees and begs to be given more time to pay. But what does the first servant do? He grabs him by the neck and shakes him and has him thrown into prison until he can pay the debt.

I think Jesus wants us to ask ourselves this question: Is it reasonable for the first servant to behave this way with the second? Is it fair and right? What do we think?

No, it isn’t. Yet forgiveness remains something we find difficult – often impossible. Not just in our personal circumstances … As we think back over the last 100 years we can remember many seemingly unforgivable acts. The Holocaust, South African Apatheid, The Rwandan Genocide, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Moors Murders, the Shipman affair, 9/11 and 7/7. And as we dwell on those atrocities we feel the pain of those who took the greatest hurt, we feel something of their anger and we feel justified in refusing to allow the possibility of forgiveness to the perpetrators. They are unforgiveable – forgiveness is surely not possible for the Hitlers, the Hutu Interahamwe, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, Harold Shipman, for the terrorists who bombed the twin towers in New York or the bus and tube in London, for those who behead their enemies …………

And yet … there is another perspective we have to hear. We have to hear the voices of people like Desmond Tutu who suffered under the injustice of Apartheid, who became Archbishop of Cape Town, who organised the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, who also had a part to play in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide.

In his book, “No Future Without Forgiveness” about the work of reconciliation in South Africa, he talks of visiting Rwanda in 1995 and of speaking in a stadium rally: … “I told them that the cycle of reprisal and counter-reprisal that had characterized their national history had to be broken, and that the only way to do this was to go beyond retributive justice to restorative justice, to move on to forgiveness, because without it there was no future.”

In the 1990s, I remember watching the mother of one of the Moors Murders victims talking about her feelings for Myra Hindley. Her anger was fully justified. No one can rightly argue that she should feel anything else towards those who destroyed her family. However what was just as obvious was that her anger and her ongoing inability to let go, if not to forgive, had a deep effect on her own life, it was evident that over many years she had carried her bitterness and anger. Not a waking moment had gone by without the desire for revenge. And in this sense she was trapped, she was unable to move on. We might reflect that in such circumstances it would be impossible to move on and certainly we have no right to judge, for her life was destroyed when her child was taken from her. But the fact remains, that she was not only devastated by the murder of her child, she was also held trapped by subsequent feelings which would not let her go.

A striking example, in 2011, of a different response, was that demonstrated by Tariq Jahan in Birmingham after the death of his son – killed by a car driven directly at him in what was perceived to be a racist and hate motivated crime. Tariq’s own ability to see beyond his own grief, and his courageous comments to the media, started a very long, and no doubt extremely painful, process for himself, of being able to let go of the anger and bitterness he must feel. But not only did he begin to set himself free, his timely comments set his own community free from a desperate cycle of revenge

These matters are not easy to engage with.

When we think of forgiveness as letting the other person off the hook, of setting them free, then perhaps we can understand and sympathize with a refusal to forgive. But when we realize that a failure to forgive doesn’t so much imprison the one who has harmed us, but rather imprisons us in bitterness and hatred, in a constant desire for revenge – then we have to forgive, we have to let go – for without doing so we cannot move on, we are trapped, we are imprisoned by our own choice. And as a result we continue to give the person who harmed us in the past, on-going power over us. We get hurt again and again.

Put like this, it seems that for our own sanity, forgiveness is ultimately our only option. We have to begin, however hard it is to do so, to find a way to forgive.

Jesus suggests in his story that we’ll only begin to be able to forgive, if we can comprehend how much we ourselves are loved, how much we been forgiven. Jesus says that it is when we know that we are loved without conditions, that we can begin to show that kind of love to others.  The love God has for us is that kind of love.

Every time we have a baptism I am reminded of that love. Baptism is a sign of God’s forgiving, generous love, offered to a child before he or she can possibly have done enough to deserve that love. Our baptism and the repeated occasions when we see a child or an adult baptized are our personal sign of God’s love.

Baptism reminds all of us that we are loved by God – no matter what. It’s a sign that if we give our lives to God, then we’ll begin to understand that we have been loved and accepted from the beginning.

We need to hold onto this truth – that real forgiveness is ours. Baptism is a sign of this.

Our regular Sunday services also allow time for confession and for us to hear God’s words of forgiveness for us. Reminders of just how crucial forgiveness is.

It is in the security and strength of God’s forgiving love that we can be free to love, and that we can begin to forgive others generously in return. Yes, for their sake and for God’s sake, but also perhaps most crucially for the sake of our own health and well-being as well.

Karma Nirvana – Jasvinder Sanghera

I picked up the Church Times over the weekend and discovered an interesting interview. Jasvinder Sanghera founded Karma Nirvana in 1993 as a helpline for people in danger of honour abuse and honour kilings.

The article on the rear of the Church Times is an interview with Jasvinder.

She escaped a forced marriage but her sister Robin was unable to do so and committed suicide by setting herself on fire.

Jasvinder Sanghera, CBE was born in September 1965 in Derby and her parents originate from India, the Punjab.  Jasvinder’s family were Sikhs and she was one of seven sisters and one brother. She fled home when in her teens as her parents were forcing her to marry a stranger. She was disowned by her family, rejected by her parents and treated by them as an outcast. They regard her as having deeply shamed them. She has no contact with her past family today.

Jasvinder tells her story in her true story in Shame, published by Hodder and Stoughton. She tells more stories of British victims in her second book, Daughters of Shame. Both books have been translated into various languages including Japanese, Polish, Spanish.

She says that Shame, is her personal story: “I wished for it to be an honest account, because I felt the responsibility of telling a story that I knew was one of many. It took longer to write, as it was quite painful, but the whole experience has been cathartic, and it has helped shape UK policy and practice today.”

Karma Nirvana is now a national and international charity that has been instrumental in developing several refuge centres across the United Kingdom which serve as safe-housing for South Asian men and women fleeing forced marriages. Jasvinder says: “Karma Nirvana serves all those affected by honour abuse. The survivor stories are the most important ones to hear. No one can argue with the testimony of real-life experience. I feel that, in telling my story, it has given others the courage to speak out, and our visibility enables others to believe that there is life when you take a stand.”

Jasvinder had been awarded several awards in recognition for her contribution in the field of forced marriages and honour based violence including:

  • The Woman of the Year Award 2007
  • Pride of Britain Award 2009
  • Global Punjabi Society Award 2012
  • Cosmopolitan Wonder Woman Award 2010
  • Inspirational Woman of the Year Award 2008
  • Asian Woman Achievement Award 2007
  • Ambassador for Peace Award 2008

Jasvinder has been listed as one of the Guardian’s 100 most Inspirational Women in the World. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of University of Derby for her contribution to knowledge in the field of forced marriages and honour based violence.[3] This has led to providing evidence to several Government Select Committees and acting as an Expert Witness to Courts across the UK and internationally.

Romans 13: 8-14 and Matthew 18: 15-20

Have you noticed how when you tell a child not to do something, they seem to become more determined than ever to do that one thing?  When you tell a child not to play with matches, you seem to put the idea into their head that matches are extremely exciting to play with!

And it’s not just children, there is something fascinating about anything forbidden that seems to entice us to do things we know we shouldn’t; Just to be awkward, or to find out what will happen, to satisfy our curiosity.  The classic Biblical example is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  God says “Don’t eat the fruit on that tree,” so what do they do?  They eat it and only then do they find that the consequences were just as bad as was promised. They’d have been better off obeying God.

Schools are now advised that negative rules are not helpful – it’s been discovered that children continually told not to do things don’t flourish well.  So rules in schools are now positive. Instead of, “Don’t treat other people badly,” it’s, “Treat other people well.” Instead of  “Don’t run in the corridor,” it’s “Walk in the corridor.”

It’s actually much easier to learn to do things sensibly than remember a list of things that you mustn’t do!   But this idea of replacing negative rules with positive ones isn’t new. It’s something Jesus did.

The Old Testament tells us that Moses received Ten Commandments, ten rules that God gave for life – and Paul reminds us of some our reading from Romans: AYou shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet@. Can you remember all ten? Where would you find them now if asked?

The rules Paul quotes are negative rules – as most of the ten commandments are. If we can’t remember them and if we don’t react well to being told not to do something, then maybe these rules are no longer the best way of governing our lives.

Paul reminds us that Jesus told people to rethink the way they lived their lives – and instead of giving a list of “don’t” rules, he said, “There’s only one rule to remember – love your neighbour, love other people as you love yourself.” Perhaps Jesus knew that people don’t remember lists of rules, perhaps he knew that we’re often curious to find out what happens when we do the things we’re told not to.

Whatever his reason, Jesus said that life is simple really – love other people, treat them the way you would want to treat yourself.  And of course, by living like this, we naturally won’t steal, be unfaithful in our relationships or harm other people.

Christianity and the church are often seen to be unattractive – only interested in telling people what they shouldn’t do. But this is so wrong – being a Christian, coming to church is about enjoying life to the full – but in a way that shows love and respect to those around us.

And this, I think, is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 18. He is asking us to think about how we deal with disputes. What we should do when we feel that someone else in church has wronged us, or done something with which we disagree.

We might be straight-talking, here in Ashton-under-Lyne, but most of us are still not very receptive to that straight-talking, and more often than not straight-talking in public leads to offence being taken by someone. So Jesus says, give respect to the one with whom who disagree – speak with them in private about your disagreement, or the offence that they have caused.

At work, the boss who balls someone out in public gains not respect but fear. The boss who talks quietly with someone when things have gone wrong garners respect.

Go to someone who has upset you in private to work things out, says Jesus, often this will be enough, but if not, then take witnesses with you and try again. And only then, if the person cannot see sense, bring the problem out into the open. It seems to me that this is all about respect – giving the respect to someone who has offended me, that I wish they had given to me in the first place.

Jesus and Paul agree – Our love is the first, the primary, measure of our commitment to God and to our faith, not our ability to follow the rules!