One of the privileges of being Team Rector of the Parish of the good Shepherd in Ashton-under-Lyne is the access that this gives to some of the charities in the town that are doing such good work. I am delighted to be able to say that I’ve been involved in LEAP (St. Peter’s Partnerships) for a number of years. The charity is active throughout Tameside and particularly in St. peter’s Ward in the West End of Ashton seeking to address the significant disadvantage faced by many.
Here is one story to warm the heart which is typical of the work LEAP is involved with.
Events in France and throughout Europe are straining relations across the world. A couple of recent articles have been of help to me in gauging my own response (links to those articles are at the end of this post). I have been disturbed by the eurocentric view of the media which has until very recently all but ignored atrocities in Nigeria in favour of reporting on the terrible atrocities which have taken place in Europe.
I feel deeply concerned that defending free speech seems to extend, at the moment, to defending a right to say absolutely anything that we want to say and seemingly has little respect for those who might be offended. Yet we know that this does not work, that this does not build a fair and good society. We already understand that certain actions incite hatred and we have developed laws intended to prevent that kind of behaviour. There seems to be a lack of consistency in our approach to free speech. Provoking ridicule and hatred cannot be right, even in the name of free speech.
Events and actions leave me unsure of the ground on which I stand. I want to belong to a tolerant society which mirrors the love God has for all of the world and for all human beings. I don’t want to be part of a world, or a country, that sees point-scoring against others, or ridicule as a primary way of relating.
I understand the instinct which means that people are offended and hurt by words and actions of others. I guess that I still have prejudices which need to be exposed and dealt with, but I want to live in a world where all are respected and valued and not a world where people’s faith is ridiculed but I also want to say the strongest things about atrocious actions which take place in our world. Nothing can justify them. Nothing.
We cannot, and we will not, build a good society if we seek to do so on the basis of defining ourselves by what we hate. A good society will be built by defining good values which we share and seeking to uphold them in all we do. A good society will be built through seeking understanding of our differences, respecting those who are different from ourselves and learning from each other. None among us can claim the high ground – all of our societies have committed atrocities in the name of sustaining our way of life. Throughout history this has been our pattern of relating as human beings and a better world will only be built when we accept that own instincts for self-preservation and the instincts of our society are defensive rather than generous, and that we all, instinctively, seek to blame the someone else rather than engage with our own inadequacies.
I have found two articles helpful recently. They are:
1. An article by Giles Fraser in the Guardian that helps us understand that there is no neutral territory in these matters, a secular society is just as dogmatic as a society based on other values and just as likely to commit atrocities in defence of its own values.
2. An article by Quanta Ahmed in the Spectator – a Muslim reflecting on the actions of Islamists and clearly helping us to understand that the sense of revulsion at atrocious actions is shared by Muslim, Christian, humanist.
‘Britain’s Lost Women’ campaign to create an annual day of remembrance for victims came to fruition after fashion bible Cosmopolitan teamed up with Karma Nirvana – a charity that works to end forced marriage and honour killings. The date chosen is July 14th. You can read more at:
THis announcement was made at the same time as the House of Lords was considering a report on Honour Killings from the Henry Jackson Society and authored by Emily Dyer:
These are the first few paragraphs of the executive summary of the report:
Thousands of people living in the United Kingdom are at risk of losing their lives to an unwritten code of conduct known as ‘honour’. Girls across the UK are raised to believe that their purpose in life is to uphold the ‘honour’ of the family. If they bring dishonour, they will pay the price with their lives. Women have come to the UK in order to escape violent cultural practises abroad – from female genital mutilation to the threat of ‘honour’ killings – yet have been met with the same brutality and dangers here.
Successful efforts by campaigners to raise awareness of these issues, as well as provide victim support, are not being matched by those whose responsibility it is to protect British citizens: the government. Many victims are still being let down by a government that is failing, not only to deal with crises, but to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Scale of the Problem
– The exact number of ‘honour’ killings each year in the UK is unknown. While, in 2003, the police estimated that 12 ‘honour’ killings took place in the UK in 2002, the numbers are likely to be much higher;
– According to our database of killings or attempted killings, 29 cases have been reported in the media to have taken place within the UK in the last five years (11 in 2010, five in 2011, nine in 2013 and four cases in 2014);
– Of all reported cases since 2010, 11 were attempted killings, and 18 were actual killings.
Nature of the Problem
Why do ‘Honour’ Killings Occur?
– While the reasons can vary broadly, the majority of reported cases since 2010 have occurred due to the victim bringing ‘dishonour’ to the family as a result of an issue relating to marriage or the victims’ choice in partner. An ‘honour’ killing, therefore, takes place in order to erase the ‘dishonour’ of the family within the wider community.
Who is Involved in ‘Honour’ Killings?
– The majority of victims of ‘honour’ killings and Honour Based Violence (HBV) are girls and women. Of all reported UK cases in the past five years, the majority of victims were females. However, men are also victims of ‘honour’ killings. In the cases of male victims reported in the media over the past five years, the perpetrators usually included the families of a current or ex- partner;
– Young people are those at most risk of HBV. Where the ages of the victims of reported ‘honour’ killings are known, just less than half were 25 or under – all but three of whom were female. The ages of victims in reported cases ranged from 16 to 56 years old. While the total number of perpetrators of reported ‘honour’ killings and attempted killings throughout the past five years remains unspecified within open source material, the ages (of those whose age was known) ranged from 17 to 59 years old.
Relationships between Victims and Perpetrators
– The majority of reported killings have been carried out by close family members. In a little over half (15) of all cases of UK ‘honour’ killings reported in the media over the past five years, the perpetrators were current or former partners and/or that partner’s family. In another nine cases, the victims’ parents were involved (of which two cases also included the victims’ male siblings) in the killing.
Roles of Women in ‘Honour’ Killings
– While men commit the majority of ‘honour’ killings, there are cases in which women have played both active and passive roles. While these women share the belief that a woman can bring shame and dishonour, there is also immense pressure put on all family members to guard the ‘honour’ of the family.
Please go to the link above to read the full Executive Summary.
The latest information about Ashton-under-Lyne Town Centre comes from a press briefing provided at the turn of the year:
Ashton Market still open for business during works
WORK has started to transform Ashton’s historic Market Square into a modern vibrant space in the heart of the town for people to shop, visit, socialise and do business.
The exciting plans will see the introduction of new stalls and kiosks, high quality landscaping and trees, a performance and seating areas as well as new street furniture and lighting.
A phased approach will be taken to complete the works to ensure the market remains open throughout and disruption is kept to a minimum. However, as with any major construction project there will be some disruption and residents are urged to continue to support their local market and businesses and shop locally whilst the improvements are carried out.
Ashton has one of the busiest town centres in Greater Manchester and its market – established in 1413 – was voted Britain’s Favourite Market in 2014, however the Market Square was beginning to look tired and dated. Investment in the much loved Ashton Outdoor Market is crucial to ensure it keeps up with modern shopping habits and continues to compete with neighbouring towns as well as online retailers.
The plans for Ashton market square have been designed to complement the town’s heritage assets in addition to the multi-million pound “Vision Tameside” redevelopment plans. This once in a lifetime opportunity for Tameside will not only transform the appearance of the town centre but will also see a new Tameside College campus in the town at the end of 2015.
This dramatic change to the number of people working and studying in the heart of the town will provide a major boost to the market, local shops and economy and will help to attract new investment and businesses to Ashton and the wider Tameside area.
The redevelopment plans aren’t just about the way the market looks as the Council’s Markets team is also developing a range of initiatives to help attract new market traders to ensure there is a greater choice of quality goods on offer which will appeal to more shoppers.
Cllr Bill Fairfoull, Chair of Ashton Town Team, said “Both the indoor and outdoor markets offer great choice and value for money but we need to improve the area for the next generation whilst retaining its charm and appeal. Please keep supporting the market and local businesses while the improvements works are carried out.”
Market Trader, Monica, who sells quality handbags and luggage, said “It’s great news that the Council is investing in Ashton Outdoor Market. As a long standing market trader I think the town centre needs reinvigorating to bring shoppers back”.
The Council’s Environmental Services team, are carrying out the works and have vast experience in working on similar large scale projects. They have received numerous awards, from the National Considerate Constructors Scheme, for the way in which they deliver projects in a professional and respectful way paying particular attention to the environment, their neighbours and members of the community.
Shoppers are reminded that parking charges in Tameside town centres have now been reduced to just £1 for three hours and £2 for all day parking – among the cheapest local authority parking in Greater Manchester. There is also the new Tameside Loyalty Card scheme to give people even more incentive to shop local (www.tamesideloyaltycard.co.uk).
For further details see www.tameside.gov.uk/ashton/marketsquare
MARK 1:4-11 & GENESIS 1:1-5 – 11th January 2015
The authors of the lectionary have placed our Old Testament reading alongside our Gospel reading for a reason. They want us to see them in parallel. In both cases God is doing something new. I am not an expert in classical music, but as I thought about these two readings from Genesis and Mark it seemed to me that they could be described as two different movements from the same symphony. I’m told that the classical composers used variations on the same theme to develop their composition and that if you listen carefully to the music you can hear the main theme being repeated. …..
Perhaps you can imagine a heavenly orchestra playing the first 5 verses of Genesis. Dark, brooding music portrays an overwhelming sense of chaos and darkness. I imagine that the composer would use discordant modern themes to convey a sense of disorder. Then over this music comes the main theme of the symphony – quietly at first, starting with flute and piccolo, and gradually engaging the whole orchestra. Like a wind gradually rising from a gentle breeze to a violent gale. God’s mighty wind sweeps across the universe. God is speaking, and his very words change the universe for ever. “Let there be light” and light appears. God saw that it was good, and Day and Night were born.
God breaks into the history of the universe with a powerful word of creation.
Our second reading comes much later in the symphony. The main musical themes are now well developed – we’ve heard them over and again throughout the symphony. When John the Baptist appears we return to that same discordant, abrupt and harsh theme that we heard right at the beginning of the symphony. His harsh manner, his odd clothing, his strange habits all seem to echo the chaos and darkness of Genesis. The sound from the orchestra builds and noise of the crowds coming to John for baptism shake the concert hall and then John’s voice can be heard as a sharp solo, perhaps, by the oboe cutting through the surrounding noise.
Then quietly at first the main theme appears again. The theme that represented God at work as Creator gradually supersedes the chaos of the early part of this movement. Jesus has come for baptism. The Word of God, from the beginning of John’s Gospel, is beginning his work. And as Jesus comes up out of the waters of baptism the whole orchestra joins the theme – the heavens are rent open, the Spirit descends on Jesus and God speaks, a strong solo voice: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”.
Can you see the common themes in the two passages?
The milling crowd, longing for God to act in their lives; and the universe awaiting God’s creative action.
The wind of God, and the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of the deep and the waters of baptism.
The word of God bringing creation, “Let there be light”; and the Word of God, Jesus, God’s Son, whose ministry brings redemption.
God’s delight is obvious in both passages. Looking at creation, ‘God saw that it was good’. Looking down on his Son, God said, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”.
The theme from each movement of our symphony is the same. God creating his world and God redeeming that same world. All part of the same plan. In our symphony, both represented by the same theme.
Now, at the beginning of 2015, we are participating in what the Bible calls the end times, the days between Jesus’ first and second coming. We are participating in what might be called the final movement of the symphony.
In the first movement, God saw that everything was good. What does he see now, at the start of this new year? Where are the signs of new creation? Where are the dark, formless voids that still await God’s creative action?
In the later movement God expressed overwhelming pleasure at the baptism of his Son. What things in our world, or in our lives, give God pleasure?
Where might we begin to hear that same musical theme of God’s intervention in our own town, our own place of work, our own community? What do we long that God would do in our town and in our world? How might the final movement of our symphony be played out? What should I do? What should we do to participate in God’s work in our own community and around our world?
I have been picking up quite a few interesting shots of Steam Locos working hard in the snow. Here are a selection of then – often from Heritage Magazine posts on Facebook, some from elsewhere. There is one photo of steam and smoke without snow. There is also an odd one out to look out for – possibly the train used by the People of Israel to cross the Red Sea!