I HAVE recently spent some time taking part in the Vacation Term
for Biblical Study.
This admirable scheme was founded in Oxford, in 1903, to provide
theological education for women, who at that time were not allowed
to study such a dangerous subject in the university. The students
were taken seriously; this was proper academic work, not a soft
option for the weaker sex.
The fact that it has survived - although it now admits men as
well - is testimony to the appetite for such study in today's
churches. For some students, this is an annual commitment, and the
repeated returners form a close-knit club - but one that is very
happy to admit those who are only just discovering the delights on
Wheelchairs and walking frames bear witness to the fact that
mental alertness and intellectual curiosity do not necessarily
diminish with increasing age and physical infirmity.
On the other hand, some participants were refreshingly young,
and just embarking on their preparation for lay or ordained
ministry. These were the ones who spent their free afternoons
energetically exploring the delights of tourist Oxford, while their
elders took the opportunity for a soothing rest - or perhaps, who
knows, for diligent preparation for their Greek and Hebrew
Financial pressures are now threatening the survival of this
unique institution. Can its value be made known and appreciated
before it is too late?
WHENEVER I open my emails, I am confronted by advertisements
urging me to sign up for some scheme that will enable me to "jump
the queue" for something or other.
I am old enough to remember a time, not too long ago, when
jumping the queue for anything was marked by social disapproval. It
was recognised as a heinous offence against fairness and social
solidarity. Now, it seems, it deserves admiration, as an ingenious
way of promoting one's own interests at the expense of others who
are less astute.
AMAZINGLY, the Church has now aroused interest for something
other than its pronouncements on sex. The Archbishop of Canterbury
has courageously thrown his weight against irresponsible bankers
and predatory lenders; in so doing, he has won approval from
sections of the press not usually full of admiration for the Church
of England. He has also uncovered embarrassing facts about the
Church's own financial dealings, and helped to reveal the extent to
which all of us, institutions or individuals, are enmeshed in a
corrupt and dysfunctional global financial system.
When Sir Richard O'Brien spoke to commend the Faith in the
City report in 1985, a member of the audience asked what was
the most important thing that ordinary people could do to improve
the lot of the poor. To the questioner's amazement, Sir Richard
replied: "Pay your taxes."
I am always upset when there is a Budget, and the papers ask:
"What will this mean for you and your family?", as though this were
the only important question - not "What will this mean for the
health of society?"
General Synod has recently de- bated a report by the Mission and
Public Affairs Council about the impact of the Government's
austerity programme on the most vulnerable. In a situation such as
this, those who can best afford it should contribute more to
sustaining the social fabric, and not employ personal acumen and
professional advice to minimise their liabilities.
Two members of Synod, however, have separately explained to me,
as to one incurably naïve, that raising taxes for the rich does not
work, because they will simply move their money elsewhere.
Is it not time that the Church proclaimed, loudly and clearly,
"This is immoral"? Those who in other contexts call for the Church
to be counter-cultural should turn their attention to this current
cultural norm of greed and selfishness. Then, perhaps, we would be
saying something worthy of serious attention.
HAVING just had a spell of illness, I have been sharply reminded
of the realities of vulnerability and dependence. Cherished plans
had to be abandoned, work had to be added to the burdens of others,
and activities that would normally have been performed without a
second thought either became unmanageable, or, at best, were
performed in slow motion.
It felt like a foretaste of growing old, and it was not
pleasant. I was dependent on the kindness of friends, strangers,
professionals, and the wonderful - and much ma-ligned - National
I have often felt, and now felt again, that because being ill is
so unpleasant, when I am not ill I should be continually giving
thanks for my fully functioning state. It is difficult, though, to
remember this: good health so quickly comes to seem like a normal
and permanent state, and the next bout of ill-health is greeted
with another reaction of indignant incredulity.
The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the
Holy Name in Derby.