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Diary

by
16 August 2013

by Sister Rosemary

ISTOCK

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 offer.

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 classes.

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 Health Service.

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.

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