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Letters to the Editor

22 October 2021

Church Times letters: letters@churchtimes.co.uk We regret that we cannot guarantee consideration of letters submitted by post under present working conditions


Weight issues’ complexity missed in obesity feature

From Elizabeth Taylor

Sir, — As a person inhabiting a larger body and a Reader and allied health professional (AHP) who is an outpatient respiratory and amputee physiotherapist in the NHS, I was distressed by Dr Richard Pile’s article (Features, 15 October). It contains unhelpful and inaccurate statements and is both fat-shaming and fat-blaming.

Weight, food, and eating are difficult subjects for me. I have gained and lost lots of weight over the years, and am around the heaviest I have ever been. The yo-yo cycle of weight loss followed by weight gain is, I think, more harmful to me than being overweight. It has also led to disordered eating, anxiety, and depression. This article skips over the complexity of the issue and propagates the idea that thin is good and fat is bad.

When considering “risk factors”, it is important to remember that correlation is not causation. Many people, regardless of their weight, have inflammation, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, depression, dementia, and cancer. It is wrong to blame weight for these things. Society looks unfavourably on the overweight, and this causes poor health outcomes for the overweight.

In my own situation, heavy menstruation was blamed on my weight, and did not improve with weight loss. After a hysterectomy, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. The consultant was surprised: he still thought that it was related to my weight. In fact, my weight is blamed for many of my health conditions. So I very rarely seek medical advice, as I dread “the talk”, which leads me and others with larger bodies to have poor outcomes for our health.

In my clinical experience as an AHP, I always treat as a red flag unintentional weight-loss and refer patients back to the referring clinician for review. Unintentional weight-loss can sometimes be a sign of an underlying and sometimes serious health condition. Patients with larger bodies who have unintentional weight-loss are congratulated. Stop and think about that. People with larger bodies are congratulated when they have unintentional weight-loss when it may be an indication of an underlying health problem.

The author overlooks the fact that highly processed and high-calorie foods are sometimes what people living in food poverty buy. This is because it is cheap, you get more for your money, and it often has a long shelf-life and may not need much cooking. These foods are easy to store; and reducing the need to refrigerate or cook foods means that those in fuel poverty, or without functioning cookers or fridges, can still eat. Sometimes, after a day at work, I am too tired to cook, and I use convenience foods. This should not be stigmatised. The hearty hampers are a blessing to the community and a wonderfully visible outreach. Given the price of fuel, however, I did wonder whether they came with money to pay for cooking the food.

Thinking about adding movement to a church service to promote health assumes that those attending don’t move around enough for their own health, and that the church should encourage them to move. This is a dangerous assumption. What is enough for one person is way too much for others. With the advent of fitness-trackers, some of my patients know how many steps they can do in a day without suffering detriment. For some, it is 1500; for others, 5000. If someone who can do only 1500 steps per day uses a fair number of those in worship, doing functional tasks will be more challenging for the rest of the day and leave few steps for doing fun activities. We can have no idea what activity has been done before church: some people may have walked to church, and others may have walked their dogs.

People in larger bodies, including me, are often embarrassed about moving around. Sometimes, we are stared at, or comments are made, and we are judged as being lazy and less attractive, less employable, and less valuable to society. Sometimes, with a larger body, it is difficult to move around. Using worship to promote a healthy lifestyle is going to make some people very uncomfortable. We come as we are to worship, and we come in the hope that we won’t be made to feel less than we are, or uncomfortable because we can’t or don’t want to move around more during the service. People may think twice about coming to worship. Movement has its place in worship. It should not be at the expense of those who struggle.

I am utterly devastated by the words of the final two patronising paragraphs. As a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunty, reader, and AHP inhabiting a larger body, I “must be supported and encouraged to consider what an enjoyable, purposeful, and healthy life looks like, and what simple steps I can take on the way to achieving this”. Is my life without purpose, because I am a larger person? Without joy? My life contains joy (and sadness and anxiety and other emotions, too).

Dr Pile writes of supporting the community “without any ulterior motive or agenda”; but there is an agenda here, implying that I need to lose weight to be purposeful, happy, and healthy. This is hurtful and untrue. Do thin people have purposeful, enjoyable, healthy lives? No, not always; but the article implies that when you’re larger, you need to lose weight to achieve these things. I feel undermined and broken by the article, and will need time to re-member myself.

60 Chase Park Road
Yardley Hastings
Northampton NN7 1HD


CDM process completed for Dean Percy case

From Deborah Woudhuysen

Sir, — The letter (15 October) from the individual whose complaint against Dean Percy is currently being addressed by Christ Church, Oxford, maintained that there was no church investigation into her allegation.

I am not going to comment on current proceedings, but it is a fact that due process was followed in the completed Clergy Discipline Measure process. The complaint was passed to the Designated Officer, who proceeded to investigate. The Designated Officer, an experienced barrister, conducted a full inquiry, including visiting Christ Church, interviewing witnesses, and receiving all relevant paperwork.

In her determination, Dame Sarah Asplin, the President of Tribunals, confirmed that, “Having made the ‘due inquiries’ required of him pursuant to section 17(2) of the CDM, the Designated Officer has submitted his report to me.” Later, she says: “In my judgment, having considered all the evidence including the interviews conducted by the Designated Officer . . .”

Address supplied (Oxford)


Ban on collective worship would not be neutral

From Penny Thompson

Sir, — Has the former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries (Comment, 15 October) understood the implications of the Bill to replace collective worship with non-religious assemblies? The Bill would make it illegal to include any form of worship or religious observance in school assemblies. So, how will it be OK to sing carols — and, perhaps, hymns of thanksgiving at Harvest? To do so would be to invite children and teachers to break the law — unless you are going to instruct the assembled children in advance not to believe what they are singing.

Church attendance is in decline and has been for a long time. But not having a religion does not stop a child from wanting to explore the matter; nor from praying. The real question to ask is whether worship still has a value in a child’s education. Is it only OK for those who are signed-up Christians (or followers of other faiths), or should we seek to share its riches with our children in some way?

I came from a non-religious family who never went to church or taught me to pray. It was my schools that introduced me to worship, and gave me the tools with which I could begin to understand and approach the Eternal. Was this so wrong?

14 Chestnut Avenue, Crosby
Liverpool L23 2SZ


From the Revd Craig Huxley-Jones

Sir, — The Rt Revd Lord Harries is quite wrong to argue that compulsory worship in schools should end. In an age when the Christian narrative has been lost for at least two generations, it cannot “shine its own light” if it is hidden under a bushel basket.

Furthermore, if compulsory worship is abolished, then I don’t see how the assemblies that will replace it can be anything other than humanist in character. As such, if “worship expresses belief,” then whatever we replace Christian worship with is as much an expression of belief as any Christian act, and that is nothing but a sell-out to humanism, which is no witness to Christ the Truth.

2 West Gun Copse
Christ’s Hospital
Horsham RH13 0JE


Lay and clergy collaboration in Leicester diocese

From Mary Twidell

Sir, — In response to the Revd Bill Britt’s enquiry whether “those who have drafted the plans in Leicester have tried to put together a coffee rota lately” (Letters, 15 October), I can report from the Leicestershire deanery in which I live a rather different story.

We are a deeply rural deanery (Launde) with scattered villages, mostly very small. We are emerging from the pandemic with an exciting range of activities, most of which are lay-led by volunteers, and include weekly and monthly “Open the Book” assemblies in schools, weekly drop-in coffee/tea mornings and afternoons in several of our churches, and the continuation of our Zoom services and of Fresh Expressions groups.

The picture of our income is, however, very different from that experienced by your correspondent. We are privileged in our deanery to be the custodians of beautiful, ancient churches, which have served our communities for many generations, many of which are listed. The cost of maintaining these buildings and the heritage requirements of repair is huge. With very small populations, we are dependent on fund-raising events, which the pandemic made impossible, and grants, which have again been affected by the pandemic.

Nevertheless, we are not disheartened. At our deanery synod this week, we embraced fully the opportunities we see that “Shaped by God Together” gives us. To be honest, I was at first uncertain about this initiative; but, after listening and talking, I join now with others in looking forward to moving forward, hopefully and prayerfully, knowing that we are a united team of ordained (including non-stipendiary and retired clergy) and lay volunteers working together to show the love of God in our communities.

(PCC member)
Bridgford House, Horninghold
Leicestershire LE16 8DH

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