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Showing posts from May, 2014

Josephine Butler

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A 6 year old girl falls from a bannister at home in and dies. That's what happened in 1863 to Evangeline, the only daughter and youngest child of Josephine Butler and her husband George.

It seems that her grief about Eva's death provided part of Josephine's motivation to help people whose pain might be greater than hers.

As a feminist, Christian and social reformer she became a significant woman in the history of Victorian social justice campaigns, practical social work and feminism.

She has been described here like this:
"Josephine Butler was one of the most revolutionary social reformers of the nineteenth century. She challenged the inconsistent and hypocritical standards prevalent at that time especially where they unjustly disadvantaged women. She campaigned vigorously against the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and children and strove for legislative reform to provide some degree of protection, equality and justice.Josephine Butler worked tirelessly for the d…

Ascension Day: music and paintings for reflection

Today (40 days after Easter) is Ascension Day when Christians celebrate Jesus' 'ascension' into heaven. 
Here are some previous posts on this theme:
Ascension Day 2012
Ascension Day
Dangerous Ascension Day

Maya Angelou: an inspiration to so many

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News of yesterday's death of an inspiring and great African-American woman Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014) has caused me to revisit some of her writing. I will not give a potted biography - her official site has one here.

If you know nothing about her then I recommend starting with 'I know why the caged bird sings', an autobiography of her early years, first published in 1969. When I read it in 1970 it had a profound effect on me. I was then a newly qualified social worker struggling for the first time with a case involving child sexual abuse and incest. Her book helped me to see a little of the child's point of view, as well as understanding more about racial and gender discrimination. And yet somehow it is a hopeful book, especially in the light of all she achieved since her first 17 years which that book is about.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from Dr Maya Angelou:
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its de…

On not having a funeral

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When my mother died, just over a year ago, her body was not buried or cremated. It still hasn't been. Many years earlier she chose to donate her body, after its death, for medical education, training and research. As her children we ensured her intention was honoured.

Eventually there will be a cremation but that could still be a long time ahead. When consenting to donation a donor can stipulate a time limit for the use of their mortal remains. My mother chose not to state a time limit, signing her consent for her body or parts of it to be used for an indefinite period of time. This was generous on her part, but I have not found it easy - well, grief is always complicated anyway isn't it? 

We did organise a thanksgiving and memorial service for her at her church about 3 weeks after her death. It was good. She was a Christian. Her reason for donating her body was not because she did not want a Christian funeral. Apart from wanting what was no longer any use to her to be used for …

What have immigrants ever done for us?

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The results of the elections for Members of the European Parliament are announced today. From some of the interviews I've seen about why some voted UKIP, you would think that the UK electorate sees immigrants as scapegoats for all the problems we have. I don't share that view. 

This mosaic image show a 6th century immigrant to Kent. He's the monk with the halo talking earnestly (through an interpreter) to the man with the crown on his head. The Benedictine monk is probably Roman and certainly sent from Rome. So he was an immigrant to the Kingdom of Kent. He is Augustine, who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. The seated king is Aethelbert, the pagan King of Kent, also an immigrant - at least by descent from the invading Anglo-Saxons who drove the native Britains to the north and west. Sitting next to him and apparently praying is his Christian wife, herself an immigrant from France.

Augustine of Canterbury probably died on 26 May in 604 or 605 A.D. which is why the C…

Called alongside to help

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This grave was among the thousands of World War 1 graves we saw in Flanders recently. It is in the Brandhoek New Military Cemetery and is the grave of a young medical doctor, Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse (1884 - 1917).


 Noel Chavasse was awarded the Victoria Cross (twice) because of his bravery going out into 'no man’s land' under heavy fire to come alongside injured men. He saved many lives, eventually dying of his own wounds.

This weekend I've been thinking about him and others like him - people who come alongside others to help the vulnerable.

These thoughts have been triggered by the gospel reading for today John 14: 15 - 21. Jesus' promised his friends that they would not be abandoned, not left alone and vulnerable. The time was coming when they would see Jesus no more, but they would be given the Holy Spirit, 'another Advocate', to be with them for ever.

The Greek word 'parakletos' used in this passage  doesn't have any English equivalent that ca…

Talbot House

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Number 43 Gasthuisstraat in Poperinge, Belgium is one of the places I most wanted to visit during our recent visit to Ypres and the Flanders battlefields of World War I. I was not disappointed.

Since 1915 (apart from when occupied by German military in WW2) it has been known as Talbot House or 'Toc H'.

Except for a brief time in the autumn of 1914 Poperinge was in the small area of Belgium not occupied by the German army in World War 1. Only 10 km from Ypres it became a staging post for the thousands of British, Canadian, Australian and Indian troops moving to and from the front line and a place of recreation during leave. It's population was also swollen by poorer refugees from other parts of Belgium - the richer refugees having mostly escaped to France or Britain.  The juxtaposition of so many destitute refugees and thousands of young men with money in their pockets had inevitable, not always healthy consequences. Poperinge became known as 'Little Paris' because of…

On taking an unplanned blogging break

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I seem to have taken an unplanned blogging break. It's almost a month since my last post.

I did manage a short post about the courage of disobedient women in my regular slot on 14th May over there but not here. I have sadly neglected this space. Has anyone missed me?

No I have not been ill. No I have not been lazy. Yes, I have had a lot to say, so many interesting thoughts going round in my head. Yes I have often wanted to post in the last few weeks, but sometimes other things take priority. Things like our daughter's wedding at the start of this month which was a great joy, but as a matter of policy to protect the privacy of others I don't generally post details of family matters.

What did we do to recover from the wedding? We did a tour of WW1 Flanders battlefields. Now that has provided a great deal of material about which I hope to post in due course.

I don't apologize for my absence. If I feel guilty about it, it's a false guilt. Blogging is not a duty. It is thou…