Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
God in heaven, you’re our dad.
We respect everything your name stands for,
and we want others to respect you and your name as well.
Please bring heaven
on earth: people living life your way, like the angels do.
Please bring us
all we need to keep us going this day.
Please forgive what we’ve done wrong,
in the same way we forgive what others have done to us.
Please protect us
from evil, whether we’re tempted or attacked by it.
Because you’re all that
you’re able to do everything and you deserve all the credit.
You’re in a league of your own,
You're in control.
Really and truly.
Count me in.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
As I said earlier in the week, Northern Ireland is back in the headlines again, but while I've looked at the bad news from Belfast, I should also offer my tuppence worth on the good news from Derry/Londonderry.
And for once the double-barrelled appellation isn't an embarrassment, as it was under this awkward moniker that they were told on Thursday that they had been designated the UK City of Culture for 2013, after a great campaign including this short film:
Of course the cynics weren’t long in starting to snipe about them having 3 years to find some culture and how ironic it was for Free Derry to be awarded such status within the United Kingdom... Especially in the wake of the Saville Report into Bloody Sunday and david Cameron's unqualified apology for the events of that day. Was this the cherry on the cake? Further encouragement for the families of the fallen to drop their legal procedings against the soldiers in question?
But it is a sign of how far Derry/Londonderry has come, especially when contrasted with the riots in Belfast earlier in the week, with dissident republicans and young people using the Orange celebrations as an excuse to have a go at the police. I suppose it is also a sign of how far policing has come too when you consider that it was young hotheads using the civil rights march as an excuse to have a go at the police and the army that formed the context for Bloody Sunday. In Belfast this week the police simply contained the disturbances, sucking up the aggression against themselves (at great cost to their own personel and the budget of the PSNI). As one former policeman said on radio, in any measurable sense it was a successful piece of public order policing, simply because no members of the wider public were harmed, and the trouble didn't spread. Those public mouthpieces and politicians who argue for a tougher approach by the police could so well to remember that... and the lessons of Londonderry and Belfast 40 years ago...
But back to the Derry of today, or rather 3 years from now. I suppose my only real concern for the whole City of Culture jamboree is much the same as my concerns re economic investment in Belfast that I expressed a few days ago, that is that it will bring benefits to all levels and sectors of the second city's society... both sides of the river, inside the walls and out... and that all "cultures" will be reflected and supported in the endeavour. It must be inclusive... If anyone feels themselves shut out because they don't live in the right area, or vote in the right way, then this will be a disaster for Derry... They have come far, and could teach Belfast a thing or two regarding the resolution of contentious parades and other issues, but they are not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination.
And in the whole endeavour I hope that the church will be included and seek to be included... to contribute creatively to the cultural life of the city. Indeed I would argue that we need to do that in all cities. For too long now the church has fled the inner city, leading the exodus to the suburbs... and the escape to the country, forgetting that the momentum in scripture is actually towards the heavenly city!
We need to think about our role in the city, not just Derry and Belfast, but in the words of the hymnwriter Hugh Sherlock,
In the streets of every city,
where the bruised and lonely dwell...
Saturday, July 17, 2010
The squeeze that is hitting English charities will hit us too as the assembly departments and local councils need to find ways of cutting their budgets... and since the recent RPA debacle has shown the reluctance of public sector turkeys to vote for Christmas there is no doubt that in order to retain staff and resources for themselves, they will reduce funding to outside bodies... Even though the community and voluntary sector adds a huge amount of value to any investment (the "voluntary" element obviously allows the deployment of large numbers of people on the ground without the troublesome matter of wages), in a world where bean-counters are king, it is a lot easier to look at expenditure rather than outcomes... especially when many of the outcomes in community projects are hard to measure, such as the sense of security and well-being of older people, the harmony within homes, relationships between communities.
Unless the outcomes are "ring-fenced" there is no-doubt that the public sector would prefer to retain their budgets themselves rather than "pass them on" to a voluntary organisation. And so, the Con-Dem coalition's aim of smaller government but bigger society may well be undermined.
Again, the fact that we have the biggest of big government here in Northern Ireland will put an added strain on things, as the squeeze may be even tighter, and the prospects for the economy tougher as public sector workers find themselves on the dole. Indeed the economic recovery here is apparently already lagging behind that in the rest of the UK. This in turn actually puts added strain on the public AND community sectors, as the problems caused by debt, depression, unease percolate through society.
If we then add to that the fact that for over 10 years the community sector has been buoyed by so-called "peace money" which, as a number of commentators have said, has been spread a mile wide and an inch thick... But that money has been gradually running out, because, despite appearances to the contrary in Ardoyne and on Broadway last week, we now have peace here. The fact that much of this money was used in small, local, newly started charities (no one wanted to give money to established and effective organisations that might have then expanded their areas of operations - it was so much sexier to hand over a big cheque to a wee new group headed up by an attractive local Mum or a "former combatant") means that when the gravy train stopped rolling many of those organisations didn't have the financial reources, or experience to continue. Sustainability only latterly became a buzz word with such funders, at a period when things had moved from a period of optimistic community development into a post-Darwinian survival of the fittest.
But anyway, what does this mean on the ground. I've had a relatively wide experience in the community sector here in Northern Ireland, particularly within the church-based part of it, and most organisations are saying similar things... But let me focus on our own church-based community project Dundonald Family and Community Initiative (DFCI). This is a short video embodying some of their key values.
DFCI has seen referrals increase exponentially, with debt, relationship breakdown, anti-social behaviour, social isolation all on the increase. Some of these referrals are from statutory services, or organisations directly funded by the public purse. We ourselves work in partnership with those services and have recieved various small grants from the local council, but have never recieved anything from central government. We have also never recieved anything from the "peace funds". Previously all our funding was from charitable trusts, central church funds, donations and the subscriptions of beneficiaries. However, in a period when other sources of funding are becoming more limited, charitable trusts incomes have been hit by the stock market fall and there is less spare cash in people's pockets, that pool of money is becoming smaller and filled with bigger hungrier fish.
The net result of this is that despite the demand for our services going up, and our expertise and reputation increasing (for example our recent family fun fest was a roaring success) our ability to meet the presented need and indeed our long term viability is under threat. Indeed currently 2 out of our 4 paid workers are on notice that they may lose most or all of their funded hours, and for the best part of 18 months another of our workers was permanently on 1 month's protective notice. I take my hats off to people who can work under such pressure, particularly when their jobs are focussed on helping others.
Small organisations such as ours need financial resources (you can help DFCI by direct giving or by innovative ways such as registering for and using the Easy-click search engine, or the Easy-fundraising shopping portal. But organisations such as ours also need volunteers to help at all levels... People are the community and voluntary sector's greatest resource... from those with the basic day to day skills needed at the cutting edge of each organisation, through to the professional skills and expertise needed for their management committees if they are to negotiate the choppy waters ahead.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
ps. To be fair, having just watched the BBC NI news, it seems as if many of the country parades (complete with lambeg drums, pipe bands and other relics of bygone days of yore) were a lot less po-faced and more imaginative than the Belfast one has been of late. However, I'm not too sure how the Disney Corporation will take the use of Mickey (did no one see the irony here?) and Minnie Mouse heading up the Hillsborough parade with that other ripped-off cartoon character Diamond Dan or Bootleg Billy as he was known for a while... at least until the £86 rights fee was paid. You've got to laugh...
Sunday, July 11, 2010
In response to my post about bonfires last year, my colleague Nick McKnight made the comment that bonfires always reminded him of the Tower of Babel...
Friday, July 9, 2010
Simon: Jesus healed me of leprosy… But he didn’t heal me easily of my prejudices… I was still suspicious of Jews… Just as Jews are of us…
Jacob: I have nothing against Samaritans… as individuals… But they are heretics… sadly misguided…
Simon: Even his disciples didn’t like us much… Apparently on one occasion, some of my countrymen weren’t very hospitable to them on the way to Jerusalem, and they were all for calling down fire from heaven to wipe the offending village off the map… I never heard they so keen to wipe out the many Jewish villages who would not open their doors to them… But he didn’t seem to share any of the age old prejudices…
Jacob: I’m not prejudiced… But on the one occasion I asked him a direct question, he launched into one of his ridiculous stories, this time with a Samaritan as a hero…
Simon: One of the Pharisees asked him: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jacob: First he tried to dodge the question by answering with another question “What is written in the Law?”
Simon: This one really knew his stuff… He immediately quoted the two great commandments in the Law:
Jacob: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I had been over the same ground with other rabbis…
Simon: The master seemed to be impressed and said “Correct! Do that and you will live.”
Jacob: But I wasn’t going to let him off that easily, so I asked him, “And who is my neighbour?” And that is where he told the story of some idiot who was walking through bandit country between Jerusalem and Jericho…
Simon: The man was ambushed and robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead…
Jacob: A priest and then a levite happened to be passing by… They must have been as mad as the first man… But they weren’t stupid enough to stop, for fear of ending up the same way…
Simon: But then came a Samaritan, who tended to the man’s wounds, got him to a place of safety and paid for his board and lodgings while he was recovering… Then the master asked the Pharisee “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Jacob: And I said “The one who had mercy on him.”
Simon: He couldn’t even bring himself to say the Samaritan…
Jacob: But what did that prove… How likely was that to happen?
Simon: A Jew telling a story in which there is a good Samaritan…
Jacob: The only good Samaritan I have ever heard of…
ps. Kim Fabricius has quite an interesting take on the same passage over at Connexions...