As many of you know my Father is very poorly, having suffered a couple of heart attacks in the last few weeks. As an only child, and his next of kin, I have been driving up to Manchester at regular intervals to see him and ensure he is being adequately cared for. I am very grateful, believe me, for the care and concern that you all have expressed and it has made these difficult weeks bearable.
I was with my father on Monday and Tuesday. The problems older people present to the medical profession are rarely simple, often multiple and frequently complicated. Dad is a classic case – cardiology, urology and respiatory departments are all involved in his diagnosis and care. My father has experienced some wonderful care and concern, as have I when I have communicated with medical professionals about my father’s condition. However, what frightens me is that not all old or vulnerable people have family or friends who are quite as assertive as I am. My Dad like many of his generation,(he was born in 1925), are unwilling, or simply unable to call professionals and organisations to account, they trust and wait. The problem is that modern organisations don’t work like that and to get anything done you need to be assertive, so the passive are in real danger of being overlooked. It’s not that the NHS needs any more structural re-organisation, its re-organisation which has caused many of these problems, what the health service needs to do is communicate more effectively. The test of a decent society is how we treat our most vulnerable citizens. I’m glad I’m able to help my father by ensuring effective communication. I shudder to think what happens to those who are not as assertive.
Good, I’ve got that off my chest!
All curates in the Diocese of London have to undergo regular post-ordination training and on Monday of this week we had one of our last gatherings this academic year. By a supreme irony, the diary – planned months in advance – had seen fit to draw the Bishop of Kensington to us for a valedictory training session with his Kensington curates before he leaves shortly to become the Diocesan Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham. It was a very inspiring training morning; Bishop Paul was, as usual, stimulating and encouraging and gave us all much to chew on. After the training session finished, we had a general question and answer session, where he reflected on his time here in London as our Area Bishop and what he had learned. There were much that he shared with us, and I would like to share just two aspects with you, otherwise this will be very long! Firstly just how fortunate he said we are to live and worship in London. We are comparatively well-resourced in our Diocese compared to much of the country and clergy are very keen to come here. He told the story of how one parish in London drew over eighty applicants for the post of vicar while in a parish up north in the Diocese of Carlisle, it took them over fourteen months before they received a single reply! He urged us to open our eyes to what the WHOLE of the Church of England has to offer clergy and not to always play things safe or comfortable.
And secondly, he talked about something about the cost of being a follower of Jesus Christ. Life is not always sweet and light. He told us how he and Sarah (his wife) had agonised and prayed deeply before accepting the position up North, but Bishop Paul felt very clearly that God was calling him to do this work. They are, he said, leaving a wonderful job and life for many great unknowns. Their two boys will leave friends and family behind. One of their boys is in the middle of GCSE’s and so not only is he going to a new school but he is dropping back a year to effectively start GCSE’s over again as it were. Tough decisions have had to be made. But it is all, as Bishop Paul reminded us, part of “the adventure of being a follower of Christ”. And, he added, as a family “we are being invited all over again, to trust that God will be with and beside us, and will show us the paths to take”.
He has been a great bishop and very good for our part of London. He will be much missed and we pray for those who are charged with finding his successor.
With every blessing,