From The Vicarage

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SAVING THE NHS

At the time of writing, we are still awaiting the General Election. By the time you read this, it will be clear who is in power, and whether there is an overall majority for one of the parties, or a "hung Parliament". During the election campaign it has been fascinating to watch how all the parties have been using the National Health Service to score points off their opponents. Labour is accusing the Conservatives of wanting to sell off parts of the NHS to business interests in the United States. The Conservatives are strongly denying this; and are trying to convince the electorate that they really will be training more doctors and GPs and putting adequate resources into new hospitals. It is worth remembering that many people were influenced to vote for Brexit, because of the promises that money currently sent to Europe would be diverted to the NHS!

All parties are promising extra resources for the NHS and that they will address the huge shortages of doctors, nurses and surgeons, and bring down waiting times for operations and in Accident and Emergency. I recently had a conversation with a senior nurse. She told me that in all her years in the Health service, she has never known hospitals to be so under-resourced, nor staff so under pressure and de-moralised. Many good GPs are taking early retirement because of the stressful working conditions and unrealistic expectations being placed on them. No doubt there are many complex issues that many of us do not fully understand. Any large organisation, employing well over one million people, should always be looking at its management structures and the need for economies and reform. We will all have anecdotes of examples of waste and inefficiency in the NHS.

But if there are not enough surgeons, doctors and nurses in our hospitals and in our health centres, it seems to me there is one simple and fundamental problem. We need as a nation to be willing to invest more towards preserving a truly National Health Service available for all. Rather than promising free Broadband for every home, or spending billions nationalising the railways the utilities, I would have thought the first priority should be our hospitals and schools.

We will all blame the politicians for the decline in public services in recent years. The years of austerity have taken their toll. But we must all accept some responsibility. We all say we want good public services, but at the same time, we want to pay less tax and National Insurance. Perhaps the time has come for some grown up politics. Health, education, social care, policing and many other issues, need to have some real political consensus. Everyone is agreed that all these things are of great importance for the future of our society. Whatever other disagreements the parties have, we need to agree what realistically we should be investing in; all these things that are so basic to the well being of our nation.

The conception of a National Health service, available for all, regardless of ability to pay, was strongly influenced by Christian principles. The Beveridge Report was published in 1942, when of course we had an all party coalition government. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Dr William Temple, described it as "the first time anyone had set out to embody the whole spirit of the Christian ethic in an act of Parliament."

Nick and I, and many who will read this, will owe our lives to the care we have received from the NHS. It is a very precious thing that we have in the United Kingdom. It is "free at the point of delivery"; but with an aging population and constant advances in medicine, it is hugely expensive. As a society we surely need to reflect on how much more of our income we are prepared to invest.

So please pray for our politicians, that they may work together in the national interest, to safeguard and improve our health service. And pray for all the people who work for the NHS in any capacity, and give thanks for the work they do.

Stephen

-------------------------------------   (December 2019) 

POLITICS AND POLITICIANS

"Brenda from Bristol" became immortalised when she famously said, "Oh no, not another one" when she was told by the BBC interviewer there was to be another election in 2017. Now we face another election just two years later. For many people, Brenda from Bristol may sum up the national mood. Speaking personally, I am one of those strange people who is fascinated by politics, and will enjoy everyday between now and the election. And I will, as I always do, sit up through the night on December 12th to watch the results come in. Not being a watcher of football, rugby or cricket, I find elections far more interesting.

Some of you will remember the late John Cole, the Irish BBC journalist. He writes in his auto-biography, how as a boy he was moved to hear all the footsteps marching past his house, as people made their way to the local school or church hall, to exercise their democratic rights on election day. There is something wonderfully British in the way we vote. It is always on a Thursday. God forbid we ever change to voting on a Sunday with electronic devises in supermarkets, as some European countries do. We affirm or change our government as we mark our papers with a pencil tied to a bit of string. Long may this continue!

I have never understood why some people choose not to vote. There is always the option of writing "none of the above" if you don't like any of the parties. The freedom we enjoy in this country has been bought at a cost. The least we can do is to turn out to the polling station on the day, or organise a postal vote. Who can forget those scenes of people queuing all day in South Africa, when for the first time black South Africans were able to vote?

Perhaps it is a general cynicism about politicians that results in so many not exercising their democratic rights. A few years ago, many people became disillusioned by the various expenses scandals of some MPs and members of the House of Lords. More recently, there has been frustration at the stalemate December 2019 Page 4 in Parliament over Brexit, three years after the Referendum.

When elected recently as Speaker of the Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke of his desire to restore respect and esteem to the House of Commons. One of the contenders for Speaker, Christ Bryant (MP for the Rhondda and an ordained Anglican priest) spoke of politics being an honourable profession. He also said be believed that most people entered politics wanting to change the world for the better.

It is surely dangerous in a democracy that we have become so cynical about our politicians. It is also worrying to see the many good people of all parties who have decided not to stand in the forthcoming election. Some have come to the decision because of the pressures on their family life. For others, the current atmosphere of abuse and threat from those who disagree, and the memory of the murder of Jo Cox, have contributed to their decision.

So between now and the election, may we all pray for our politicians and for all who aspire to represent us in Parliament. Pray for unity within our nation in this time of deep division; and for respect between those of different political persuasions. Thank God for the freedom we enjoy in the United Kingdom to express our political views. And above all, make the effort to turn out to vote on the 12th!

Stephen Carter

 -------------------------------------   (November 2019)           

THE HOUSE BUILT UPON THE ROCK

One of the many things we will miss about Maldon is our lovely Vicarage. It has been a huge privilege to live here, and to be stewards of this wonderful house for the past ten years. In its almost 600 year history, our tenure has been just a very small part of the Vicarage story. When sitting in front of the fire in the living room, we often reflect on the people who have lived there before us. We are just a very small link in the chain.

In recent months, much of our thinking and many of our conversations at home have been concerned with Brexit. Like many homes, we have had some lively discussions with family and friends. At the time of writing it is still unclear whether the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on October 31st; and if so whether there will be a deal or if we will leave without a deal. There might still be other options, including a delay, a second Referendum, or even revocation of Article 50.

When getting anxious about these questions, I have reminded myself of the momentous events that our home has witnessed over the centuries.

The Vicarage was built as a Chantry house in 1443, for the two priests who were responsible for the d'Arcy Chapel. The first residents lived there during the turmoil of the civil war which we now know as the Wars of the Roses. In the next century came the Reformation. With the huge religious changes under the Tudors, the D'Arcy Chapel was suppressed. I wonder what conversations took place between the chantry priests who were ejected from their home and from their ministry? During the reign of Edward VI, the inside of the church suffered severe destruction and the Latin Mass was abolished. Maldon then produced its martyrs for the Protestant cause in Mary's reign.

November 2019 Page 4 In the 17th Century came the English Civil War. Maldon was a stonghold of Puritanism. In 1650, Parliament installed the Puritan Thomas Horrocks as Vicar. He was ejected from the Vicarage in 1662, as an "intruder" after Charles II was restored to the throne. His successors in the 18th Century lived through the Industrial Revolution. My longest serving predecessor, Vicar Horwood (1850-1901) lived through a time of intellectual turmoil in the Church. During his tenure, Christians were having to rethink their beliefs in the light of new discoveries about geology and natural selection, and the literary criticism of the Bible.

In the 20th Century, the Reverend Isaac Seymour was Vicar during two World Wars. Like all his predecessors, he was at the heart of the community and had to deal with all the emotions and grief that the wars brought. And now in our own century, we face the huge political and economic changes that Brexit will bring: and the far more serious challenges we are only just beginning to wake up to, as the world's climate changes.

As I reflect upon the history of this house over almost 600 years, one thing is clear. Every century has been one of change and turmoil. The Vicarage itself has seen many structural changes. But it still remains standing with its solid oak beams and medieval wall paintings intact. I am reminded of the story Jesus told in the gospels, of the house that was built upon the rock. Because its foundations were firm, it survived all the storms and tempests that beat upon it.

Our faith is in a God who does not change. In all the "changes and chances of this fleeting world", his love remains constant. He is "the same, yesterday, today and for ever". It is as we learn to trust in him, that we find our true hope and security.

Perhaps there is a parable here for us? As we live through "all the changes and chances of this fleeting world", our faith is in one who does not change. As the psalm says, "a thousand years in his sight are but as yesterday". As we put our trust in him, so we build a house that is founded upon the rock.

Stephen Carter

   -------------------------------------   (October 2019)          

MOVING ON

By now you will have heard that I have announced that I am resigning and retiring. My last service will be the Eucharist at 10.00am on February 2nd, the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.(“Candlemas”) This seems an appropriate day, as it brings to a conclusion our Christmas celebrations.

I will be retiring a little earlier than I had originally intended ( I will be 63) However, increasing health problems over the last year or two, have convinced me that now is the time to go. Leaving All Saints, and Maldon and our lovely home and garden, will be something of a bereavement for me and Sue. We have loved living in Maldon, have been very happy at All Saints, and will miss all those who have so generously given us their friendship, kindness and support over the last 10 years.

I am very conscious that I came very close to retirement in 2011 when I had my brain surgery. So the ability to take up my ministry again has been a huge bonus for which I am immensely grateful. Since my surgery, I have had a number of limitations. Quite honestly, it is only through the support of my colleagues in the ministry team, and others in the parish, and of course Sue, that has enabled me to carry on for as long as I have.

The greatest privilege of the past ten years has been in presiding at the Eucharist and leading the worship in All Saints week by week. But is has also been a great privilege to be allowed to share in so many of your lives both the joys and sorrows. This is one of the wonderful things about being a parish priest and for that I am immensely grateful.

But you have also shared in our lives as a family, particularly with all the support you gave us when I was ill. And we will never forget all the practical help, prayers and care we were shown when Nick had his accident in 2017. We cannot adequately express what this meant to us.

But now it is time to move on. We plan to retire to Manningtree and I hope that I will be able to be of use as a priest in the Harwich Deanery, though without the pressures and responsibility of being an incumbent. I honestly believe that this is the right decision, not only for me, but also for the parish. I was trained for ministry forty years ago; and the Church and society have changed immensely since then. The Church of England, nationally, faces huge challenges to present the Christian faith in a rapidly changing world. If All Saints is to grow and develop, the time has come for an incumbent who is younger and fitter than me, and who has gifts I do not possess to communicate the faith to our modern culture. I know that he or she will be supported by a wonderful team of people, who so generously offer their gifts for the life of our church.

Fr John at St Mary’s will also be retiring in 2020, and the vacancy in both parishes will give the diocese the opportunity to do some creative thinking about the shape of ministry in Maldon in the future.

We feel that you have not just been parishioners, but have become friends. You will understand the professional protocols that when a new incumbent is appointed, their predecessor is expected to keep a low profile in the parish. In fairness to my successor, when ever he or she is appointed, I will respect this. However there is nothing to stop you coming to see us! We hope that when we move, we will have lots of visitors to see us in our new home in Manningtree.

So please keep us in your prayers, as we will keep all of you in ours.

Stephen 

 

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