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John Parr: 99th Anniversary of the first British soldier and the first soldier of the Commonwealth killed in World War I.

21 Aug
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Credit: steve hoar photography, http://www.nmbs2001.com

Today (21st August 2013) marks the 99th anniversary of the death of John Parr, killed during World War One. What is ‘special’ about John Parr is that he is widely held to be the first British soldier and the first soldier of the Commonwealth killed in World War I.

Whilst his death is a tragedy in itself, it is thought that like many other young men of the time, he was attracted to the army as a potentially better way of life, and that when Parr joined the army he almost certainly overstated his age in order to meet the minimum age requirement. Therefore he was only aged 15-16 years old.

“Let us remember with gratitude those who, in the cause of peace and the service of their fellow men, died for their country in time of war.”

His role in the regiment, and army, that contributed to his death was being a type of scout. Parr was a reconnaissance cyclist who rode ahead to scout the enemy and bring back this intelligence. With the start of World War One, Parr’s Battalion, the 4th Middlesex, were shipped to France. With the German army marching into Belgium, Parr’s unit took up positions near a village called Bettignies, beside the canal running through the town of Mons. Today, 99 years ago, Parr and another cyclist were sent to the village of Obourg, just north east of Mons, and slightly over the border in Belgium, with a mission to locate the enemy. It is believed that they encountered a cavalry patrol from the German First Army, and that Parr remained to hold off the enemy whilst his companion returned to report. He was killed in the ensuing rifle fire.

The first death of many millions to come, and Parr is now buried (coincidentally) opposite the grace of George Edwin Ellison, the last British soldier killed during the Great War.

To end, a collect for peace in our world:

Make your ways known upon earth, Lord God,
your saving power among all peoples.
Renew your Church in holiness
and help us to serve you with joy.
Guide the leaders of all nations,
that justice may prevail throughout the world.
Let not the needy be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Make us instruments of your peace
and let your glory be over all the earth. Amen

Finally, here is John Parr’s Casualty Details from the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Mission Reflection, of Prison Chapliancy

19 Aug

A short reflection I wrote a while ago based upon my time experiencing prison chaplaincy:

Clinging onto God has included refining my skills in discernment. Discernment over the words to say, who to say them to and awareness of the situation(s) I find myself in. It is the realisation that this ministry cannot be done under one’s own strength or even in conjunction with God; rather it is a complete reliance upon God. I used the analogy of walking around with my eyes metaphorically closed; because within Horfield Prison, it is God who has to be my eyes. God is our guide.

I also have learnt about giving the message of the Gospel. Not in a long pre-planned course or the long-term relational style; rather it is giving the Good News in 30 seconds or so. It is taking the opportunities as they are placed before me by God. And if they are placed by God, then trusting in Him for the words to say.

On a practical level, I have worked through what parts of ecclesiology are important, and what can be discarded to further ‘mission’. With this is tied in the sense of urgency and real need I felt at the prison. Being a remand prison, you encounter men who could be moved or leaving the prison before you ever get tospeak to them again. This could be the type of community the prison is, but is still very different style. There is a sense of real urgency to the work, that it is a battle. Rather than being something we ‘do’ because we are Christians, the mission in the prison is done because it makes a real difference and that was really refreshing to experience.  It is a serious spiritual battle for the souls of the prisoners.

Hume & justice… Fair?

11 Aug

Chris Hume has found a job since leaving prison. A nice job reported at £100,000 per year for two days a week work (Telegraph). Whilst this job as an energy executive, it must be remembered that his political is over with no second chance according to almost all political commentators. So a new line of work was needed and Hume found one, in his area of expertise (being a former energy secretary).

Well done Mr Hume, who has succeeded in doing what many ex-prisoners struggle to do upon leaving prison: finding a job. In addition, considering his political background the job has been cleared by the Advisory Commission on Business Appointments, which advises the Prime Minister on new jobs for former ministers. So why are people in such uproar about this new job?

It is envy at the impressive salary for only two days work? Possibly but surely we should be both congratulating Mr Hume on finding work and not heading down the normal ex-con unemployment route. Also asking the question of why Hume is the exception rather than the norm.

When we, as a country, place our faith in restorative justice we should celebrate this success story of when restorative justice works. Are we envious that a man, out of prison, has found a good job? Hume has done his time, paid his dues to society and now in restoring himself as a valued member of society. A success story of restorative justice… If we want to complain, why not complain about why other ex-prisoners do not get jobs and thus hopefully seal their full returned back into society.

Freedom of the press – Iran vs. UK

23 Feb

A former senior journalist at the News of the World has had his charges dropped yesterday over the phone hacking scandal. Not my normal blogging focus but it was a throw-away comment the journalist in question, Neil Wallis, made to claim the moral high ground and demonstrate how wrong the politics the response to this scandal has been. It was this:

“There are 60 journalists under arrest at the moment – more journalists than are under arrest in Iran.”

Bad UK police, bad UK government – there is no freedom of the press etc. All those poor journalists who have allegedly hacked phones or committed an illegal act were just acting for the great good of national society (also sounds  a little like the society in Hot Fuzz). Right…

The reason this caught my attention is that even for an ex-News of the World journalist, this is an appalling fact placed out of context. The international NGO ‘Reporters Without Borders‘ (which advocates freedom of the press and freedom of information)  places the UK in 29th position (1st being the best) , with Iran is in 174th position. It was also noted that Iran also harasses the relatives of journalists, including the relatives of those who are abroad, and five off the bottom of the table.

 

2013 world press freedom mapTh

 

This map highlights the difference, and the categories of which freedom UK and Iran sit in. So I would like to ask Mr Wallis, are we worst that Iran in freedom of the press? I think it is lucky that he even had the opportunity for a fair trial, and an honest investigation without fear of violence and abuse for him or his family (or even friends). Rather the number of journalists current under arrest is more a result of  illegal activities that was so acceptable for so long.

End of Adultery and more now?

2 Feb

A section of a blog from the Telegraph website  which I think is very pertinent to this issue, and adds to what I have earlier blogged:

The drafters have belatedly realised that, since there is no procreative act which defines homosexual behaviour, there can be no consummation, or non-consummation, and no adultery. These will not, therefore, be grounds for gay divorce. If your gay husband offers you no nookie, or if he avails himself of large amounts of nookie elsewhere (or both), he gives you no legal cause to divorce him.

So what they have ended up offering, strangely enough, is a law of marriage with no sexual element whatever. This has never happened before (although there have been plenty of sexless marriages). There is nothing in Mr Cameron’s new law to say that same-sex marriages must be between homosexuals. If I were a bachelor, I could marry a straight male friend just to get whatever tax advantages, travel deals and insurance discounts might be going. Incestuous marriage remains forbidden, but I don’t see why, in Mr Cameron’s vision of same-sex marriage, a mother could not marry her daughter or a sister her sister or a father his son. No sexual act is expected of them and even if – distressing thought – it did take place, it could have no genetic consequences. Why should such pairs not just agree that they fancy the married couple’s exemption from inheritance tax, and hurry down the aisle? How long before a same-sex, keep-it-in-the-family couple tries to make a fight of it, and wins a case against the British Government at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)?

Politics, Life and Theology

The current legislation around making gay marriage has popped out  a surprise – gay couples who are married under the new law will not be able to divorce on grounds of adultery, likewise having a gay  marriage annulled on grounds of non-consummation. Partners in same sex unions will instead have to divorce unfaithful partners on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour”, as is currently the case with civil partnerships.

This developments seems to down to Government legal experts who failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between people of the same gender. Therefore the distinction created inequality between heterosexual and homosexual couples in the divorce courts.

Jonathan West, the head of family and marriage law at Prolegal, said: “In my view it is discriminatory. The test for discrimination is whether one section of society is treated differently from another. They are being treated differently.

It means that people in a same-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful…

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Should we reward marriage?

1 Feb
Long Wedding Dress for Couple with Flowers

Long Wedding Dress for Couple with Flowers (Photo credit: epSos.de)

 

Tax break for married couples, or a transferable tax allowances between couples. These are two main options for “rewarding” a couple for marrying compared to cohabitation.

Does this discriminate couples who are not married, but maybe in a relationship? Or same-sex couples (well, until they can marry IF the law changes)? Or individuals who are not in a relationship for various reasons of divorce, death or do not feel they wish to be in a relationship with anyone? Does it discriminate? Yes and no.

The legal definition of discrimination is when:

a person is treated less favorably than someone else and that the treatment is for a reason relating to the person’s protected characteristic.

So yes, people are being treated differently based upon a legal status (that of marriage). But no, it is not a protected characteristic in the eyes of the law. But still, why discriminate again non-married couples through financial rewards?

Before we go much further, I have a confession. I am married so I biased as any tax break or transfer would benefit me financial. So I speak from that perspective but hope to give this a fair hearing, even if I do think we should reward marriage.

 

Society is changing, with more children are being born whose parents are not married to one another – 45% of births are now outside marriage. Numbers marrying is going down and those cohabiting is rising. Yet the stability of those who cohabit is questionable. I do not believe cohabitation is marriage by another name. This is the crux of my first point arguing for rewarding marriage – that it is a unique institution.

As a Christian I believe marriage is a covenant relationship, ordained and sealed by God, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and sexual union, that normally includes the blessing of children. Marriage offers the stability and security that nothing else does. Divorce is high but there is something deeply profound in the invitation to be married, to be loved, is the most intimate of offers.

This stability and security stems into my second reason:

Marriage is an important social good, associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike

Taken from Civitas report, marriage gives a child the best opportunity in life. This does not mean single parents can not raise children. However the arugement is not over. This report from the Institue for Fiscal Studies argues that:

our findings suggest that the gaps in cognitive and socio-emotional development between children born to married parents and those born to cohabiting parents mainly or entirely reflect the fact that different types of people choose to get married (the selection effect), rather than that marriage has an effect on relationship stability or child development. On the basis of this evidence, therefore, child development does not provide a convincing rationale for policies that encourage parents to get married before they bear children.

Basically, that other factors in are in play, not the relationship status of the parents, in a child’s development. I agree, in the sense that no one factor will decide a child’s development. Yet research such as Margaret Ainsworth and John Bowlby (Re: Social Learning Theory) does show, I believe that a child’s earliest experience will continue to affect the way the child will think, feel, and act throughout its life. The experience of attuned relationships in the first years of life ensures the development of social skills and sets the stage for a positive future. And part of this is marriage, it somehow encourage better ‘conditions’ for a child’s development.

Marriage is stable, the facts do seem to provide that. This stability provides security, especially for children. This secuity provides the foundation of society. Stability and security are the foundational basis of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of individuals, and the core of a strong society. Surely that is in the interest of all, singles and those who in a relationship yet not married, and provide the best for them. So yes, we should reward marriage to encourage a better society and reward those who are working to make society so.

 

Link

10 Reasons Why The Government is Wrong To Redefine Marriage

29 Jan
Houses of Parliament, London, England

Houses of Parliament, London, England (Photo credit: ** Lucky Cavey **)

 

10 Reasons Why The Government is Wrong To Redefine Marriage

 

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has had its first reading and due for its second reading on the 5th Feb (you can follow the progress here).

 

Both the Conservative and Labour party are allowing a free vote, so this means each MPs can vote as their conscience lead them. Part of this will include listening to the voices of their constituents.

 

Therefore this is a great time to contact your MPs (again if you have done so before) and express your views on the matter. Personally, the whole legislation concerns me which is why I have signed the Coalition for Marriage’s petition. You can find out who your MPs is and how to contact them here.

 

For is now becoming clear that Christian teachers with traditional views will have no protection from dismissal if they feel unable to promote the new norms. Many implications of the legislation will only become clear after the courts have become involved, but it is most likely that the assurances being offered will not hold, at least once the European Court becomes involved.