Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wet and Weeping

One of the projects that we have started here at Christ Church recently is the renovation and reordering of the building to the side of the Church in order to create a multi-function space for different groups to use. Today the builders were going to start work on laying new drains. Needless to say, today turns out to be one of the wettest so far this rainy season. It is really very wet!

I am hoping that the rain will go off soon - not for the builders, but because we have a funeral in Church this afternoon of a long-standing church member who, sadly, died a few days ago of cancer. I am sure other priests and pastors will know what I mean when I say how hard it is to take the funeral of someone you knew reasonably well.

As priests and pastors, we often get asked to take funerals of people we never or only barely knew. I would like to think that we do so with sensitivity and sympathy, but when you knew the person and are yourself part of the grieving community, it is always that much harder. I have always made it a rule not to take the funeral of close family. This rule was pushed to the limit in my previous parish when there was a time when I was regularly taking the funeral of parishioners who had become good friends.

It is a reminder that important though things like building work are in a Church, the real work of ministry is to 'rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep'. Regular readers of this blog will know that I regard death as always an occasion for weeping, even though as Christians we look forward to the day when God will wipe all tears from our eyes.

Until then, he entrusts us with the task of wiping each others eyes for him.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lies, **** lies and road death

After all that has gone on this term. I am really looking forward to having a break in a few weeks time and, in particular, to going back to the UK with my family to see my family - if you see what I mean. This will involve me driving greater distances than I have since last time I was back - shoulder rehabilitation permitting.

I was, then, very interested to see a report on the BBC web-site telling us that road deaths in the UK are at their lowest since 1926. This is the link:

This seemed very counter-intuitive to me. I find UK roads terrifying.

But then, I am one of those who wishes that the internal combustion engine had never been invented and who regards the car as the creation of the Devil. I find it hard to think of any argument in its favour.

Incredibly, in London, traffic moved at the same speed in Victorian England, if you rode a horse, as it does now, if you drive a Ferrari. This may expalin why everyone goes speed mad on the motorways when they are not blocked by road-works or accidents. But I digress.

How, then, to explain the corrspondence in deaths between 1926 and 2008. I think the answer lies in another statistic. The number of people both killed or seriously injured in 2008 was 28,567.

In other words, it is not that accidents don't happen, it is just that we are better now at keeping people alive afterwards. Headline statistics like this feed what we want to believe. As car addicts, we want to be told that cars are safe, even though they are not.

The one good thing to come out of the present world-wide recession is that car purchase is declining. Sadly, I don't think it will be long before we take up our addiction again. We haven't got off the trip, we just lack the money at the moment to finance it.

I also noticed the other day in the news that India is planning a big expansion of its road network. Ironic, as another item in the news was that train operators in the UK want to expand the railway network. Perhaps the two countires should talk to one another.

Especially since the UK gave India its railways and India is now buying up the UK car industry.
Getting back to Normal?

It's been a long time since I blogged seriously. So in this blog, let me bring you up to date!

First of all, thank you to all who sent me good wishes after my accident. It needs to be said that I am aware that many people have a lot worse to deal with than a few broken bones! Nevertheless, it was very painful. The worst part was not getting any sleep for a few weeks because every time I moved, I got a serious amount of pain that kept waking me up! Trying to keep working after not sleeping for days on end was not easy. It helps you understand why unscrupulous regimes use sleep deprivation as a form of torture!

Thankfully, the shoulder fracture has largely healed and the pain mostly subsided. I am now undergoing physiotherapy to get the use of my shoulder back. There are a whole range of movements I still cannot do, but it is improving!

Secondly, life goes on, of course, and the biggest issue I have to deal with at the moment is swine flu. It was quite some time after the first outbreak in other countries that Hong Kong had its first local case. But it has spread rapidly since. Primary Schools and Kindergartens have been shut for two weeks and the government announced this week that they would remain closed now until September. This has affected all the end of term activities and it is particularly sad for those who have been rehearsing for end of year performances and the like.

My own doctor's practice wrote to its patients yesterday about the swine flu making a number of points:

1. It is very infectious.
2. The actual number of cases is likely to me much higher than those recorded because many doctors (themselves included) do not test for swine flu. They just treat the symptoms.
3. Following on from this, they don't think the flu itself is very serious.

This makes it very difficult for those like myself charged with making decisions about what we do and do not cancel. On the one hand, the government is urging us to be as careful and as vigilant as possible. On the other, we are being told that there is nothing much really to worry about.

What doesn't help is that after the schools closed all that has happened is that parents have started taking their kids to activities such as ice-skating at the local mall instead. If the kids are going to congregate in malls, they may as well be in school.

The problem is that every-one is worried about what would happen if people did become seriously ill or even died. Or to put it more honestly, who would be blamed. I received advice yesterday that even though the risk of anyone getting seriously ill at an event we were organizing was small, I should not go ahead with it because if anything did go wrong, the School was liable to be blamed and would not be covered by our insurance.

It is a difficult choice: to go ahead with an event that everyone wants, knowing that the same people would be the first to criticize if there was the spread of infection, or to cancel it and spoil everyone's fun.

My own point of view (in case anyone is interested) is to play safe. Given that all are agreed that the disease is very infectious, I think it is better not to take risks. While this present flu strain may turn out not to be serious in its threat to health, no-one quite knows for sure. We certainly don't know what may happen in the winter. So I am in favour of doing what we can to contain the spread of infection, but suspect that it may be too late!

I confess to being more than a little surprised that people I know who were panic-stricken during the SARS outbreak here a few years ago seem totally unconcerned about swine flu. I hope I am wrong, but I fear this particular illness may turn out to be more serious than some seem to think. But I am just a Vicar so what do I know?

I do know that I get very annoyed when people tell me that they are worried about taking communion in Church! Our policy, which I am sure is the same in most churches, is to allow people to decide for themselves whether they receive just the wafer at Communion, both the wafer and wine, or neither. I am convinced that there is no risk at all - just as well given that I, as the priest, consume what remains at the end of Communion.

But even if there was a high risk, doesn't it say something if we unprepared to take that risk? Either Communion is important or it is not. If it really is, as St Paul says, a 'participation in the body and blood of Christ', then surely the risk is worth it?

I hope it won't be as long before the next blog. Stay well!