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A Chapter in History

Today I'm doing something a little bit different. I'm sharing with you a chapter of the first book I ever wrote.

It was published in September 2013 and it was the first of two books commissioned by Lion Hudson/Monarch publishers to mark the 150th anniversary of the worldwide Christian movement, The Salvation Army, in 2015 and it's the story of the founders of that church and charity organisation, William Booth and Catherine Booth.

When I was asked to write their story I immediately wanted to make it a bit 'different' to other 'biographies'. I knew that through their lives together - from their first meeting in 1852 until Catherine's death on October 4th 1890 - they had written letters to each other. These letters are held by the British Library in London and they and the Booth family kindly gave me permission to reproduce some of the letters in my book.

WIlliam and Catherine front cover Sept 2013 Monarch booksThrough reading their letters and notes I really got to know these two people who, through their mutual love for God and each other, and their joint aim to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to see people 'saved' for God and 'saved' from lives of poverty and disadvantage, founded a Christian movement that now operates in more than 130 countries and every day, through their churches and social centres and individuals, help millions of people across the globe.

My reading of their love letters, and my understanding of their characters, motives, moods and history led to another element of the book. Instead of just historic narrative around the letters, I also created little stories, imagining their lives and the lives of those around them based in part on their own words in their letters. 

The book was - not unsurprisingly - called 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters'

Catherine BoothToday I'm thinking about Catherine, because as you may have noticed from the dates above ... it was on this day in 1890 that she passed away - in The Salvation Army they believe Christian people are 'Promoted to Glory' - believers go to Heaven when they die.

Catherine died from breast cancer - when we launched my book on September 25th 2013 at The Salvation Army in London, we combined it with a coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support - and Chapter 19 of the book ... the penultimate chapter actually ... is the narrative of her final days. 

When news of her death became known, there were newspaper tributes across the world and The Methodist Recorder of 9 October 1890 paid tribute to her as “the greatest Methodist woman of this generation”. 

Today I share this with you, to celebrate this incredible woman whose death was  mourned not just by her beloved husband and her large family, and the wider Salvation Army across the world who called her 'The Army Mother' ... but by many more who admired and loved her.

“Mrs Booth is here, sir; shall I bring her in?”
Sir
James Paget looked up from his desk and nodded. No matter how many years he was in practice, this remained the worst part of the job.
The s
mall woman entered the room.
“Good day,
Mrs Booth. Please, take a a chair.”
Catherine Booth
slipped onto the chair on the other side of the large heavy oak desk on which the consultant had her paperwork spread out in front of him. She sat carefully, smoothed her dark skirts with her delicate hands, and slid off her r gloves.
“Has no one
accompanied you today, Mrs Booth? One of your daughters? Your husband?”
“No, sir.
I have come alone. I thought it best. The General ... Mr Booth, that is ... is preparing for a trip and leaves shortly. He wanted to come but ... there is so much to do.”
Catherine Booth spoke softly, and precisely. There was no hint of emotion in her voice, although her face was as white as snow, framed by her greying hair under her dark poke bonnet.
“Well
, Mrs Booth. I have my conclusions.”
Sir James
looked at the woman across the desk. She smiled a wry little smile.
“And,
Sir James? Is it what we thought it was?”

“I’m afraid so.”
“And ... ?”
“Well, as we feared, the disease is quite advanced already.”
“My mother died of it. Did I tell you that?”
“Yes, Mrs Booth.”
“And ... ” she swallowed deeply... “Is there anything...? I mean, what... time...”
Sir James Paget looked at Catherine Booth. His heart ached for her.
“Well, as I said before. In this stage it could be eighteen months, maybe two years. But there is really... nothing much... we can do.”
Catherine Booth cleared her throat and then smiled, sadly but sweetly.
“God is good, Mr Paget. He knows what He is about. But there is one thing perhaps you can do for me.” “Anything, Mrs Booth.”
“Might you be so kind as to ask your secretary to perhaps call me a cab? I do need to get home. William... Mr Booth ... will be anxious.”

It was February 1888. Catherine had been ill for a while. Sometime during the previous year she had found a lump in her breast and her family doctor had warned that it was, more than likely, cancerous. Eventually she was persuaded to make an appointment with the eminent Harley Street consultant, surgeon, and pathologist Sir James Paget, who confirmed that Catherine had incurable cancer. She had been in agony for some while, but the news that she was dying left William, in particular, inconsolable.
On her return home after that appointment with the doctor, William was waiting and ran out into the street to meet her and help her into the house, where she broke the news just received from Sir James. 
William later recalled the emotional meeting.

She tried to smile upon me, through her tears; but drawing me into the room, she unfolded to me gradually the result of her interview. I sat down speechless. She rose from her seat and came and knelt beside me, saying, “Do you know what was my first thought? That I should not be there to nurse you, at your last hour.”
I was stunned. I felt as if the whole world was coming to a standstill. She talked like a heroine, like an angel, to me. She talked as she had never talked before. I could say nothing. I could only kneel with her and try to pray.

William was due to leave for a series of meetings in Holland that night and Catherine insisted he went, although he left early to return to London where, he recalled, “life became a burden, almost too heavy to be borne, until God in a very definite manner comforted my heart.” The 3 March 1888 edition of the Salvation Army newspaper, the War Cry, delivered the news that The Army Mother, as Catherine was beginning to be known, was seriously ill.
Daughter Emma’s wedding to Frederick Tucker was brought forward to April in order that Mama could be present. Catherine’s last public engagement was on 21 June 1888, when she delivered an address at the City Temple, a free church in Holborn in London.
She managed to attend William’s sixtieth birthday celebrations in The Salvation Army’s Clapton Congress Hall in East London on 10 April 1889 and, although she missed the dinner, where a reported 2,000 people sat down to eat, Catherine did address the gathering and reflected, with humour, on their early days together

As my dear husband was speaking, I thought of his beloved mother, whom I loved as much as my own, and admired more than almost any woman I ever knew. When he was speaking of her, and making you laugh over his likening himself to her in his meekness and self-depreciation, I said to my friend there: “It is quite true, though you would not think it,” for no one knows the bolstering-up, and almost dragging-up, I was going to say, that sometimes I had to do for him in those early days. You would think now that he had always been the bold and self-sufficient – as some people think – man he is, but I can assure you he went forth ofttimes with so great trembling and fear for himself that he would ever have gone if I had not been behind him.

Catherine was still the only person who could be completely honest with and about William Booth, who even his most loyal supporters, friends, and colleagues recognized to be an autocratic leader and, particularly as he grew older, less patient and kind with those around him. For William, his wife’s rapid decline after her diagnosis was unbearable, as he anticipated the loss of the one with whom he had shared his life for nigh on forty years.
The family, who had moved from their home in Rookwood Road in Stamford Hill in the borough of Hackney, where they had lived for a few years, to Hadley Wood, a more leafy suburb further north, which was thought to be more conducive to Catherine’s good health, were now on the move again.
Soon after his birthday party in 1889, the family relocated to Clacton-on-Sea on the Essex coast, in order that she could have her dying wish – to be “Promoted to Glory” near the ocean. Family and Salvation Army life continued. William spent as much time as he could in Clacton, virtually moving his office to Essex.
During her long final illness, when Catherine Booth could do little more than occasionally attend private meetings and functions and then not even that, her main focus became her family, her friends, The Salvation Army, and her writing. She penned letters and notes to individuals and articles for Salvation Army publications. Even if she could not physically work, she was determined that her spiritual warfare would continue. Among the letters and articles were those to comrades at home and overseas, which were designed to reassure and encourage:

Regard no opposition, persecution or misrepresentation. Millions upon millions wait for us to bring to them the light of life. Although not able to be at the front of the battle in person, my heart is there, and the greatest pain I suffer arises from my realisation of the vast opportunities of the hour, and of the desperate pressure to which many of my comrades are subject, while I am deprived of the ability to help them, as in days gone by.

A number of times the family were called to Catherine’s bedside, but she persistently clung to life. 1889 turned into 1890 and in September of that year she was still with them, insisting, despite her son’s protestations, that Herbert marry his Miss Schoch, as planned. Although she could not attend the wedding, a chair and her portrait were set in the place where the groom’s mother should have sat.
Although heartbroken, William continued with his work. Even while his wife was dying, he was writing a book that would become central to The Salvation Army, its ministry and its witness in the future. Catherine encouraged him, and indeed continued to give constant advice as her husband wrote In Darkest England and The Way Out, described as a “social manifesto”.

This 140,000-word tome explored ideas that had been gradually gestating in his and Catherine’s hearts, minds and ministry (if in fact they had not been there from the outset), including providing shelter, food, and training for the poor. Early on, even in the days of the Christian Mission, soup kitchens and food distribution had been included in the Booths’ outreach to the disadvantaged. Work among prisoners and with homeless and vulnerable men and women had already commenced and Salvation Army refuges were emerging. William’s book developed these ideas further and also explored the concept of helping those without hope to learn new trades, primarily in agriculture, and then assisting them to emigrate to better lives in the New World.
Aided in its writing by William’s old friend, the newspaperman W.T. Stead, In Darkest England and The Way Out compared what was considered to be “civilized” England with “Darkest Africa”, a continent then viewed as backward and poverty-stricken. William Booth suggested that many of the inhabitants of London and England, despite the “Industrial Revolution”, were not much better off when it came to quality of life than those in the underdeveloped world. The book drew on recent research by another Booth, the philanthropist and social researcher Charles Booth, who was documenting working-class life near the end of the nineteenth century. William’s book also expounded the concept of “The Submerged Tenth” – the proportion of the population that he claimed were living on the border of or in poverty, and which the Darkest England schemes would be there to save: three million and more men, women, and children who needed ““rescuing”.
William Booth’s vision to help the poor out of the distress they found themselves in was by no means unique – Christians had been practising “good deeds” throughout history and attempts to rehabilitate the poor were common in Victorian England. But the book, which was published just two weeks after Catherine’s death, was destined to become a best-seller and formed the foundation of The Salvation Army’s modern social welfare approach to faith and salvation. It would capture the imagination of the masses, much to the discontent of those in society who wished the poor to remain, largely, in their place. As in the early days of The Salvation Army, when William and Catherine battled with those who believed their new Christian movement to be outrageous, the language of the book and its programme were viewed as radical. It advocated the abolition of poverty and vice by, among other things, a link between the Christian gospel and a strong work ethic, and promoted the
establishment of communities for homeless people, where they could be trained for appropriate employment. Out of this vision came the Farm Colony at Hadleigh in Essex, which did just that, preparing people for a future often as emigrants to a new life abroad. The book also proposed homes for fallen women and released prisoners, schemes for legal assistance for the poor, banks and clinics, industrial schools, and so much more. William Booth proposed that if the state failed to meet its social obligations it should be the task of each Christian to step into the breach – a snipe at the government if ever there was one.
For some, this might have sounded radical. For William and Catherine Booth there was no confusion. They were not turning their backs on their spiritual convictions. Far from it! All the projects and programmes and outreach outlined in In Darkest England and The Way Out had just one aim – to ensure that people became Christians. What good was it to have “saved” people if they continued to be in desperate circumstances and unable to fulfil their new potential as children of God? What hope had they of responding to the gospel if they were drunk, hungry, homeless, abused, and without hope?
William’s book was being finished as Catherine was dying, and in the introduction he paid tribute to the wife so recently departed:

To one who has been for nearly forty years indissolubly associated with me in every undertaking I owe much of the inspiration which has found expression in this book. It is probably difficult for me to fully estimate the extent to which the splendid benevolence and unbounded sympathy of her character has pressed me forward in the life-long service of man, to which we have devoted both ourselves and our children. It will be an ever green and precious memory to me that amid the ceaseless suffering of a dreadful malady my dying wife found relief in considering and developing the suggestions for the moral and social and spiritual blessing of the people which are here set forth, and I do thank God she was taken from me only when the book was practically complete and the last chapters had been sent to the press.

For Catherine there was now not much more time. One of her final messages for her beloved Salvation Army came in a letter to Salvationists from her bed for the 1890 annual Self Denial campaign and appeal.

My Dear Children and Friends,

I have loved you so much, and in God’s strength have helped you a little. Now, at His call, I am going away from you.
The War must go on.
Self-Denial will prove your love to Christ. All must do something.
I send you my blessing. Fight on, and God will be with you. 
Victory comes at last. I will meet you in Heaven.

Catherine Booth. 

This was published on 4 October 1890. Three days before, Catherine had suffered a massive haemorrhage. The family gathered for the final time around her bed in Crossley House in Clacton-on-Sea for a four-day vigil, during which they all prayed and sang. On the day of the publication of her final letter, at 3.30 in the afternoon, Catherine Booth, aged sixty-one, was finally Promoted to Glory.

My darling One,
I never thought of you wanting a line or you should have had a better one, but you will accept this, just to assure you of my fullest and most satisfying assurance of your unalterable and eternal love to me. I have never doubted the possession of your heart from the day you first declared it mine. We were wed for ever, and though I go first you will soon follow and we shall find our all again in that eternal day, Amen, Amen.
Goodbye, darling, till then. I shall be the first to greet you on that eternal shore with all our children
and thousands of spiritual children from all lands.
Yours as ever, Catherine

Chapter 19 (pages 293 to 302 of the book) ends with a note which Catherine wrote to her beloved William in her final days and it is in equal measure, heart breaking, stoic and full of hope in the future, albeit not here on earth.

That was Catherine ... and if you want to read more about her and William, their early lives before they created The Salvation Army, the first years of that movement and their love and family life,  my book is still available including online through Amazon and all the usual websites and the publisher Lion Hudson.

Please feel free to search online or click here ... 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters'

Thanks!


Not Lost in Translation

Do you speak more than one language?

Maybe you're multi-lingual or, like me, English is my 'mother tongue' and I only speak a smattering of other languages.

A little French - that's about it. I have a few words of Kiswahili, learned when I was a child in Africa. I can say 'good morning' and 'thanks' in a few other languages but not much more than that! I can't converse in any other that the English language. 

Although many people do speak English across the world, for which I'm very grateful, there are times when we go places and we find ourselves in need of help ... we may need a 'translator'. These days there are apps on our 'phones and tech devices that can help us to translate what is being said, but also there are those clever people who make their living translating from one language to another - helping others to communicate.

Today, believe it or not, is International Translation Day  - a day for recognising translation professionals.

But  why today - September 30th?

Well, today is a celebration of St. Jerome,  who is considered the patron saint of translators.

ThursdayJerome lived in the early part of the first century - born it's thought around AD342 or AD 347. He died on this day - September 30th - in the year AD420.

Jerome was a Christian priest, theologian and historian. He is best  known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate) but he also wrote other commentaries on the whole Bible. He was also known for his teachings on the Christian moral life, especially to those living in cosmopolitan centres such as Rome in his time.  Interesting point -  he often focused his attention on the lives of women and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life. This came about because he was close to several female 'ascetics' from affluent families. 

His contribution to Christianity is so appreciated that Jerome is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.

Today is Jerome's 'feast day' and also ... since 2017 ... a date set aside by the United Nations as the day when we recognise the role of professional translation and translators in connecting nations.  Apart from encouraging us all to celebrate their contribution, the United Nations today also stages an annual St. Jerome Translation Contest for translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and German.

I first saw translators in action when I lived in Africa - people translating sermons in church services without notes, just responding to what was being said from the pulpit! I've also seen translators work at conferences and that's amazing. They have to be so quick-thinking and alert, and the ability to listen to one language and simultaneously translate into another is a wonderful skill.

Helping others to communicate, to break down the barriers between nations and peoples, is an important contribution not just to relationships between individuals but also to peace and understanding in the world. 

Sometimes we think, arrogantly, that those who don't understand or speak OUR language must be somehow lacking. And I'm not just talking about French, Spanish, English ... or Swahili or any other 'lingo'! We expect them to be like us, act like us, fit in to our agenda - to 'speak our language' in lots of respects. And that means we may miss out on the diversity of difference. When we don't try to understand where people are coming from, let alone their actual words,  that's a shame.

So today, as we celebrate those brilliant people who help to actually translate conferences, and meetings and correspondence so that everyone is aware of what others are saying and thinking and imagining,  let's also ask ourselves whether we are making the most of our personal communications and interactions with others. Are we deliberately not attempting to understand others? Or is it just we're not paying enough attention or can't be bothered to put in the effort to see another person's viewpoint? 

If we are in danger of our relationships getting 'lost in translation',  let's determine to be better communicators, to work harder to understand other people's viewpoints.

Language is very important. Let's use our words wisely and understand the impact negative sentiments may have on another person. Positive words and actions can make us and others feel great and that sort of positivity is contagious. 

And if you do fancy learning another language ... well, why not give that a go as well?

What language might you learn?

Now that's a question.

 

 

 

 


Never Forget

Where were you on Tuesday September 11th 2001? 

It's a date that, of course, goes down in history as one of the saddest and most shocking of modern times.

And today it's 20 years since what has become known as '9/11', that infamous terrorist attack on the United States of America

Four commercial airlines were hijacked mid-flight by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists.  Two of the aircraft were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Centre,  the iconic Twin Towers in New York City, with the subsequent collapse of those towers. A third was crashed into the west side of the Pentagon in Washington DC, the headquarters of the American military. A fourth was also hijacked and was also destined for the USA capital, but the brave passengers on board attempted to gain back control of the aircraft, which subsequently crashed instead in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Of course, it's the image of the burning Twin Towers that remains in most of our memories and that's why many of us remember where we were on that day.

At the time I was Head of Broadcast of a small (somewhat experimental) TV station in Hertfordshire in England. It was called 'Home TV' and it broadcast just to the towns of Hertford and nearby Ware and surrounding areas ... the forerunner, one might say, of the small digital and cable stations that sprang up later. We ran local news, sports and weather mostly, mixed in with other interesting 'bought in' programmes and national news from SKY TV.

Some members of my small team and I were in the operations room, the control room from which we controlled transmission. It's a room with lots of TV monitors which allow the directors and engineers to see what's coming in and what being transmitted to our viewers. The SKY TV news feed monitor was always on so we could see what they were running, even if we were not 'taking' the live feed at the time.

It was around 2 o'clock in the afternoon and we were having a news planning meeting for the next upcoming local news bulletin - scheduled for 6pm - when we looked up to see the SKY TV monitor flick to pictures of the World Trade Centre in New York, with one of the towers (the North Tower)  ablaze. We turned up the sound to hear those words 'News coming in of ....'

We all stood there, pretty shocked, I have to say. And then, a few moments later,  we saw it ... the second aircraft plough into the South Tower.

It was devastating! It was at at THAT point that I realised that this had to be a terrorist attack rather than an airline crash or accident.

But with my news head on I also realised that we needed to break into our regular programmes and show what was happening there across the Atlantic in New York City and, as it transpired, in Washington DC and other parts of the USA.

We had to have special permission to dip into SKY TV outside of our contracted hours, so I picked up the phone to their control desk.

All I said was 'Home TV in Hertford, we're taking your news feed now!' I guessed that no one there would be able to answer questions because of the seriousness of the events unfolding, and I figured that if we were in trouble for taking the feed, we'd deal with that later. We flicked live to the SKY TV feed and stayed with it all day. Somehow, news of what was happening in two small provisional towns in the UK seemed immaterial at the time, as did re-runs of cartoons and natural history programmes and sports compilations.

I really can't remember if we did a 6 o'clock bulletin. What with trying to get reaction from local people and working with the small team of largely young and inexperienced staff who were, understandably, rather traumatised by the day, September 11 2001 became a bit of a blur.

It was only when I went home late that night and sat down to watch the national BBC News that the enormity of the day began to settle on me. 

That day 2,977 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured. The immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Centre and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.  Most of those who died were civilians but we know that 344 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers died in the World Trade Centre and on the ground in New York City. Another law enforcement officer died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into that  field near Shanksville and 55 military personnel perished in the attack on the Pentagon.

Of the 2,977 people who died, 2,605 were U.S. citizens and 372 non-U.S. citizens - all were loved, had families, some were dads and mums and grandparents. Each person is a hole in the life of someone else. 

9/11 is the deadliest terrorist attack on the USA and, in fact, in world history. Over the past two decades we've seen the experiences of that day played out on TV over and over and over. I think that must just be awful for those who lost someone that day, especially in the Towers, as they are being constantly reminded of their precious loved ones final moments of life.

Of course, we know that the 9/11 attacks led to an invasion of Afghanistan, where the al-Qaeda terrorists were allowed sanctuary, the eventual killing of the mastermind behind it - Osama bin Laden - and 20 years of Allied troops on the ground, with the loss of many more thousands of lives. American and British and other military personnel who were killed or injured in the subsequent years of battle and not forgetting the many many thousands of  innocent Afghanis who got caught in the cross fire. It's only last month - August 2021 - that the allies have moved out, leaving the country once again in disarray and once again under the control of the Taliban ... itself a radical Islamic group. But that's another story.

In the intervening years I was privileged to hear some of the personal stories of those who were directly affected by the events of 9/11. People who were on holiday in New York city and saw the events unfold in front of them. People who served at 'Ground Zero' (the place where the towers fell) for many months afterward, including chaplains and others from The Salvation Army in New York City and the wider north eastern provinces. People back here in the UK who were also affected and traumatised.

So today, as I have done every year  since that infamous day in 2001, I take time out to remember all those precious souls lost on that dreadful day.

I pray for their family, friends, loved ones, colleagues. I pray for the children who never knew their fathers, all those lives unfulfilled and the doors closed too soon.

And I remember them.

It's twenty years since that terrible day and we should NEVER forget them!

911


Remembering Roy

Today I'm remembering a great man!

I was privileged to meet him just once ... as a young reporter in Jersey I interviewed him because he was the star of the annual summer parade - The Jersey Battle of Flowers.

Roy Castle was a HUGE personality, a star of stage, screen and TV -  musician, singer, comedian, actor, dancer and television presenter - he was a true legend.

Many will remember him because for years he became well known to British TV viewers as the presenter of the children's series Record Breakers

But before that he was well known for his roles on stage, television and film and because of his amazing musical talent - he was an accomplished jazz trumpet player but he could play many other musical instruments. He was also a person of great Christian faith and a family man - years after that meeting with Roy I actually got to know his wife Fiona ... what a lovely family!

I'm thinking about Roy today because it was on this day - September 2nd - in 1994, that he passed away aged just 62. I remember the shock of hearing about his death ... he had lung cancer but he had never smoked. He blamed his illness, which was diagnosed a couple of years earlier, on passive smoking during his years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs.

Roy was brave. Even in his final months and with his health declining he continued to work hard, including on the high-profile Tour of Hope to raise funds for the erection of the building that would become the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the only British charity dedicated solely to defeating lung cancer.  Fiona continued to work with the charity after her husband's death, and campaigned for the British smoking ban which came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2004, Scotland in 2006 and England and Wales in 2007, banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places.

What a legacy!

Sometimes when you meet your heroes, it's a disappointment because they turn out not to be the person you think they are.

But when Roy Castle came to Jersey in 1988 to be 'Mr Battle' at our island's annual floral parade, the highlight of the summer season, the Jersey Battle of Flowers - there was no disappointment.

He was JUST as lovely as I thought he would be. He was jolly and kind, and smiling. A consummate professional and actually a really nice chap. I  interviewed him for the local TV station - Channel TV (ITV) - and filmed him during the Afternoon and the evening Moonlight parades. I saw first hand how hard he worked and how brilliant he was with the public, and us media! There was no 'stardom' about him really - he was full of fun and laughed and chatted to anyone and everyone. People loved him!

That same year - 1988 - Roy presented a TV series for the ITV network which was also close to my heart.

Marching as to warIt was called 'Marching as to War' and it told the story of The Salvation Army, it's founders William and Catherine Booth, and explored all sorts of aspects of the work and music of the global church and charity Christian movement.

For me, as a young Salvationist and someone who was working in television at the time, it was exciting to see my church and it's history being shared with the world, and I was thrilled that Roy Castle - so empathetic and compassionate - presented that series of programmes and was able to bring something of his own personal Christian faith to the project. And I know, from talking to people who were in that series with him (some of whom I can still recognise on the films) that Roy was a pleasure and joy to work with!

A few years after the programmes went out I found myself living in Norwich where the series was made by Anglia TV. By the late 90's I was actually working in the network religious department at Anglia ITV. It felt like a circle was complete.

The whole 'Marching as to War' series is available on YouTube, thanks to my friend Rob Westwood-Payne, who also hails from Norwich and who is  now a Salvation Army officer, or minister.

Some of the footage is now rather dated. Times have changed ... among other things, the uniforms are different and some of us don't wear uniforms at all these days ... and of course the world has altered around us. 

But the message of Booth and his life-altering mission movement remains as strong today as back in 1988 when the series was made, and in 1865 when William Booth first set up his East London Christian Mission, which in 1878 would be renamed The Salvation Army.

So - if you have half an hour to spare - why not  sit back and enjoy this episode?

It's the one where Roy tells us all about 'Soup, Soap and Salvation' - one of the key message of the early Salvation Army ...

 




Just for Today

Today is the final day of the first part of the 2020 Summer Olympics events in Tokyo.

Yes I know what you're thinking ... it's 2021! But of course, the Games last year were postponed because of the COVID19 global pandemic so everything is happening a year later than expected.

Although I've not been 'glued' to the TV during the past fortnight I have enjoyed a lot of the coverage, even of sports I am not particularly interested in. I've watched some of the 'newer' Olympic sports like BMX cycling and skateboarding and been befuddled by events like the cycling 'Madison' (a complicated relay race where the riders 'tag' each other) and the  'Keirin' (weird sprinting race). Got to say I've not watched much of the boxing or judo or weightlifting, although well done to everyone who takes part in those.

The athletics is always a roller coaster and I'm in awe that people can run or jump or throw that fast and high and far. And as for the gymnastics - well that's always incredible and full of tension and awe-inspiring feats of brilliance by those young men and women who throw themselves around with abandon.  Although I have to say I'm still a bit perplexed as to why the women gymnasts have to 'dance' their floor exercises and for the men it's just the amazing tumbles. 

But for me, the most exciting Olympic sports are those that happen primarily in the first week of the Summer Olympics in the water and the pool! It seems like the swimming is closest to my heart, and one which I can most relate to. Not that I could even get close to those times but when I see those swimmers diving in and ploughing up and down the pool and then touching the end of the pool as the race finishes, I can turn back time to my own very limited competitive swimming years.

A long time ago now ... 

Which brings me to the Summer Olympics of 1972

I was 13 and it's my first memory of watching the Olympics on the TV.

The Games were held in Munich in Germany ... and unfortunately that festival of sport has gone down in history for a tragic event rather than the brilliant sportsmen and women and their achievements, because in the second week the Games made the news after a terrorist attack in the Olympic Village in which eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer were killed by Palestinian Black September terrorists.

But for me it's also memorable because it's when I first heard of and saw an amazing swimmer - Mark Spitz from the USA.

He won seven gold medals in the pool, all in world record time. That record stood for 36 years until fellow American Michael Phelps came along and won eight golds at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

Actually, Mark Spitz won nine Olympic golds, a silver, and a bronze between 1968 and 1972, along with many many other awards at national and global level. And for several years (1969, 1971 and 1972) he was named Swimming World Magazine World Swimmer of the Year.

WHAT A LEGEND!

I was absolutely inspired. At the time I was doing a lot of swimming and even competing and he was my hero! Ok so he was also a good looking young man ... that helped to make him more attractive to a young teen ... so it is no surprise that, along with pop stars like Donny Osmond, I had a poster of Mark on my bedroom wall!

Spitz retired from competitive swimming after the 1972 Olympics, has become a motivational speaker and much more and there are loads of quotes from him online, including thoughts about that terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team ... as a person of Jewish faith, those murders of his fellow athletes would have been particularly shocking!

Mark SpitzLots of his 'thoughts' about swimming and winning have been taken out of context, of course, but I found this one from the man which is especially interesting, at least for me.

The idea of living in the moment - for today -  is something I think we can all consider.

I don't know about you but I can be inclined to worry too much about what is to come, things that I can't control, and I lose the joy of just BEING!

And sometimes that concern can stress me out and prevent me from performing as I know I am able.

For elite sportsmen and women, I'm guessing that being in the moment, doing the best they can given all their hard work and training, is all they can do. 

During the coverage of some of the Olympic events I've noticed some of the athletes obviously thinking themselves through what they are going to do. The high-jumpers, for instance, seem to turn their head and even move their arms and hands as they envisage the jump that is to come.  They are committed to that moment in time.

I love to watch tennis and I often hear the 'expert' commentators, including former champions, explain that it's important not to get ahead of oneself but to treat each point separately. If you think 'this one will win me the match/make me the champion' it can lose you that crucial point because you take your eye 'off the ball' ... literally! You are too busy thinking about what is to come rather than that moment in time.

This way of mindful thinking ... being in the moment ... doesn't mean we shouldn't PREPARE for the future ... of course we should! If sportsmen and women didn't put the leg work in then they would not be in a place to compete ... but the ability to just put all else aside and concentrate on THIS MOMENT IN TIME, to perform to the best of their ability, is an example to us all.

Of course we must all work hard to ensure we are all prepared for the crucial moments in our lives, but being able to live for that one moment, to concentrate and to focus ... is a skill we could all try to achieve.

In a week or so time we will be treated to the 'second half' of the Summer Olympics 2020 and the Paralympic Games, again from the Japanese capital city, which are, I think, even more inspiring than the events featuring the able bodied.

It's always unbelievably inspiring to see people who have dealt with so much in their lives push themselves to their limits, smash records, make themselves and their nation proud and just excel at the very highest level.

But for today I'm taking inspiration from one of heroes - the AMAZING Mark Spitz - and this thought. 

The ability to not worry endlessly about the future, to enjoy today, to look around and relish this moment ... that's important for me as I grow older.

As I said, it's a long time since Mark Spitz made it onto my bedroom wall. As a young person it's important to have people to look up to. And he is part of my life journey.

So thanks to you, Mark Spitz!

May you continue to inspire!




 


The Audacity of Hope

On Wednesday January 21st 2009,  I was in a hotel room in Christchurch, New Zealand, having set my alarm for an early wake up call so I could be witness to a truly historic moment.

I was enjoying the last couple of days of an amazing holiday which had taken me first to Australia and then on to the north, and finally the south island of New Zealand.

But although I had spent more than a month virtually cut off from the world, away from the news, enjoying some solo travel and relaxing, I was determined to be part of something which was happening in the USA.

So it was that, at 4am that morning, I turned on the TV to watch the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America.

Time-zone wise, Christchurch is 16 hours ahead of Washington DC - hence that early alarm because it was at 12noon in Washington DC on Tuesday January 20th that Barack Obama stood at the West Front of the United States Capitol building and took the presidential oath of office - the first ever African American president of the USA.

What an incredible moment in time and history!

I had followed the future president's journey to the White House over the previous year, read some of his books and was inspired. I think I was particularly intrigued because he has some roots in the country of Kenya, where I grew up. His father was from that country although of course, Barack was born in Hawaii in the USA. His book 'Dreams from My Father' is the first part of his amazing life story.

His second book 'The Audacity of Hope' picks up his story and actually the book explained and unpacked many of the subjects that became part of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency.

HOPE became a central feature of the campaign and of the new presidency and that was truly inspirational.

Of course, President Obama would go on to serve another term and among other things later in 2009, he would be honoured wit the Nobel Prize for Peace. The motivation for the prize was President Obama's "...extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." This, the Nobel Committee determined, was at the core of inspiring hope for a better future, not just in and for the USA but also for the world. He encouraged dialogue, co-operation between peoples, democracy and human rights, and this was recognised by the Nobel prize, along with his work to combat climate change.

President Obama still inspires today. His story continues.

His latest biography - 'A Promised Land'  - focuses on the first couple of years of his time as president. I look forward to Volume 2 !

But back to the theme of Hope ... 

It's an intangible thing. We can't touch it but we CAN feel it! We can't see it but we can experience it. When things are going wrong or at least not as we expected, it's easy just to cave and give up believing that life CAN be better. It's easy to lose hope.

But no matter how uncertain life might be, let's not lose that hope that sustains us. Let's keep the dreams we have for our lives, for our families, for our futures, alive. 

And here's a reminder which might help us...

To mark the birthday of President Barack Obama, who was born on this day ... August 4th  ... in 1961, I share an inspiring thought from the man.  

Hope - a belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead!

Now THAT is audacious!

Hope - Barack Obama
What an inspirational thought!

Oh and an interesting footnote about Barack Obama ... if you've done your sums, you'll know that today is a significant birthday for the great man.

He was 47 when he was first elected as president, one of the youngest American presidents in history - the average age of the presidents is 55 and, as we know even from very recent elections, many of the incumbents of the White House are often much older!

Happy 60th birthday Mr President!!

 


Calling it out

If you're as old as me, you'll remember the days before the internet ... and social media.

Those days when if we wanted to contact people, we would have to write a letter, take the trouble to meet them in person, or phone them.

Today, though, we can post something online, send a 'direct message' on one of the social media platforms and get almost instantaneous replies.

It's like magic! 

Well I think it is anyway.

When social media first came around I was a bit dubious. Did I really want to tell the world what I was up to? Did I really want my opinion out there? Did I want to get involved in conversations not just with people I know, but perhaps with those I don't?

Well ... the answer was 'YES'... although I determined from the start that I would try to be wise.

Social media has, of course, been accused of creating the downfall of humanity, or something similar.

But actually I've realised that social media is only the vehicle for misbehaviour and vile, and even evil. It allows us to be more vocal, to be nasty ... especially for those who want to do so while 'hiding' in plain sight. 

Social mediaBut as this quote reminds us ... it's not as simple as that!

And it's down to us all to call it out.

Take, for instance, the recent racist vile and vitriol posted online ... on Twitter primarily ... by those who blamed certain individual footballers for losing the England football team the Euro 2021 Cup.

So, a few of those most excellent young sportsmen missed a penalty which meant that the Italians won the game, and picked up the trophy.

In the past those racists who pointed out that these brilliant sportsmen are not white might have spouted their evil to like minded friends in the pub. But instead they posted on Twitter. Which thankfully resulted in lots of 'calling out' .. and hopefully a ban from that social media platform. Hopefully for life!

Posting on social media in public IS just like having your face on a big poster for all to see. And if you think you can behave immorally and unethically, and with hatred and offence, then think again!

You will be called out and there are masses of us online now who are determined that the social media platforms will NOT be hijacked by the 'Nasty'.

When I first started using social media, there were lots of people who doubted my sanity and thought I was going to the 'dark side' of life.  Social media was an evil place and we should all stay clear. If we didn't want to be corrupted, we should just not go there.

But I quickly learned that it didn't have to be like that. We don't have to exclude ourselves from the magic of social media. In fact, we can be part of the solution, rather than the problem or allowing the problems to be perpetuated.

I've seen so much amazing stuff, so much positivity, on social media. Prayer circles for sick friends, positive quotes and comments for people to be inspired by, encouragement for folk who are having a hard time. Certainly during the COVID19 pandemic, and lockdown, social media was a bit of a saviour for a lot of us, keeping us in touch with our family and friends when we could not meet. 

So ... as for me ... when I'm on social media I try to block the negative. I report when I see bad stuff, and I try to stay away from the controversial discussions. I certainly don't welcome them into my life and I don't go looking for the bad, but I do try to share the 'good'. It's part of what I'm trying to do with this daily blog, which I daily also post to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I'm mentioning all  this today because apparently it was on July 15 2006 that Twitter was publicly launched!

Yes, it wasn't that long ago and yet these days Twitter and the other social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram, and now Tik Tok and other newer inventions - are just part of our every day life. And some of us can't imagine life without it!

When Twitter came along, with its 140 character limit, I thought I'd never get it. 

As you know if you read this blog regularly, I'm a bit verbose!

But now I love it. These days I get up to 280 characters to say what I want to say, but for me each tweet is a bit of challenge.

Although the first 'tweet' or message was sent in March 2006 by the company's CEO Jack Dorsey, (who created the platform with Noah GlassBiz Stone, and Evan Williams) it was publicly launched in July and it soon caught on. By 2012, more than 100 million users posted 340 million tweets a day,  and Twitter was handling an average of 1.6 billion search queries every day.

Today (actually as of January this year)  Twitter  has in excess of 350million active users!

It's a powerful platform.

Yes, of course those who run these huge companies have a duty of care to ensure the platform is not abused, and to ensure those who do abuse others online are dealt with, but it is also down to us, the users, to ensure we behave online, and to call out those who don't.

If I want social media to be a healthy place, I need to be part of the community which encourages goodness online.

And I suggest that if we all did a bit of that, the world (and that includes social media) will be a better place!

 


All we need is Love

Here's another one of my 'favourite films' moments.

Ok, so it's a bit unseasonal ... but today I'm thinking about the 2003 movie Love Actually.

It's associated with Christmas, of course, because it's set in that season. But as the title indicates, it's all really about love.

Love in different forms, unrequited love, love which is not returned, love which is complicated, people showing love and sharing love, love at different stages of life.

I love it!

Why am thinking about this ... in July?

Well it's not to do with the whole 'Christmas in July' thing, I can assure you!

No it's because there's a song in the movie, near the start of the film, which is one of my favourites.

And it was released as a single this day - July 7th - in 1967.

All you need is loveI'm talking, of course, about All you Need is Love, from the 'Fab Four' - the Beatles!

Although it was written by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song-writing partnership. Lennon apparently deliberately wrote lyrics that were simple because the song was actually written not just for the British market, but for s specific global event and it needed to have international appeal.

All you Need is Love was Britain's contribution to Our World, the world's first live global TV special. The Beatles were filmed performing the song at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967 and the programme was broadcast via satellite, and seen by over 400 million people in 25 countries. 

It's one of those songs that's in our psyche and in our history. It's certainly in mine.

Many of us can just sing along. It's a song which with the constant repetition of the chorus 'All you need is love' .. has a powerful message. And it's not about love we can't attain. It's about doing everything with love.

I mentioned that on Sunday, but it's definitely worth the repetition. 

So - combining one of my favourite songs, with a favoured movie... here it is - as featured in Love Actually.

It's a strong reminder of something that's really important, and which - if we all just tried to love a little bit more -  could change the world.

 

 

 


When I am ...

I mentioned yesterday that this has been a mixed week for me.

Lots of exciting and new things happened but also, on Wednesday just past, a man who I admired and loved left this earth.

I worked for the Rev Dr Joel Edwards in various capacities over the years and he was not just a boss, but a mentor and a friend.

He was well known across the world and in the UK and not just for his leadership in many different fields of life, including where I first worked with him, at the Evangelical Alliance UK. Click on the link above to read more about this tour de force of a man, a person of great Christian faith and vision, with a passion for the poor and unity among nations and peoples. He was a writer and speaker who inspired, and so much more!

After the EAUK I also worked for Joel on the Micah Challenge ... an international campaign tackling issues of global poverty, specifically working towards the Millennium Development Goals ... and on the EXPOSED campaign, which challenged global corruption which is one of the major contributors to poverty across the world. As International Director, Joel and the people he gathered around him challenged politics and big business and corporations. He was brave and working for him was inspiring.

Joel Edwards made the world a better place. On this death this week his family released via social media a beautiful letter he had written, knowing he was soon to go to his Eternal Rest. It was a heart breaking, but also a challenging, inspiring and uplifting final message especially for those who knew and admired and loved him,

Joel lived life to the full, loved his family and friends well, worked exceptionally hard on everything, including those causes to which he was devoted. Joel Edwards did in many senses change the world. Not just on a global scale, but also for those of us who were privileged to have shared time with him. He laughed and smiled, and prayed and laughed again with a big grin that wrapped you up in its embrace.

Thank you Joel. I feel honoured to have known you! What a legacy you have left, and that will continue in the lives you touched, the campaigns you led and the movements you spawned and supported. And of course, through your family. 

Most of us don't think much about dying. Why would we when we are wrapped in up in living and enjoying life?

But it's moments like this, when people like Joel leave us, that perhaps we may think about our own mortality.  Maybe it's at times like this we ask ourselves serious questions like ...

What difference am I making in the world?

What does my life actually mean?

Am I so wrapped up in 'stuff' that I'm missing something really important about what my life could be and mean?

Certainly this week has made me think again about the purpose of life and what we leave behind as our 'legacy' ... which led me to write these words... 

I'm still thinking about it all ...

What I leave behind

 

 

 

 


The Story of Brave Men

This week has been an exciting one in Jersey.

Among other things, we had a Royal Visit.

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) did a whistle-stop tour of our lovely island. And although we've had a very damp week, actually on Thursday we were blessed with glorious sunshine, so that was brilliant especially for all the islanders, including hundreds of children, who came out to greet her.

The Princess Royal opened our newest school (the fabulous Les Quennevais School) and a new sports training facility, and visited the Jersey Zoo ... she's the patron of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Waterloo memorial St Saviour's Church JerseyBut for me, her most important duty during the day took her to St Saviour's Church where she unveiled a very special memorial plaque in the church.

In St Saviour's Churchyard in Jersey there are many interesting stories. In 2018 I spent many months wandering around the graveyard with the then Rector of St Saviour, the Rev Peter Dyson, who was investigating the people laid to rest there.

This resulted in a series of 26 episodes broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey and it was fascinating. I learned so much.

As a result of his research, Peter found many dozens of men who are connected to the Napoleonic era... the Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Men were found who fought on the British side and even one who fought under the French emperor. It's thought St Saviour's is the resting place of more Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars veterans than anywhere else in the world. It's astonishing that so many veterans of these campaigns eventually found their way to Jersey.

In 2020 a book was published which outlines their stories - 'Napoleonic War Veterans Buried at St. Saviour’s Church, Jersey' edited by one of the world's leading experts in the period, William Mahon.

Napoleonic & Peninsula Wars memorial Oct 2020In Autumn 2020, a memorial was placed in the north Lady Chapel of the Church but the unveiling of the plaque was a year delayed because of the COVID19 pandemic. Finally, this past Thursday, June 24th 2021, that memorial was unveiled by The Princess Royal ... there was a special church service and colourful celebrations including lots of children and members of the Jersey community.

In October 2020, just before Rev Peter Dyson retired as Rector of the parish, I returned to the churchyard at St Saviour's Church to talk to him about the memorial, some of the stories it told and the importance of the research.

This was played in two parts on the BBC Radio Jersey Sunday Morning Breakfast show on October 4 2020.

Here is the complete story. 


*images from St Saviour's Church Jersey Facebook Page