Monthly Talking Point – October 2019

This months edition is provided by Colin Ferguson

Colin Ferguson has been the Chairman of Caversham Christian News Ltd since January 2015. He is now leaving the Board of Directors to continue his active retirement.

We reproduce a ‘Talking Point’ he wrote which appeared in the November 2014 issue. Then ‘it was as right for its times’ as it can be seen to be now in late 2019. It explores themes which Fr. Patrick Daly introduced in his Talking Point last month and both pieces make for constructive contemplation a well as conversation.

I am writing this at the end of September having just returned from a tour of Australia which also allowed me to catch up with friends and family who live there. Even there it was impossible to get away from the fearful activity in the Middle East or the Scottish referendum.

As a Scot, I was deeply concerned that the ‘Braveheart’ syndrome might prevail and create a country deeply divided and also quite unrepresentative of those who are Scottish. Thankfully, the vote allowed things to remain stable. At the same time there was a bit of me that was delighted that so many turned out for the vote and that the ’yes’ vote was as strong as it was. Why? It is totally irrational but my heritage is important to me and I could relate to a cry that said we do not want to belong to a nation that has food banks whilst the rich get richer. The sense that this nation has become unjust has led to division and anger not just in Scotland but widely across the whole nation. The sense of government by an English elite did nothing to prevent ideas of being better off on their own. The sad thing is that this sense of wanting to be separated pervades the newspapers in particular and far from being a united kingdom I have never known us to be so divided.

In the church we have a special responsibility to show that even though we are divided by opinion we are still one in the Spirit, and we no longer reject each other because of our diversity but work together for a better understanding of what good community should be. We should be speaking out more about the erosion of human rights, the abandoning of equality before the law with the loss of legal aid, and the demonization of the poor as being scroungers and layabouts. I feel especially for teachers at this time. I grew up in a society where they were respected and supported in the hard work that is involved.

My daughter became a teacher three years ago, she loves the job and by all accounts is doing well but she is not happy at the pressure of the negative approach by the inspectorate and the apparent determination of the government to say that schools are failing so that they can be put into special measures or turned into academies, which is really another way of saying private schools.

The same tactics are being seen in the health service. My uncle, who was a founding member of the BMA and the National Health Service, would be turning in his grave at what is being done. To get good value we need to cherish our health workers and teachers and all those who try to serve our community. We should be proud of the culture of
care and resist the efforts to minimize it or to sell it off.

The next assault is going to be on the European Union, on immigration, and the Human Rights Act. It is already rife in the UKIP. It is a sad reflection on us that one more charismatic politician can so readily attract a following. Politics cannot be about blaming others. It is merely an extension of the rifts building in society now. The truth is that without immigration we would be much worse off. I belong to a church which has several nationalities working together and we welcome them. In Melbourne I attended a church where half the congregation were of Chinese and other Asian descent, and it was good.

Sadly, this is not a political rant as I personally feel disenfranchised by the present system. It is an effort at times to keep supporting it. Perhaps if I had been living in Scotland I could have sympathised even more with the desire to break away, but I believe we are better together and our role now is to try and make that togetherness return.
It is what so many died for one hundred years ago and if our remembrance is to mean anything it should be to create the type of society in which they would all find a welcome place.

Colin Ferguson is an accredited Lay Preacher in the United Reform Church