Friday, 4 December 2015


"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us"
And the Word became flesh and interrupted us:
Interrupted our complacency, alerting us to our need;
Interrupted our certainty, unfolding God's mystery;
Interrupted our independence, inviting us into relationship;
Interrupted our violence, offering love;
Interrupted our noise with the songs of angels,
with a man's dream,
with a woman's blood and tears,
with a baby's cry.
Interruption of grace
in a world in need.

(With thanks to HW for the idea of ministry as interruption)

©Ruth M Gee 041215

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Trivial distractions or signs of hope?

And so again we enter the season of Advent. This year, as in every year, we enter the season as a people who know hope. Not the easy hope of the ones who rush to the sales to grab a bargain. Not the simplistic hope that claims that all will be happiness and laughter in spite of everything.
We know the hope that is grounded in the truth of incarnation, the truth of a God from whose love nothing can separate us.

Without such grounded hope the lights of Christmas are trivia, the decorations are tawdry and the trees an empty symbol. When we know the hope offered by God who is present with us, who weeps with us, who is with us in our bewilderment, who embraces righteous anger and transforms it into action and who calls us to go into the darkest places of our world and find God even there - then the lights and the tinsel, the candles and the baubles on the tree become signs of hope.

As the world around us seems to be fragmenting, as senseless violence overwhelms individuals and communities, as we slowly contribute to the destruction of the planet - it is the God who is present with us who offers hope.

And how do we respond to hope?

That is what we must work out together and the answer is not always simple to find. But, at the very least we must do all we can to offer hope to others. This is what we do when we volunteer in food banks,  visit those who are lonely or ill, work with children and young people, run lucheon clubs and do so many other things in our local communities.

We offer hope when we speak out against injustice, when we challenge decisions and policies which penalise those who are already struggling with poverty or discrimination.

It is only because we hold to the hope that is given to us in Jesus Christ that we can dare to decorate our homes and churches at Christmas in a world where there is so much suffering, injustice, cruelty and pain. If we forget this, the decorations are but distractions - if we remember it they can be a symbol of profound truth.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Working with my leg in the air

"So have you taken advantage of time to read and meditate or have you just been working with your leg in the air?"
It was a question asked with good humour and the expectation (sadly correct) that the latter option was more likely to be the case than the former.

The comparative immobilisation that has resulted from the fracture of a bone in my leg has been frustrating.
I cannot drive, so have been dependent on others to take me to preaching appointments and meetings.
I have needed to spend some time each day with my leg elevated which has sometimes been impossible and on those occasions I have realised that I really did need to put my leg up.
I have been forced to ask others to come to me when I would normally have gone to them. I have not been able to visit those I really want to visit.

For the last few weeks things which I have not thought about at all have become major challenges. Which foot should go first up or down steps?
How can I avoid a slope? Slopes are very uncomfortable.
What is the most efficient way of getting up in the morning which avoids multiple putting on and taking off the moonboot?
Can I really dare to use the escalator? (I did).
What do I do when the lapel microphone is not working, there is no hand-help microphone and I really shouldn't stand through the whole of the service?

I have had to learn to accept help when it is generously and graciously offered. I have been quite overwhelmed by the kindness of people who have been willing to go out of their way to get me to places.
I have been reminded how fortunate I am to be surrounded by loving and caring people.

I have made a few train journeys wearing my moonboot and using a crutch and I have always been offered assistance getting on and off the train by other passengers. People have opened doors because I don't have a free hand.

During a few days in Swanick at the CTE Forum, I learned to get about the large and hilly site in a mobility scooter and I learned that it isn't always easy. Doors are hard to open. The lifts are hard to get into because the door opens outwards. Steep slopes are a bit unnerving. You cannot carry a suitcase on a mobility scooter so clearing your room cannot be done alone.

One part of our living room became known as Houston Control because I was surrounded there by chargers for all the electronic equipment, my lap-top, my i-pad, the work phone and my mobile phone, the remote controls for the television and a variety of notebooks and files. Also close to hand were bible, prayer handbook and whichever commentaries and books I needed that day.
It was here that I sat with my leg in the air and worked. But there were also the times when I sat with my leg in the air and prayed and reflected.

This blog has been rather introspective and self-centred and I have recognised the temptation to to these things and to an inward focus.

I hope that I will continue to try to learn to keep a balance between looking at myself and my relationship with God, family and others and looking beyond myself to the experiences of others and to national and worldwide issues, recognising and responding to God's presence there.

I hope that I will keep the balance between taking time to reflect and working, with or without my leg in the air.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Steel production in Cleveland - Statement of concern by Northern Church Leaders

North East Churches Acting Together
6th  October 2015

A message from the Church leaders concerning the future of the SSI plant in Redcar.

The people of Teesside remain deeply uncertain and concerned about the potential for future steel production in the region. In recent days we have watched and listened as discussions have unfolded around the future of steel production on Teesside, but nothing has been said that would allay the uncertainty as to whether the Redcar plant will be mothballed, or closed completely.
What we do know is that this will have a profound effect on the people of Teesside.  1700 posts will be made redundant directly from the steel works, 500 from the coking works and other businesses will be both directly and indirectly affected.  Families and local businesses will suffer as income in the region drops.  We know that this sort of economic impact on a community has far more reaching effects on relationships, health, child poverty and employment.  This in an area that is already struggling with the effects of austerity measures that are hitting Teesside very hard.
We welcome the Government's offer of £80 million to support the community. We hope that this, in partnership with others, is part of a long term commitment to support a community that has been committed to making steel production work on Teesside.   Whilst acknowledging that the global economy is challenging for steel production and being appreciative of recent statements of support by the Business minister, many in this region would have hoped for more direct support for the industry at a time when much publicity is being given to the Northern Powerhouse and the economy of the North east. We would urge that there be strategic and forward looking thinking and planning for the region and for other areas of the country suffering from the continuing decline of heavy industry.
Local churches have already responded and will continue to pray, offer pastoral care, assist those affected in material and practical ways and work with others to seek outcomes that lead to a flourishing Teesside    
Please join us in praying for the people of Teesside.

Dr. Mark Bonnington (New and Independent Churches in the North East) Chair of North East Churches Acting Together

Rt Revd Paul Butler (Bishop of Durham)

Revd John Claydon (Regional Minister, Northern Baptist Association)

Rt Revd Seamus Cunningham (Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle)

Bishop Terry Drainey (Bishop of Middlesbrough)

Rt Revd Paul Ferguson (Bishop of Whitby)

Revd Ruth Gee (Chair of the Darlington District of the Methodist Church)

Revd Stephen Lindridge (Chair of the Newcastle District of the Methodist Church)

Majors Denis and Olive Lomax (Divisional Commanders, Northern Salvation Army)

Revd Lis Mullen (Moderator of the Northern Synod of the United Reformed Church)

Revd Paul Revill (Regional Minister, Northern Baptist Association)

Rt Revd Frank White (Assistant Bishop of Newcastle Diocese)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Harvest of steel

copyright Ruth M Gee
This week-end many churches will be celebrating harvest. As you give thanks for the abundance of the harvest please take a moment to remember the families of steelworkers on Teesside as they live through another crisis. The closure of the steelworks will affect thousands in an area that is already struggling, where 81% of the population depend on tax credits.

The harvest of prime quality steel in this area may end.

Pray for us.

The picture was taken when visiting the coke ovens in March 2010. It is essential to keep the coke ovens working if there is to be hope to re-open the site for production. There is a ship waiting to deliver coal but the money is not available to pay for it, without more coal supplies the ovens can only work for a few more days.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A resilient people and their steel

(Copyright Ruth M Gee March 2010)
For the second time in 5 years the blast furnace and steel production on Teesside is to be mothballed. SSI have said this will be for up to 5 years. 1700 posts will be made redundant, 1700 people will be without work. Families will suffer and other local businesses will suffer as income in the region drops. The food banks will be needed more than ever. Relationships will be strained as some lose their job, perhaps for the second time in 5 years and others are retained to keep the coke ovens and power station in good order so that work can be resumed if that should be possible in the future.

Once again the horizon will change as fewer ships come into Teesport. Once again the horizons of individual lives and the community will change as yet another blow strikes the resilient people of the North East.

The people here are resilient, they have to be. They are so often side-lined in national decision making. The much talked about Northern Powerhouse seems to be focused on the North West. The planned new high speed rail links, HS2 and HS3 will not come to the North East. The continuing cuts in public spending make it impossible to improve the infrastructure in the area. New jobs have been created in the North East but they are outnumbered by those that have been lost because of cuts to public services, and many new jobs are part time or on zero hour contracts.

The steel produced here is of the highest quality and very resilient just like the people.  But the resilience of these people and these communities is being strained.

The churches are responding and will offer support, food, comfort and prayer. We will also respond, as we must, by continuing to challenge those with power to use that power to the benefit of the people in the North East. We will continue to stand with and speak for the marginalised.

Please pray for the people of Teesside.

You can find a call to prayer from the local Methodist Minister here

Saturday, 19 September 2015

A walk in the park - new perspectives

South Park, in Darlington is a favourite place for families on a sunny Saturday afternoon - just like today. I have often walked to and around the park and enjoyed the exercise and the scenery, it is a familiar place.

This afternoon I went to South Park with Robert (my husband) but today it was different because I am temporarily unable to put any weight on my right leg due to a broken bone. This meant that I was not walking but being pushed in a wheelchair, kindly loaned by Barnard Castle Methodist Church. For me, this is temporary, but I have seen a walk in the park from a new perspective and it has been a learning experience.

I learned about the need to trust because I had to trust Robert. In one way this was not difficult or new, I do trust him implicitly and have done so through 38 years of marriage. I trust him but I was still nervous when we went down fairly steep slopes or towards the lake or over bumpy ground. I was very aware that I had no control, I couldn't even put my feet on the ground to slow things down and I am not used to having no control. 

I learned about guilt and the futility of it in this instance. I felt guilty when we went uphill. I have lost a lot of weight recently but even so it was an effort to push me uphill. I wanted to help and thought leaning forward might do it - but it made no difference - so I had to accept that Robert was expending energy and getting a work-out for my benefit and all without complaint. I am grateful.

I was reminded of the sheer fun of being in a park.  I found that I was at eye-level with the children we met and it was fantastic! They were smiling at me, talking to me and laughing with me. What a privilege, I enjoyed it immensely. On the other hand, I was not at eye-level with the adults in the park. Sometimes our eyes met, usually because their children had spoken to me but otherwise I was fairly invisible to them. Today, through the children around me, I was enjoying scooters and playing hide and seek and riding tricycles rather than walking briskly to make sure I did 10,000 or more steps and used up a few hundred calories!

I am not pretending or claiming to have gained great insights into what it is like to be in a wheelchair but the new perspectives on a walk in the park have been a cause for reflection.

I could go on to reflect on trust in God and playing in God's presence but I won't - I will leave for you to do - if you want to.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Lament for Aylan

Lament for Aylan

So small, so still
So beautiful in life
So unbearable in death
Carried by the sea
Carried by our tears
Carried gently in strong arms.

O God
Open the eyes of those with power
To  see  your children in their desperate need;
Open the arms of those in government
To welcome those who come to our shores;
Open the hearts of each one of us -
Move us to sorrow, anger and action
That the salt sea of sorrow
May be turned to soothing waters
And that tears of desperation
May become tears of joy.

O God, help your people.

Aylan Kurdi, aged 3, from Kobani was washed up on a Turkish beach near Bodrum in September 2015. He was just one of thousands fleeing for safety from Syria and other parts of the world.
The local fisherman who discovered his body among others on the beach said, "I came to the sea and I was scared. My heart is broken."