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