Messages from the CEO
16th October 2020
This week's message from Andrew Teale
Harvest time in our Diocese is a very real thing. There is nothing abstract or distant or symbolic. It is there in front of us and all around us. This week the tractors have been rumbling around at the back of my house, until long after dark. The roads are covered in mud and great trailer loads of spuds have been finally removed from the sculpted fields in huge numbers.
It is so easy to become frustrated as you are stuck for miles behind a slow-moving tractor and trailer on the A49. Hopefully those frustrations will only last a split second before the remembrance that ours is one of the most rural dioceses in England and agriculture is in our bones.
A bitter tang of cider apples, golden wheat, chains of aromatic hops or mounds of muddy potatoes, yellow rapeseed and soft fruits. All can be found within our Diocese and all must be safely gathered in. Then there is the year-long harvest from our pastoral agriculture, cattle and sheep farms from Shrewsbury to Ross on Wye, from Presteigne to Tenbury Wells. Agriculture is everywhere and it has a long and muddy history.
I’ve traced my family tree back quite a long way, into the 1700s. They don’t come from far and wide and their occupations were not particularly varied. Almost all of my ancestors for the best part of 300 years seem to have worked fairly locally, on the land. Phrases like cowman, ploughman, farm worker, waggoner are used over and over again along with one blacksmith and a ‘molecatcher’. On the female side ‘domestic servant’ seems to be top of the list, usually in a big farmhouse, somewhere.
My paternal granddad, who I absolutely loved, was essentially sold as a farm worker at market, when he was a young teenage boy in the early 1930s. He was given a pair of work boots, new trousers, food and meagre lodging. He worked on the land for every daylight hour that God sent, in all weathers for many years and had a very tough life indeed. He moved from farm to farm in north Herefordshire. He became a ploughman, skilfully controlling the great shire horses as they worked the orange Herefordshire soil. He would go hedging for days on end, with a bottle of cold tea and his trusty bill hook. His first attempt at driving a tractor did not end well, I understand, and it was also his last. He always wore a trilby hat and, until he gave it up in the 1980s, smoked a sweet-smelling pipe. He had the broadest Herefordshire accent, you are ever likely to hear, rosy cheeks and hands that showed a lifetime of work on the land. He loved his family, especially his grandchildren and he never uttered a single word to me, that wasn’t kind.
One of my most favourite memories of him was standing in a packed Shobdon Church, for the annual Harvest Festival. His favourite hymn was, ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ and he would always sing it strongly and proudly. Every time I hear it, I think of him and I still think it sounds best in a strong Herefordshire accent.
Being thankful is perhaps a little more challenging in a pandemic, but in our Diocese especially, we should be thankful for all those that still spend their days (and sometimes nights) working on the land to ensure that all is safely gathered in. They have also had a very tough time and their hard work is the life blood of our very rural economy.
I’ll be back in Shobdon Church this Sunday for the annual Harvest Festival. I will be giving thanks for our farmers and farm workers, past and present. There will be no singing this year, but in my head I will still hear…
We plough the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God's almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
are sent from heav'n above;
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
for all his love.
Every blessing to you, this Harvest time and always,
Canon Andrew Teale
Diocesan Director of Education
9th October 2020
This week's message from Andrew Teale
Protecting our children from harm is the most important responsibility we have. Failure to do so is surely our greatest fear.
When my own daughter was two, she had a febrile convulsion in my arms following a high temperature. I had received first aid training a few months earlier and I was still utterly hopeless. I didn’t even think to put her into the recovery position until my young cousin (who is now a teaching assistant) took control. The paramedics arrived at the house at the same moment as my wife, who then travelled to hospital in the ambulance with our still unconscious, little girl. I followed closely behind in a car, until we reached the Leominster bypass and the blue lights lit up the night sky. I was left far behind, stuck in traffic. All the way to the hospital, I was haunted by the fact that I hadn’t been able to protect my little girl from this and hadn’t been able to keep her safe. By the time I reached the hospital, there was a team who were working on her and my wife’s face said all I needed to know. I’ve never prayed so hard, while we waited for her to regain consciousness and to discover whether there had been any lasting damage. I awoke in the chair, in the small hours, to see her standing up in the hospital bed trying to work out what the tube was in her arm and how best to remove it.
That little girl, turned 16 last weekend. We still feel so grateful to Dr Merrick and the team who treated her in Hereford hospital and gave her the health care that she needed in those dark hours, when our whole family was utterly vulnerable. We must continue to pray for all heath care workers who are there for us, when we really need them.
Coincidentally, I met Dr Merrick years later on multi-agency child protection training, an all-too-rare event where education and health professionals were brought together. I remembered exactly who he was and what he had done. Much to his great embarrassment I’m sure, I proceeded to tell everyone what an incredible human being he was and how much we appreciated his utter brilliance.
It isn’t just health emergencies of course that threaten our children. There are adults who set out to do them harm deliberately, who show no respect for their innocence and their defencelessness. Sometimes these adults use their positions of power and influence. They have large and powerful voices while victims have no voice at all. They use the cloak of their respectability to hide their abhorrent criminality.
The Anglican Church Investigation Report was published by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse was published this week. This valuable work has given a voice to those brave victims who our much-loved institutions failed to protect. It gives recommendations which must and will be followed. Archbishop Justin and Bishop Richard both gave statements following the publication in which they seek a response which will be more than just apology, but will be transformative for our Church structures and protection systems.
In our schools and in our Church, we now embrace a culture of safeguarding and child protection, designed to guard the vulnerable and the innocent. We must continue to be relentless about this.
Headteachers sometimes need to attend child protection conferences with police professionals, who deal with the most difficult cases of abuse as routine. These are moments that we dread as school leaders, but they do ensure a full and very clear understanding of just how vitally important our child protection systems are. We will keep strengthening them, inspired by the bravery of those we’ve failed, until there are no more victims and every child in our care, is safe from harm.
Canon Andrew Teale
Diocesan Director of Education.
You have made us for yourself,
And our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
Pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,
and so bring us at last to you heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity if the Holy Spirit,
on God, now and forever
2nd October 2020
This week's message from Andrew Teale
Up until a few weeks ago there was no route to my shed which didn’t require a walk across the grass. As Autumn took hold, I realised that the grass was about to become a lot wetter most of the time, so I thought I would create a path. B&Q supplied 10 square paving stones (it isn’t a very big garden) and some gravel to go underneath each one. I’m not a huge fan of strimming, so I wanted to lay the stones in such a way that I could mow straight over the top. Think of stepping-stones with grass surrounding each one. I carefully set out the slabs and left them lying on top of the grass. I could nudge and adjust easily if they weren’t quite in the right place. I went for an aesthetically pleasing curve that would rotate the traveller 90 degrees en route to my shed.
Life has changed so much in the spring and summer of 2020 and we have had to build new routines and patterns in our daily lives. We can’t do the things we did before, when we did them. 8:00am morning worship on a Monday at the Cathedral doesn’t seem to be working for me, as it was before. I now spend a large amount of time looking into my computer screen, albeit to talk to lots of wonderful colleagues from around the diocese. So, the stones need some adjustment. A nudge to the left or right. A different time of day. A different day? I haven’t quite worked it all out yet, but I’ll keep nudging until I find the right place. The pattern that works for me.
The pathway that takes us closer to God can be different for different people. We establish rhythms and patterns in our daily lives which help our mental wellbeing and help us to focus on the here and now rather than the ‘what’s next’. We have to adjust and move around these patterns. Sometime walking with the dog, playing the piano, a craft activity, working (or just sitting) in the garden. Morning worship (on whatever day works best). A bible reading app and reflection time. Time to stop. Time to be with God. Time to pray.
A week later. I thought it was time to lay the stones properly. As I lifted them up, I saw that the grass has become discoloured beneath. I could see much more clearly, where each one belonged, easily cut the turf and fix them in place, albeit with some help from my eldest daughter.
I went to my uncle’s funeral on Wednesday. Of all the patterns I’ve had to adapt, a socially distanced funeral, complete with face masks, is the hardest. No doubt about it. I couldn’t hug my cousins or my auntie or other members of my family. We couldn’t sing. We couldn’t welcome all the people that wanted to be there because of the 30 person limit but somehow, I found the pathway I knew. We prayed together, through the tears. We listened to John’s Gospel Ch 14v 1-6 and a beautiful recording of Abide with Me. We stood and read the 23rd Psalm and a familiar voice of Rev Stephen Hollinghurst, who was my parish rector at Shobdon years ago, was there once again, bringing prayer and comfort and a familiar path upon which to walk. For the large numbers of Motorcross Club members who couldn’t join the service? They turned up in a huge convoy of classic rally cars and waved a chequered flag to signal the end of the race.
The longer we practise our life patterns and routines that keep us mentally healthy, the more clearly and easily everything else will fit around them. The pathway we then walk will bring us safely into the presence of God and help us to know that we are loved, just as we are, without conditions. No need for masks. This is a place where we can give our burdens and worries to him. This a place where we can hear his voice and be guided by his Holy Spirit. This is a pathway worth following and it is one we can find in the darkness.
Collect 1st October
Lord of creation,
Whose glory is around and within us:
Open our eyes to you wonders,
That we may serve you with reverence
And know your peace at our lives end,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
Canon Andrew Teale