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Posts by Beth Routledge

Tales From Pride

I Love Martha Jones

As we made our slow way back to where I had abandoned the car, laden with placards and banner and toddler, I was stopped by a gentleman asking whether we were going to a protest.

“No!” I said. “It was Gay Pride!”

He read the text of one of my by now quite soggy placards.

St Mary’s Cathedral: Open, Inclusive, Welcoming

“And, erm, were you protesting it?” he asked, looking hopeful.

“Of course not,” sayeth I. “We’ve been suppporting it.” And, pulling out one of the lines that I’d been using on people all morning when I’d worried that they might think that I was trying to save them, “We’re the good kind of church!”

He didn’t like that at all.

It’s true, though.

And don’t forget about this:

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Pride and the Commonwealth

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For your diaries, there are three events in Glasgow next weekend all well worth coming to:

  • The annual gathering of Piskies at Pride takes place next Saturday (19th July). This year, the parade for Glasgow Pride starts from Clyde Place on the south bank of the river and then heads across the Clyde into the city centre and into Merchant City. If you would like to walk with a group of Scottish Episcopalians, we will be meeting at the south end of the Tradeston Bridge (the wiggly pedestrian bridge) at 9.15am on Saturday. This is a ten minute walk from Bridge Street, which is the nearest subway and is also likely the easiest place to park. If you are at the Clyde Arc (the squinty bridge) or can see the SECC/Hydro, you are in the wrong place.
  • On Saturday evening at 6.30pm, Peter Tatchell is giving a lecture on Human Rights and the Commonwealth at St Mary’s Cathedral. Taking place on Pride Saturday and immediately ahead of the arrival of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, this will be a compelling evening which has been arranged by the cathedral Justice and Aid Network. St Mary’s is on Great Western Road, between St George’s Cross and Kelvinbridge subway stations. Tickets are £5 on the door.
  • Peter Tatchell will be at St Mary’s Cathedral again on Sunday morning, at 12 noon, in conversation with Kelvin Holdsworth. This is one of the Forum events which we hold on occasion, with past speakers including Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of the Episcopal Church of Uganda and Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, known to many more people from his frequent work with the BBC.  The Forum is a free event, as is the glorious Sung Eucharist which will take place beforehand at 10.30am.

Promises and Prayers

On 5th July 1948, the National Health Service launched in England and Wales.

As a country, we had been nudging towards the establishment of universal healthcare for decades. The first real step had been taken by David Lloyd George in 1911 with the passage of the National Insurance Act. The real conversations took place against the backdrop of the Second World War, culminating in 1944 with the publication of the White Paper by Henry Willink, the then Minister for Health. And when the war was over, it was the son of a Welsh coal miner who brought together the ideas of the last thirty years into a vision of a body that would provide healthcare to all, irrespective of their social class or employment status or origins, paid for by everyone as they were able and in return delivering healthcare free at the point of need.

That was 66 years ago tonight.

Tonight, I remember Nye Bevan whose dream became a life-saving reality.

I give thanks for my colleagues in the NHS and for those who went before us. I give thanks for the joy of spending my days in its service. I remember with gratitude and hope and sorrow and joy all those who have passed through the doors of my corner of the NHS, for lives lived and lives lost and lessons learned. I give thanks for my life, too, and for the lives of those whom I love. I pray that we will not be blinded to our faults and imperfections, or afraid to do better.

The future of the National Health Service has never been more uncertain. It has survived through economic crises and political “reform”, and yet the threats to it loom larger than ever before — all the larger for so often being insidious and only visible in the corner of our eye.

And with profound thanksgiving for all that it is and with fear for all that it must not be allowed to become, I remember these words from the revised Hippocratic Oath:

I will respect each of my roles, as expert, communicator, scholar, partner, manager, teacher, professional, and health advocate.

I recognise that I have responsibilities to humankind that transcend diktats and orders of States, and which no Legislature can countermand.

I will oppose health policies that breach internationally accepted standards of human rights.

Life After The Foundation Programme (Good Things Come To Those Who Wait)

As of last Friday, I have completed the (form-filling parts and educational requirements of the) Foundation Programme.

Do you remember when I was just starting it? It was five minutes ago. Yet, here I am, ePortfolio all ticked off and six weeks of acute medicine away from being not quite so much of a baby doctor anymore.

With the improbable but still very looming prospect of Life After Foundation, I’ve been committing what is probably a grave sin. I’ve been telling my FY1s about what happens come autumn when they sit down with intimidatingly long job application forms and start to be bombarded with well meaning careers advice. I’ve been saying that the thing to remember is, if they are offered a job that they do not want, they are under no obligation to take it.

You are not told this.

I did not realise it myself until a few months ago, and it blew my mind when I did.

You see, applying for FY1 jobs, fresh out of medical school and/or still suffocating underneath a pile of finals revision, we did have a bit of an obligation to take what we were given and be grateful for it. We had provisional registration with the GMC, and to achieve full registration (and so be employable as doctors) we were required to complete our allocated FY1 jobs. No questions. No arguments. Bags packed and off to Shetland, if Shetland was where the UKFPO believed your destiny to lie. I was given precisely the job I wanted and within reasonable driving distance of the city I wanted to be in, but others did not have such good fortune. After working for two years in a job that was allocated by that kind of system, you do find when the two years are over that it’s played a few tricks on the mind. It was a lingering bit of that mentality that led to me saying things like, “Well, I’d like to be able to live in Glasgow, obviously, and that’s what I’ve applied for, but I’ll have to go wherever I’m sent.”

A lot of people do take the first job they’re offered, of course. Like me in FY1, some people are offered the training post they want or the location they want or a one-way ticket to Australia, and I am thrilled for them. And I’ll grant that there’s something to be said for not going too far in the other direction; after all, quite aside from the rest of it, the bottom line is that you need to be able to pay rent in August.

In February, I learned that I did not have a place on the Core Medical Training programme in Scotland.

(An aside for the non-medics and the non-Brits. CMT is the next step for a person who wants to be a hospital doctor in a medical specialty. Where the Foundation Programme theoretically included a little bit of everything, this is the stage where I’d drop things like surgery, paediatrics, GP, etcetera. There are equivalent programmes although of varying lengths for folk who do want to be surgeons or GPs or paediatricians. If you’re familiar with the North American system, whether legitimately or because of Gray’s Anatomy, this part is a bit like a residency in internal medicine.)

The offers for CMT in my region were released on a Tuesday afternoon in early February. On that particular Tuesday, I was in the middle of my Advanced Life Support course. It was also the Tuesday that I was due to collect a new car, my old one having died a final death on the hard shoulder of the M74 in the rain at the end of the previous week. It was also Equal Marriage Day in Scotland. It was a week of mixed emotions. But the offers for CMT are released by text message, and let me tell you there are few more crushing ways to learn of one’s imminent unemployment than to be the only person in a room full of your peers to not get that text message.

The good news was I was not considered unappointable by the good people who had interviewed me. A pleasant surprise, considering I’d forgotten the word for amiodarone in the middle of my interview.  I was merely quite far down on a reasonably lengthy list. So, you wait for good news to come to the people whose applications to CMT were a second choice or who had expressed an initial preference to work somewhere else in Scotland. The automatic next step is to go into the second round of applications, where the jobs that are left over are opened up to people who haven’t got one in their first choice of region. I expressed my intention to do this and even had a bit of a poke on the CMT website. Scotland was oversubscribed and so my options in Round 2 would be restricted to England and Wales. In my head, I was saying, “But I don’t want to go to England!” (Sorry, England.)

Eventually, I nudged high enough on the Scottish waiting list to be offered a job in the North.

Aberdeen, Inverness, and places where a 3G signal goes to die.

By that time, I had had a good talk with an excellent friend. She had sliced through my mad panic to remind me that with GMC registration comes decisions and options and not taking that which is foisted upon you. I had started to look into some of those options — fixed-term staff jobs and clinical teaching positions and locum work, and my well-worn and fatalistic mantra of “well, I’ll have to go where they send me” had been abandoned and deservedly so. I had stopped muttering about England and I spent perhaps five minutes considering the job Oop North — not an indictment of Aberdeen but an abiding love of Glasgow, this dear green place with my beautiful city that adopted me with joy and contains my home and my community and my life, where, once I’d been reminded that I could choose, I was never going to not choose.

(I was angry and determined when I came home from Synod. If I’d come home from Synod with the knowledge that I would soon leave my cathedral and the Diocese for a job two hundred miles away, I’d have been inconsolable. It isn’t entirely about that, but it is a bit about that.)

I am in no hurry at all to be a consultant. Please, let me put off that terrifying day for as long as possible. I think that doing different things is good and that more experience is good. I’ve spent a lot of time on the scenic route, and I’ve never regretted taking it.

A couple of years ago, writing in InspiresI wrote this: “If I’ve learned anything in that decade and a half, it’s that being a doctor isn’t a being but a becoming. [...] My journey hasn’t ended. I’ve only stopped to buld a cairn at the roadside, and when I get up, the horizon will have shifted and I’ll have settled new dreams and new responsibilities onto my back as I step back onto the path to continue a journey that may not have always taken me along the straightest or simplest of routes but that has been all the more worthwhile and memorable for it.”

Still true.

I’ll be reapplying to Core Medical Training this autumn with the hope of beginning it in August 2015. I’ll try not to forget the word for amiodarone this time.

In the meantime, I’ve accepted a job for the coming year as a clinical fellow in Haematology.

Not what I’d planned when I first thought about it a year ago. Not an option I knew was going to exist. But different and exciting and worthwhile. It might even be better than what I had planned. I’m looking forward to starting in August and I think it will be good for me

Why I’m Still Not Convinced By The Cascade Conversations

Kelvin has written nearly everything you need to know about the listening process that we endured at Synod today, and you all know what I thought of it before this started. If you haven’t already, read his first.

I knew precious little about what we were getting at Synod. I knew that we were expecting a presentation on what happened at Pitlochry and then small group table discussions, and I knew that there would be no time for discussion as a whole Synod or feedback from the groups. I knew the last part because I went hopping mad at my own Diocesan Bishop when I learned of it at our pre-Synod meeting last week.

Let me tell you something about a whole Synod discussion and about small group table discussions. The Scottish Episcopal Church is changing the way we train people for ministry, and this morning we had a conversation about that in our small groups and then we had an incredibly fruitful conversation and Q&A as a whole Synod. Because the changing of TISEC to the Scottish Episcopal Institute is important business that means a lot for the life of our Church and that a lot of people have a lot of questions about, and so we discuss it in this way, together, so that concerns can be raised and answers given and lively debate had. I ask you, what is less important about the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of our Church and the way we treat them and their relationships that means that we do not discuss that together and that it does not have to appear in Synod minutes?

Does it appear to you that the people who decide how we talk about these things might be frightened of what might happen if we actually talked about them? It appears that way to me.

The presentation on Pitlochry was worse than I expected. And “worse than I expected” is an awfully low bar to clear; I did not go into this with high standards. It became clear to me very quickly that nothing of substance was going to be shared with us in that presentation and I have my suspicions that that means that nothing of substance was discussed in Pitlochry. I began weeping during the presentation and I continued weeping all the way through the table discussion. I feel angry and disrespected and (unsuccessfully) manipulated by the people in charge of my Church, and I feel ashamed of what I have from this Synod to take back to the LGBT members of my congregation, which is nothing.

The table discussion was better than the one I sat through at Diocesan Synod, but I credit that to my having been on a table this week with good people. Unlike at Diocesan Synod, where I sat through chat about Holy Mother Church and sodomites. The fact that I was blessed with sensible people to talk to does not change the fact that we weren’t allowed to achieve anything of substance or to share our views, including the view that same-sex marriages are already part of the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church whether they like it or not, with Synod as a whole.

All around the room, the question was being asked of why are we not just getting on with this? But, of course, God forbid that any Synod members should be allowed to express that view to Synod.

What I have seen in the last two days is that the views of people in the Church are changing and that the Church is growing restless, and that a small number of people who have more power than they should are silencing our voices.

The Primus spoke afterwards about the value of this process in that it does not turn the issue into a debate with winners and losers.

He forgets about those of us who are already losing.

Losing our faith.

Losing our patience.

Losing heart.

To My Cathedral That I Love

I am feeling profoundly grateful for my cathedral tonight.

I could let myself forget so easily that the church that I call home is not what it’s like there out in the Church-with-a-big-C. I could bask in the social justice and good liturgy and real inclusion and fantastic music, and in a willingness to try things and to admit when we get it wrong and when we could do it better, and I could let myself forget that actually for that all to be in one place is a diamond-in-the-rough type thing. I could let myself forget how bloody lucky I got when I almost accidentally wandered through that door.

I put myself through this and I’m willing to put myself through it again year after year because I believe that changing the Church is only ever going to happen from the inside.

But I could not do it if I didn’t have home to go back to on Sunday.

So this is just to say thank you, thank you, a million times and I mean it more than you will ever ever know, for all the people who make that home exist.

SEC General Synod: Rule 10 Motion for Debate on Equal Marriage

I commented last week on my disappointment that the Standing Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church had chosen not to bring a motion that I had proposed to them. The motion proposed a framework for taking forward discussions about equal marriage within the Church. The text of that motion is available to read here.

There is a mechanism of Church law through which a motion can be brought outwith the usual way of it going on the agenda through Standing Committee. This is called a Rule 10. If the motion is supported by a proposer, a seconder, and twelve voting members of a Synod, it can be put to Synod in two stages. The first stage asks the Synod to choose, via a two thirds majority, whether or not they wish to take the motion forward to open debate.

That motion was put to Synod today through the first stage of the Rule 10 procedure and with the support of thirteen courageous people — men and women, clergy and laity, gay and straight, from all across Scotland.

The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney requested that the vote take place by secret ballot. The vote on the motion was 77 for and 55 against, which is a 58% majority. The motion will not be brought.

This is what I said to Synod this afternoon:

Chair, members of Synod.

There has been a conversation on same sex relationships in our church for the last year through the Design Group, and more recently through the Cascade Conversations which it has facilitated. The conversations that took place in Pitlochry were very positive experiences for many who were there, some of whom signed this motion.

Although many of you will think that we are already spending a lot of time during this Synod talking about this very issue, what we are not being given is the opportunity to do so in open debate. The discussion tomorrow is intended to be in the form of a presentation followed by table discussions only. If we agree to debate this on Saturday morning, it will give us our only opportunity this year to talk about this issue together as a whole Synod of this Church.

This motion will allow the whole Church to take forward the positive things to have come out of the Cascade process.

People have said to me: wait, be patient, the conversation will happen, next year, next year. But we did not start talking about this last year with the commissioning of the Design Group. And we started talking about it long before the Scottish Government began seeking legislation for equal marriage. We have been talking about this for years.

There are Episcopalians who have been waiting many years to be married, and some of them do not have a lot of “next years” left.

There are Episcopalians of deep faith and good conscience who take a different view to me, and who are frustrated and frightened by our inability to talk openly about what might happen and what it might mean for them.

I am one of the youngest members of this Synod, and I am not an Episcopalian by birth but by choice. I have been proud to join this Church and to call myself a member of it. Of this Church with its rich history of Synodical decision making, its long understanding that to accept more than one idea is to make us better and stronger, its deeply held tradition that all, all, are welcome in this place.

The motion was proposed by me and seconded by the Very Reverend Andrew Swift, Dean of Argyll and the Isles. It was endorsed in the Rule 10 process by:

  • The Very Reverend Nicola McNelly (Diocese of Argyll and the Isles)
  • The Reverend Canon Clifford Piper (Diocese of Moray, Ross, and Caithness)
  • The Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth (Convenor of the Information and Communication Board)
  • Rev Samantha Ferguson (Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney)
  • Rev Cedric Blakey (Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway)
  • Rev Daniel Gafvert (Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway)
  • Rev Ruth Innes (Diocese of Edinburgh)
  • Mrs Anne P Jones (General Synod Representative to Standing Committee)
  • Mr Matthew Pemble (Diocese of Edinburgh)
  • Mrs Christine McIntosh (Diocese of Argyll and the Isles)
  • Mrs Susan Ward (Diocese of Edinburgh)
  • Mr Graeme Hely (Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway)

I thank those who stood with me on this and the majority of Synod who wanted and voted for it to be debated. I believe we have demonstrated a clear will within the Scottish Episcopal Church to move forward on the issues.

Overheard in Medical Assessment

Occasionally a doctor answers a ward phone.

This is almost always a bad idea. The person on the other end is almost never looking for a doctor, and I never know how many beds we’ve got or whether patient transport has been booked or if that person is ready to go down to CT or what linen we need or what Mrs Smith had for breakfast this morning. And yet sometimes we do anyway, whether because there’s a touch of Russian roulette inherent in answering the phone just after you’ve paged someone from it or because some of us worked in offices and call centres in our previous lives and will evermore be constitutionally incapable of ignoring a ringing phone.

As a doctor becomes more senior, they are less likely to know the answers to any of those questions and they are more likely to have learned well the lesson that answering the phone leads only to trouble.

So it was that all of us who were engaged upon our own business near one of the nurses’ stations this morning witnessed this:

“Hello, Medical Assessment Unit … Um … Okay, if you just hold on, I’m sure I can find that out for you … (hasty consultation with nearby nurse) … Yes, Mr Jones, your brother had a settled night and is doing very well this morning … Er, well, no, I’m not actually the telephonist, sir, I’m the Professor of Medicine, but I can certainly take a message.”

 

Let’s Talk

It is General Synod next week.

There are going to be lots of interesting conversations at Synod, conversations about what our Scottishness has to do with how we identify ourselves as a Church and about how we train ordinands and about how we count people who come to church and about what happens when someone who needs to be commemorated inconveniently dies on a major festival. Last year was my first General Synod and I liked being there and being part of those sorts of conversations.

I admit to being sorry and disappointed that Standing Committee have this year refused to bring a motion that was proposed to them regarding discussions on same-sex marriage. Those of us who are attending Synod or are alternate members of Synod have already read the text of that rejected motion, and as those of you who have read it will already be aware, I was the proposer of it. I’m sorry that it’s been rejected, because I think that a valuable whole Church conversation could have been had had such a motion been brought as part of the ordinary business of Synod; and I’m disappointed, because those who choose how Church business is to be conducted have for a couple of years now been conducting themselves in a manner that I think lacks courage.

For those not on Synod who might be interested, the motion that I proposed was as follows:

This Synod notes:

1) The recent passage of legislation which allows same-sex couples to marry in Scotland,

2) The principle which is now established in Scots law that no one should be forced to act against their conscience in this area,

3) That Scottish Episcopalians are not of one mind about these and other matters.

This Synod resolves:

1) For the wellbeing, peace, and mission of the Church, to endorse the principle that no one should be forced to act against their conscience in this area within the Church,

2) To request that the Faith and Order board asks the Committee on Canons to draft an amendment to Canon 31 which will allow for the possibility of same-sex weddings taking place in the Scottish Episcopal Church whilst ensuring that no celebrant be compelled to act against their conscience in this area,

3) To consider such an amendment for First Reading at General Synod 2015, with consequent discussion in Diocesan Synods as an integral part of the Church’s wider conversations within this area,

4) To notify dioceses immediately after this Synod as to how General Synod intends this matter to be considered.

However, my disappointment that this motion will not be being brought is nothing compared to my disappointment in the manner in which we will be discussing the issue at Synod.

The main thing we will be doing is hearing a series of short presentations on Pitlochry conversations, a process that I spoke about here. I have spoken to a couple of people who went to Pitlochry. My understanding is that it was useful as a listening process and that people came away from it with a lot to think about it and feeling generally affirmed. I am pleased about this, and I am pleased that the experience was so positive — certainly it was more positive than I feared it might be. On the other hand, my understanding is also that in spite of all the positives it is not a conversation that has got us anywhere in terms of what we want to do, how we are going to do it, or in what sort of timescale we might be having the conversation. After the people who were in Pitlochry have given their presentations, there will be small group discussions at Synod. There will be no whole Synod conversation and no chance for real feedback (we will have the opportunity to write things on flipcharts), and, so far as I am aware, nothing in the small group discussions is likely to be made public. It is not clear at this stage, even after asking, whether the content or outcome of the small group debates will be recorded in the minutes. It is most likely not.

There will be no chance at all for anyone to get up at Synod and say, “I disagree with the way we are doing this.”

I raised my disappointment in a Diocesan meeting with how this conversation is going to be had next week at General Synod. It seems to me more and more that the Church is trying to avoid doing or saying anything that will necessitate them having a conversation in public or making any sort of decision. I have never before had the experience of having everyone in a room agree with me. It is a disconcerting experience.

But it does say a lot about where the people within the Church are on this.

I think we are getting to a point now where people on all sides of the aisle would really rather just get on with it. It might be that we do disagree with what we want the outcome of this conversation to be — and I don’t know that we do disagree as much as we think we do. I don’t want the Scottish Episcopal Church to become a place where only the people who agree with me are welcome. I want this to be a place where all – all – are welcome. I want no one to be forced to act against their conscience. I want to believe in the same God as do people who agree with me about marriage, as do people who endorse a traditional view of marriage, as do people who think we should just do it like they do in France. I believe absolutely in religious freedom, and that means believing in the religious freedom of people who have views different from mine as well as the religious freedom of people who broadly agree with me. The Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole is a broad church and a church where one of the things we have historically been good at is believing that there is room for more than one idea. That is a history that I am proud of and one that I think should also be part of our future.

And the point we are at now is that all kinds of people who have all kinds of ideas are starting to think that we should define what we are talking about and then actually talk about it, so that we can reach an outcome and then get on with the business of living it and then talk about something else.

Are you not bored of talking about this? I am. I am bored. I would like to move on and talk about other things. But so long as the Church keeps dragging its feet and talking around it instead of about it, I can’t and nor can anyone else.

Hello, World

*blows dust off*

Is this thing on?

When I was last here, I was hyper about the performance of the Verdi Requiem that I was due to sing later in the same week and I was grumbling about the cold and post-viral cough that I had for what seemed to be literally forever (and I was nervous that the one would end up keeping me from doing the other). I got through the Verdi, and by that I mean I had the time of my life and also had no voice left at the end of it. However, my post-viral cough seemed to be on the wane, and I had about a day and a half of feeling like a healthy person again before I was felled by the head cold to end all head colds. It’s nearly a fortnight later and I am still producing what can be described only as a super-glue like substance from my nose.

My theory is that I hit a point in the rota where I had no on calls to do for a month, and so my immune system up and went to Tahiti and forgot to take me with it.

It turns out that, absent my immune system, I am quite hilariously intolerant of the potions and miracle cures that one might be tempted to turn to. I sort of knew this about anything that is in any way opiate based — the people who worked with me back when I did smoking cessation admin for one of the local councils will not soon forget the day that I went completely loopy on two prescription strength co-codamol. And then last week I took Sudafed in a desperate attempt to decongest myself and ended up spending my whole bank holiday sitting on my sofa saying, to the cats, “Oooh, look at the pretty lights.” I can only be thankful that I took it on a day that I was off and not on a day that I then had to drive to work.

And so the blogging has for the last few weeks been superseded by the dragging myself through work in a bit of a stuffed up fog, punctuated by sitting crossly on my sofa and feeling rather sorry for myself and, you know, being high. I am a person who generally has the great good fortune to enjoy disgustingly good health. When I tried to think about it, I realised that I haven’t had so much as a proper good going cold since I was on elective in Tanzania in 2011. If you think that this makes me stoical, you are wrong. This makes me react appallingly to the merest sniff in the direction of being sick, by which I mean that I am absolutely miserable while simultaneously pretending that I am not sick at all.

So, for example. The next thing to happen after Verdi was that I had to reaudition for my choir, as I was pulled out of whichever hat it is that we use in the normal cycle of being reauditioned every few years. In hindsight, I will concede that actually attending it while I had a streaming head cold was perhaps not the smartest of ideas. This is what I mean when I say that I pretend I’m not sick.

Many thanks to the friends and colleagues and Twitterers who have put up with me being miserable at them for the last few weeks.

And to the rest of you, hello, hello. I feel more human this weekend than I have in quite a number of weeks, and — *whispers, touches wood* — I think I may actually be on the mend. I’m on call again next weekend, so I s’pose my immune system felt it might be time to come home from Tahiti.

It’s good to be back.