Friday, 24 October 2014

Changing face of Salford

I've been in my current post for a little over 10 years and although I realise that this part of Salford has changed a lot in that time I forget just how much. I've dug out some photos from early 2005 that I took from the tower of Sacred Trinity Church and taken the same view today to compare. The changes are striking.

 Looking North

Looking towards Victoria Station

Looking West 

St Philip's Church tower was there, then it wasn't!

   Quebec Building

 North again

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Silver Jubilee of Priesting

This year it is 25 years since I was ordained priest and I have been in active ministry ever since. I held a little gathering recently and reflected on what I have learnt in 25 years. It largely isn’t great.

I have learned that I have not got any better at what I do but I have learned to cope with my failings, perhaps a little better.
I have learned that however often I tidy my office at home it will always get messy again.
I have learned that even if I write reminders in my diary I always prepare at the very last minute
I have learned that I forget a lot of things and my memory is not getting any better. I meet people in Sainsbury’s and know I know them but can’t remember their name. Often I remember just after they’ve gone.

I sometimes forget to turn up to meetings but not very often.

I have learned that our buildings are a blessing and a curse – I love showing people round, I love the “wow”, I love being able to go on the roof at St Phil’s… I don’t love the constant feeling that I need to work on a funding bid and having to unblock the toilets and put the chairs away and I know it shouldn’t always rely on me but when I’m the one who is here and the toilet is blocked right now, I unblock the toilet!

I count it a privilege to be with people at profound moments in their life. To be with people as they die and to visit a new baby.

I still sometimes cry after a funeral and occasionally during it. I still love doing weddings and am immensely grateful for my own marriage. I love doing baptisms in all the crazy ways they come to us, the gorgeous little babies, the screaming babies, the toddlers who don’t co-operate, the youngsters who ask big questions, the adults who really commit and the adults who aren’t sure but want to be baptized.

I have learned that it is usually good to say yes and usually bad to say no but sometimes I should really have said no. Perhaps it is okay to say no to doing a wedding on Christmas day! But I hope that I always remember the primacy of Love. I believe in a God of love who is at the heart of everything and calls us to love. I have grown to love the community I find myself in and its people. Yes I sometimes get annoyed but I try to remember to love people and usually the more you get to know them the more you love them.

So thank you for putting up with me. I am constantly in need of your forgiveness and the forgiveness of God but despite my own failings I have loved doing what I do. I pray that sometimes God has been at work in me and that somehow together we make the love of God a little more real.

Monday, 7 July 2014

An open letter to those who aspire to be MP for Salford & Eccles

At the moment the Labour Party in Salford is busy selecting the person to be the candidate for Parliament at the next election. Hazel Blears is stepping down and Hazel has generally done a good job with inevitably a few mistakes along the way. I could write about Hazel's record but that would need another post. As a Labour Party member in the constituency I will have a vote on who could replace Hazel and I'm thinking about how to use it. I thought I would write a few thoughts and ask the candidates how they might address the issues that I think are important.

To start with there are some priorities that I expect all the candidates will emphasise, therefore these are important but won't be the deciding factor in selecting a candidate.  I'll make it clear that I believe all the candidates, as Labour Party members, will be keen to promote greater equality and fairness, they will be in favour of Opportunity, Education and the National Health. They will all want greater investment in public services, particularly for the benefit of the poor and vulnerable. They will all want a "sound economy" to pay for these things. The Labour Governments of Blair and Brown had some fantastic achievements and as a long-term resident of Inner City Salford I know very well how much better life got under a Labour government. We had investment in Education, Surestart, much improved policing with reduced crime. We got shiny new hospital facilities and innovative regeneration of challenging housing areas. There was still a lot to do and many mistakes were made along the way, and not just the Iraq War. As we look back the Labour Government was good for the people of Salford.

So what do I want from the next MP for Salford? First and foremost I want someone who cares passionately about the people of Salford. I want someone who will not be seduced by London. Governments generally are far too dominated by the needs and desires of London and the current Labour Party is not showing enough willingness to tackle this. The economy of London has a cancerous effect on the economy of this country and it is time for this to change. Londoners get far higher public subsidy than the rest of the country and this has to change. I hope that our next MP will be willing to challenge unfair distribution of public subsidy to London but we Northerners (Okay I was born in London, but I've lived in Salford and Manchester for 26 years and now count myself as an adopted Salfordian) can't just winge about the North/South divide. We need to work together to build our own vibrant economy. The economy of Salford and Manchester is doing well but many places in the North are doing a lot less well. We need to work together with Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Newcastle and the places inbetween. We need better, faster train connections to other Northern cities before we improve the link to London.

I love living in the city but I want to live in a city that feels safe, well-connected, fair and designed for the benefit of all. Salford has over the years been improving but I want to see the improvements accelerated and I'd love to see government supporting this. So; First of all we need at least the same level of investment in public transport that London gets; we need need to be able to organise public transport for people with well organised routes that are strategic and not just organised for private profit. We need simple ticketing that allows multi-mode travelling and at a reasonable price. We need to get away from the idea that buses are for the poor and build a bus, tram and train system that gives a serious choice to everyone. We also need to tackle the problem of aggressive motorists and insist that those who consistently break the speed limit will lose their licence. That means a lot more monitoring of speed and strict action. I walk across the A6 every day and sometimes many times a day. It goes through the heart of my community and it's wonderful that it is limited to 20 MPH but many motorists ignore the speed limit and this should not be an option. Over many years the investment in roads for cars has been huge but we now need to invest more in making our cities safe for walking, cycling and public transport.

It is fantastic that people are moving back into the city but in my community that mainly means new apartment blocks for private rent and at fairly expensive prices. We also need affordable housing. I want to live in a vibrant mixed community where people have genuine choices about where to live. We need a lot of investment in house building and I'm not idealogically tied to allowing councils to build council houses again but we need to ensure that there is affordable rented housing and a mix of housing types in every community.

Finally, politicians aren't held in high esteem by the public and I think it's important that our MPs help build trust in politicians again. The days of deference are long gone but trust is built by honesty, integrity and understanding. I want an MP who will be honest about mistakes as well as successes, I want an MP who will challenge in Westminster and who knows what it is like for ordinary people in Salford. So, I want to know how our prospective MPs propose to stay in touch and safeguard themselves against the corrupting influence of Westminster.

So I might summarise my questions to those who would be MP as:

  • How can the economy of Northern England be strengethened?
  • How would you build local democracy?
  • How would you like to devolve power away from Westminster?
  • Would you be in favour of English Regional Government or strengthened City Regions?
  • How can we get investment in Public transport for the benefit of all?
  • How will we tackle the curse of the private motor car without alienating too many voting motorists?
  • What are the priorities for house building? How can we get more affordable rented properties?
  • How do you intend to stay in touch with the lives of ordinary people?
And a couple of slightly cheeky questions to finish...
  • How often do you use buses?
  • How often have you cycled in Salford?