Friday, 25 November 2016

Dear Doctor's Receptionist...


I get it, I really do.  You've got a hard job.  

It can't be easy to spend your working day fielding phone calls from sick people who, not feeling well, are probably grouchy, sometimes overly persistent and more than likely always certain that their  illness is urgent enough to merit the doctor's immediate attention - certainly it is much more urgent than the other five phone calls that are waiting in a queue for you to be able to answer.

It can't be easy to field these phone calls, to judge who needs to be at the top of the doctor's callback list and who might be ok to be at the bottom.  It certainly can't be easy to suggest to some patients that, perhaps, their condition isn't actually urgent for today and might be able to wait a day (or even two) when the doctor or nurse will ring them back.  

It can't be easy to deal with the reaction of the patient at the other end of those phone calls.

I understand too that you would like to help but that you also know the doctor (or nurse) cannot possibly speak to, or see, every single person who needs their attention in the next five minutes...or even today.  I can understand that it is your job to make sure the most urgent situations are indeed dealt with urgently and the rest to be decided by the doctor or nurse.  I understand that you probably want to protect the doctor from overworking because if he or she goes off sick, then no one will be seen and everyone will have to wait...or end up at the hospital where those already overstretched staff will try to meet their needs in four hours or less.  Even they will not succeed and will also face frustrated patients.

So you see?  I get it.  

But sometimes, I wonder if you get it because, you see, my role is hard too.  

It's not easy to be the parent and carer of a profoundly disabled child who is hearing impaired, visually impaired, autistic, asthmatic, globally developmentally delayed, incontinent, violent and effectively non-verbal.  Oh sure, he can say certain single words like drink, dinner, car and school.  On some occasions he can ask for what he wants like "purple-pink" for the iPad, "Blue" for that particular episode on TV or "Red" for one particular toy.  

But he is not capable of telling me if something hurts, or indeed where it hurts.  He cannot tell me if he feels hot or cold, he cannot tell me if he is tired or sad.  He does not understand that boys who have four broken bones in their foot really shouldn't be "stompety stomp stomping" along with Baby Jake (that was last spring) and he is not capable of sitting down to rest when he feels unwell or has been hurt.  

He cannot understand what it means when his entire body is covered in a red angry rash that turns to hives or that this should not be scratched.  He cannot tell me when he has such a bad ear infection that the screaming, violent meltdowns that have been repeating all week are very likely to be because he is in significant amounts of pain   He cannot ask me for help when he needs it.

So when I ring you saying that I need to speak to or even see a doctor or nurse, you can be assured that I really do need that advice and expertise.  You can also be assured that I am not trying to waste the doctor's time and that I will have already done everything I know how to do, depending on the illness and my son's symptoms, from administering Calpol to Neurofen, from skin creams to ointments, from inhalers to even starting my son on steroids because I have an emergency prescription at home for him at all times - with the doctor's approval.  By the time I ring you, I have already exhausted my options, you are not a first resort.

And when I tell you that my son's special needs school has already rung and asked me to pick him up early because he is not himself, he is not eating and he is not playing, this indicates that something is wrong and it is significant enough to merit the doctor's advice - because my son doesn't sit still.  Not ever.  He is either awake and moving, running, twitching and stimming or he is asleep.  Sitting still is sometimes the only visible sign of significant illness that we will receive and it is our job to understand and interpret what that means.  

When I also tell you that both the first aider and the school nurse have already examined my son and have judged that he needs to see the doctor, then he really does.  Sometimes only the expertise of the doctor can fit all of the pieces together, and sometimes even they don't understand until symptoms become more visible and therefore serious.

I understand that you need a certain level of information to pass to the doctor, but please understand that you are not the doctor and the level of need in this house goes vastly above your skill set.  When you give me the third degree and when you try to tell me that the symptoms I'm describing may not be urgent and perhaps I could try the chemist first, you are really not being helpful, and you might even be putting an already very vulnerable child at risk.  

I know I call a lot and seek advice quite frequently.  I won't apologise for that but I will tell you that I wish I didn't need to.  You may well be a very nice and helpful person underneath all of the questions and brusqueness but I'd really prefer not to have to speak to you quite as often as I do.  

So please, let me ask you to remember just one thing:  if I call and ask to speak to the doctor, it's because I really need to.  In return, I promise I won't be a time-waster, I won't call unless I have already tried all of the usual over-the-counter remedies.  But I will push you if I need to, I will be determined and persistent and I will probably annoy you with my refusal to give up.  

You see, this is what I need to do in order to be the voice my precious son needs me to be.  I am the only voice that my son has and it is my job to be his advocate.  So please, when I ring, try to be a little bit more understanding, a little bit more aware and a little bit more helpful.  Trust me, my life and circumstances are hard enough as it is, pulling up the drawbridge, throwing down the portcullis and calling from across the moat that the doctor isn't available just doesn't help.  

Please, take a deep breath, look at my son's two-foot thick medical file and think before you tell me that my call may not be urgent, and the doctor may be too busy to speak to me.  It won't make me go away, it will only make me fight a little bit harder.

Sincerely,
THAT Patient


Sadly, not always a joke...



Thursday, 20 October 2016

Marking Baby Loss Awareness Week

Last week was International Baby Loss Awareness Week and as part of marking that, the House of Common held the first ever debate on issues around the UK's stillbirth rate and the care offered to bereaved parents along with what is being (or needs to be) done to reduce the numbers.  Many of the MP's present shared heart wrenching stories of their own children who had died and their ongoing pain over these bereavements.  

And then, MP Nicholas Soames, who is one of the patron's of Group B Strep Support spoke to the House about the work of Group B Strep Support and how much more needs to be done to prevent these infections.  He was (quite rightly!) very complimentary about the work of the charity and founders Jane and Robert Plumb, sharing the story of their son Theo's death just over twenty years ago from Group B Strep.  

He reminded the House how shocking the statistics are: on average, one baby a day becomes infected with Group B Strep in the UK, one baby a week will die and one baby every two weeks will survive with long term disabilities.

Then he said these words, which had me wanting to stand and cheer:

"I do have what can only be described as issues with the Department of Health on this matter...most of these infections could and should be prevented.  The parents of these precious babies and their wider families then have to live with the consequences of their babies unnecessarily horrible illness for the rest of their lives."

He then continued by reminding the House that the government has unnecessarily delayed introducing GBS screening with these words:

"I have represented this issue to governments of both complexions and I have to say that it has been an uphill, generally unrewarding and pretty lowering experience...since 9th July 2003, I have dealt five Ministers, all of whom have promised prompt action on this issue, and all of which have been unacceptably slow for reasons which I, the charity, parents involved in this issue and, I think, mothers to be would find pretty hard to understand in any objective examination..."

This speech is worth watching in it's entirety and I genuinely hope that raising awareness in Parliament will add pressure to get things moving on publicly funded Group B Strep testing for pregnant women.  

It's time and past time.

You can see his speech on Group B Strep Support's website here:  http://gbss.org.uk/latest-news/sir-nicholas-soames-tells-parliament-group-b-strep/

Sunday, 9 October 2016

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger....


You know how many people say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"?  

I'm coming to despise that phrase.  Because while it may be technically true, it proves the universe has a very dark sense of humour.  

Any particular reason why I'm saying that?  Why yes, as a matter of fact, there is.  Currently, this is my leg:




You may have noticed that one side is slightly different from the other as it's encased in a neon pink plaster cast from the knee down.  Yes, that's right just two years after breaking my right foot, I've now succeeded in breaking my left foot.  

Was I doing some kind of spectacularly adventurous activity or even a really stupid trick?  Nope, nothing remotely interesting like that.  I was walking.  Yup, just walking.  At college in fact, from the dining hall to the classroom to start the first lecture of a two-day residential training course, as part of my curacy training.  Chatting to a friend and colleague and as we walked I felt something go PING in my foot - akin to an overstretched elastic band snapping.  

Although the pain was immediate, I honestly thought I'd just strained something and it would fade so I limped into the classroom, took some painkillers and sat there for the next hour and a half of lectures.  But every time I so much as touched my foot to the floor, it felt like I was being given an electric shock, the pain was so intense.  Finally, at coffee break, I owned up and asked for help at which point my lovely tutors and friends swung into action, getting me first into a wheelchair, then a taxi and with a tutor to escort me, to the Queen's A&E department just round the corner.

Thankfully, the wait was minimal and I was cycled through triage, an examination with a doctor and then a hellish x-ray.  Hellish because sadly while the radiographer was very friendly, he didn't seem able to give me verbal instructions on where he wanted me to position my foot, instead he insisted on pushing and pulling it into position.  And despite my pleas that he stop, at one point he dug his thumbs directly into the part that I later found out was broken.  I screamed and burst into tears at which point, he started effusively apologising but by then, the damage was done.

In the end however, the Xray showed that one of my metatarsals is broken and so a full plaster cast it is.  The initial temporary cast (a half cast to allow for swelling) was replaced at Shrewsbury the following day by a long-term full cast and to add insult to injury, I'm non weight bearing so have to hop around on crutches.  

Oh, and let's not forget that because my mobility is suddenly vastly reduced by being on crutches, I have to inject my tummy with tinzaparine every day to prevent blood clots and DVT - something I'm now at high risk for.  One of the side effects of tinzaparine can be a feeling of excessive itchiness either localised or generalised across the body.  I'm so glad in my case that it's the latter...I was beginning to fear I had fleas.

This of course means I can't drive (so I can't work) and I also can't be alone with Adam.  It's not safe for him or for me as I can't react the way I normally would do in order to keep him safe.  The added complication is that he alternates between curiosity about foreign objects in his environment to aggression towards them and so "exploring" my cast could very quickly translate to hitting it.  Hence the need for another adult to supervise him.  He's already managed to make me scream once when he poked the cast and announced, "PINK!"

Thankfully, for this week we've managed to get Carer's to cover a majority of Adam's school runs and after school care, and a couple of lovely friends have stepped in to cover the gaps so Chris will still be able to work.  Next week?  Well we'll take that one as it comes.  


After first lot of surgery.  He has rather less fur now...

So not content with a seriously ill cat who has had two lots of surgery in the last month, is currently on four types of medication - over objections, hence the hole in my thumbnail left by his teeth, and having cost us over £2,300 which the insurance has yet to reimburse - now the universe grants us this.  




What doesn't kill us makes us stronger huh?  Well fantubbytastic!  Sigh....


Monday, 1 August 2016

Walking for Adam - And the Grand Total Is...

Adam's T-Shirt says, "I'm kind of a big deal" :-)

Well I'm delighted to say that the entire team have now had a couple of days to start recovering sore muscles (although my stepson George insists he will never walk again!) and we are now starting to share some of the fabulous photos the team took on their walk, some of which are below.

But the most important thing is that a triple counting session (closely followed by a visit to the bank!) has told us that through cash donations and online at JustGiving, the team of walkers have raised a truly fabulous:

£3,262.37!!

And, I have also learned that another 20-mile walk in Northern Ireland, inspired by Chris's plans, has raised a further £1,500.


What an incredible weekend of fundraising for a small charity who are determined to spread the word about Group B Strep in an effort to make sure other families don't go through what we have.  Thank you so, so much to everyone who donated - we truly couldn't have done it without you.


George walking the endless miles

At the top of The Ercall

At the top of The Wrekin

Feeling slightly fatigued...

Melissa and Dave at the top of The Wrekin
Sunset back at The Huntsman, 20 miles later




(And of course, it's never too late, so if you haven't already, please do donate to the work of this amazing charity https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/WalkingforAdam-2) 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Team GBSS - Walking For Adam

Today, Team GBSS are "Walking for Adam" - all eleven of them!  

Approximately half of the team are doing the heavy-duty route including climbing both The Wrekin and The Ercall in their 20 miles, while the other half are doing the gentler route, which is still 20 miles but has been adapted to remove as many hill climbs as possible to accommodate Jane's (partially healed) torn ligaments.

And of course, I'm supporting the key player in the team who is currently watching Alphablocks as a 20 mile walk is a bit too much for a five-year-old (and his mother!) 

We have all been overjoyed by the level of support we have received (online and offline) as the fundraising target has risen far, far higher than any of us expected...but we'll save that surprise for after the team have finished.  However, it's still not too late so if anyone would like to support the work of this amazing but small charity, then please visit our online donations page here:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/WalkingforAdam-2

This morning, Jane's local paper "The Argus" has published this fantastic article which reminds us all of just why Chris, Jane and the team are "Walking for Adam"...and Theo and all of the other children who have lost their lives or been left disabled by this wholly preventable infection:


http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14652459.Family_marks_20th_anniversary_of_charity/?ref=fbshr

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Who Is My Neighbour?

Bible Reading:  Luke 10:25-37 (Pasted Below)
©Steve Adams, Eastern Daily Press
8th July 2016
As I was preparing for this week’s sermon, I read this quote and found myself really thinking about it.  “Sometimes, the lessons you think you already know are precisely the ones you still need to learn.” 

Today, our Gospel reading is an incredibly familiar one – a man travels a dangerous road, gets beaten, robbed and left for dead.  Two people (who should be willing to help him) pass by on the other side ignoring him while the third (who is the last person who would be expected to help) is the one who actually does.  Therefore, we should all be like the Good Samaritan and help others, lesson over, we get it, the end.  Right?  Well….sort of.  It would be really easy to dismiss this particular parable simply because we know it so well.  But the beauty of the Bible is that there is always something more we can glean, even from the most familiar passages.  So, if we can, let’s try to put to one side what we already know about this section of scripture and see if – together – we can in fact glean something new.

Let’s start by looking at the context of where and why Jesus spoke this parable:  This story comes about because a lawyer is trying to test Jesus.  He wants to know how he can inherit eternal life, the ultimate “prize” for any person of faith; the golden ticket.  Instead of immediately answering his question, Jesus asks the lawyer what he already knows and believes.  The lawyer replies with some famous words from the Hebrew scriptures:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.  And love your neighbour as yourself.”  You see, the lawyer already knows the answer to his own question, quite simply put: love God, love people.  But lawyers by their very nature are masters of the craft of words, they make a living from teasing out every last hint of meaning in a word, in a guideline, a statute, a law.  So for this lawyer, the simple fact of “the greatest commandment” isn’t enough – he wants to tease out every ounce of meaning from it.  So while he can’t argue with being asked to love either God or neighbour, there might just be a grey area – who exactly is my neighbour?  Is it the person who lives geographically next door?  Is it the people in my community?  The people who are just like me?  Who must I include in this designation?  And, by association, if I understand who I must include, then who am I allowed to exclude?  Who is not my neighbour?

Jesus, as is so often the case, understands precisely what the lawyer is asking, and more than likely, he also understands exactly what is going on in the lawyer’s heart.  He knows who the lawyer already considers to be his “neighbour” and who he does not.  Jesus could have chosen to get into a legal discussion, he could have swapped arguments with the lawyer and they could have sat there all day arguing their way through every possible interpretation of the law until one or the other of them “won” their “case”.  But clearly, Jesus understood that the path of wisdom is never to get into an argument with a lawyer!

So instead, he chose to tell the story of The Good Samaritan.  Now, the story itself is now a very familiar one to us, but the social and ethnic elements around it are perhaps less familiar.  At that time, the Jews believed that they were God’s chosen people.  They believed they had the Hebrew law on their side, the purity of their racial lines and the integrity and history of their culture to prove it.  In their minds, they were basically the top dogs on the religious and cultural heap.  The Samaritans were a somewhat “diluted” version of the Jews.  They lived in what had been the Northern Kingdom of Israel, located in between Galilee in the north and Judea in the South.  Their ethnic and racial heritage was part Jewish and part pagan.  To use a contemporary term, they were a “mixed race” people.   Even though they were essentially racial “cousins” of the Jews, sharing many aspects of their heritage and faith, there were deep divisions between the two peoples.  In fact, the divisions were so deep that if the Jews needed to travel, they refused to even enter Samaritan territory but preferred to take a massive detour all around the area and the feeling was entirely mutual. 

So this makes it all the more extraordinary that at the moment this story is told, Jesus is choosing to travel through and not around Samaritan territory.  He is refusing to uphold the geographic barriers that have become part and parcel of the Jewish/Samaritan division.  And when he tells the story to a Jewish audience of a Samaritan who is good, he is not just telling a story about being good and kind and loving towards those who need help (although of course those elements are there), he is also challenging a deep social, ethnic and cultural division that has become racism.  Two people who, geographically, live as neighbours have, socially and culturally become completely and utterly divided from one another and Jesus is challenging them to find a way to heal that division through and as part of their faith.
Well, so what?  This isn’t relevant to us is it?  A vast majority of the Samaritans are long gone, rendered virtually extinct by time and history.  So the divide of two people’s who lived next and among one another is basically irrelevant to us…isn’t it? 

Recent Newspaper Headlines and Tweets: 

“Anti-Polish cards in Huntingdon after EU Referendum.  Cards containing the words, ‘No more Polish vermin’ have been distributed to homes and schools.”

“My Facebook feed includes one black friend who was told to ‘pack her bags and go home’ five times in 25 minutes.”

“This evening, my daughter left work in Birmingham and saw a group of lads corner a Muslim girl shouting, ‘Get out, we voted leave.’”

“My mum works at a primary school, a Latvian parent turned up on Friday morning to drop off her kid in tears saying, ‘they don’t want me here.’”

“Last night a Sikh radiographer colleague of mine was told by a patient, ‘shouldn’t you be on a plane back to Pakistan? We voted you out.’”

“While I was campaigning, I was speaking to a black woman.  A white man walked past and called her the N word.”

“Shop owner describes arson attack at Easter European store in Magdalen Street, Norwich.”

“Been standing here five minutes.  Three different people have shouted, ‘send them home.’”

“On Friday morning, I posted a tweet about the Conservative party.  Then I got a reply saying I should pack my bags and go home – I was born in Caerphilly in Wales.”

“The National Police Chiefs’ Council said there had been a 57% rise in reports to a hate crime reporting website between Thursday and Sunday compared with the previous month.”

“What is happening to our country?  We will look back at this time as a dark time in the UK.  I feel we have gone tumbling backwards in history.”

Who is my neighbour?  Who must I include in the requirement to love my neighbour and, therefore, can I exclude?  The tragic reality is that the result of the vote to leave the European Union has unleashed a wave of racism and hate crime in our country.  And there are people throughout the UK, even those who were born here and those whose ethnic heritage is not even part of the EU who now feel unwelcome, vulnerable, and afraid.  Many are the targets of racist attacks in a way that has not been seen for a long time.  And at this precise moment in time, I’m not particularly interested in how each one of us voted or in the reasons why, that’s a conversation for another time.  What I am interested in, is what we – every single one of us – are going to do next.  No matter what political positions each one of us hold, we have a Christian imperative to love our neighbours, and where we see a neighbour in need, to put aside our own concerns, our own fears, our own busyness and make a conscious choice to help.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.  Who is my neighbour?  Your neighbour is the person who needs your help. 

Ok, but what can we do about it?  Where can we possibly start to even try to help?  This is a good place to begin:

“An American named Allison, who lives in the UK, has started a campaign urging people to wear a safety pin on their clothes to show their opposition to racism and let anyone suffering abuse know that the wearer is on their side.” 

The wearing of a simple, unadorned safety pin, visibly pinned to our clothing represents a willingness to stand up and be counted.  To silently say, “Not in my name.”  I am a safe person, if you feel afraid, come and sit next to me, come and tell me you need help, understand that you are my neighbour.

This safety pin campaign has gained so much strength that this week, the national Methodist Conference has, “unanimously passed a resolution calling for respect and tolerance in our national life…” and has “encouraged Methodist people to join the campaign to wear an empty safety pin as a badge encouraging solidarity against racism.”  The Conference has also called on Methodist people to write to their MP’s asking them to “challenge racism and discrimination.” 

Now I’m not Methodist, but the Methodist’s are most definitely “my neighbours” and I think this is a very good idea and one that we as Anglicans should also encourage and support.  So today, when you come to the altar for communion, you will find that our verger will be holding a basket of empty safety pins and I would like to encourage every person here to take one and to wear it.  And heaven forbid, if you encounter or witness any act of racism in the coming days or weeks, stand up for your neighbours and be willing to help them.  Because this forms a key part of the Greatest Commandment and Jesus himself taught that this is precisely what we, as Christians, should be willing to do.  Amen.

Bible Reading:  Luke 10:25-37
25 One day an expert on Moses’ laws came to test Jesus’ orthodoxy by asking him this question: “Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does Moses’ law say about it?”
27 “It says,” he replied, “that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. Do this and you shall live!”
29 The man wanted to justify his lack of love for some kinds of people,[d] so he asked, “Which neighbors?”
30 Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a Jewish priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Jewish Temple-assistant[e] walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on.
33 “But a despised Samaritan[f] came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity. 34 Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where he nursed him through the night.[g] 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two twenty-dollar bills[h] and told him to take care of the man. ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I’ll pay the difference the next time I am here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the bandits’ victim?”
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him some pity.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”



Sunday, 26 June 2016

After the EU Referendum - What Next?

I don't often share my sermons here but just occasionally, I choose to.  Here are my thoughts shared in the three churches today:

This week has seen a momentous decision taken by the British public as the vote to leave the European Union secured 52% while the vote to remain secured 48%.  The turnout of voters was among the highest in recent history with 72.2% of eligible voters casting a ballot.  Within hours the Prime Minister had tendered his resignation and opinions were being freely exchanged across television screens, newspapers, social media and in conversations wherever I went.

This morning, I’m not going to tell you which way I voted and nor am I going to ask which way you voted.  The reason for that isn’t any great secret but the fact of who voted which way isn’t the subject I wish to linger on today – the political pundits are doing rather a lot of that.  What I am more interested in is the question of what happens next?   How do we respond both to the vote itself and to those around us as we discuss the result?

On Friday morning as I woke up to the news of the vote to leave, I logged onto Facebook as I often do.  There, I was confronted by some friends who were absolutely jubilant, and others who were absolutely heartbroken.   That in itself is perhaps understandable because this decision stirred big emotions and has the potential for huge changes in our nation; but what I saw next was very worrying.  As the news spread, I saw battle lines being drawn:  those who had voted to leave were repeatedly being described as selfish, racist, xenophobic, manipulated by the media and responsible for the imminent downfall of Great Britain.  Then I saw those who had voted to remain being described as sore losers, alarmists, out of touch, the political elite, scare-mongerers, and unwilling to listen to the majority.  It was in many ways like watching a pair of cats fight, as usually good, kind, people rolled over and over in the dirt spitting, snarling and yowling as the fur flew and as each one yelped in pain but neither was willing to walk away from the fight.

And as someone who had a vote, who used her vote and who is also an immigrant to this great nation, I began to wonder what we were doing to one another - not because of the result itself, but in how we are treating one another, how we are speaking to and about one another and how, or indeed if, our faith is included in the mix.

In our Epistle reading today, St Paul speaks of some huge concepts starting with slavery and freedom. He argues that our faith in Christ means we have been set free from the burdens of a rigid law that had become impossible to fulfil, but our freedom is not to be used as an opportunity to be self-indulgent, but rather to serve one another in love.  He says:  “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  If however you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

 I wonder, at the moment, are we loving our neighbours just as much as we love ourselves?  Well, those of our neighbours who took the same political position as we did are probably fairly easy to love but what about those neighbours who took the opposite view?  I wonder how easy you find it to love them…or does it seem easier to bite and devour one another with your opposing views and through the exchange of harsh words?

 There were many harsh words exchanged on both sides of the argument over the two months leading up to the referendum.  The debate was harsh, the lines were drawn in black and white, the question made so simple that it seemed there could only be winners and losers.  And I wonder if the very tone of the debate contributed to the result itself?  When we dig our heels in, in any argument, and become determined that we are 100% right then this automatically means that those on the other side must be 100% wrong.  And what happens next is that we stop listening.  We vilify other people in our families, in our churches and in our communities and we paint them as “bad people” because they do not agree with us.  And that’s the point when both communication and communities start to break down.  We have drawn our battle lines and we find ourselves unable to cross them to see the humanity of those on the other side.  Civil wars have been triggered over less.

St Paul goes on to say that as Christians, we should “live by the Spirit, and not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  So first, let’s look at some of those things he puts into the category of “flesh” – enmity, strife, anger, quarrels, dissension, factions.  These are the things that leave people drawing battle lines in the sand based on who is right and who is wrong and these are the things that come naturally when we are upset, disappointed or hurt and these are also the things that tear communities, families and churches apart.  And this is why St Paul warned us against them.  It is very tempting to allow these things to rule our hearts and our lives but if we do, then we are living in the flesh and we are choosing slavery.

By contrast, Paul then moves to the flip side because he doesn’t stop with a long list of what we shouldn’t do, he continues on to tell how we can begin to rebuild, how we can find our way back to one another, how we can heal the divisions among us.  Paul says, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  There is no law against these things.”

Some of you here today will be deeply saddened by the results of this vote, you will be worried about what happens next and you may even feel angry with those who voted to leave.  Some of you here today will be filled with joy at the result of this vote; you will see this as a good thing and will be looking forward to the next steps.  And each one of you will be absolutely convinced that your position is the right one.  But as much as you had a choice to make this past Thursday, you also have a choice to make in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.  Will you draw battle lines between one another with anger, quarrels, dissensions and factions and choose to live in the slavery of the flesh?  Or will you choose to find a way to live with one another by demonstrating patience, kindness, generosity and self-control and so allow the Spirit to live in you and flow out through you?

The process of reconciliation when peoples and a country are divided is hard, it can be painful but the very steps involve being willing to truly and deeply listen to one another:  So if you voted to remain, then I would encourage you now to truly listen to the reasons why those who voted to leave did so, even if that’s hard and even if you disagree.  And if you voted to leave, then I would also encourage you to truly listen to the reasons why those who voted to remain did so, even if that’s hard and even if you disagree.  Listening to one another’s deep and heartfelt experience is not easy but it’s the only way we can now move forward and work together because if we want to live by the Spirit, then we must also allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit.

May those of you who hurt be comforted.  May those of you who rejoice be blessed.  And may we all find the strength to listen to each other and work together on the next steps.  Amen.