Saturday, July 19, 2008
A Tale of Two Bishops
Though life has been pretty much dominated by things canine for a while, there have been other events ticking away in the parishes, particularly as this was the last week of the school year.
The school attached to Church in the Valley (hereafter to be known as Valley Church School, or VCS) is a little way into a 5 phase building and improvement project, for which, as a Voluntary Aided School , we have to find 10% of the capital costs ourselves. As I've mentioned before, parish in the valley is by no means affluent - indeed it is well towards the top of the "deprived wards" chart for this county, so we're short of high-powered, high-earning families on the school roll. The sum we have to find is small in comparison with that which Church on the Hill needs for its roof, but the amazing concert there two weeks ago brought in pretty much what we need to raise each year over a looooooong period in order to repay the diocese for our building work. I would be kidding myself if I thought that we'd ever be likely to stage that sort of event down here. Life is just different.
So on Monday we launched our appeal "Building their Future", inviting the local press to come along and hear what we have in mind. As a church school we investigated whether there might be a bishop available to add "oomph" to the proceedings. It transpired that, thanks to the Lambeth Conference (I wonder how many times any of us will read those particular words in that order! but truly, I do mean "Thanks") there was not just one but two bishops available...our own +J, the suffragen who "put me in" to my parishes here and also +V, the bishop of Karnataka Central Diocese, where I spent my Indian month in November 06. We're twinned as a diocese with KCD, so it made sense that +V and his wife should be guests in Gloucester before the conference, but it was a lovely surprise to be able to welcome them, as they had so warmly welcomed me, to visit "my" school, and "my" parish. I love it when my worlds touch, however briefly.
Even better, I'd spent some time only a couple of weeks earlier sharing some Indian memories with the children at VCS as part of their "global dimension week", and had taught them the way to offer "namaste" greetings...+V and his wife were delighted by 200 English children saying "namaste" to them...while I was delighted that they chose to talk to the children, as I had, about the work that is being done in the church's New Life hostels for the street children of Bangalore. (I just looked through the archives to see where I could link to my experiences there and realised that I don't seem to have blogged them at all...some seriously retrospective writing seems to be called for when time permits)
But then it struck me.
The huge irony of +V being there to help us launch a fund-raising drive to improve facilities in a school that would be absolutely Top of the Range in every respect if we were in India. Valley Church School does genuinely need some money spent on it, as it competes for children with one very glossy county school and the miracle working school whose 50th Birthday celebrations I enjoyed recently. If we want parents to choose us, and so open the route to a distinctively Christian ethos and education for their children, we can't afford to look shabby or second rate. +V absolutely took the point that, where they have any choice at all, all parents will seek the best for their children and spoke powerfully of the need for a vision of excellence as a driving force...a vision which unites us at VCS with the leaders of his projects back in Karnataka. There was no trace of "You don't know you are born" in anything he said to staff or children.
The visit was, I believe, a success all round. Head, Bishops and children all shared hopes and dreams, hats were hurled on high as cameras clicked, and the appeal was well and truly launched.
But, nonetheless, it was hard not to think of what the Indian children would feel if our existing facilities could only be transported magically to Bangalore...
Global perspectives can sometimes be uncomfortable things.