Your Pastor – is it necessary for you to like him?

I was thinking of my Pastor the other day; thinking of how I found it difficult to reconcile the inconsistency of his spreading the Gospel and what I consider to be his disdain for his flock.  When I’m in church, I look around the congregation at the faces to see if they see what I see, but it’s either they are oblivious or believe it’s just typical human behavior.

It bothered me, this. My mind churning, telling me that it’s wrong to judge and depersonalise, it goes against the reason I go to church in the first place, but there are strong factors getting in the way that counters that.

It all started when I found the problems of my son were becoming too much. With a husband/father, who was abroad, it wasn’t always easy when a problem arose. My husband and I would Skype each other, but that would be several times a week. He could not do more as he was busy. So a member of the church, and a friend suggested that I should see the Pastor, Pastor John.  I went to see him and told him that for some time, my son has been experiencing depression; a talented writer, a polite person and for reasons unbeknown to me, dropped out of his final year at University. My mind picked all over to see what I had done wrong.

Pastor John listened and watched, as I held my head trying to understand.  The Pastor talked of how he saw my son walking ‘up and down’ the high street, which suggested his behaviour was odd considering the ‘good family he came from’.  It was not something he expected. Then he recounted how he led his own son from an episode of apathy towards his studies, where he ended up getting a good degree.  I looked up at his face, only to be met with a smile which tried not to be smug. Great, I thought, for his son but failed to see how this helped me with mine. Then I said to him something which quickly popped into my head, how my mother would always tell me that God does not always give you everything. He holds back on some things just so that you don’t forget what he has done for you. When a problem presents itself, you have to find a way of dealing with it.  I wondered why this comment did not enter my head before.  I raised my head and looked at the pastor; the look he gave was one of astonishment. Didn’t he think my mother was capable of meaningful statements? Our time was brought to an end and the pastor prayed about all that had taken place, and for my son.

I left the office, forlorn and worse than when I went in. all of a sudden, my vulnerability was apparent. I felt as though there was a glitch in my family leaving me with no choice but to feel embarrassed.

It was time to flag this experience as I reminded myself that I had experienced something like this before but dismissed it. About a year ago, I attended a bible studies group; there were five of us, plus the pastor.  After the meeting, we raised a sensitive subject about the progress of the church. I say ‘sensitive’ because the Pastor took it personally when you criticized the church. I said how the church has always been humble, something  I was proud to be a part of, but a few things needed to be changed. The Pastor smiled briefly, and then asked what I meant by ‘humble’. I had to stop and do a quick inventory. Did I say something offensive? No I did not, I told myself.

The church was built seventy years ago; it has a small congregation made up of predominantly elderly people who seemed to be at a place in their lives where the mortgage has more or less being paid, where visits to the Doctor are frequent, they see their grandchildren and hopefully they get a holiday once per year. I should add that in the years they have attended, they go with their partners but in the last three years, quite a few have lost their partners to ill-health.  For the widows and widowers, single parent families, the church plays an important role. If you go to the church, say, on a Tuesday morning, you can see them enjoying their game of cards or dominoes, keenly waiting for the tea break along with the sandwiches.

I also say ‘humble’ because unlike many other church services which uses PowerPoint to support the sermon and has a resident band, this church struggles. The church assistant struggling with the projector to find the hymn the same time the congregation is about to sing or, the music (The Music!!) is meagrely supplied by a sole musician, a pianist, struggling to make up for every instrument that is not there!  The choir which struggles to sing in unison rather than four point harmony. Perhaps I’m asking for too much but the point is no one complains, the congregation is happy with this. So yes, ‘humble’ it is, but I feel that it could do with some changes.

He said he was confused with the word ‘humble’. As far as he was concerned it was progressing, and up to date. But I added that perhaps the reason why the church failed to attract new people, young people was that it was just too…serious. I realised that it was superficial for a church to have technology in order to present itself as professional, but the church had reached a position that it did not want to leave, sort of trapped in its comfort zone. The other members looked on, thinking I had said too much. Pastor John shook his head wearily and made a frown. He said he would think about it and that we’d have another meeting to discuss the matter. As I said, this was a year ago.

Leaving the Pastor to get ready for the evening session, another thing that came to mind. A few people talked of when he or they are outside the church, say shopping or on the local bus, he has tendency to ignore them. I’ve not experienced this but then I realise I would not because my husband is a lecturer and he respects this. As I head towards my car, I pause and inhale this new revelation. I should have realised. When he subtly drops the hint of wanting to visit us, I always say, ‘Yes! Come around. I’m home most evenings.’ But he never does as he wants to be invited, and I’m not formal like that. I get into the car, start the engine, allowing the engine to run as I marinate these new thoughts.

I like my church, despite its humbleness. I like the people; some of whom I have known since school or they have lived in the area for some time. So I’m not looking to leave even though some people will probably feel that is my best option. But I go to church for a good reason: to hear the Word, to hear God’s message. Something that will help me to cope with the new, up and coming week or some ongoing problem.  Sometimes I win the jackpot where the sermon delivered hits it right on the nail i.e. I hear my message or answer. But there are other times, I go and I leave, empty.

As I find parking space just outside the house, I learn that what has become problematic, is seeing a side of the Pastor that I feel, should not be there. I hate that I’m aware of it to the point that I fail to realise he has been ‘sent’ to do a job; and I hate the fact that it is likely to get in the way of receiving the good Word.

It would make life a lot easier if I liked and respected him. But still quoting my mother: people are people are people. They may not be perfect but they were meant to strive, be good and to auto-correct themselves as they progress. I guess there is still a lot for me to do.

 

Cilla Black

Gosh! Memories. I must have been just six years old when I heard Cilla’s Any One who had a Heart. I loved it so much that my father took me to the record shop in Stamford Hill and he bought it for me. It was the beginning of us regularly buying records. About a year later, my parents bought a radiogram, again, purchased from a large electronics shop in Stamford Hill and I played this 7” record non-stop.

Radiogram

It is difficult to know at such a young age why I liked this record so much: was it the passion she injected or the way it trailed off at the end? I was also too young to know that the song written by Burt Bacharach and sung originally by my mother’s favourite, Dionne Warwick was released first. But no matter, it was Cilla’s version that was truly embedded in my mind; that each time the song is mentioned or is covered by someone else, Cilla’s voice comes to mind.

Cilla

My condolences to Cilla’s family and may she rest in perfect peace.

Readers visiting my blog about Scotland – for the wrong reasons!!

Wow! I’m getting so many ‘reads’ on my Experiences: Moving to Scotland which I wrote some years ago. I guess readers are not just visiting because of the referendum that is taking place as I write this but I’ve received a number of visits as readers (in the past and present) are keen to see if my article is about the business of meeting black women in Scotland. A dating site? hmm! I don’t think so! But I’m sure as they read the blog or when they have finished reading, they realise that my article has nothing do with ‘dating’ but just as the title of my site states, it’s about my experiences of life, generally.  The blog is about the time when my family and I lived in Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire, just outside Glasgow.

We didn’t spend a long time there as I had a longing for London.  However, I was impressed with how friendly the Scots were and the embarrassing thing was I went there with the notion of not expecting anything, dare I say, of a standard ie., at the back of my mind, Glasgow would look ‘inferior’ to London but it did not.  Living there was a great experience but it still did not match my London.

And while talking about Scotland, I wish them all the best, especially, if it’s a Yes.  If it’s No, then I guess Alex Salmond has to go back to drawing board because I don’t believe he will give up.

 

The friendly face of Racism?

The friendly face of racism?

The friendly face of racism?

Never thought the day would come when I would write something on my blog about Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party.  I guess this shows how far Old Nick has come. The annoying BBC with its need to show ‘due impartiality to a legally constituted party’ has made this man’s wishes come true by giving him all the publicity he needs and therefore enabling 1 in 5 people in Britain to vote for the BNP. Doesn’t Auntie ever learn?

The man tried hard to show himself as the friendly race of racism, that he can hate blacks but still sit next to them and smile with them.  And on top of that, he has the nerve to say he is neither a Nazi nor a racist. I wonder what he will say next.  Perhaps he will be disgusted with Peter Tatchell’s view that Malcolm X was gay or that Martin Luther King had extra-marital affairs.

The Trouble with Black Madams……….

 

Paul and wife, Janet.

Paul and wife, Janet.

So, Janet Boateng has embarrassed her husband, the current British High Commissioner for South Africa, Paul Boateng, by allegedly bullying her staff.  You may think, what is the big deal about this story.  The big deal is, Paul and Janet are Black and staff in their home is predominantly Black. Given the history of the two, Janet, a former Labour Councillor who successfully managed to prevent White families from adopting Black children, on the grounds that White people could not begin to comprehend racism and Paul, the first Black government minister, there is the feeling that they should have known better.  Between herself and her husband, back in the day, they were vociferous in fighting against injustice and inequality, especially when it came to Black people.  I remember seeing Paul Boateng, one of the few Black faces, always ready to speak out against racism, cleverly articulating the Queen’s English to the max.  He spoke out even more when the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, sent troops to Iraq.  Boateng’s reward was he was made British High Commission to South Africa.  Some say it was a demotion but then that’s another story.  The one I want to talk about is that now we have a Black President in the White House, and more and more Blacks taking on high-profile positions around the World, I wonder how they cope, leading a staff who must obey and indulge their every whim.

I, a Black woman, married to a high-profile Black achiever well-known in this country, finds it an ongoing dilemma.  We came to this land about 18 years ago to work for an international organisation. What made it exciting were the perks – the mansion, the grounds, the pool and sauna and gym, and of course, there is the staff.  One qualified, uniformed cook, two house-helps and two drivers plus security men. There were private schools for the children which was heavily subsidized.  Initially, of course, I was over whelmed by what I had gained but given my humble background and life experiences, I was conscious of not taking advantage of the staff, always thanking them each time they brought me a cup of tea (and belting the kids around their heads when they didn’t say ‘thanks!’), making sure I brought presents each time I returned from an overseas trip.  For several years, it was all bliss until things began to happen making me realise that my ‘niceness’ was perceived as weakness.  For instance, I would ask the helper to sweep the floor in the living room.  When I leave to do something and then return, the helper is lying on the couch, reading one of my magazines.  This continues until I do something that I have not done in a while and that is argue.  She threatens to hit me and I have no choice but to call in security to have her removed from the house.  I walk in on the cook only to find him watching the cartoon, Tom and Jerry on the TV, and the steak he is supposed to be cooking, is burning to high heavens.  When I challenge him, his eyes are glazed due to the wine he has drunk (and nicked!) and he refuses to leave. I leave to call the security; he slams the door and stands in front of it, not allowing me (and the children) to leave. Luckily, the security can see what is happening through the window and knocks firmly, gaining the attention of the cook, who eventually lets us out. When I sacked another cook for mixing up a strange concoction then refusing to tell me what it is made of, he turns up two days later at my company and threatens me.  The worst of these experiences is of a woman who had worked for me for three years. When she stopped seeing her boyfriend, he decided to pay her back by showing me all the things she had stolen from the house. I was devastated.  Although I don’t know all the facts, something tells me these experiences are not too different from what Janet was encountering. 

Beautiful home in Cape Town.

Beautiful home in Cape Town.

But other than these experiences, there is another reason. I think, since I’m responsible for the upkeep of the house, I have to set rules but because I am Black there is some deep inherent thought within the staff that I am meant to treat them differently, i.e., there is no master and servant relationship here. We are all Blacks, so we are ‘friends’. I state this as I know there are rich White households elsewhere in this country and everybody knows their place. The article I read stated that the complaints were not against Paul but against Janet.  Well, of course Paul will not be ‘attacked’ because he is not dealing with the staff on a day-to-day basis, but Janet is. Janet is, after all, only a human being. We are bound to get it wrong, bound to go overboard in imitating our colonial masters and still expect to be loved irregardless; because of our new-found status we expect everyone to bow and curtsy, figuratively that is.  Janet, I’m sure made mistakes but I’m also sure that her staff had certain expectations from her which were not fulfilled. The woman, at the end of the day, sees her job as making sure her husband’s environment is comfortable at all times and she is determined to do that. I can’t believe that former wives at the High Commission were always polite to their staff. Here, where I live, everybody shouts at their staff.  And that’s the truth and I hope Michelle Obama takes note

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Mr Bernard Manning: And so he is dead…May God rest his soul?

I can remember as a young child watching with family members, Mr. Manning on TV telling his jokes.  There would always be a silence that I could never understand. There were even cases where I would laugh but I learnt later, much to my own embarrassment that the jokes were based on me, and many other people like me!  I thought there was something wrong as he was popular and enjoyed by millions of people. Why couldn’t I see the funny side of Me?   Then I realised there wasn’t anything wrong after all I was able to enjoy comedians like Tommy Cooper, Morecombe and Wise, The Goodies etc.  So a sense of humour did exist!! 

 But I thought jokes, humour was meant to be shared and to involve as well include, but Manning’s (and to a certain extent Jim Davidson) humour succeeded in excluding and offending sections of the community.   

 Did Mr. Manning expect that I should be able to identify with his humour?  That he should see no reason why I shouldn’t ‘take it as a joke’?  I always felt that underneath all those jokes was his contempt and disdain for minorities and disabled people; and the fact that he was from a Jewish background, makes me wonder if, by picking on the black community, it was a way of divesting himself of his own inadequacies and inferiority complex.

Al Fayed & The Royals: Are we talking about racism here, or not?

            As someone who used to work for Harrods, I remember Mr. Al Fayed coming to the shop floor, always to greet the assistants, most mornings in the week.  But after I’d left, years later, I was dismayed when I learned that quite a few black people (and other people from different racial backgrounds) were taking Harrods to the race relations board because of discrimination, and how Al Fayed was so contemptuous of their complaints. I wasn’t able to understand his behaviour especially as his origins was Egyptian, and therefore African. This maybe me being naïve, but one would expect some kind of bond with your fellow brother.  But it looks as if he now understands, at a painful cost that other people can also decide whether or not, they bond with you.

 

I’m referring to his success last week of overturning the decision made by Baroness Butler-Sloss to hear the inquests on her own; and then later on, when Al Fayed is being interviewed by Sky News, he refers to certain members of the Royal family as “Nazi’s”, “bastards” and “donkey’s”. It makes me wonder if the inquiry is not just about Princess Diana and Dodi’s tragic death but also about being discriminated against and being rejected, which he’s not handling too well.  Although I am sorry for Mr. Al Fayed’s loss I can’t help but feel that through his naivety he thought that owning Harrods Ltd would have given him unlimited access to the inner sanctum of the Aristocracy and more importantly, that his millions somehow made him white! 

 

I hope for Al Fayed’s sake, that he is doing what he is doing for the right reasons, and not because he couldn’t make it into the right social circles. 

 

 

 
 

 

What is it to be British?

 

A question that is becoming more and more difficult to answer.  In last week’s British The Sunday Times, an article stated there are a growing number of ethnic minorities who consider them selves to be British, not English I should stress, but British. And in no way do they see it clashing with their own culture.  I guess it makes sense that the longer each generation is rooted in a country, the more likely they will be connected to that country. 

I am second generation born (of West Indian parentage) in the UK and have to admit, that my generation did not see themselves as Brits and found it difficult to apply any title or label.   But a lot of the younger generation see themselves, without any doubt, as British.  It’s also really strange seeing and hearing some of my own people talk about ‘too many foreigners’ coming into ‘our’ country and how ‘we’ must put a stop to this!  At times, I listen to our conversations and quietly laugh to myself at how things have changed since the 70s.

You detect traces of sympathy for the Anglo-Saxon because he/she is losing their identity more and more and don’t know where they belong; the nasty little old white lady, who we all had as a neighbour once upon a time, we want to say all is forgiven especially when you now have a ‘traveller’ or an East European living next door to you.  I am shocked that we have somehow forgotten how painful and humiliating those days were, and really surprised that we don’t have much time for anyone who goes to the UK to seek a new life – just like our parents did fifty years ago.

 Integration has improved in the UK although from time to time, a Jade Goody will pop up to remind you that racism is still very much alive and kicking. But to answer the question – what is it to be British?  I wish I knew.  I haven’t got a clue but it’s good that the younger generation can come up with an immediate answer.

 

 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1400803.ece