Tuesday 30 July 2013

A diagram

I keep tinkering with this diagram, which makes a lot of sense to me but may not be much help to you as a causal reader without a more detailed introduction than I can put here.

And I now find that making it bigger (so it can be read) cuts off one edge, so this may not be my most helpful post of all time.

Anyway, fro what it is worth, the further left you go, the nearer you are to the truth that proper understanding depends on genuine knowledge of what is going on on the ground.

The further right you go, the nearer you are to the truth that proper understanding depends of stepping back far enough to get the big picture.

The further down you go, the nearer you are to the truth that proper understanding depends on clear and definite spelling out.

The further up you go, the nearer you are to the truth that proper understanding depends on being open to things you haven’t yet taken into account.

But if you get to an edge (or, worse, into a corner), you are likely to be in a seriously distorted place; the nearer you get to the end of any line, the more likely you are to lose the balance you need.

What else? The bits in square brackets (about Myers Briggs on the edges and about Learning Cycle theory in the middle) are only vague correlations and not substantive parts of the diagram at all.

Normal service will be resumed next week.

Monday 22 July 2013

Inter-faith hospitality

A reflection written for a Cleethorpes audience (which appeared in the Cleethorpes Chronicle on Thursday):

At the time of the Gulf War, a Cleethorpes man was the Anglican Bishop in the region. John Brown had been a boy in the choir at Old Clee church. He eventually retired back to Cleethorpes and died here a couple of years ago. In between, he first worked in places like Jerusalem and the Sudan where he learnt Arabic, so he was well placed eventually to take on the incredibly sensitive job of an Englishman being a Bishop in the Middle East.

He was always proud of being the subject of a fatwa – a formal ruling by an Islamic leader. The fatwa was issued by the Grand Mufti of the Yemen. It followed much patient work. It allowed Christians to worship in Aden. “It is our duty,” the Grand Mufti’s fatwa said, “to allow members of the Christian community to exercise their religious rites as is the case in our mosques and Islamic centres all over the United Kingdom”. The collection taken at the service in St Peter’s, Cleethorpes in thanksgiving service for John’s life was for the work of the medical clinic at Christ Church, Aden, which continues as a result; it serves those of every faith.

Of course, Christians and Muslims are not always so tolerant of each other. I recently visited one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world which is in Cordoba, Spain; it is now used as a Christian church and Moslems have not been allowed to pray in it for centuries. Meanwhile, in some other parts of the world today it is Christians who are the ones who are badly treated – we are not allowed to worship in public in Saudi Arabia and we are often attacked at worship in northern Nigeria.

So which story would be the best story about North East Lincolnshire today? Would we like people to report that we take the same attitude as the Grand Mufti of the Yemen? Or would we like people to tell others that we take the same attitude as the Christians in Cordoba?

Thankfully, there has been one consistent answer for many years. I have been reading about the opening of the Grimsby Synagogue in 1885. The report says there were cheers when a speaker referred to the generous donations made by Christian friends of the new growing Jewish community to help them build their place of worship. Over a century later, it was the Methodist Church (which still has a dozen churches open for Christian worship in North East Lincolnshire) which allowed the Moslem community to take over a former chapel so that it could have an Islamic Centre here.

A reflection with some of the same material and intent written for a Great Coates audience (coming out in the Village Council’s magazine for August and September)

At least one of those buried in St Nicolas’ churchyard in the 1920s was born in Hamburg. Edward Lewis was German, was naturalised as a British citizen in the 1870s, ran the Wellowgate Brewery in the 1890s, and lived for a short time at the Manor in Great Coates.

I hadn’t realised until last month just how many people travelled through Hamburg and Grimsby in the nineteenth century. The two ports sit on estuaries exactly east-west of each other. If you wanted to flee eastern Europe for the United States, it was to Hamburg that you would be likely to go. From there Great Central Railways could sell you a single ticket to take one of its boats to Grimsby and then to transfer to one of its trains to Liverpool. Among the huge numbers who did so were Jews being persecuted on what is now the Polish-Russian border - think ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.

A small fraction of these people travelled no further than Grimsby, and I’ve been learning that this is mainly from where the Grimsby Jewish community sprang (including the Goldberg family in Great Coates). The new community needed a place of worship. The future Lord Heneage (a Christian) gave the site, and, when the foundation stone was laid in the 1880s, there were reports of cheers when Christian donors were among those thanked for their contributions to the costs.

This all puts recent history in a very interesting context. One of those convicted recently for calling for the burning down of Grimsby’s Islamic Centre is reported as saying his blood boiled knowing that it was a former Christian church building. I wonder what support he is giving to his own local church to help keep it open. I wonder whether he realises that the Methodist church (which has a closed Chapel converted into a house in Great Coates as well as the closed Chapel converted into the Islamic Centre in Weelsby Road) keeps as many as a dozen Chapels open for Christian worship in North East Lincolnshire today. But how I wish he knew the story of the foundation of Grimsby’s synagogue.

There are things which should make our blood boil - including the way Christians, Jews and Muslims have often treated each other and sometimes still do - but making space for new communities to worship in our town surely isn’t one of them.

Edward Lewis was the father of the Herbert Lewis who has featured in the last two posts on this Blog; I have just obtained copies of his naturalisation papers which give his original name as Eduard Anton Louis Riemenschneider.

The picture was taken in the St Michael’s tower last week.

Thursday 18 July 2013


The pictures come from a recent visit to a disused church in the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Meanwhile, a footnote to my last post, I discover (initially by the simple stratagem of a Google search) that ‘General Paralysis’ isn’t a wide open term which could cover things like the post-traumatic stress disorders but rather a consistently used and precise albeit euphemistic term for tertiary syphilis (that is the final stage long after initial infection when the brain is attacked).  I have been guilty in at least one case of over romanticised assumptions when telling the stories of our war graves; historians recognise the phenomenon of the amateur being distracted by what he wants to see and not pursuing things far enough to challenge his own initial assumptions.

Monday 8 July 2013

Great Coates churchyard yesterday

Queen bees dancing together as one hopes to attract the support needed to establish a new colony.

Tips of fresh growth on churchyard yews.

We continue to investigate First World War stories including that of Herbert Lewis who may have been a victim of shell shock; we have now obtained a copy of the certificate of his death at the Lawn, Lincoln (a mental institution) which gives the cause as ‘general paralysis about fifteen months’ seventeen months after his unit was involved in the hideous attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt in 1915.

And, inside the church, a sailcloth full of unclean beasts ready to be let down from heaven as family worship for Petertide progresses.