Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Methodist Housing at #netrootsuk

Recently I attended the Netroots gathering in London. Organised by the TUC and various online activist groups, this was the day that the (self defined) progressive left would cast-off their shackles and embrace the net.

In among the stories and workshops, my beloved Methodist Church got a namecheck, and for me it proved a refreshed wake up call.

The Methodist Church in Finchley is like many others, a local church for local people. As part of it's financial dealings it rents out property, this time at a potential 50% discount to a local person. So what needy person requires housing in the borough?

Step forward hammer of the firefighters, Cllr Brian Coleman MLA local Conservative assembly member with an income of £128,000. It isn't known why this arrangement exists or why such a substantial deduction is given. Approaches from a journalist to the local minister yielded nothing.

For me what shocked me about this tale wasn't that the church was housing a very controversial figure, instead it was a reminder of the current status of Methodist property. Due to laws and regulations, Methodist property (when sold) should always go the highest bidder. This means a house of justice & equality could potentially be sold for luxury flats because a housing association didn't offer enough. Thankfully this injustice has been spotted and a paper (direct word download of paper) has gone to Methodist Council suggesting How this can be changed.

Yet it isn't just the disposal of property that can present challenges. As someone who has lived in church property I developed strong opinions on the principles under which property should be let. To my knowledge (though) there is no central ruling on the principles under which property is let only some exclusions based on what can't happen in Methodist Church name anyway.

The Methodist Church owns a large amount of property and I'm due many others own or let housing. The simple question is are we reflecting through our rentals the principles we pray for on a Sunday?

{EDITS - Altered 'pay' to 'pray' in last sentance
              - Altered 'Methodist Church in Barnet' to 'Methodist Church in Finchley'}

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pilgrim or tourist in radio silence?

'radio silence' is a broadcasters worst nightmare. Radio stations have mechanisms

built in to cover undue silence unless the system is overridden for musical reasons. As a social media broadcaster I've had my own version of 'radio silence', however this was no cause for great concern but a reason for much joy. Last Wednesday I received a surprising email at work. It informed me that my father had just received a phonecall saying I'd left my mobilephone on the train and the person who found it was about to hand it in to the railway lost property. The message came out of the blue and forced me to indulge in some relative media silence. On the one hand it was lovely. After a day or so I stopped checking for my phone and realised I was listening more to the world around me. Sat on transport, with no chance to plug in, I was aware how loudly everyone had their music. Arranging to meet people I realised how reliant people were on last minute changes/updates ; a characteristic impossible without mobile technology.however it meant small things like podcasts and blogs fell off my radar, depriving me of the mental stimulation and challenge that I enjoy. So, on the one hand, I was unable to stay wired to the political world, on the other I was visibly reminded of how insular people have become. With this new found freedom (while waiting for lost property to find my phone/ answer their own phone) I began to read a cracking book which explores a similar theme. "earth pilgrim" is an edited transcript of discussions with satish kumar. It lays out the challenge that true pilgrimage is about slowing down, taking tine to immerse yourself in mother nature and her natural rhythms and absorb all you see around. This outlook is contrasted with the idea of tourism which allows you to see sites, capture images but never really get a feel for where you are. A tourist rushes, a pilgrim immerses. While only two chapters in, the principle of being a pilgrim rather than a tourist has rung true and these last few days have been a reminder. Social Media and 24hr connection is useful and stimulating, yet it can also lead to a kind of satalite life where all the time is spent reporting on the world around without truly living and immersing in it. Someone who has immersed themselves in the world is the kind sole who handed my phone in, sparking off this accidental pilgrimage. Their small act of kindness provided hope for the phones return, while also reminding me of the generosity of those around. If you left a popular touchscreen phone on the train- would you have thought you'd get it back. Had I known I'd left it I'm not sure I would. Does this mean I'll be burning my reclaimed phone like a Luddite? No! It helps organise me and is a great advancement of human technology. It provides me with podcasts from the BBC and an adapter to listen, live, to the broadcast world. However it has altered some of my listening and reading habits and it'll be interesting to see what gets resumed and what stays dropped. So go on, take some time over the next 24hrs to go on a sensory experience. Switch off your social media, immerse yourself in the world around; then load up your media and consider what is truly worth sharing with those who weren't with you. P.s - it was rather bizarre but fun to spot the "lost property reclaim form" stated "British rail lost property form" a case of if the form ain't broke why fix it because the firm changed?!