Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas

As we celebrate Christmas, we pray for the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the homeless, the refugee, the unsettled and the captive. We pray too for peace in the world, especially in Israel and Palastine, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afhanistan, Iran and Sudan and all those working for the common good. Also, community, world and faith and church leaders, politicians and people of influence and all those who proclaim the message of God's kingdom.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Remember Bethlehem this Christmas

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it is right to spare a thought for Bethlehem and its inhabitants and pray for peace in 2007 and beyond.

The so called "peace wall" in and around Bethlehem has reduced the district to its urban core. It severs the built-up areas from thousands of acres of agricultural land and water resources. There are 27 Israeli settlements in the Bethlehem district built on land confiscated from Bethlehem’s private owners. It is predicted that once the wall is complete Bethlehem will lose 70% of its territory altogether.

A system of cement walls, electric fences, settlers only roads and checkpoints creates a prison-like environment for the people of Bethlehem. The World Bank cites the closure regime as the direct cause of the humanitarian crisis.

70% of the population in Bethlehem lives below the poverty line. Unemployment is higher than 60%. Tourism, which accounts for 65% of the Bethlehem economy is now almost entirely controlled by Israeli companies, meaning that the few tourists that come to Bethlehem don’t stay for more than a few hours. The Hotel Association in Bethlehem has reported that only 2.5% of rooms were booked in 2005 in comparison to 22.1% in 2000.

The Christian population in Bethlehem accounts for 41.3% of the population in Bethlehem town proper and 26% in the whole district. Following Israeli invasions in 2001-2002, Bethlehem lost 10% of it Christian population as 3000 Christians left the city. UNOCHA report, December 2004:
The emigration of Christians is a serious threat to Palestine’s mixed heritage which embraced diversity for centuries.

The Jerusalem-Bethlehem dioceses of the Latin (Catholic), Anglican and Armenian Churches – in common with the Eastern Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches – is centred on the various cathedrals of Jerusalem. The Israeli wall cuts these ancient diocese into parcels, separating churchmen from their congregations and families from each other.

The short road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem has always been the great high road of the Christian faith, linking as it does the cities of Our Lord’s birth and resurrection. It has been trodden by countless millions of pilgrims in the last 2,000 years. We are dismayed that the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is now closed to the great majority of Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, and passable only with much inconvenience and expenditure of time by pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. We view this closure and the barrier being built around Bethlehem as a grave injustice to its people, a serious threat to its economic life and social fabric, and an affront to all Christians.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Norfolk churches campaign to save local post offices

The Church of England and the Methodist Church in Norfolk are uniting to throw their weight behind a new campaign to help save rural post offices.

The campaign, which is being spearheaded by the Revd Lorna Allies, the new Rural Adviser for the Anglicans and Methodists in Norfolk, encourages Christians to turn their backs on the internet and telephone, and return to their local post offices to buy their stamps, collect their pensions and renew their vehicle licences. Leaflets encouraging churchgoers to make an effort to sustain their local post office for as long as some – even just a few - of their neighbours need it are being distributed to Church of England and Methodist congregations and the campaign has the strong support of the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James and the Chairman of the East Anglia District of the Methodist Church, the Revd Graham Thompson. It also has the backing of the Church Leaders of all the Christian denominations in Norfolk.

“We are encouraging our congregations to take seriously the threat to the Post Office Network and to support those who most need their local post office by giving it their custom,” said the Revd Graham Thompson. “It may not be convenient to do so, but by some personal involvement and sacrifice we hope to be able to make some difference to each local situation. The challenge for each church and chapel-goer is to make as much use as they can of their local post office in the hope of keeping it alive for others.”

The Bishop of Norwich said, “Post offices provide some of the social and economic glue that keeps rural communities together. They’re under threat. Part of the threat is that we don’t use them enough. That can change. Our Rural Adviser has challenged us with some simple ways in which church members, and others too, can show how much we value our post offices and our concern for those who depend on them. I wish this campaign well.”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Remember Darfur-Take Action

This is the second global day for Darfur, when the broad based crisis action coalition will focus on the wide scale rape and sexual violence that has been perpetrated in this conflict - saying stop the rape, stop the killing and send the UN peacekeepers now.
Surely enough is enough-it is time for action. Write letters, sign petitions, demonstrate.
All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tory arrogance in North Norfolk

The new Tory candidiate for North Norfolk may have been in place for less than a week, but his arrogance has already embarassed and upset local constituents. Trevor Ivory has promised that he "can't wait to get rid of that nasty Mr Lamb. Give me just one election to beat him." Who does he think he is?
At this rate Norman Lamb's 10,606 majority will be rising on a daily baisis.

Mr Ivory is no stranger to controvesy after being forced to apologise for his call for Tony Blair to commit suicide to raise Labour morale! What a pleasant man (not!).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Remember Road Crash Victims

Sunday November 19th 2007 is designated World Day of Remembrance for RoadTraffic Victims. Services of remembrance and hope will be taking place across the world.

Please take this opportunity to pray for crash victims and their friends and families. We ask too, for prayers too for members of the emergencyservices, medical workers and those working in road safety education andawareness initiatives.

World-wide 1.26million people are killed in road crashes every year (that is 3450 every day!). Terrorist attacks and plane crashes may get the publicity-why are road deaths not treated with the same sense of outrage?

The first fatal road victim Bridget Driscoll was hit and killed by a "horseless carriage" at Crystal Palace in London in 1896. At her inquest, the coroner said, "we must ensure this tragedy is never repeated".

The struggle between people and power is the struggle between memory and forgetting and we must not forget the many millions of people who have met death or life changing injury on the roads. Road deaths are not natural deaths and should not be allowed to happen.


RoadPeace helpline 0845 4500 355

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Every day for Darfur

Yesterday was designated the Global Day but that is just a start.
Innocent civilians are being slaughtered: 400,000 people dead; 2.5 milion drived from their homes; Untold thousands raped, tortured and terrorised.
Ending the horror can only come about with immediate action by a strong UN peacekeeping force. That needs real commitment from world leaders.
When all the bodies have been buried in Darfur, how will history judge us?

Stop the Slaughter:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Reconciliation and Forgiveness

When we talk about empowering communities and encourage participation in the political process, partnership is key. Sometimes this means making new alliances and for that to happen, sometimes we need to make forgiveness and reconciliation happen.

This is a piece I have written for the Forgiveness Project.

“It was an acceptance really – not just that this is the way things are,but that this is the way things should be.”

In 1992, Simon Wilson, was the victim of a hit and run car crash in ruralNorfolk which left him chronically disabled. The driver was never caughtbut Simon’s experience led him to train for ordained ministry. He is aPublic Preacher and co-ordinates RoadPeace in East Anglia - a nationalorganisation working with people injured or bereaved through road crashes. He is also Chaplain to Norfolk Constabulary and Fire Service.For me forgiveness has been about making sense of what happened to me.I was 25, living with my parents and doing temporary work when early onemorning I was the victim of a hit and run accident. The car came fromnowhere, cut across me and forced me into the ditch. The next thing thatI knew was that I was in intensive care having undergone major emergencysurgery. I had a ruptured spleen, punctured lung and other severe internalinjuries. The driver was never found but apparently someone rung thehospital asking if a person had been brought in from a car crash. I don’tthink they wanted a fatality on their conscience.I was in hospital for three months and in the following years had 12 moreoperations. In one year alone I spent a hundred nights in hospital.Then, four years ago, I was told that my condition was incurable and thatthe prognosis was not good. In a way that was almost liberating becauseup until then I’d always thought I could fix it.Initially after the crash, I was very angry and because I didn’t know whoto direct this anger at. I became quite paranoid, wondering if someone inmy village had been out to get me. I wanted the person who’d done this tome to be suffering like I was. I’d never been someone to get easily angryand it was scary feeling this way. I became difficult to be around. But Iknew I had to work though it - find some sort of forgiveness so that Icould bring closure to the situation.Being in hospital or ill at home, day after day, you’re living withyourself and you have to face a lot of things: so increasingly I spent along time in deep reflection, and went through what might be described asa rite of passage. Eventually I came a point when I wasn’t angry with theperson who had done this to me anymore. It was a bit of an epiphany Isuppose. From that time on - when things began to make sense, when thehurt and bitterness had died down – that’s when I found myself in a placeof forgiveness. It was an acceptance really – not just that this is theway things are, but that this is the way things should be.In a spiritual sense I felt I’d been saved for something and as I becamemore vulnerable my faith became more important. I wish the accidenthadn’t happened, but it made me much stronger than I was before. I alsomet my wife when we were both training for ordination.Forgiveness is something you have to do every day and it’s something thatyou have to keep doing because anything can trigger that anger again. I’mnot angry that the driver wasn’t locked up, but sometimes I do feel angrythat they just drove off without checking to see if I was alive or dead.One thing I find difficult is that in church I’ve heard sermons aboutforgiveness and thought ‘who are you to tell me to forgive?’ It can soundso easy but it’s the hardest thing in the world. Some people within thechurch believe you can’t forgive unless the other person repents but to merepentance isn’t a condition of forgiveness because ultimately forgivenesscomes from within. Only I know whether I forgive or not.In my work with RoadPeace most of the victims or bereaved families I seesay they would like to forgive but can’t. However they do eventuallyreach a place of ease and move beyond anger. Sometimes people tell methat the person who caused the accident hasn’t been punished enough. Iunderstand where they’re coming from but I always say ‘what’s enough? Noone will ever be punished enough.’ Occasionally people really don’t wantto forgive and I find that sad because I’m in no doubt that not forgivingis detrimental. Bitterness builds up and spreads out to other people:marriages break up, people fall ill or lose their jobs. I think everyonehas the capacity to forgive but they sometimes need help finding thoseinner resources.Some people think I’m being pious telling people to forgive but actually Idon’t tell anyone to do anything, I simply tell people that the place I’vereached is a better place than the place I was at before.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Moving on

After 4 years in Hellesdon, Veronica and I are moving to Foulsham (near Fakenham) where she will be Rector to 5 rural parishes. I will continue with police and fire chaplaincy and am now also the Social Responsibility/Community officer for the Diocese on Norwich with a remit to cover areas such as criminal justice; asylum seekers, migrant workers and traffiking issues; housing; peace and reconciliation; International Development issues; Make Poverty History; HIV and Aids; health, wholeness and healing; interfaith and multicultural issues; community cohesion...
I also see this as a political position as it is about institutional change and welfare provision. Most importantly though, I will be journeying with people through life and enabling them to see the bigger picture.
I am a member of the Liberal Democrat Crime and Community policy working group and a member of the party's regional policy committee. We are moving to the new Broadland seat which is an interesting one...
I would reallly value any input on Social Responsibility issues.

PS I was humbled and astonished that my blog should reach the lofty heaights of 71st on Iain Dales list of the top 100 Lib Dem blogs Very encouraging indeed!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Speculation on top job finally over

After months of speculation and increasingly bitter internal divisions over future leadership issues, Nigel Worthington has finally parted company with Norwich City. In his 6 years in the Carrow Road hot seat, he took the club to a play off final and winning the championship in impressive style in 2004. Despite the odds stacked against them, Norwich so nearly avoided relegation from the premiership after just one season.

However, the last couple of years have seen disappointing performances on the pitch and some unfortunate signings. Now Delia Smith and the Board have agreed that it is time for a change.

A club with a magnificient loyal fanbase attracting 25000 to every home match and a fabulous ground coupled with top class training facilities deserves a manger worthy (no pun intended!) of ambition and optimism- a proven track record required (Alan Curbishley or Bryan Robson?) or someone like Mark Bowen (currently assistant at Blackburn) with a canary favourite like Iwan Roberts as an assistiant?

Sunday, September 10, 2006



There was once a man who had grown tired and cynical. Nothing brought him wonder or joy, and life itself held no magic. One day he decided to leave his own home town, where everything was familiar, and search for the perfect Magical City where had heard that all was different, new, full and rewarding. So he left. On his journey he found himself in a forest. He settled down for the night, prepared a fire and had a bite to eat. Before he retired for the night he was careful to take off his shoes and point them towards his destination. However, unknown to him, while he slept some students came and, seeking some fun, turned the shoes around. When the traveller awoke the next morning he carefully stepped into his shoes and continued on his way to the Magical City. After a few days, he found it-not quite as large as he had imagined. In fact, it looked somewhat familiar. He found a familiar street, knocked on a familiar door, met a familiar family he found there and lived happily ever after.

Moving is great. It is about new starts and opportunities, exploring and discovering new places, meeting strangers becoming friends. Somehow even the tiredest furniture can look fresh and funky in new surroundings. Nothing is more satisfying than a house lived in by others beginning to feel like home. Whilst a child, my family moved home frequently. By the age of 10, I had already moved 6 times. Surely little beats the excitement of the first day at a new school or the challenges of a new job. But as the parable above reminds us, moving forwards and new beginnings do not have to be drastic to be significant. Sometimes new visions and changed attitudes can be enough.

The Christian pilgrimage is a journey for eager travellers; for those who feel the constant tug of the road; for people liberated by challenges and opportunities; for those who love life but love it too much to commit themselves to only one part of it; for people who stay long enough to learn the truth of a place, but who eventually shoulder their pack and say goodbye. To be on a journey and re-pitch our tents is enough. For when we do that, we are following an inner urge, the voice calling from the depths.

So, as Veronica and myself move to Foulsham; as Veronica becomes Rector of Foulsham, Stibbard, Wood Norton, Guestwick and Themelthorpe; Simon Diocesan Co-ordinator for Social and Community Concerns; please pray for us as we pray for you and thanks for all you are and all you do.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

On the Ball City

The good times are back at Carrow Road

Friday, August 11, 2006

Please don't forget the Middle East

In the turmoil of yesterday's security developments, it would be easy to forget that peace is no reality yet in the Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. It is really good then to see that
the Archbishop of York is to embark on an act of ‘public witness’ to encourage people throughout the country to join him in a week long campaign of prayer and fasting for Peace in the Middle East. His initiative deserves wide support.

Starting on Sunday August 13th, The Most Revd. Dr. John Sentamu will forego his seven day holiday to Salzburg to camp inside York Minster where he will be asking people from all over the country to join him in heart and mind to pray every hour for peace in the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. As well as for good neighbourliness in this country.

“In the Middle East there are thousands of people sleeping in churches, bunkers, underground car parks and shelters in an attempt to escape from the bombs and rockets that are falling on both sides of the border” said the Archbishop.

“This act is a rallying call to people of all faiths and none, to encourage them to feel that there is something that can be done. The UN has a role, diplomacy has a role and our Government has a role to play in bringing this conflict to an end. But we as people also have a role to play in showing our common humanity with all those who are suffering.

“We have an opportunity to stand up and be counted with those in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine and all over the world who seek after Peace. This is what this week will be about, people coming together for one purpose alone – to pray for peace in our troubled world and to pray especially for the Middle East.

“I will be inviting people from all over the country to pause for a prayer and light a candle for peace. I will lead every day, on the hour, every hour for seven days. Just like those sleeping on the floors of bunkers, car parks and churches, I will also spend the week camped out sleeping in the Minster.

“Many thousands of people have been denied access to food and water as a result of the fighting. Why not join me in a spirit of fasting during the week by being prepared to forego a meal and donate the money to charities, like Save the Children fund, who are working in the conflict zone ? At a future date we must all give generously to the reconstruction of Northern Israel, Lebanon and Palestine.”

Monday, August 07, 2006

Middle East Cease-fire Petition

Right now a tragedy is unfolding in the Middle East. Hundreds of civilians have died in the bombings in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine and the death toll is rising every day.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an immediate ceasefire and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has joined Annan in calling for the deployment of international troops to the Israel-Lebanon border. This is the best proposal yet to stop the violence, but for it to succeed other global leaders need to get behind it immediately.

I have just signed a petition urging regional and global leaders to speak out and support Kofi Annan's proposal. If people around the world can persuade their governments to unite in demanding a ceasefire, all sides in this conflict will be pressured to stand down. Can you sign the petition too?

The petition will be sent to key regional and global leaders and publicized in major newspapers in the Middle East, US and Europe. With enough signatures we can help pressure our leaders to stop the violence.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Criminal Justice-views sought

As a member of the Liberal Democrat policy working group looking at issues related to crime in the community, I would be interested to hear the views of others on related issues such as restorative and community justice, the rights of victims and programmes aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour. Our challenge is to keep our liberal instincts intact yet still be shown to take cime seriously. Examples of good practise would be of particular interest.
Thank you.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fighting Poverty at home and abroad

Liberal Democrat Christian Forum commits to challenging poverty in England The Liberal Democrat Christian Forum (LDCF) have today welcomed the launch of the Church of England based urban regeneration charity as part of a new public campaign to tackle poverty in England, in the aftermath of a new churches’ report on urban life which said that Britain is divided society.‘Challenging Poverty’ is an initiative of the Church Urban Fund (CUF), which was established after the original 1985 ‘Faith in the City’ report. It will raise awareness of the plight of the 11.4 million people living below the poverty line in this country and encourage action in local communities. The extent of inequality and deprivations has been highlighted by the latest churches’ investigation ‘Faithful Cities’, published last month, which involved Methodists, Catholics and other faith communities in a two-year Anglican-led research process.The ‘Challenging Poverty’ campaign will enable CUF to continue its work with the top 10 per cent of the poorest communities in England, after intense discussions about its future. On behalf of LDCF, Rev’d Simon Wilson comments,
“We welcome this new dynamic and broad-based campaign aimed at supporting some of the poorest communities in our increasingly divided nation. We pray that through grassroots schemes, individual lives and whole communities will be transformed for good. The Liberal Democrats have a proud record of striving to bring hope to all those oppressed by poverty and powerlessness.”

The main church-based campaign group on inequality and deprivation across the UK is the ecumenical Church Action on Poverty. Fran Beckett, chief executive officer of the Church Urban Fund, said yesterday: “We live in the fifth richest country in the world and yet 20 percent of people live below the poverty line with 3.4 million of them being children. It is staggering that this level of poverty still exists in the 21st century and it is a scandal so many people believe impoverishment is invisible, when it is happening right on our doorstep.” The campaign will take place in two stages. The launch yesterday started the process of raising public awareness about poverty and the role of the Church Urban Fund. It aims to garner support from the community and attract a network of supporters. The second stage commences in October 2006 with the launch of fundraising initiatives targeted at individuals and businesses.People can support and find out more about the ‘Challenging Poverty’ campaign by going online at

criminal justice foum

Last week saw the launch of an ecumenical criminal justice forum for Norfolk at a well-attended meeting hosted by the Bishop of Norwich. A group of local judges, magistrates, senior police and probation officers, prison and police chaplains, lawyers and voluntary agencies such as Victim Support and denominational representatives have come together to form a network to engage with criminal justice issues from a Christian perspective and seek ways of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in the community by tackling their root causes and suggesting imaginative and effective deterrents.

The forum will be chaired by Norfolk Magistrate, Paddy Seligman under the episcopal oversight of the Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Rev’d James Langstaff, with Rev Simon Wilson, chaplain to Norfolk Police, acting as convenor. Various working groups will be formed to look at a variety of specific issues with Community Chaplaincy and Restorative Justice having been agreed as early priorities.

Last week’s meeting was an encouraging start to the work of this ecumenical forum. It was heartening to see so many people working in the criminal justice field come together to explore a Christian perspective to their work and committed to engaging with local churches and communities and making a real difference in an area of such topical concern to so many.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

BBC Radio Norfolk

Today was my regular spot as sofa-guest on Radio Norfolk's breakfast programme with Stephen Bumphrey. Stimulating and enjoyable as always, a range of subjects were discussed including "a good death", disability and Doctor Who. I was pleased to also be able to talk about my chaplaincy role and touch upon the comercialisation of Easter.
The Forum, in the centre of the city, currently has an exhibition of images of Christ from around the world which is very interesting and an appropriate reflection for Holy Week as we ask ourselves who Jesus is to us an what his death and resurection means for us today. There is more to Easter than chocolate eggs and bunnies.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Visiting Garboldisham

An interesting trip out today to speak at Thetford and Rockland Deanery Chapter about my book, the ministry of healing and RoadPeace-good discussion with some valuable points raised. There's always something new to hear.

Norwich City 2 Leicester City 1

Saturday proved not to be the most exciting atmosphere for this end of season run out at Carrow Road. Norwich fans turning to irony after a disappointing season. This was fifth home win in a row but the play-offs remain a distant mathematical possibility. We live in hope. There's always next year...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Power Report

The publication of the Power Report this week will have passed most people by. This is a shame, as the report is the most detailed examination yet of the reasons why people are becoming less and less interested in politics, to the point where more than one in three did not even bother to vote at last year’s general election.

And what does the independent report say? That the way to re-engage people is by giving them more influence and power - through a voting system that offers them greater choice, giving more powers to local communities to exercise for themselves, and a host of other reforms to increase the accountability and responsiveness of government. Amongst other things, it also calls for reform of the House of Lords, lowering the voting age to 16 and a new concordat between local, national and European political institutions.

As a Liberal Democrat, who has been campaigning for reform of our political structures as a means of revitalising the democratic for decades, the report is a breath of fresh air. I hope people will join us and the report’s authors in pushing the Government to listen to the people.


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent-that time for prayer and penitence; for self-denial and recommitment and for mutual preparation for the marking of Passiontide and Easter. It is not just about giving up the bad but about doing good in our own lives and our communities.
It was a privilege to worship this morning at St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norwich where the traditional ashing ceremony carried an addded poignancy. Each November, RoadPeace in East Anglia holds a serivce of Remembrance and Hope for Road Crash victims and as part of the service people present personalised oak leaves in memory their loved ones. These leaves signifying much love, pain and prayer were burnt (with traditional palm leaves) and the ash used in today's liturgy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Liberal Democrat Leadership Elections

Tomorrow, the Liberal Democrat Leadership campaign comes to an end. Having known Simon Hughes for nearly 20 years and over that time been impressed by his energy, vision and insight alongside a personal integrity embodying a vibrant faith with compassion and active commitment to the underdog and the impoverished, he is my choice for Leader as the Liberal Democrats enter a time of both challenge and opportunity.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Simon's blog space

Greetings from Hellesdon. Today is Sunday 26th February 2006. It is 0955 and this is the first post of my blog-a chance to share my musings with the wider world.