“It was early morning & fresh snow lay in the streets of Praque. Everything was fairly fresh in those days-the mid-1990s. A few years earlier, the Communist regime had fallen in the course of the “Velvet revolution,” along with its monopoly of political & police power, & for the first time in decades genuine parliamentary democracy was restored. The church & the university once more enjoyed freedom. That turn of events wrought enormous changes in my life: during the 1970s, I had been secretly ordained abroad at a time or religious repression at home that had already lasted decades. Not even my mother, with whom I lived, was allowed to know I was a priest. For eleven years, I performed my priestly duties clandestinely in an “underground church.” Now I was able to function openly, freely, as a priest, without any risk of repression, in the newly created university parish in the heart of Old Praque. After years during which I had to give lectures on philosophy solely as part of clandestine courses in private homes organised by the “flying university,” Could only publish in samizdat, I was able to return to the university, write for the newspapers, & publish books. But on that particular winter morning I was headed, not for the church or the university, but for the parliament building. Among the novelties of those days was the custom, established a few years earlier, of inviting member of the clergy to the parliament once a year, just before Christmas, to deliver a brief meditation to the assembled members of parliament& senators prior to the last sitting before the Christmas vacation. Yes, everything was still fairly fresh & retained a whiff of newly won freedom. Yet a few years had passed since the “Velvet Revolution,” & the first waves of euphoria & its heady confrontation with open spaces were things of the past. The initial illusions had evaporated & many previously unsuspected problems & complications were appearing in public life. A dread of open spaces was creeping into society, literally a fear of the marketplace. Almost everything imaginable was suddenly available in goods & ideas, but many people were confused & puzzled by the enormous diversity of what was on offer & the necessity of making choices. Some got a headache from the sudden blinding profusion of colour, & they even began to miss the black & white world of yesteryear, although it had been tediously & boringly grey. I concluded my words to the parliament with reference to Jesus moving through the crowds in Jericho, & unexpectedly addressing a chief tax collector who is secretly observing him from the branches of a fig tree. I compared the story with the behaviour of Christians in our own country when , after the fall of Communism, Christ’s followers came out freely into the open after so many years, when they noticed many who applauded them & a few who had previously shaken their fists at them. What they didn’t notice however was that all the trees around them were full of Zacchaeuses; those who were unwilling or unable to join the throng of old or brand-new believers, but were neither indifferent nor hostile to them. They were curious seekers, but at the same time they wanted to maintain a certain distance.” (Patience & God; Tomas Halik)
Most of you will be aware already that the GDPR (Data Protection) Regulations come into effect today (25th May 2018) We each have specific rights (to be informed, of access, of rectification, of erasure, of restriction on processing, on data portability...the right to object & rights related to automated decision making & profiling.) On advice from the Abbey & College & the Diocese we are implementing a process to ensure that we give sure protection to your personal data. You will find on our website, & at the back of Church, the Parish Privacy Notice which outlines our best practise. Please do read this important document. You will also be asked to take home this weekend a Data Consent Form which needs to be completed in full to allow the Parish to use your personal data for Parish/Diocese needs. You will see from the form that there are various options to allow you to decide which areas of information you wish us to hold & keep safe. We need a Consent Form for each family member over the age of thirteen. It would be helpful if you would name children under thirteen on your own individual Consent Form. Please ensure that the Form is returned to the Parish Office in a secure envelope as soon as possible. Until we receive your Form we are not permitted to make contact with you, as you have yet to give your express permission. I am sure related issues will emerge in the coming days, & we will ensure you are kept well informed. Our Lendwithcare initiative goes from strength to strength. Following a generous donation of £1000, we now have £2800 on deposit to be loaned out to individuals across the world who need initial funding to start small family businesses. As their venture makes profit, they repay our loan to the parent body, which is then invested for others we choose. We have made 34 loans so far, helping 236 individuals & 626 family members, creating 63 new jobs. For example £250 to a butcher in Zimbabwe, £176 to a cobbler in Pakistan, £300 to a bakery in the Philipines. Please keep those we support in your prayers. With love & prayers, Fr Bede.