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Hear the Revd Kate Harrison’s faith journey

In the run up to Vocations Sunday (Sunday 7 May) hear the Revd Kate Harrison, a curate in Windsor, talk about her journey to ordination.

And don’t forget to sign up to: https://www.oxford.anglican.org/event/i-lord-day-exploring-ordination-young-people/

Revd Kate serves up pints at the Queen Charlotte

A CURATE from Windsor is serving people who might never set foot in church by pulling pints at one of her local pubs.

Kate behind the bar with Jess Hunter from the pub.

The Revd Kate Harrison, a Curate in Windsor, will be working a shift at the Queen Charlotte, which is opposite Windsor Castle, every month. After her first shift she said: “Lots of people were surprised to see me there, but everyone, without exception, was hugely positive. One regular said it was lovely to see the Church ‘being normal’.”

“Jesus, I’m sure, would have been in the pub, meeting people in their everyday lives and talking about the things that mattered to the individual. I know from my pub work when I was a student that being behind a bar puts you in a privileged position in sharing lives. People are open and trusting. They will share joy as much as pain, and all of that is precious. This is what we do in pastoral encounters as a priest anyway, of course, but there are so many people we can’t reach if we place ourselves too far away from them.” Kate is also running a Lent course in this pub and will be giving a blessing at the opening of their gin festival later in the year.

In 2015 Kate and her incumbent, the Revd Ainsley Swift, were involved in providing a Beer and Hymns style event at Windsor Rugby Club. Read the story here. 

Happy Birthday Your Majesty

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THE Queen started her 90th birthday celebrations unveiling a plaque in front of crowds of onlookers in Windsor. Since then parties have continued across the UK. Here are some of the highlights from this Diocese.

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Meeting Her Majesty in Windsor

by Jo Duckles

THE sun came out as the Royal car pulled up for the start of the Queen’s birthday tour of Windsor. Crowds had lined the streets, some sleeping out all night to get a ‘front-row’ place to see Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Mayor of Windsor, Cllr Eileen Quick, and her husband, the Revd John Quick, a member of the Windsor Team Ministry, escorted the Queen and Prince Philip throughout the day, along with the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, James Puxley.

HRH Queen Elizabeth walks through Windsor on her 90th birthday on 21 April 2016. Photo Reuters/John Stillwell.

HRH Queen Elizabeth walks through Windsor on her 90th birthday on 21 April 2016. Photo Reuters/John Stillwell.

The celebration on 21 April marked the Queen’s real birthday. Nationally the festivities are continuing throughout May and June, including on 11 June, her official birthday.
Eileen said: “When Prince Philip arrived he asked us whether we had organised the weather as the sun had come out. He asked John why he wasn’t wearing a dog collar, and where he ministered.” At the Guildhall the Queen was presented with a gift from the town – four corgi and dorgi coats.

“She was so delighted with them, it was lovely. She laughed and her eyes lit up. She was introduced to the councillor who had done the embroidery for us.”
The next part of the day was presenting 20 90-year-olds from the Royal Borough of Maidenhead and Windsor to the Queen, before young people sang and Nadiya Hussain from the BBC’s Great British Bake-off gave her a birthday cake.

“Everyone really enjoyed themselves. We ordered 20 copies of the Bible Society’s The Servant Queen and the King She Serves to give to the 90-year-olds. The foreword was written by the Queen and is full of lovely moments from her reign.”

John was privileged to be one of those to set off one of the Cannons for the 21 Cannon Salute “Children and people with birthdays were asked to do the rest,” said Eileen. “That evening John and I were presented to Her Majesty again with Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. ” The Royal entourage had returned for the lighting of the first of 900 birthday Beacons that were due to be lit around the country. It was such a lovely day. Her Majesty and the Duke were happy, the crowds were ecstatic. I couldn’t count the many bunches of flowers and gifts that were passed over from visitors.”

The Queen’s real birthday, on April 21st, prompted parties, services and celebrations across the UK. These continued with a birthday party from 12 to 15 May at Windsor Castle www.hmq90.co.uk The party, attended each evening by a member of the Royal Family, with the Queen being present on the last evening, was set to provide a 90 minute spectacular celebration of her life, her love of horses, her dedication to the Commonwealth and international affairs and her deep involvement with the Navy, Army and Air Force. It was the only time in the year the public were allowed into the castle grounds.

God in the Life Of

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Dr Gavin Koh tells Jo Duckles about his life from growing up in Singapore to his work finding treatments for diseases that affect some of the poorest people on the planet.

Dr Gavin Koh in Windsor.

Dr Gavin Koh in Windsor.

Gavin and I enjoy a coffee in All Bar One in Windsor, where he lives because the Berkshire town is just 20 minutes away from Heathrow Airport and his work regularly takes him all over the world. The tropical diseases specialist was born in Singapore and while his parents weren’t Christian, his grandmother converted from Buddhism to Roman Catholicism. “She was very active in the church and visited the elderly. She taught me the Bible and how to sing hymns.”

Gavin was a pupil at St Andrew’s Mission School, in Singapore, where his mother was a teacher. “The education was very Anglican. If I’d gone to a Roman Catholic school maybe I would have been Roman Catholic. I had an uncle who was Roman Catholic and my other grandmother was Anglican.” While his grandfather was a medic, Gavin did not initially feel drawn to medicine, dropping A level biology in favour of physics and pure maths, and expecting to become a computer programmer. “I admire the beauty of the abstract. With maths I didn’t have to learn anything more than the first principles. With biology I had to memorise pages and pages of facts. There are two ways I would describe vocation. You might have known from the age of five you were going to be a medical doctor and used a toy stethoscope to listen to your teddy’s heart. Another is that you try a number of doors, and only one opens,” says Gavin.

With four As at A level, Gavin was told he could do anything and was disappointed when he was not accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Stanford. So he decided his path was to be medicine after all. “So through obedience and gritted teeth I went to Cambridge. If you believe in God’s calling then this was it. I arrived and sat through the first few lectures and thought I’d come home. It was so against the way my mind works and yet it felt like it was the right thing to do.” Specialising in infectious diseases and tropical medicine, Gavin worked in the NHS for seven years before returning to Cambridge for a PhD. His research was around melioidosis, a disease found in the soil and surface water in Singapore.

“The main reason people haven’t heard about it is because it affects people who have spent a lot of time in the soil. Rice farmers are not the richest people in the world and I learnt that unless a rich westerner dies of a disease, no one cares. It is something that plays out again and again and again,” he says. “America was last interested during the Vietnam War, but once the war was over everyone forgot about it,” says Gavin.
In 2013 Gavin became the Director of Clinical Development for Diseases of the Developing World at the global healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Gavin explained that GSK is such a big, established company with a product range big enough to fill any Boots store.

“I wanted to do something with a concrete impact,” says Gavin. “The fact remains that drug discoveries and new treatments only come from drug companies. No university has the manufacturing power or regulatory contacts or even the finance to develop a drug,” says Gavin, whose work includes research into Malaria. The majority of funding for the work he does comes from GSK, but agencies including the Gates Foundation and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) make important contributions.

“I don’t have direct contact with patients any more and whatever job you do, there are always going to be frustrations, but you have to have a reason to wake up in the morning. I am pleased to say that the job I do gives me that even on the worst days. I know it will produce a new medicine for people who actually need it. The unit is never going to make a lot of money because but we do it because the World Health Organisation, one of our external partners, tells us that the medicines we are developing are the medicines the world needs.”

Gavin says that undoubtedly his Christian faith influences his work. “There is the inner spiritual life, but the Church more than any other organisation exists for the benefit of non-believers. It’s about knowing that the reason God put you on this earth is not to serve yourself or your own inner wants, needs, desires or pleasures but that your purpose in life has to be so much broader than just what you can see. The example of Christ is to do the right thing and to do good without counting the cost. I am a little uncomfortable saying that though, as I really don’t feel I’ve made huge sacrifices for my career.”

Worshipping at Clewer St Stephen’s, Gavin tries to be as active in church as possible. “The tradition is high Anglo Catholic and I sang the Psalm on Sunday, and I’m also an altar server. “I do what I can to help but it must be frustrating for people because my works takes me away for extended periods of time. It’s a privilege to travel so much. Last year I spent a lot of time in Ethiopia, in Gondar, ancient capital of the kingdom of Abyssinia and home to the ancient rock-hewn churches of Lalibela . The churches are actually cut from the living rock. I would have never seen those places if it wasn’t for my job. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to experience new cultures, meet the people who will benefit from the new medicine and to understand the difficulties people face in these countries.”
Of course Gavin misses his friends and family in Singapore and when we met he had recently returned from a trip home to celebrate the Chinese New Year. That is a state holiday and a time for family celebrations that nearly always coincides with Ash Wednesday.  “I also miss the food. Singapore is Asia’s meeting point and there are Indian curries, Malay food and Chinese food from different provinces in the South of China that you would not find in the UK,” says Gavin, whose favourite dish is laksa lemak, a noodle dish in a curry and coconut sauce.

On the edge or at the centre?

On the edge or at the centre? That’s the question that will be raised by a conference this month bringing together chaplains from hospitals, prisons, schools and colleges and town centres.

Organised by the Ven. Martin Gorick, the Archdeacon of Oxford, the event will see the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (better known as Dr Rowan Williams, pictured right) as the keynote speaker.

Martin, whose role includes a special responsibility for chaplaincy work, says: “The senior staff really value the work of our chaplains. Their ministry is front line in the same way that parish priest ministry is front line. Chaplaincy reaches areas traditional parish ministry can’t reach.”

And it is a role that hits a key demographic for the Church of England. “Chaplains are working with a higher proportion of young people than you would find in a parish church. On the census the groups coming out as less religious are students, and people in their 20s and 30s. These are people in the Forces, in universities and schools and, unfortunately, in our prisons

“I have spent a day with a chaplain in a prison and a day with the Coldstream Guards in Windsor as they were just about to go off on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I’ve had a day meeting the chaplaincy team at the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals in Oxford, and serve on the chaplaincy council at Oxford Brookes University,” says Martin, who has also visited chaplains at Wellington and Eton Colleges. We have around a hundred chaplains working in the diocese, full and part time, some self-supporting. “With only around a day a month to give to this work I can’t spend days with them all, but a conference seemed an ideal way to gather this key group together.”

The theme of “On the Edge or at the Centre” arose after conversations with chaplains. “They feel they are on the edge of the Church because they will be the only Anglican minister in a specific place. They can feel on the edge of their secular institution too but at the same time they are at the centre of the Church’s mission to often unchurched young people and young adults.” Are they on the edge or at the centre? “I would say they are both at the same time,” says Martin, who was previously a chaplain for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He likened the role of a chaplain to that of the fool in Shakespeare’s plays. “The fool is the person closest to the king or queen. They are at the centre of an institution yet on the edge at the same time. One role is to cheer people up, making people feel better about themselves. They also help the leaders to ask key questions of themselves.” Perhaps a chaplain has that role? “You can definitely see that in the lives of some chaplains. There is a role in ‘speaking the truth to power’ and a chaplain can have that gently subversive role. It’s a very important part to play.”

Martin was delighted that Rowan Williams had agreed to speak. “He’s a great speaker and it’s a tremendous affirmation to our chaplains that he is prepared to come and give up time to meet with them and share his thoughts and reflections. He will celebrate Communion at the end of the day and also meet young people at the college. I’m very much looking forward to his keynote speech. As Archbishop he was ‘Chaplain to the Nation’ in a way and I know he will have interesting things to share.”

The conference takes place on 10 December at Wellington College. Go to www.eventsforce.net/chaplainsconference2014 to book.