St John’s Social Group Update – November 2013

There have been two meetings of the group this autumn and oddly there was found to be a link between the two which wasn’t evident until the second meeting. Both of our speakers had suffered from and recovered from breast cancer and were inspired to raise money for cancer charities, one by running marathons and the other by climbing Mount Kenya for charity. Both were very driven individuals who have taken very different paths in life and yet shared the same ambition to help others through their own experience.

September’s meeting was an interesting and thought provoking talk by Andrea Minichiello Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern and the work of the Christian Legal Centre accompanied by her assistant Paul Huxley. Andrea talked about her ambition to become a barrister when she was very young and her path to forming the Christian Legal Centre and Christian Concern in 2007.

Christian Concern exists to speak of Jesus Christ in public life through the courts, government and the media. It aims to put the hope of Christ at the heart of the nation.

Top of the agenda was clearly abortion and the protection of unborn foetuses, though the CLC has fought other cases concerning religious freedom, employment, bioethics, fostering, sexual orientation, Islam and equality. Andrea illustrated her talk with examples of where the CLC had defended Christians in a number of varied cases, several of which were already familiar to those present at the talk. These included Gary MacFarlane who was sacked from his job for refusing to provide counselling for same sex couples and Shirley Chaplin a nurse who was moved from her job to another for wearing a crucifix on a chain to work.

November’s meeting was an illustrated talk and presentation entitled ‘Climbing Mount Kenya for Charity’ with a visual presentation by Lesley Shipway on her expedition to Mount Kenya, at 5,199 metres (17,057 feet) the second highest mountain in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro. Lesley used ropes and tackle for the climb, some of which were on display and which she demonstrated for the benefit of those who attended.

Lesley explained how she acquired a love of climbing at an early age starting whilst a police cadet and on climbs in Wales and the Lake District, progressing to climbs all over the world in the Alps, Himalayas, Africa and India. Weekends and holidays have for many years been devoted to climbing.

The climb was in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support for whom she raised £23,000. She commenced the expedition not long after receiving the ‘all clear’ having completed over 300 appointments with specialists, consultants and in rehabilitation. An 80 mile round trip hike from their drop off point to the foot of the mountain was followed by the last 1500 feet involving a vertical ascent and descent with a bivouac at the summit in sub-zero temperatures having walked and climbed at altitude. Lesley had actually visited Mount Kenya previously and had found that the glacier at its foot had melted considerably since her last visit largely due to de-forestation causing climate change.

The talk and presentation was interesting and informative not only in terms of the climb, but also in giving a flavour of Kenya, its poverty and the government’s attempts to move this away from Nairobi; also the creeping influence of the Chinese in its affairs.

This was the last meeting of 2013 as the planned trip to Chichester was cancelled at the request of the PCC. The attendance of the last two meetings of 2013, around 30 at each tends to suggest that the group has a future after a poor attendance at some of the meetings earlier in the year. Finding speakers has not been a problem since the group was re-launched in 2012 though, encouraging attendees has.

Unfortunately due to pressure of work I am standing down, though Fr Kevin would be pleased to hear from anyone who might want to take on the lead role in the running of the group.

John Orchard


Updated: 22 December 2015 — 10:36 am
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