Questions, questions…

Another week of a world on fire on our TV screens.  It’s hard to know how to respond, isn’t it?

What can possibly be in the mind of someone who chants “England!” as they tear England apart?  Why are those who feel hated, rejected and outcast acting in a way which will ensure that they are even more hated, rejected and outcast?

Is it right for ordinary citizens (like these guys in Enfield) to take matters into their own hands?  Or does that run the risk of vigilantism – and who watches the watchers?  Are we watching a victory for local community spirit, or mob rule?  And what happens if groups with political/religious/ethnic agendas start pulling the strings?

(Are there other ways to respond?  Check out the Wolverhampton Clean-Up Macarena on YouTube for an example of something a bit different!)

What is so wrong with our world that such an outbreak of violence is just simmering under the surface, ready to explode?  Where has all this anger come from? – both the anger of the rioters themselves, and of bloggers, observers and commentators advocating their brutal and violent punishment?  (How many “kill them all!”-type comments have you seen on Facebook over the last few days?)

And where does our faith connect with it all?  On the Dock Walk this week we were chatting about the readings from the book of Romans featured on Wordlive last week (and continuing this week).  Paul was writing to a violent, unsettled culture, in a time of persecution and mob rule – and to a church which was catastrophically divided over several contentious subjects.  He wouldn’t have been surprised by the news this week.  His instructions to the Christians of Rome are as relevant, as challenging, and as difficult to put into practice as ever:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

If you have time, the last 2 weeks of Wordlive teaching on Romans have been phenomenally good and really worth checking out – and you can catch up on those passages dealing with conflict by clicking the date at the top of the page and navigating to the 2nd/3rd/4th August).  Or you can pray these words from the Psalms (I made this video last year, when the violence had kicked off in parts of Belfast, but it’s no less relevant today):

UPDATE – and it looks like there are some answers – not complete answers, nothing that says the problem is solved forever, but a story (like the Wolverhampton one above) that says there is hope: click here to read about the armies of broom-wielding cleaner-uppers who are taking to the streets of devastated cities to help sweep up the mess. Brooms – the symbol of a community fighting back? asks the article. If they are, that’s the kind of servant-leadership battle that I reckon Paul would approve of…

The L AS M is ne rly f nish d!

Confused?!  Anagram skills to the fore on the Dock Walk yesterday, as we stood beside the beautiful new Metropolitan College campus and filled in the blanks on the sign!  (I imagine it’s going to be ‘Belfast Met’).  We found out that the building is due to be officially handed over from the construction company this Friday – so they still have 4 days left to fill in the final letters!

The transformation of the Met from scaffolding-covered skeleton to gleaming new campus has been one of the most striking bits of progress during my 18 months in the TQ.  And now only a few weeks until that transformation is complete and the building is thronged with thousands of students.  Exciting times!

(and it’s good to see the Met continuing the grand TQ tradition of leaving signs unfinished over the weekend – as you can see from the picture to the right, they’re not the first…

The Original Brucie

Or, ‘Ismay Dismay’ – couldn’t decide on a title for this blog – too many good ones!

So anyway, the Titanic Walking Tour group yesterday was the biggest ever – a new record!  52 people turned up on a rather grey Friday afternoon to walk through a building site to see the wonderful, evocative glimpses of Titanic heritage that are still tantalisingly on view – if you know where to look.

So it got me thinking again about the huge, enduring appeal of this story.  No matter where you’re from, what you do, who you are – it seems that the Titanic story exerts an irresistible fascination – it’s why That Movie was so successful across the board.  Whether you wept for Jack and Rose (I’ll never let go, Jack!) or for the beautiful piece of engineering and technology sinking to the bottom of the ocean (But this ship can’t sink! -She is made of iron, sir, and I assure you, she can), there was something for everyone to weep at…

And it’s the story that just keeps giving.  This week there were lots of newspaper articles about Bruce Ismay – the splendidly-moustachio’d Chairman of the White Star Line, who is one of the most famous and fascinating characters of the whole tragedy.  Titanic was Bruce’s idea, his vision – and his downfall.  It was he and William Pirrie, during a post-dinner brainstorming session, who came up with the audacious concept of the Olympic Class liners – the largest and most luxurious ships ever built.

So there must have been a huge satisfaction for Ismay as he joined Titanic’s maiden voyage – a vision become reality.  But when the iceberg struck, the dream turned into a nightmare.  He escaped the sinking ship on one of the last lifeboats, but when the Carpathia arrived in New York with the survivors on board, Bruce discovered that the world had turned against him.  Everyone wanted to find a bad guy – someone who could be the focus of all the anguish and grief – and Bruce, by being the Chairman of the line and having the temerity to escape the disaster, became that bogeyman.  The press tore into him, labelling him “Yellow Bruce”, and starting the rumours (never actually proved, but they stuck anyway) that Ismay had been bribing Captain Smith to speed up for a record-breaking arrival in New York, and that he had escaped the sinking ship by disguising himself as a woman.   (If you look at the picture you’ll see that Bruce actually had one fairly prominent facial feature which would make it quite difficult for him to pass as a woman, but there you go!)

So much we already knew – but new letters have emerged in a book published this week to add even more spice to the story.  It turns out that Bruce Ismay spent the rest of his life (he moved to a remote part of Co.Galway) confiding his pain not to his wife, Florence, but to another lady he had met on Titanic.  Maybe he felt he could only really talk to another survivor of the tragedy (Florence had not been with him on the ship).  But the tragic consequence was that Ismay’s marriage became more and more distant and frosty, while he poured out his heart in anguished letters to another woman – who, recognising the potential scandal, very wisely distanced herself further and further.  Which made Bruce disclose himself all the more.  Which made her withdraw all the faster.  Which made…. and so on!

Poor Bruce ended his days a virtual recluse.  Even now his name isn’t clear – That Movie cast him (again) as the bad guy, and dramatised that scurrilous rumour about the bribing of Captain Smith.  He was the man who conceived of the greatest ship ever built, but he is remembered as the man who scuttled on to the last lifeboat.

What a story!  What a fascinating, flawed, tragic character.  And Bruce’s story is just one piece of the compelling jigsaw of the Who’s, Why’s and If Only’s of the Titanic.  No wonder we can’t stop talking about it.

How many?

Today’s Wordlive session is hugely appropriate for Dock-World – from the opening question (Guess how many Christian denominations there are worldwide. Hundreds? Thousands?) through to a really challenging response to a beautiful passage from Romans. The Dock heartily recommends Wordlive every day, but especially worth checking out today!

The link is here.  (You can navigate to Friday 5th Aug by clicking on the date if you want to track down this specific reading.)

And by the way, what’s your guess in answer to that question?  The answer is… 33,000! Surely something’s wrong…

The next page of the story

Business Plans are where it’s all at! Did any fellow Apprentice-addicts notice that despite how good they might’ve been at selling (go Jim!), closing lucrative deals (go Helen!), being nice (go Tom!) or saying “Yeah?” (go Natasha!), the final of the Apprentice this year completely rested on the quality of the Business Plans which the contestants had prepared before the process all started?

It was a good month to be launching The Dock’s very own Business Plan.  The Dock began with creativity, conversation, faith, excitement – but it’s right and responsible that those things are tied to clear-eyed practical reality and thorough research.  The Dock Business Plan is an attempt to marry bold vision and common sense – to suggest that the time is right, the sums add up, and the foundation is solid.

So – welcome to the Story of the Dock Business Plan:

If you’d like your very own copy (it’s even prettier in the flesh!), please don’t hesitate to get in touch (through the ‘Contact Us’ tab on the website) – or you can download a PDF version here (though be warned, it’s a big file – make sure you have a fast internet connection!)

So let me know what you think – all feedback gratefully received…

(and PS – the Business Plan is living proof of the difference a team makes. The first two scrappy little booklets were solo efforts – whereas the beautiful, glossy Business Plan is the work of a hugely-appreciated team. Special shout-outs to Chris Hollies (who wrote it) and Andi Mac (who designed it). Not All By Myself any more!)