The times they are a-changin’!

 Really? Yes, really!

 Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

You could pick any verse from the song penned by Bob Dylan in 1964 and find a relevance and a pertinence for today. Is it that long ago? It really is worth a listen, or if not then a read of what this icon of protest was imploring us to do. Incidentally, I see that Dylan has a new album out and that it has apparently impressed the plaudits!

If you have happened across more than one of these articles, written every month now for around three-and-a-half years (that makes about 40-odd!), you will aware that I am greatly influenced and inspired by things I hear on the radio. One of my favourites is “From our own correspondent”, hosted by one of the greatest of them all, Kate Adie and with fascinating reports from all around the world. Other journalists I greatly respect are Caroline Wyatt, Oral Guerin, Lyse Doucet and of course the currently omnipresent Laura Kuensberg and Katya Adler. They, as you must have noticed, are all women too!

The company of women is something I treasure. They cannot be avoided! After all, I live with two of them! When I am at work, I spend a lot of time with women. In our Modern Languages Department, 8 out of 10 team members are women. Women inspire me, interest me, fascinate me, excite me, challenge me, motivate me. I have had the good fortune to work with many great women I greatly respect and admire and still do. For I am a feminist in the true sense of the word.  Of course, though, there are some who have made life very difficult for me from time to time over a 39-year professional career.

I freely admit to often listening to Woman’s Hour and I caught a really interesting episode this last week, with Brian Eno, the musical genius and erstwhile member of Roxy Music, a highly successful band in the 1970s: “Let’s work together”, “Love is the drug” and of course “Virginia Plain”. Was Brian the first to feature the oboe as a solo instrument on a rock track in the latter?

Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, was born Brian Peter George Eno, 15 May 1948) and is an English musician, record producer, visual artist, and theorist best known for his pioneering work in ambient music and contributions to rockpop and electronica. In fact, his career with Roxy Music was short-lived, lasting for about two years and a similar number of albums and his departure from the band came in 1973, resulting from tensions with frontman, Bryan Ferry.

Among his many achievements, Eno has become something of a social commentator and his provocative piece this last week was on the subject of leadership and the absolute need for change. He compared three countries who had performed well so far through the C-19 pandemic and three who had clearly not. On the one hand New Zealand, Germany and Taiwan… on the other the US, the UK and Brazil.

On the one side Jacinta Ardern, Angela Merkel and Tsai Ing-wen…. on the opposite Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro. Three women and three men. Three empathetic listeners, three rumbustious talkers. You must make your choice!

Brian Eno’s call for change in styles of leadership, may be made upon a crude, idealistic comparison, though it is no less significant for that.

A few days ago the former Prime Minister, John Major, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4. If you had not known his past, you could have been forgiven for thinking that this was a Socialist speaking, for much of what he said seemed to have more in common with Jeremy Corbyn than Margaret Thatcher: state intervention, huge borrowing for infrastructure projects, the eradication of homelessness, the challenge of removing the need for foodbanks in this the 5th or 6th richest country in the world and so on and so on….

For the times, they are a-changin’ !

In a teaching career lasting over 33 years and perhaps now nearing its end I have seen many movements and initiatives come and go, some of which have become embedded in teaching and learning practice. One such was .. or is … “Every child matters”.

The “Every Child Matters” initiative informed policy development in the area of services for children and young people in England after it appeared in 2004. The Government’s aim, it was stated, was “for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support they need to: be healthy; stay safe; enjoy and achieve; make a positive contribution; and achieve economic well-being”.

It seems that every now and then some cataclysmic event, or a combination of several in the current case, galvanizes society into frenetic activity.

This is the nub of it all because God’s word tells us that each one of us matters, irrespective of race, religion, social status, gender, sexual orientation. There are countless stories of Jesus drawing near to the marginalised in society that we read in the Bible and no doubt many more that have not been re-told, because as we are informed, there would not be a medium that could contain them all. I believe that was said before the invention of the i-cloud!

John Bell of the Iona Community presented the Morning Service on Sunday 29th June 2020 Service with colleagues in different parts of Scotland and as remote as the Western Isles (where we should have been a couple of months ago) and interspersed with music from Aly Bain, the gifted Shetland fiddler amongst others.

He spoke of one of the great insights of the Bible being that God does not always do the expected thing through the expected people. It was the prophets who were the movers and shakers in Israel’s history and they had three great callings:

  1. to convince people that the past was not without its faults
  2. to provide a measure of consolation
  3. to offer glimpses of a better world to which they could aspire.

These things are all to be found in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Isaiah begins with a critique of what has gone wrong and speaks on behalf of God in uncompromising terms, firstly about a lapse in faith. Later God comments on the mistreatment of the vulnerable in words which seem very pertinent given recent demonstrations against racial inequality.

If you can access it, I urge you to read John’s presentation at this service for it tackles so well the issues of our own fallibility and ignorance and of the insights that this terrible virus has afforded us: the importance of our husbandry of the environment, the vulnerability of particular sections of our society, the consideration of the uncomfortable aspects of our past. We cannot wipe these away, but rather we need to learn from them. Much of the wealth and prosperity of this great nation of ours was built on the profits of slavery. Many of our buildings and great institutions exist because of the gains made at the expense of others, through systemic exploitation.

How many times (this calls to mind another Dylan song, “Blowin’ in the wind”) must we be given the lesson, before we take heed?

To conclude, some elements of today’s prayer:

  • help us not to fear the future, but to identify signs of hope
  • help us to encourage every angel of mercy
  • reveal to us our better selves,
  • may our leaders have humility
  • help them to listen to the dreamers more than the schemers

Psalm 139 says

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

May these words be the vehicle for change and may we seize the opportunity!


Peter Lambert 28th June 2020