Monday, 21 December 2009


Maths supply teacher Olive Jones has been suspended after offering to pray for a sick pupil. We've heard a few stories of 'persecuted' Christians recently, such as Caroline Petrie, the carer who offered to pray for her patient. I felt compelled to write something about the link between faith and work after reading about Olive [pictured]. Firstly, well done to both women for talking about this so openly in the media and making sure everyone is aware of the problem. Divine healing is an exceptionally complex issue as it cannot ever be proven in stone, but this is irrelevant really - many people believe God heals and that Christian belief should be respected by all.

I think the main issue here is that a Christian has been suspended for offering to practicise their beliefs in the workplace. Maybe Olive should have prayed for the child on her own without telling them? But she didn't actually pray for them anyway - as far as we know - because the mother said they were not believers. So has she actually done anything wrong? It seems somebody thinks she did. I think that offering to pray for a friend, and them saying 'no', is fine. They're unlikely to formely complain about you to anybody - just politely say 'no'. I think many non-Christians actually wouldn't mind being prayed for by a Christian, as it's a no-lose situation really - it can't make their illness worse.

But when you take the offer of prayer into the workplace, and get suspended from your job because of it, that concerns me a little. I don't see faith and work as two separate things, and think there are many positives from being a good Christian in the workplace. But it seems even offering to pray for someone is off-limits in North Somerset. This is an interesting topic, and I'm not sure what I think yet, but eagerly await the results of the council's investigation.

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Whenever we get a bit of snow in this country, everything goes into meltdown. Schools close, roads shut, trains stop - and it's not ideal. In fairness, most railway lines over the last week - including my local one, c2c, and the London Underground - have continued to operate with a minimum of fuss. And my old senior school stayed open last Friday. But Eurostar was a different case altogether. During probably their busiest week of the year, with people returning home for Christmas across the channel or going away for a short break, five trains got stuck in the channel tunnel on the same day. The result has been travel chaos, with 2,000 people stranded underground at one point, having little idea of what was happening. It's not impressive. Eurostar has been a successful venture and it's great that Paris and London are so close in travel time nowadays, but I can't imagine this is going to help their sales next year.

The company has apologised and offered refunds, but that will be little consolation to those who were hoping to get away (or get home) for Christmas. I also think it must be one of the first times in history that a transport company has asked people only to travel with them if it's "absolutely necessary"! I hardly think many people book an expensive train journey on the off-chance that they might travel to France on that day. Almost everyone's journey will be 'absolutely necessary' as far as I can see. Hopefully Eurostar - and other travel companies - can learn from the mistakes of this episode (both technically and organisationally) and ensure that when the next cold snap arrives, it doesn't freeze up the transport system. In the 21st century, we can't be having cross-channel trains break down a few days before Christmas. Hopefully Eurostar can emerge from the happenings of the last few days better prepared for next year.

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Well done to FC Barcelona. Again. The Independent reports that they have now become the first team to ever win every competition entered in one season. The Catalans' 2-1 win over Estudiantes in the World Club Championship at the weekend capped off a remarkable year for Pep Guardiola [pictured]. There aren't many teams in history as good as this Barca side. From Lionel Messi to Carlos Puyol, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Xavi, the side's talents are astounding. Manchester City might have spent more money on their squad, including the likes of Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez, but it isn't just money that buys you success, as their ex-manager Mark Hughes discovered on Saturday.

Barcelona show that you need an excellent team spirit, top coaching, superb fans, a good youth system - and a little bit of cash too. Amazingly, Guardiola (a former Barca player) had no top-flight experience of being a manager before signing up at the Nou Camp 18 months ago, so talk about 'being thrown in at the deep end'. But he has taken the job in his stride and achieved a record no manager in the world has ever secured. A good crop of players helps, but the boss is so important in football. Just look at England under Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello - almost the same players but a completely different culture in the side who have achieved good things already. Guardiola has labelled his side 'immortals'. It's maybe a bit over-the-top, but I'm not going to argue with him...