Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Thinking ahead

There were over twenty of us for the annual Tuesday Group Christmas lunch today. It was a pleasant occasion in our usual venue, a large pub with a restaurant carvery serving turkey, ham or beef with a choice of half a dozen different vegetables. Ours was just one of several groups enjoying a seasonal lunch and relaxed conversation together. The staff were working amazingly hard to ensure client turnover at a reasonable rate, so that nobody had to queue for too long. Despite the down turn in eating out as a result of the recession, this remains a popular eaterie, but it must be tough to stay profitable. Everyone has to work harder to stay in work.

After lunch, I went back into town on the bus for a meeting. After I'd sat down, the driver a young Irishman, called me forward, asked me what religion I was. He settled for me saying I was Christian and then asked if I'd pray for a friend of his who was on the bus and wasn't very well. It's not the kind of thing that normally happens to me when I wear a clerical collar, but when it does, it's heart-warming, as it goes so directly against the secular tide of indifference about things religious.

The meeting in City Hall was of a Vision Forum work group, attempting to identify the key components for shaping a 20 year development plan for the City. So-called 'blue skies thinking' exercises like this seem curious at first sight. However, the world is now changing rapidly, in ways not envisaged when the last long term plan (on which the City's recent success relied) was formulated in the early nineties. It's necessary to look at what has changed and is changing, to ask what difference this makes in making maps to guide us into the future. Recession, the question of how to recover from it, and ensure continued appropriate development sums up the main preoccupation of the discussion.

This kind of exercise is laborious and complex and will last many months. It starts vaguely enough, but it has to conclude with a specific set of aims and values that a wide range of participants in shaping city life can own and act upon. I was pleased that Archdeacon Peggy and Gweini's Paul Hocking were present and taking part. I doubt that the churches played much of a part in shaping the vision of the Cardiff's development back in the nineties. It's been far too long since the churches took a serious interest in helping to form the social vision that enables the city to live and grow in healthy way. I hope this meeting marks a change for the better.

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