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July 2011 Archive:

The Perfect Dinner Party

dinner party 

Sam Norton at Elizaphanian has started a round of ‘the perfect dinner party’ meme. Sally at ‘Eternal Echoes‘ joined in the game and now Archdruid Eileen, no less, has now offered us hers.

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Marcus Aurelius and the Brambles

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 CE, was good at multi-tasking. He is thought to have written his ‘Meditations’ in his spare time between conducting a military campaign in central Europe (c. 171-175) and holding on to his seat as emperor.

Christians have no difficulty in recognising that the words of someone nearly 2,000 years ago can still have meaning for us today and Marcus Aurelius would be my other nominee for this title. Books on how to keep calm and carry on when surrounded by conflict still become instant bestsellers. Do you know ‘The little book of Calm‘? Marcus Aurelius said it all first, and in the opinion of some, better.

When I went to university at the age of 17, my mother having just died, my father was about to be posted to India. He presented me with a leather-bound copy of the New Testament and three small books which he had acquired when he went up to Balliol thirty years earlier: the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the thoughts of Pascal and the maxims of the Duc de la Rouchefoucauld. These books, which are still with me four continents and forty years later, are one of the reasons why I hope Kindle will not take over the world. I treasure the books not just as paper and print but because of my father’s annotations – he had sidelined many of the ‘thoughts’ which he found particularly fine with a 1-4 grading system. It is always fun seeing where I agree – and disagree – with him.

Gurdur (Tim Skellett) and I were having a conversation, as you do, about life’s minor irritations and debating what one should do about them. I reminded him of my favourite Marcus Aurelius quote:

Is a cucumber bitter? Cast it away. Are there brambles in the path? Turn aside. No more is needed. Do not go on to ask: ‘why was the universe burdened by creations such as these?’ (viii.50)

One of the reasons I know this by heart is because I find it very difficult advice to take, while seeing that my life would be simpler and less fraught if I could. My husband is a constant reminder of this advice, as every time I begin a sentence with ‘Why do they…’ or  ‘Why don’t they…?’ he stops me and reminds me that these expressions of irritation are pointless: people either do or don’t have a reason for their behaviour but are unlikely to change it just because it annoys me. He’s right:

‘Turn aside. No more is needed. Do not go on to ask….’

My penultimate post recommended Maggi Dawn’s ‘Accidental Pilgrim’ as a book to keep by your bedside forever. I now nominate Marcus Aurelius’s ‘Meditations’ to be added to this list (don’t worry, both are quite slim volumes).

The illustration is a bust of Marcus Aurelius from the Glyptothek, Munich via Wikimedia

The ‘All-Age’ Church of England?

There is a buzzing in the ether at the moment about the ability or otherwise of the Church of England to attract all age groups, and the consequences for its future.

Tim Ross in The Telegraph on 12 July reported that The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond, a Synod member from Norwich, told the [York General Synod] that some projections suggested that the Church would no longer be “functionally extant” in 20 years’ time.

“The perfect storm we can see arriving fast on the horizon is the ageing congregations…The average age is 61 now, with many congregations above that…These congregations will be led by fewer and fewer stipendiary clergy … 2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage, that is people dying. Another 10 years on, some extrapolations put the Church of England as no longer functionally extant at all.”

Nelson Jones in the New Statesman on 13th July cited this and added:

An ageing congregation is not necessarily a dying one…the established church has always been most popular among an older demographic… women of mature years remain the backbone of the Anglican church…Active people with time and money to spare – exactly the sort of people the church should be trying to attract. Some will find their thoughts turning towards more spiritual matters after a hectic career and family life, and thus far more responsive to the church’s message than the typical teenager, career-focused twenty-something or stressed-out parent. At the upper end of the age-range, people will be preparing for death and will be especially open to the comforts of religion.

Nelson Jones exaggerates his point, and has his tongue firmly in his cheek when he later suggests that in future the Church seek sponsorship from Saga, distressing ‘Red’ in her apples of gold blog on 14th July.

But the Church has in recent years increasingly adopted the language of marketing, as if the Church were selling some kind of soap powder that we claim washes [sins?] whiter! Robb, of the ‘Changing Worship’ blog commented on 13th July:

…there have been some unfortunate soundbytes such as the need for a “recruitment drive”. There has also been the use of business model type language to describe the impending fall or rise of the good old CofE

Not a million miles from where I live, the new vicar’s first sermon announced to the congregation that his ‘target audience’ was mothers of young children, who would bring their children and their husbands to church. Those not in his dream demographic (85% of the existing congregation, and 95% of those attending e.g. the APCM) would be catered for, eg with occasional services from the Book of Common Prayer, until they died off, hopefully leaving the Church large sums of money.

Hold on a moment! Don’t you think this is all putting the cart before the horse? Even if we admit to caring more about the Body of Christ as a whole than its current individual members, or the hive more than the bee, surely the best way of safeguarding the whole is by considering the needs of its component parts and then trying to meet them?

Many reams have been written about the differing spiritual needs that people have at different stages of their life. In Hinduism, life is believed to comprise four stages, each with its own spiritual dimension. In the first, which lasts until the age of 25, the brahmachari begins seeking enlightenment, with the help of a spiritual director (guru). At the second stage, Grihastha, which lasts until about the age of 50, people get married, have children, earn a living and accumulate wealth and property. It is not regarded as an important period for spirituality. Next comes Vanaprastha, when one’s duty as a householder comes to an end. One should renounce all physical, material and sexual pleasures, retire from social and professional life and spend one’s time in prayers. Finally, the sannyasi, or wandering ascetic, having renounced all desires, fears and hopes, duties and responsibilities, is virtually merged with God as he concentrates on attaining moksha, or release from the circle of birth and death.

Of course, Christians are not Hindus, but people are people and perhaps there is a fundamental truth about human nature here. Carl Jung, in ‘Modern Man in Search of a Soul’, wrote:

Every civilized human being, whatever his conscious development, is still an archaic man at the deeper levels of his psyche. Just as the human body connects us with the mammals and displays numerous relics of earlier evolutionary stages going back to even the reptilian age, so the human psyche is likewise a product of evolution which, when followed up to its origins, show countless archaic traits.

Gail Sheehy wrote her original book ‘Passages’ in 1977, but in a 2004 interview with Jon Spayde she offers a useful summary and update. She too makes the point about human spiritual development, stressing that the enquiring child, who asks ‘why?’ about everything, turns again in old age to matters eschatological.

We are, perhaps, doomed to disappointment if we concentrate on 25-50 year-olds, just at the point where, as Wordsworth said – admittedly in a different context –

The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Colin Coward writes on 15th July about ‘The two halves of life’

Second-half-of-life issues are concerned with the birth of God in the soul, with the need to deepen and grow in “wisdom, age, and grace” (Luke 2.52)

But it is also a period when, as long as physical health allows, people need to be needed. The recently retired are the obvious people to shoulder most of the day to day load of physical management of our churches. Jonathan Hagger (‘Mad Priest’) commented on the apples of gold blog on 15th July:

…it would be common sense to prioritise that age group in respect of our mission. I’m not saying we ignore the youth. I just don’t think they are the answer to the Church’s need for more bums on pews. I think the over 40s are…

To state what is perhaps obvious, just because the ‘sannyasis’ among us are individually nearer to death than the 25-50 year-olds, a congregation predominantly composed of sannyasis does not in itself make the Church close to death. But equally the Church must obviously continue to target the ‘brahmacharis’, offering Christianity as an answer to the questions posed both by the young and the old.

I cannot improve on the conclusions that Will Cookson draws:

I think that we live in one of those tipping points of history where our efforts and care will tip the balance. Carrying on with business as normal will lead us into a cul-de-sac…The Anglican prayer book has as one of its statements in the Declaration of Assent about the Church of England the great phrase: ‘It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.’ That is the mission of our church. We are called upon to keep looking at how we present the great truths of the Christian faith to each generation anew. it is not enough that these ways worked in the past. For each generation we need to find ways to make the Gospel understandable and relate-able to them.

Note The photograph is courtesy of Shutterstock, and issued under a creative commons licence.

‘The Accidental Pilgrim’ by Maggi Dawn

This is a beguiling book. I’m not quite sure what I had expected, but as Maggi Dawn teaches theology and is chaplain at Robinson College, Cambridge (though she is about to move to Yale as Associate Professor), I did anticipate a possible struggle. She quotes from The Revd Dr Dee Dyas‘s Pilgrimage in English Medieval Literature (p45), which is indeed a scholarly work, but I needed a tail wind, several espressos and a towel wrapped round my head to absorb that. Fear not. You are in different territory here. With the lightest of gossamer touches, in her first two sentences, she draws you into the narrative of what is in effect a journal:

‘Standing on the cool, bare tiles in the shade of the wooden shutters at the window, I squinted into the bright light. Directly below was a military checkpoint, and to either side the road was lined with tumbledown buildings. Beyond them the sandy landscape was cobwebbed with olive trees and far away in the distance some new buildings on the upper slopes of the hills shone dazzling white in the late afternoon sun’.

Impossible not to read on.  It moves at a cracking pace and, at only 147 pages of double-spaced type, I would have finished it in one sitting were it not for an annoying person from Porlock who interrupted me. Although I have never met the author, I feel I know her well from our conversations on twitter. But even if I had never had any previous contact, in this book I would have felt her lead me by the hand on her physical journeys, whether to the Holy Land, Spain or nearer to home, answer questions about the meaning of what we were seeing without my needing to voice them, and suggest other questions of her own for me to think about. In short, I would feel I had made a friend.

It is very Anglican – and English – in tone. She is out of tune – as I would have been – with the unseemly histrionics (my phrase) of some of the other pilgrims in the Holy Land, and the religious souvenir shops at Walsingham.

Maggi has some serendipitous narrative surprises, which I do not want to spoil for you, but let me just say that there are one or two nudges along the way which a more evangelical writer might feel obliged to use to  hammer the point home. But there is no hammer in her armoury; reading this book is a two-way process between author and reader in which the meaning is what you make it. I found several important messages for me, even at a first quick reading, but I am still not sure whether the clues were deliberately placed for the reader to draw specific conclusions, or whether even the clues are in the eyes of the beholder. It is very cleverly written, but with an art that conceals art. Perhaps it is like the labyrinth on the book jacket? We travel without being certain that we will ever reach the centre, but different travellers on the same road, and the same travellers at different times, will all find something different.

I will not end by telling you how the book ends, tempting though this is because it is such a good conclusion. But I will tell you that, now I have read it from cover to cover, I am about to start again at the first page. And then I will leave it for a while, perhaps, before reading it all over again. It is a book to keep by your bedside forever.

These two photographs of the launch were taken by Tim Skellett (‘Gurdur’) on Friday 15th July at All Hallows On The Wall, London and are reproduced with his kind permission.



The two photographs in the text were kindly provided by Maggi Dawn herself. I should make it clear that this review was unsought and was not seen by the author before publication

The Sound of Silence

I have made a new friend. In the early hours of this morning, as I was tweaking my posts and twittering on twitter, as you do when you can’t sleep, I started chatting online to the friend of a Facebook friend whom I had befriended (still with me?) because we shared common interests in Flanders and Swann and that marvellous quote by Alice Roosevelt “If you haven’t got a nice word to say about anyone, come and sit next to me.” And though I may not be at exactly the same altitude as him on the church candle, his description of himself as ‘High Church Latitudinarian Anglican’ sounds pretty compelling to me. He writes like an angel, with that gift of establishing an immediate bond of sympathy across the ether which any writer trying to communicate with an audience would envy. He has no blog of his own at the moment, but has kindly allowed me to offer the following as a guest post. We would both appreciate your comments. Over to the Revd Richard Haggis:

The Sound of Silence
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given” we sing at Christmas time, and yet Easter time is much the same – there is silence from the tomb as the great and extraordinary event of the Resurrection actually happens. If it actually happened. Of course it did – we’d half of us be out of a job otherwise! Oh wait, I am out of a job! Christian art generally engages with the risen Christ – standing boldly atop the tomb or with Mary Magdalen in the garden or at the barbecue on the beach – but we read nothing of the moment, presumably glimpsed only by angels, when life was restored to death.

On this day sixteen years ago I was ordained a deacon of the Church of God. On this day eleven years ago, I was licensed as a parish priest to Saint Giles-in-the-Fields. Both make me think of silence. Some of the evangelicals on our ordination retreat struggled a lot with the rule of silence. One said she thought it was “rude” to be amongst strangers and not talking to them. Saint Giles had a congregation which appreciated silence in the intercessions, probably, on average, the most mature congregation, spiritually, I ever ministered to. Chequered times since, but I do not for one moment regret the privilege of ordination, nor the greater privilege of serving some very wonderful people. And even the less wonderful were pretty wonderful.

I was talking to a charming young lady at a party lately swapping notes about how much we liked walking alone in the dark, preferably in the rain, and it was the silence we agreed we both enjoyed, a sort of blanket of privacy, making the world and its woes irrelevant, and allowing and encouraging us to think our own thoughts. So many people these days fill up the silence with music, piped straight into their ears – Joyce Grenfell wrote a prescient song about that, when she noticed that piped music was broadcast in the ladies “and into the gents … they tell me”. (Bring Back The Silence And Deserve Our Thanks.)

I’ve known a few priests who are terrified of silence. This seems a shame. How else will they ever hear the “still small voice”?

But silence is a two-edged sword. There’s the mutual silence of calm content between friends or partners, and the silence of unexpressed grudges and sorrows; the warm silence of contemplation in the small of the night, and the silence of terror at real or imagined horrors; the silence of the aquarium and the sleeping cats, and the silence of the empty nursery, the deathbed vacated; and the silence that draws us towards the silence of God, into the transfiguring quiet of that emptying tomb.

Then there’s the silence when the bloody telly is switched off.

So, I’m broadly in favour of silence, but I know there’s a downside.

Littlemore, Oxford

2 July 2011

The video is attributed to i-church,which you can find online here

Archbishop Rowan’s Thoughts on Lay Ministry

The title to this post is a sort of music-hall joke. The answer to the question: ‘what are ++Rowan’s thoughts on lay ministry?’ is
‘but ++Rowan doesn’t have any thoughts on lay ministry, does he? Does he?’ Boom-boom.

You must judge for yourselves. You can read the whole text of his address to Synod of 9 July 2011 here.

The following extracts give a flavour of the speech (but please read it in its entirety before coming to any conclusions).

“Effective ministerial presence is essential if people are to be in touch with the faithfulness of God through the Church.  It is more than just the presence of the worshipping community, vital as that is: this community has to have its presence focused and personalised in a way that makes it accessible.  And that is a central aspect of the role of the ordained, both directly (as the identifiable face of the worshipping community) and indirectly, as the catalyst that prompts worshippers into service by the repetition of the news of the gospel… We are never likely to return to the mythological past beloved of some critics when every small parish had its resident full-time pastor.  But – to pick up ideas and experiments that are being explored at the moment – sometimes what matters is having a person (literally a ‘parson’) in each small community who is genuinely recognisable as the focus of the Church’s presence, ordained or not; so that the ordained minister is there as friend and support for a number of such ‘presences’, and trained to recognise their giftings.  But this is not just a matter of encouraging people to ‘do jobs’ for the Church.  It is also about the way an ordained person can keep alive and impart to others ways of giving thanks, drawing together the prayer and aspiration of a community.  So how far do we currently think about an ordained minister as someone who can as a real priority communicate what the worship of the Church really is and help others to animate it? The ordained minister as co-ordinator, as liturgist and trainer in liturgy, as well as teacher and inspirer in the more usual ways, the ordained person as celebrant of the community in a very full sense, and one who helps others learn how to celebrate in the name of the Church – this is surely one dimension of where we are being led today…”

The speech is 3447 words long. The archbishop uses the word ordained 14 times; ministry 4 times; ministerial twice; and lay and laity not at all. He makes two oblique references to the contribution of lay people to worship: he talks about ‘effective ministry (ordained or otherwise)‘ and this curious idea of identifying people of God, exceptionally holy and well-behaved people presumably, in each parish who are to serve as what the archbishop calls ‘presences‘ and I think I would call ‘teacher’s pets’.

Archbishop Rowan is a gifted orator, and it is clear from the twitter reactions to his speech that it was well-received overall. For the bishops and clergy present, I can see that ‘heart spoke unto heart’.  But what about his listeners from the House of Laity? What about other lay people, looking on? What about the LGBT community, as David Goss reminded us on twitter?

I see nothing here for any of us except a desert and waste land.

Luckily, my experience of God is more or less the opposite of what ++Rowan appears to have in mind as the ‘correct’ way for lay people to experience Him, and that is solely as demonstrated by the ordained. Kindly meant, no doubt, but if, after 60 years of Christian worship, I had to rely on the priesthood  to explain to me what was meant by Christianity, it wouldn’t say much for their effectiveness over a lifetime, now would it?

One priest who has shown, and continues to show me the way is the Revd Lesley Fellows. Here is an extract from a recent post of hers:

The church sometimes draws me towards God and sometimes away from God. Sometimes I wonder whether there is more darkness than light in the church. However, I find myself connected to God through the Eucharist and even if it is that one sacrament alone that the church offers as light, that still leaves me committed to the church for my spiritual refreshment, however infuriated I sometimes get.

Thank-you, Lesley. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

1. The photograph of Archbishop Rowan is via wikimedia under CCL. The photographer was ‘Brian.jpg’
2. My assertion that the Archbishop has no views on lay ministry, or at least no affirming ones, is based on previous searches of the speeches on his website and the fact that there is no mention of my tier of ministry on the main Church of England website, and scant reference to Licensed Lay Ministers. I would be very pleased to be proved wrong on this inference.

Summoning Up The Ghost of Elizabeth I

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Inspired by MrCatolick’s parallel with Henry VIII (), I conclude that what the Anglican world needs now is intervention by his daughter, Elizabeth I. It did not take much to summon her ghost – she had been waiting impatiently for just such an invitation. All of what follows in quotation typeface is from the actual words of Good Queen Bess in her lifetime.

Princes have big ears which hear far and near, and word has reached me that all is not well in my realm. As the first Defender of the Faith who was a sincere Protestant, with no considerations of personal advantage,  I shall desire you all, my lords…to be assistant to me that I, with my ruling, and you with your service, may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth...
There is one thing higher than Royalty: and that is religion, which causes us to leave the world, and seek God…There is nothing about which I am more anxious than my country,  and the Anglican Communion, and for its sake I am willing to die ten deaths, if that be possible.

The Anglican Covenant
There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles… Where minds differ and opinions swerve there is scant a friend in that company…My mind was never to invade my neighbours… I do consider a multitude doth make rather discord and confusion than good counsel…You lawyers are so nice and precise in shifting and scanning every word and letter that many times you stand more upon form than matter, upon syllables than the sense of the law…

Moving from an Exclusive Church to an Inclusive Church
Know that I wish you from henceforth to follow the example of your monarch, and many monarchs before her, in knowing that each court must have its queanes as well as its Queen for, as ye should surely know, all are equally loved by God…I have no desire to make windows into mens souls, still less their nether regions. I am greatly displeased at the sanctimonious hypocrisy that has recently arisen in my Church in this land of England… Those who appear the most sanctified are the worstI would rather go to any extreme than suffer anything that is unworthy of my reputation, or of that of my crown..and I wish you to follow the example of the Americas, where… it is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.. The past cannot be curedGod forgive you, but I never can.

Anglican Mission In England
The stone often recoils on the head of the thrower...You, who were fully strong enough to bear the suffering of our well-beloved American cousins, will shortly endure a similar stone-throwing yourself.
Do not tell secrets to those whose faith and silence you have not already tested…There is an Italian proverb which saith, From my enemy let me defend myself; but from a pretensed friend Lord deliver me.
We are of the nature of the lion, and cannot descend to the destruction of mice and such small beasts ourselves; we trust you have a plan?

The Elevation of Women to the Episcopate
I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too
Is it that you fear to admit the distaff side to your ranks because you know many share my heart and stomach, as well as my learning and my devotion to God? It is a natural virtue incident to our sex to be pitiful of those that are afflicted,
and I am sure that my sisters in Christ will find it in their hearts to pity you for your pettiness, but mindful as I am of the need for gifted bishops, I cannot allow it to continue. Let this my discipline stand you in good stead of sorer strokes, never to tempt too far a Prince’s patience.

The Ministry of the Laity
I regret the unhappiness of princes who are slaves to forms and fettered by caution...
It is as clear as the day to even the meanest intelligence in the land that the hoi polloi are no longer of lesser education than the clerks in the pulpit. Knowing of the scant numbers of clerks, action is needed this day to allow the people to read Morning and Evening Prayer.
One man with a head on his shoulders is worth a dozen without Verily, I do fear that without such action, the churches themselves are in real danger:… A fool too late bewares when all the peril is past.

Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind. ... It is true that the world was made in six days, but it was by God, to whose power the infirmity of men is not to be compared.
I will allow you fourteen days in which to accomplish all the tasks I have set you this day.
If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all….. Proud Prelate, you know what you were before I made you what you are. If you do not immediately comply with my request, I will unfrock you, by God!

The illustration is a portrait of Elizabeth I at the time of the Armada via wikimedia under CCL.

Beware! The Golden Rule May Have Unintended Consequences

The Golden Rule
‘One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself‘. Its corollary, ‘One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated‘ is sometimes called the Silver Rule. Both were part of the religions and philosophies of ancient Babylon, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Judaea and Persia. There are three well-known passages in which Jesus preaches the rule:
Matthew 7.12In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
Luke 6.31Do to others as you would have them do to you.  

Luke 10.25-28 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

The passage continues with Jesus answering the question, “Who is my neighbour?”, by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that “your neighbour” is anyone in need.

So far, so uncontroversial. But I want to inject a cautionary note at this point, along the lines of:

‘All that you’re liable to read in the bible, it ain’t necessarily so!’

Before you complain that I am being disrespectful to the bible, consider St Paul’s advice to the Ephesians (4.26), ‘let not the sun go down upon your wrath’. I have already suggested on this blog that you might do better to sleep on it and this view has been endorsed by Penelopepiscopal , and Will Cookson, both priests. We of course agree with the general point that one should not let anger harden in one’s heart, but in practical terms a short ‘cooling off’ period overnight may help the healing process.

The Golden Rule, in my view, comes into this category. The first – and main – problem was identified by George Bernard Shaw:

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.’

In the case of the Good Samaritan, he was presumably pretty sure that his help would be welcome. In Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ (see diagram below), the needs that he was seeking to meet were basic physiological and safety needs.

As you move up the pyramid into psychological and self-fulfilment needs, it is much less certain that outside involvement would be welcome; indeed it may be perceived as unwarranted meddling. As most of us know to our cost, this does not seem to prevent some of our most well-meaning friends from jumping in to give good advice because in our place they would like to receive it.

Foreign aid is an example of good intentions occasionally having unfortunate unintended consequences,  as set out in this paper, which – though simplistic – nevertheless has some good points.  I will take Tanganyika/Tanzania as an example, as I lived there from 1993-97 with my husband who, as British Council director, had oversight of several British government aid programmes. I hasten to add that the micro-projects in health and education in which he was involved were all very well-managed but  in 1951 the then Attlee government introduced the Tanganyika Groundnut Scheme, a macro-plan to cultivate large tracts of what is now Tanzania with peanuts.  It was soon abandoned because:
“ground nuts require at least 500 mm of rainfall per year; the area chosen was subject to drought”. 
In 1967, Presiden Nyerere introduced ‘Ujamaa’, a macro-policy which was in many ways disastrous.
In 1969, the brilliant economist, Bevan Waide:

‘advised on Tanzania’s second five-year plan, during the turbulent years when Julius Nyerere was consolidating his country’s socialist stance to development, and the World Bank was less concerned than today about nationalisation and substantial state expenditure…

From 1984 to 1988, he was chief of the [World] bank’s resident mission in India.
He left the bank to become a partner in the management and economic consulting firm of Coopers and Lybrand in London, specialising in privatisation and public enterprise restructuring work in developing countries…
From 1993 to 1996, Waide was seconded to the government of Tanzania, this time as lead adviser on privatisation… and played a crucial part in unwinding some of the excesses of the earlier socialist period.’

He, more than anyone, relished the irony of being the foreign expert put in charge of nationalisation when it was the fashion in the 1960s, and then privatisation when it became the vogue policy in the 1990s. 

I do not know what the present mood is amongst Tanzanians, but they are entitled to feel a certain cynical world-weariness and perhaps a wish that, however kindly meant, large-scale macro-economic projects be shelved in order to allow the country to find its own salvation (albeit with help at the local, micro-level).

So, if you wake up tomorrow morning with a burning desire to do good to your neighbour, may I respectfully suggest that you consider ‘this above all, primum non nocere, ‘first do no harm’.

Postscript: Ivor Stolliday just tweeted President Reagan’s famous line: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

1. The illustraton of ‘The Good Samaritan’ by Vincent Van Gogh is via wikipedia.
2. The YouTube version of ‘It ain’t necessarily so’ from Porgy and Bess is by the Ranot Vocal Ensemble uploaded by eldadindustrialmovie on Jun 20, 2010 
3. The diagram is of Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’
4. The quotation from George Bernard Shaw is from ‘Man and Superman’ (1903) 
5. The description of Bevan Waide’s role in Tanzania is an extract from the Guardian obituary by Roger Cooke of 22 May 2003 (follow hyperlink). I wrote a book about Dar es Salaam with his wife, Uma.

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