CMF Conference: Day Three

The following is part of a series of posts about the CMF Junior Doctors Conference. Read Day One and Day Two.

Six hours sleep, and the clocks going back, brought us to our final day at the conference. Following a prayer meeting, discussions over breakfast involved a fairly detailed discussion of New Zealand humour, and a discovery of a fellow Black Sheep lover in Pete Saunders!

Seminar – A challenge to care: the Christian doctor as leader in the ever-changing NHS

Nick LandNick Land, the Medical Director for Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, ran this seminar on how we can manage change and take a positive lead in the NHS.

Some of the changes we face in the UK:

  • Change in PCTs -> CCOGs
  • Increased litigation
  • More complicated treatments
  • More IT
  • Budget cuts
  • Change in clinician/patient relationships
  • Ethical changes
  • Unhappy doctors

Some research has been done, showing that doctors now have slightly lower workload, much higher pay, yet are much more unhappy. The loss of autonomy, greater external scrutiny, working to guidelines all seem to affect clinician happiness.

What difference does our covenant relationship to God make to our practice as medical doctors?

There is a change in secular understanding of work:

  1. Classically, Greeks and Romans believed work was a curse.
  2. In the middle ages, there was a secular spiritual dichotomy – it was seen as more holy to be doing a spiritual job.
  3. In the Reformation, it was understood that all work can be done to the glory of God.
  4. In the Enlightenment, a humanist “God helps those who helps themselves” attitude.

Work was created by God in the beginning…

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Why do doctors go into Leadership?

  • Change things
  • Ambition
  • To help
  • Power
  • Against their will
  • Money
  • Buggin’s Turn
  • Stop someone else doing it.

Why should Christians get involved with NHS leadership?

  • God’s calling
  • Esther + Mordecai
  • Ethical stance
  • Opportunity to protect the vulnerable – both staff and patients

Key points:

1. Management is a means of common grace

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Romans 13 

2. We are called to be salt and light in every area.

3. Nehemiah is a great example: he saw the need, heard the call, already had a good job, but took the risk. He dealt with injustice and gave leadership and direction to hopeless people.

4. Jeremiah is another.

“Work for the prosperity of the city where I have placed you”
Jeremiah 29:7

5. Moses father in law gives an example of the benefits of delegating tasks.

What are the dangers of being involved with NHS Leadership?

  1. Getting caught up in a powerful and at times ruthless culture.
  2. Dishonesty.
  3. Anger. Ephesians 4:26
  4. Letting Management or the Trust become an idol. Exodus 20:3-4
  5. Getting the work/home/worship balance wrong.
  6. Cynicism

How should the Christian approach Medical Management?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Phillipians 2:3-8 

Really putting the patient and other people first is a servant hearted process: its a radical change of view. Personal convenience, professional status and power have to be abandoned.

Bible Teaching – Faith at Work in our Attitudes

Frank Sinatra - I did it my wayAfter a final coffee/tea/squash blitz, and the discovery that Vicky Lavy bruised her hand during the slapping game last night (hardcore!), it was time for our last teaching session with Steve Burmester.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercyand good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

James 3:13-18

James talks about how our community shapes us. The TV series “UP” followed some 7 year olds, then reviewed them every 10 years. The children have grown into adults so very shaped by the social situation they were in at that tender age.

In his time as a pastor, Steve has seen many people growing up. But it is those who surround themselves with a like minded, gracious and loving community who grow and mature to match that setting. Our primary witness as Christians should be through the community we share together.

The guiding principle of Hell is “I am my own”.
CS Lewis

Steve takes a lot of funerals, mostly for non believers. About 5-10% of them choose to have the song “I did it my way” – an attitude that is counter to the servant hearted, subservient way of the Kingdom.

Saying “I am free to be myself, and owe nothing to anyone else” is the natural desire to please oneself. But Christian living is about the righteous rubbing together of lives. In the aftermath of the Welsh revival, pubs were empty, and prisons had to shut, because lives were changed. The end of revival is caused by spiritual pride.

Spiritual pride is knowing others faults better than your own. Its an air of disdain or contempt towards others.
Pride quickly leads you to separate from those you criticise, or who criticise you.
A proud person is dogmatic, and sure about every point of belief, and cannot distinguish between a major and minor point of belief, because everything is major. Pride loves to confront to win, or doesn’t confront at all because they can’t be bothered.
A proud person is often unhappy with themselves, or self pitying.
Timothy Keller

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
CS Lewis 

The opposite of pride is humility. As James 4:6 says – “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. In Numbers 12, we see two people acting out of pride, against Moses, who is humble.

James refers to us as “adulteresses”, referring to the image of the Church being the metaphorical bride of Christ. In being selfish and self centred, we violate our relationship with God. When Jesus, who acted only to remain close to God, God chose to cut him off, and its that sacrifice, the ultimate in giving oneself, we can access the grace.

There was a man in the First World War. he was wealthy, and an art collector. He had one son, who was drafted and sent to the front line. Sadly he was killed. Another man, who had been in the trenches with the son, came to visit the old man. He said, I’m no artist alike the painting you buy and sell, but I want to give you this picture which I drew, of your son. The old man was touched, and kept the picture.

When the old man died, they decided to auction all the art in the home. They got everyone together at an auction house. They announced that they had to sell the drawing of the man’s son. We cannot move on until we sell this piece. No one wanted to buy it. Eventually, hesitantly, one old man bought the painting for £10. The crowd breathed a sigh of relief, now they could move on with the auction.

The auctioneer closed his book. I am afraid that the will states, that whoever bought the painting of the son, gets all the fabulous masterpieces.

We must accept the Son, in order to receive all the riches of heaven. Do we have the humility to take up his yoke?


We closed with communion, reflecting on 1 Corinthians 11:

Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself.


And that was it. A final pile of food was shovelled in at lunch, and many sad goodbyes. Then, once I had finally accepted that Beth probably won the chocomilk drinking competition, Beth gave me a lift home.

It was a wonderful weekend, full of passionate, loving and exciting individuals, filled with a desire to help others, make the NHS awesome and share a crazy amount of love to the UK. Hopefully, it’ll encourage me to be more like them.

The following is part of a series of posts about the CMF Junior Doctors Conference. Read Day One and Day Two.

One month in Boston

Last month, we took a big step as a family. We moved from our familiar, friendly home in Yorkshire over to the barren flatlands of Eastern Lincolnshire. In doing so, we said goodbye to 8 years of friends, and hello to convenient beaches, widespread obesity, and owning another house that needs every single room done up before we will be able to relax!

I’ll take you through some of our key moments with some photos:

This is our new home: Orchard Cottage, on Woodthorpe Avenue. It’s on the slightly nicer side of town, but needs quite a lot of work! The garden hasn’t been touched for about 2 years, so we are having rather a lot of pruning done at the end of the month, and some building work after that…

Joen has settled into things well, and both he and the dogs are loving the big new garden. As you can see, there are cat flaps everywhere, coupled with awful red carpet in the kitchen, and mammoth spiders in every room. Katherine hates all 3 of these things, especially the eight legged monsters.

One of the key aspects of our corner of Lincolnshire is that it is as flat as a pancake (In fact, if you read this study, its likely that its considerably flatter, since it would appear that pancakes are not terribly flat). The downside: its a bit boring. The plus side: we can cycle everywhere. Joen has decided to live on the edge though, since he has now worked out how to remove a cycle helmet, rendering it useless.

Alongside the uninteresting terrain, there is considerably more sky visible, so sunsets and dawns are rather beautiful to behold. Sadly, the road I take to work each morning is almost due East for large sections, meaning I can barely see beyond the brain melting glow of the sun. The unending flatness means that a 44 mile round trip is just about doable on bike, although I’m not achieving it every day.

I have begun my GP training, which involves hundreds of hours spent reflecting, signing sick notes and prescribing amoxicillin. Here you can see my office, with a photo of the family, and a coffee mug, recently filled on my most extravagant new purchase, a DeLonghi EC 152 Coffee Machine.

As mentioned above, we have several fantastic beaches, 20 miles or so down the road; and we have made the most of them already. Here you can see Joen swimming, playing and eating the sand on the beach at Chapel St Leonards.

Finally, the most important photo is that of our new child, around 50% ready now. Probably a she (the ultrasonagrapher wasn’t completely sure), we look forward to her arrival in January!

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, support and hot meals over the last month, especially Eagle, Sadie, Daniel, Tammie, Hannah, Helen, Micky & Rachel, and thanks for the unpaid manual labour of Nick & Jon!

Acknowledging Life

Photo of Joe and LoisA few nights ago, we said goodbye to some great friends, Joe & Lois, on their way to live forever(ish) in Zimbabwe. This, on the same day that the senior partner at my practice retired, and my wife and I decided to move to Boston in 2 months.

I’ve been feeling a tremendous amount of emotion, as if something tangible has been torn from me; my brain is looking into the future, and feeling a loss that hasn’t even happened yet.

Why such a response? It’s strange, because I’m genuinely happy about all these changes!

I’m joyful that two friends are going to live in my favourite continent, under huge, romantic skies and terrifying political regimes, with a vast multitude of surprisingly friendly insects to keep them company.

I’m pleased that a fellow doctor is taking up a well earned retirement, with his health, his wife and the money to enjoy his days following his heart’s content.

I’m excited that my family and I are moving to Boston, a town I’d barely even heard of until Tuesday, and yet will soon be calling “home”.

So, if these are all such positive events, why am I so sad? I thought I’d look a little through the breadth of our literature and culture to find some consolation. In this, as with most emotions in life, Shakespeare has something apt to offer:

Parting is such sweet sorrow.


As one GCSE revision website explains this, the quote above puts my feelings in a different light: “It is therefore delightful that parting can hurt so much“. The sadness just reflects how much I love the Ovendens, how much I value my colleague, how much we treasure our Sheffield friends.

Tennyson made a similarly iconic statement (which is just as well, since that’s what famous poets are meant to do):

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Whilst most people know that quote as used in a romantic context, it was actually a poem written by Tennyson about losing a good friend.

In realisation of this, I’m going to try and avoid being sad about this any more. In fact, the next two months needs to be a celebration of everything and everyone we love, value and respect in Sheffield. I want to laugh with you all – as The Jam said:

To be caught smiling is to acknowledge life.


Let’s really acknowledge life together, my friends. For a final verse (if cut in half), I leave you with Philippians 4:1:

So, brothers and sisters, I love you and miss you. You are my joy…