Torch Trust Speech
Given at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre, Hurstpierpoint
19th September 2015
Gail, Gordon, Torch Trustees, employees and volunteers:-
I am very pleased to be standing here both as the Chair of the RNIB, the UK's leading sight loss charity, and also as a resident of Hurstpierpoint, living only 500 yards from here. Even so, when my wife Margaret and I did a tour of the refurbished building we were so impressed that we were tempted to come here for a holiday!
When I was growing up as a blind
child, life was very miserable, not only because we were blind, but also
because we were driven to learn braille, to do arithmetic and to master many
other subjects. The nuns of my Roman Catholic boarding school had, apparently,
never heard of play! Which is probably why my staff and volunteers at RNIB get
fed up of me reminding them of the American Bill of rights which speaks of
"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" with emphasis, for me,
on the last. But, as a Christian - I am a lay minister at the
This morning when I was reading a report in preparation for Thursday's RNIB board meeting on the power shift from producers to consumers, the word that kept flitting across my consciousness was "service" which is what epitomises this place.
I think you could say that I was oppressed in my childhood by professionalism and there's a certain justification, of course, for teaching blind children to read, write and get about; and no doubt many of the people who seek assistance from Torch will want to acquire skills such as the use of computers; but that's not the essence. What blind and partially sighted people most often need help with are a lot of small things rather than some sort of professional game-changer and this is where you excel. People who lose their sight, essentially, need three things: they need consistency so that they can form good habits; they need attention to detail, because a few inches either way and you can bang your head; and they need care, well, because we all need care, particularly when we are going through a life changing crisis. But for the Christian it goes further. Let me say, simply, that care is simply a concrete manifestation of love. Yes, of course care is professional and precise but these are not the opposite of love because love is, in its own way, the opposite of sentimentalism.
I would say that care born out of love constitutes service, exemplified by The Lord Jesus. You have a beautifully refurbished building, fine equipment, good professional skills, but these will be nothing if there is a lack of Christian service. You are well equipped to refresh the body and the mind but that refreshment will be incomplete without the refreshment of the Spirit.
As both Chair of RNIB, and as a Christian, I am proud to cut the ribbon to symbolise a new beginning for your work: