Thursday, November 25, 2004
Part of what has been going on in life is a bit of reflection - a subject tackled in detail with my spiritual director this afternoon. If i may offer some advice to anyone who is reading this - if you don't have a spiritual director/soulfriend/advisor/mentor then i would recommend you get one - the chance to spend an hour talking about nothing but where you're at spiritually is invaluable, incomparable and just plain wonderful. Perhaps part of the joy is being able to talk things through without strings attached - without an agenda or goals but just where the Spirit leads.
Anyway reflective spirituality is part of why my blogging has been sparse (or even non-existent). Another part is that i officiated at my first ever funeral of a baby - nine years in this ordained ministry lark and this was the first very small person i have had to lead the goodbyes to. It was a profound and moving experience, and a very confusing one.
It was confusing because, like the congregation, I did not want to be there. It was moving and profound because the whole point of this meeting was to offer a life and all its potential to God before it had even a chance to begin. Also, as someone expecting another baby in about six weeks it brought to mind how risky this childbirth business is even today. I think the main reason i found it so confusing was becuase to a certain extent i had no idea what i was doing there. I mean the obvious reasons, to say goodbye, to commend and commit a soul to God, to support the bereaved (and seeing the parents was the most difficult part) were all obvious but on a deeper level i had to wonder what i was doing there.
Was i there to help find meaning in this tragedy? If that was the case then i failed miserably - i didn't and don't feel that i could offer meaning or reason to such an event. Was i there to offer comfort? Not sure i managed that either - all the 'god has a plan' platitudes fly straight out of the window in the face of this experience - besides, i don't beleive that God did have a plan to take this life away from his parents before it had the chance to begin, you're welcome to disagree, but it doesn't make sense to me and all the 'my ways are higher than your ways' talk in the universe will not help convince me of that at all. But then, i am stubborn and if God is like that then i am sure that God will teach me a lesson when the time comes, eh? And don't get me started on predestination, and God's will for our lives
nahhh i'm certainly not going there.
So it comes back to the why was i there? Perhaps i will never know, but i knew it was the right place to be and the right thing to do. I offered a little reflection to the mourners, but no answers. I prayed with them and for them and i handed the whole thing over to God - which in the end is what we do with life and death, hand it to the God who is big enough to contain it all - the anger, the grief, the pain, the sorrow, the suffering, the joy, the laughter, the hope, the peace. All things come from you, O Lord, and of your own do we give you.
Normal blogging will be resumed as soon as plausible.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
www.fracme.net is my new domain and home on the net, at the moment it is still very much under construction but i have managed to get the thoughts about 'Faith Hope and Love' that i promised upon a page of the same name under 'recent writings'.
The webpage exists really to promote my ongoing writing and speaking work, this exists alongside my ministry as a Vicar in these wonderful parishes of South Cambridgeshire. I love my role as pastor and priest, but value the discipline that writing and speaking need. I hope to continue and develop this part of what i do, indeed, what i am.
If anyone is any good at webdesign and stuff and would be willing to offer tips and tricks with regards to what i have thrown together i am happy to receive suggestions - just use the usual email or firstname.lastname@example.org
It strikes me that no matter what we feel about the conflicts of recent years that occur in our name - the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq - we are bound to those who those who fight for the ideals that we hold so dear. We may not agree with the means, but the end of 'peace and justice' is surely a shared ideal... I am caught in a dillemma because i hold dear the freedom of speech, the pursuit of peace and the ideal of freedom for all yet (not suprisingly) i am not sure about the present western method of bringing this about. I am not a pacifist, but i hold close the hope for peace, true peace - divine peace, shalom. How we can bring this about in our present troubled world is well beyond me - but i keep praying (and i don't believe that this is a cop-out).
Over and above all this, though, for someone in full time ministry we are faced with this time of Remembrance. I feel this is a vitally important time. We are by our very nature remembering beings, our identity is very much in what we remember. Those who are afflicted with loss of memory are considered somehow depleted - hence our discomfort or fear of the Alzheimer sufferer. or our fear of losing our own memories (see the Movie Memento for a fascinating and thoughtful exploration of the loss of memory).
We are people of remembrance. In the New Testament we are given the celebration which binds us together as Christians, Holy Communion. In it we are told to 'do this in remembrance of me' by Jesus. Remembrance makes us who we are as people of Christ and as human beings.
And at Remembrance-tide we are called to remembrance of those who have given everything for the freedoms we enjoy. Surely the least we can do is bring them to mind and thank God for their willingness to give themselves for what they (and perhaps we) believe(d) in.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
For those of you of a USA or international persuasion then Guy Fawkes night, or Bonfire night, or even good old November 5th is the night we remember the thwarting of a plan to blow up the houses of parliament about 399 years ago (we British have long memories and really know how to hold a grudge)
The fact that Fawkes was part of a Roman Catholic Conspiracy in early Protestant(ish) England offers even more chance to make this time of year divisive, though fortunately most people don't take the original basis of the festival terribly seriously. In Lewes though they still burn an effigy of the Pope on the 5th November - again, though, not many people know what that means.
It's all a bit like Christmas in modern western society - most people enjoy it, but very few have an idea about what it really means. Perhaps this in itself is not a bad thing, if people think that peace, joy and love are a good thing, with whatever basis, and that they are good things to make the most of, then that in itself is positive, surely?
Discuss, with reference to salvation... Your time starts now.
Monday, October 25, 2004
I write for a magazine called eChurch active (www.echurchactive.net) and have written various bits of poetry and prose for special events and one off magazines. I am still very much clambering up a steep learning curve on this, but it is fun and gets the old creative juices going.
When i get around to setting up my website i will post my articles there, but for now here is my latest submission - before publication no less - for 'McCollum's musings'
I am a blogger!
This is very new and very exciting for me. I have a weblog page which contains my thoughts and grumbles and perhaps even a few profound thoughts.
It was the result of a friend called Steve www.svfoster.blogspot.com/ recommending to me the Holy Joes weblog http://holyjoes.blogspot.com/ and inviting me to become a part of this particular online community. I don’t visit it or update it very much, I haven’t quite decided what I should be doing with it or whether it should have some kind of focus or whether it is the equivalent of an online diary or what. But I am a blogger.
For those of you who are unaware of the blogging phenomenon I am not going to give a brief history of it because I don’t know what the history of it is. I do know, though, that there are thousands of people who now post their own thoughts on the net. A blog is like an ‘online journal’ and lots of people use their blog to express their thoughts in a public forum – I say public, but I reckon I could count the number of people who have visited my site on the fingers of one hand…
There are also some very good and informative blogs around too! Maggi Dawn has a blog which is considering ‘emerging church’ and contains plenty of food for thought. If you have no idea what emerging church is, then you might want to check it out. http://maggidawn.blogspot.com/ Maggi also recently linked to a blog that I had to include just because of the name – though having looked at the blog it merits inclusion due to its content http://bigbulkyanglican.blogspot.com/.
Some of my best thoughts for sermons are from the blog of Sarah Dylan Breuer, a theologian and recently accepted ‘postulant’ (Ordinand) in the Episcopal Church of the USA . It is interesting reading with lots of links to other blogs and can be found at www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary-blog.html. I often find that ideas Sarah puts forward crop up in my talks and sermons not because I’m short of ideas but because hers are so good.
But this is not meant to just be a blog advert – so you might want to know why I am writing about them. It is not to publicise my own digital waffle – you get quite enough of that already from eChurch Active. It is because so many people moan about the internet as a negative thing – yes we all get spam and Viagra adverts and dodgy weblinks, there are scams galore and a lot more information than there is wisdom. But every now and then we are reminded that this massive network of computers is also a massive network of people on computers.
There is still a lot of thinking that needs doing about the internet and its meaning for Christians. There is still an awful lot of theological reflection to be done just about how we bring meaning to out place on the internet. For many of us the net is just part of everyday life, and we use it for interest, for shopping, for research – but for some it is an essential part of their lives, and offers some kind of community in a fragmented world.
I don’t want to go into a great deal of thought about the good and bad of internet usage, or the difficulties of regulation or censorship. I just want to commend something that seems to me to be potentially a good thing – blogging is often about ‘thinking out loud’, it is a creative act, it is something through which people seek to connect to other people. Like all things ‘net’ it can be good, it can be bad, it can be profound, it can be trivial. It can be fun too, though!
Saturday, October 23, 2004
Last week was a trip to holy joes which was a great way to spend a tuesday evening - now meeting in a little place called 'the greencoat boy' in London which is in Greencoat place. New venue, same old vibe, it was fun to be back in a venue that felt a little bit 'dingy' rather than 'shabby' which was the feeling of the 'bag o' nails'.
Anyway, good crowd, good conversation. For those of you who haven't checked out the website yet www.holyjoes.com is still worth visiting, you can also check out their blog which is just starting up on http://holyjoes.blogspot.com. The hope is that this will be an online version of HJs conversations of the deep and profound type we have on Tuesday nights. Having said that blogger wont let me sign in to make comments at the moment so i will have to try again later.
The conversation a couple of Tuesdays back, when i was leading the session, or facilitating or something like that was about 'Faith'. The original plan was 'Faith, Hope, Love' but we only managed to start with the first bit, so i will save the other parts of the talk for another time or times. As always, leading a session at HJs is as much a learning experience as anything else and i found the evening really thought provoking.
It all comes down to what this faith thing is. The notes for what i said will be posted when i get around to setting up my website!!! I am slow on this tech thingy and blogging is proving to be trying enough without trying to set up a webpage.
So, Faith. It's all about holding close to this amazing, frightening, exciting, awe-inspiring relationship we have with God. That seems to be the result of a few years of study, a couple of seminars i led at greenbelt a few years back and our talk at Holy Joes. There's lots more we can say about what that means, but what I think strikes me again and again is that it is not about doctrine, or theology or church (all of which i consider important) or even Bible (ditto and some) but about relationship.
This is what makes faith alive, vibrant, exciting, special, crucial.
Much more to be said but that's all i can do for now as i have to go somewhere. Comments welcomed...
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
things never get any slower or quieter do they? We say to ourselves 'I'll get that done when i have a quiet moment' or 'I'll get round to it when things aren't so busy' but they always are so busy.
So i thought i'd better stop in just to leave a line or too for the sake of appearance. I see that i have a comment (apart from the nice 'welcome to blogging' comment from Steve in my first post) and am most grateful to scog blog http://blogsprogress.blogspot.com/for it. Contact via our shared admiration for Martyn Joseph - singer, songwriter, activist and good bloke (www.martynjoseph.com) . The only time i ever met him he came to speak and share some songs with Holy Joes (www.holyjoes.com) and whilst we had supper together in a group before the meeting he was gracious enough to look at all the baby photos i had in my wallet (well my little girl is beautiful). this inspires me to add another more recent photo for your edification and enlightenment.
Bump, toddler and mum to be all seem to be doing well.
Friday, September 17, 2004
i do, so there
it may not be very obvious, but let me assure you - i have hidden shallows.
Anyway, this is all in order that i can write out this line which i picked up from an advert for a Comedy Club in Cambridge - two days after reading it I still keep laughing at unexpected moments due to this wonderful line from Milton Jones
'When my Grandfather got ill my Grandmother greased his back. After that he went downhill quite quickly'
normal service will be resumed as soon as i get around to it. I am debating whether or not to go to the Greenbelt after festival 'do' in London tonight, but if i was going to go i should really have set off by now.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Anyway - Greenbelt which i mentioned earlier is a Christian Arts Festival which takes place at Cheltenham every year and is a wonderful expression of all that can be good in Christian life and faith (and all the mistakes and stupidity that Christian's excell in too, but that is all lost in the creativity, the spirituality and the humanity of all that is there). I will say more on this at another time, as it is such a good thing and has had more effect on me than any other single thing in my Faith Journey) Well worth Checking out www.greenbelt.org.uk
Holy Joes is likewise a great expression of Faith which challenges, excites, infuriates and inspires as all expressions of faith should! It is a group of peopl who meet in a pub in London on a Tuesday evening and talk about faith - it is more than that too, but for starters that will do as an intro. Again, check out
www.holyjoes.com for worthwhile internet visitation
There are probably a few other things i should say, but i really must get back to work
Have discovered a tendency i have to want to express myself for good or bad in this blog - not that i am giving away deep dark secrets, but saying things without necessarly engaging the usual censor in my brain. I am determined to stick with this though, so bear with me.
Have that heartsickness today that can only come from feeling there is too much and i am too little - in a metaphysical sense, in the physical sense i could never be described as small!
I think this is the back to ministry after a couple of weeks break thing - working with people, and performing a role that is, above all, about the well-being of others can feel like quite a responsibility and coming back to that after a relatively carefree time feels like a heavy burden. I will feel a lot more energy and a lot more hope in a few days time when i have had a chance to settle in and remember what it is i am here for
something about god
something about love
something about serving
that keeps this all together
Before i went away i had something of a 'disconsolate' vibe going on, a sense of not quite being in the right soulspace, and i thought it might be to do with needing a break, but it is nestling in a place just below my heart and needs some attention. It isn't about unhappiness or fear, but a need to address a deeper reality about who i am and what i am supposed to be and to do.
Hmmmmm... I guess that this is me living up to my reputation as 'cheery, with bouts of deep thinking.' See what i mean about sharing without the censor?
If expressing such things could ever be a help to anyone then this is a good thing if not then i hope anyone who reads it can happily ignore it.
I guess i will go now, there is still work to be done and people to see.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
back from hols - licking wounds? Anyway, on reading old blog wondered if i had said too much or been too introspective and decided that if i am going to give this blog a chance i have to be honest with how i feel as i go along...
honesty still best policy methinks, besides - i'm pretty sure that this goes out into ether anyway... if not then 'hello out there'
should probably say that issue with regards to last posting is in progress, at least in my head, and i am thinking about rights and wrongs of my reaction, as well as working on some moving on in that. where too next? We open ourselves up to others and are vulnerable and find that so much of what we do can be misunderstood. At the same time of course we misunderstand others and end up in a feedback loop, spiralling in against each other until something blows
it can be an instant - it can happen over years.
Enough deep stuff - bit of light heartedness to explain absence. I've been away for a couple of weeks for a holiday in France, and i've decided i am becoming a definite francophile. We always take our family hols in France. Actually, that in itself is a revelation - I am discovering the joys of being a 'family group' as trips abroad are now 'family holidays' - me and daughter Kat and wife jo (with bump).
So two weeks of sun, sand, spouse and small beautiful person. We did the usual 'Marche' thing that we do and went all round the region where we stayed in Britanny visiting most of the local markets. The fresh food in France is amazing, and being in a tent for two weeks meant that we enjoyed more meals out than we could afford and bought lots of treats which we considered necessary due to lack of amenities under canvas. I have a good grasp of that wonderful bastardisation of French and English known as 'Franglais' so whilst desperately trying to speak French i manage to cause great amusement to my hearer with my terrible pronunciation and inability to choose the right words.
Another revelation - not only do i want to write this book previously mentioned about philosophy and contemporary theology, i think i want to write a novel. As i sat on the westernmost tip of France (called the Cap du Raz) i had a moment which made me realise i too could write a novel - i was particularly inspired by a (very good) novel i had been reading called 'Astonishing splashes of colour' though i can't remember the author offhand - and it helped me to consider what my 'literary voice' might be.
If i get to write and publish i will let you know.
Anyway - great holiday, somewhat delayed by bad weather for Sea Crossing so ended up getting in at 5am this morning instead of 1am and haven't quite caught up yet. It is the 1.25 am now so really should get to bed.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
What i mean with regards to the new impetus is that i am meant to be a creative writing type, but have been a wee bit lax in the past few months. I've started a book called 'Radical Orthodoxy' but i needs a lot of work, which i have been avoiding. In the past few days a friend has taken on the role of 'arse-kicker' and is motivating me to get on with it. This is a good thing.
The depressing bit is that i was quite hurt by someone i thought a friend being offensive and thoughtless towards me, and dismissing me offhand whilst i was just trying to say 'hi, let's talk'. I know that these blogs have a tendency to get into a certain lacrimosity, but i rather like the idea of the chance of some confessional - i am a priest after all.
Anyway, i came away from that encounter feeling hurt and angry, all because of one statement by a thoughtless and immature person. It was one of those occassions when on walking away you can think of lots of clever responses that would sum up your anger and hurt but you probably wouldn't have achieved anything by it. On reflection i realise the problem was more about his ego and his projections than anything about me and wonder why we do these things to each other. Why can't we just get on a bit?
I guess i am just a bit of a bleeding heart type, but actually i put a lot of effort into compassion, thoughtfulness, truth, honesty and (dare i say it) love. I think it is immeasurably harder to love than to hate, i think it is much more difficult to respect people than it is to insult or demean the, i think that being care-full is much tougher than being careless, and it p*sses me off royally when others take the easy route of abuse and vitriol which i strive so hard to avoid.
Nothing like a rant to clear the system TTFN
Monday, August 09, 2004
am embarkificating (as Pres. Bush would say) on a brave new adventure - have known about and read blogs for ages, but due to prompting from friend Steve
have decided to try this
this might be my first and last post, we shall see