Saturday, October 29, 2005


Well, I went on me holidays, and then came back...

Been a bit busy since then, and haven't got around to blogging, as may have been noticed by anyone who might drop by here every now and then.

I have noticed that most of those who were blogging like crazy at the end of August have slowed down somewhat, not that this is in any way trying to justify my own lack of effort on the 'shouting into the ether' front, just an observation.

Can't quite put my finger on why I've not done this, but my general writing, my columns for echurch active and all of my efforts at being creative are going through something of a hiatus at the moment. In fact I feel a bit flat generally - tired, I think.

It's amazing how creative I felt on holiday - was scrawling away in my notebook, and even got that idea for the novel I know is in there somewhere, have since had another idea but haven't done anything about it. There's just an undefined lack of impetus at the moment.

Admittedly, the rest of life is pretty busy, have been in a 'visiting frenzy' going to see lots of people, many of whom have serious illness, or members of family with serious illness. Perhaps the reality of sickness and death have oppressed my creative instinct. I am determined to get back on track, though, starting with some columns for echurch and a few phone calls that need to be made to get me back up to speed with some friends. I have some book reviews to write too, but need to read the books before I do that.

Onward and upward, therefore. And more soon, who knows this could be the start of another flurry of activity, combined with a bit of solipsism and self absorption that comes with it....

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Away with the ferries

Won't be here for a couple of weeks, am off on me hols to France. So rather than leave the blog empty with no explanation thought i would let you know.

I'll have une verre de vin for all you bloggers (or should that be 'un'?)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

not a creature was stirring, not even a blogger...

After a manic flurry of activity following Greenbelt all is quiet on the West of Cambridge front, certainly in terms of adding anything to this bloggy jobbet. Interestingly it is only only New Kid that is doing this, a lot of the blogs I've visited have calmed down somewhat in the past few days.

Interesting, and encouraging that Greenbelt can inspire that kind of activity. I can't quite put my finger on why, I guess it is just the overwhelmingly creative atmosphere and the fact that people are encouraged to think holistically - so that faith is certainly not a 'one day a week' thing but a vibrant, living, challenging, inspiring, daily activity. Hopefully the thought, the creativity will keep going throughout the year.

One thing which made me think this year at Greenbelt was the comment that 'GB' helps some Christians 'survive' from year to year, and that going to Greenbelt is like a refill of the batteries (in fact i read that on a posting on the Greenbelt forum this morning). I find that both heartening, that a rather haphazared collection of Christians can inspire such good things, and disappointing, that the Church can so badly let down her members that they have to rely on a 'para-Church' event to keep them going.

I was on the panel for Holy Joe's debate on 'DIY Church' (which rather spiralled and nosedived, sadly) but was struck by the times it was said 'Church isn't what i want'. I have to say that even as a Church leader Church isn't always as i would want it to be, but i need the challenge of other Christians to keep my faith alive. I have two ways in which i have tried to address difficulties in Church over my time as a Christian - one is to try and change things from the inside, hence the dog-collar and the other is to allow Church to change me. I may not get what i want from the style of worship, I may disagree with the way things are done or with the people who make up a Church, but that doesn't make me walk away - i have to constantly encounter others so that i might encounter God in others.

There is more to it than this, and i am not for a moment suggesting that we stick with a particular fellowship and denomination as it seeks to suck the soul out of us. I am just aware that in a consumer culture many christians are prone to church shop in the same way they might shop for any other bit of entertainment. Surely there is more to it than that.

This may well become something that i think about on my other (mission and ministry) blog - and i am well aware that i have only started to scrape the surface rather than plumb the depths of the issue.

I've wandered off a bit from Greenbelt, but goes to show how it keeps stimulating the mental juices (what a disgusting image there)

Roll on Greenbelt 06!

Friday, September 02, 2005

For Blog's Sake

As the more observant will have noticed there are a lot more links to blogs on the right hand side than there were a week ago, this is partly due to the inspiration of discovering blogs through the Greenbelt Tag and partly in response to some of the comments that have been posted here in the past few days. I would say, though, that I'm not just chucking on references to anyone, these blogs are worth reading, and i have been seriously impressed in the blogfest that has been my past few late evening's entertainment by the quality of thought and the fun that is part of the blogging community.

I don't operate a strict editorial policy, I don't necessarily agree with what is written in all of them, but i do enjoy them, so try a few out. Some are deeper than others, but i leave you to find that out for yourself - after all it's not the destination it's the journey that's important (or some old cack like that) ;-)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More GB 05

It happens every year

I think that i am just settling down to normal life (is there such a thing?) and the whole Greenbelt thing just will not lie down and play dead! I am not the type that lives from Greenbelt to Greenbelt (more like minute to minute really, i have a very narrow perspective....i call it focussed!) - but i cannot deny the impact that this four days has on my life throughout the year.

It all comes back to this 'whole life philosophy' that permeates the festival. I am an arty-farty type so when i first encountered Greenbelt back in 1987 before going off to uni to study Drama and Theology (hence why i ended up as a minister - i was not qualified to do anything else) i was inspired by the vision of bringing faith to such an important area of my life. The influence of Gb on my theological development, the freedom of expression and thought, the sheer fun of the festival is beyond my abiltiy to describe. Likewise the refusal to accept the idea of 'being told what to believe' and the challenge to the status quo of the Church which is all a part of the GB ethos has probably affected me more than any other one thing in my spiritual journey.

This is not to say that Gb is perfect, far from it - this year i felt i didn't connect with the festival itself in the same way as i have done in previous years - and i found out a little bit about the politics of the Gb organisation which made it all feel a little more mundane than it might have otherwise. Yet it is a place which is alive with feeling, humour, hope, anger, love and hope - and faith too! I have enjoyed being a speaker over the past six years or so and hope to continue some input to the festival over the coming years. Maybe if i get around to that book i keep telling myself i will write (and friends tell me i should write, but only to shut me up about it i'm sure) i might be invited back to speak again...

Greenbelt isn't Church, but it is a vision of what Church could be - or perhaps should be. There isn't anywhere like it anywhere else, and as i said below in my previous post, the thought processes just keep on going. And i am sure this is not the last i will write about it...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I said i would say more about GB, so here it is, more stuff.

The greatest gift GB gives is the train of thought it inevitably kicks of, though my train often forgets to stop at the stations labelled 'reality' and 'practicality'. As a festival GB does inspire creativity - even if it is a case of disagreeing with people, or not understanding. Last year my involvement with Between the Lines made me actually think about whether or not i wanted to get on with this writing business or just keep it a hobby. I may have thought about it, but it still remains very much a part time thing. Since last year, though, i have continued with my column for eChurch Active, have done a few reviews for eChurch and a couple of other organisations, i have seriously got down to thinking about my creative life and what things i do which can inspire and continue that, and i have done a lot more reading - a huge amount more - which i have enjoyed very much indeed, thank you very much.

This year my inspirations were Gareth Higgins, who has written a book called 'How Movies Helped Save My Soul' who i was fortunate enough to interview for one of the sessions, it made me feel a) a little less guilty that i enjoy films so much and b) a little more inspired to watch and read films with a critical eye - not necessarily for style but content. Book is good too - visit for review of said tome. I was also inspired to read some more stuff by Prof David Clines about Biblical Criticism and reader-response theory and all that kind of thing - David wasn't at the festival, but in order to prepare for my own session on 'The Bible as Literature' i read some of his material, as well as a whole load of other things - and got a lot out of that preparation. Other than that, some quality time with my daughter, and less but still good stuff with my son, made the weekend special.

I am inspired to keep up the writing, and also have been gently prodded to get on with this book about 'Christian Basics from a contemporary perspective' that i have been thinking about for some little while now. Two friends are particularly good at reminding me to get my act together (though they never say it quite like that) and just get on with it - though as you can tell i am very good at waffling about it rather than doing it.

Also inspired to contact a few magazine editors and get some work published about Christianity and Culture, about being normal and being Christian, about humour and faith - all the stuff that interests me and more. Will follow that up after me 'oliday in the next couple of weeks. For now, i have parishes to care for and though GB may inspire it doesn't take long to come to earth with a bump (closely followed with a hop and a skip and some fun)

Doubt i will be publishing with this much frequency again, though i am feeling 'up for it', as some might say...particularly if they are stuck in a 1990s timewarp.

At the heart of Greenbelt

Had to add another link to piccy of the wonderful yellow and red stripey tent....

A Bloggers Prayer

One of the things that Greenbelt has begun exploring is this whole blogging malarkey, there were session in between the lines and as part of the wider programme. One of the interesting things which i have read about since coming back from the festival was that Andrew Jones has worked on a 'spirituality of blogging', part of which is a prayer for bloggers. All a bit deep for me at this particular time as my sleep patterns start to readjust to full on family and work life (staying up til 3.30am and getting up again at 8 not recommended with two kids, a wife and six parishes to consider). Anyway, i will devote more brain time to the subject when feeling a little more together, until then you can read the prayer by clicking the post name above or going to

Andrew Jones has a blog at well worth looking at, even if you don't buy in to quite the same perspective.

I should warn you, there will be some more Greenbelt stuff, and various thought processes inspired by GB in the coming weeks. If I ever sleep enough to get things together.


Was going to print the latest online test - mentioned in previous post - that told me i was a genius but i can't figure out how to correct the html that is missing from the cut and paste

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

so much for an ego boost ;-)


Another year at Greenbelt - and i am shattered!

A great festival, more people than we've had for some years, huge variety and diversity of humanity who come and take part/watch/drink tea in the vicintiy of a huge variety and diversity of events, seminars, music, cabaret, dance, art, stalls, literature, panel discussions, worship, prayer. The list goes on.

After 18 (or perhaps 19, my maths is bad despite my genius IQ - tried another IQ test which i will post on this blog just because it does my ego a huge amount of good, despite the fact there is no substance to such a test). Anyway, after a nearly 20 year attendance at Greenbelt - consecutive, mind you, none of this year off namby pamby nonsense - i realised i have a somewhat more mature view of what goes on than I did previously. By this i mean i can pick and reflect and choose and dismiss and consider and enthuse and whatever in a way i couldn't over previous years. It means that i felt more duriing Greenbelt this year and did less running around trying to get to talks or bands or events. It means that i put a lot of effort into putting together the sessions/interviews/panels/reading groups i was a part of or leading and that the putting in of effort was even more worthwhile than the actual sessions themselves. It means that not getting to see the wonderful, radient, beautiful Kendall Payne and her wonderful, radient, beautiful voice and sublime songwriting wasn't the major disappointment it might have been in previous years as i had the chance to catch up with a good friend and talk about some stuff which was very important whilst Kendalls dulcet tones wafted around the background.

It was a good festival, though there were some parts i found difficult - the panel debates were hard work - partly because of the shape of the venue, partly because Holy Joe's works best when not amplified (!), partly because some of the conversation seemed more circular than need be, partly because i think we missed some of the crucial issues we should have talked about re: forgiveness and 'diy church' which were the two i got to. Kudos to HJs for putting on the gritty debate in the way only it can, but needs work to make it work next year.

I loved the stuff at the literary venue 'Between the Lines' - see the new link on the right of the page - which really did seem to have a diversity in itself, but was a well thought out programme in a well run venue - I don't just say that because I spoke in BtL but because it was a delight to work with the people there - professional, friendly, concerned with the subject matter, engaging with the speakers. Not that I have every had anything other than that from my previous experiences in any venue at GB but the identity of BtL gave it an extra edge which also gave something of a 'value added' vibe. It also had a very groovy indeed red and yellow striped marquee - pictures on the GB website, if this works, at -,,,

All in all a great few days.

Should mention now that there is a link to technorati below thiswhich is part of the virtual collage for GB 05 - not yet really got to grips with this stuff but thought i would try to join in.

More soon

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

It's not a scam!

Joined up to the free ipods thing, where advertisers get you sign up for a trial offer and you can then refer others who sign up etc etc. If you get five others to sign up you get a free ipod - so i thought i'd have a go.....

It doesn't involve any buying, just a trial with, say a DVD rental company that you have to cancel after a few weeks. It is legit - all a desperate act on the part of advertisers, capitalised on by a company which does genuinely give away ipods if you get five others to sign up. Don't take my word for it, see what the BBC had to say

So, if you have a mo - try it. I'm always up for getting freebies wherever possible, who isn't?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A couple of weeks elsewhere

I've not added anything to these pages for a couple of weeks because I have been caught up with events around here. Although everyone has been affected by the horror of the bomb blasts in London, we've been affected in this village by the death of a young woman who, though ill for some time succumbed to complications brought about by her sickness very quickly and her death was a shock to everyone.

The day after my writing attempt (see below) I was called upon to visit the local Intensive Care Unit in Cambridge where I stayed for some time with the family of this 20 year old girl. Her kidneys had failed 2 1/2 years ago and since then she had been on constant dialysis whilst a donor had been sought for a new kidney. When her blood pressure suddenly went up she was admitted to hospital where she lost consciousness and as pressure increased in her brain her autonomic functions shut down and her brain died. I was amazed by the way the family coped with this awful situation and, with trips home to grab a bit of sleep and deal with the other things in my life that needed covering, spent as much time in the hospital as I could over the next 48 hours - including most of one night just chatting to the family and offering a listening ear and some distraction therapy as we talked about vintage tractors, motorbikes and the beauty of Ireland (home of my fathers, so it is).

Then, nearly two weeks ago, she was pronounced brain dead and the ventilator was turned off and she slipped away. I missed that moment as, ironically, I had to go and officiate at a funeral. But I have tried to see and support the family as much as possible in the past couple of weeks.

So this has been at the front of my mind for most of the time since I last wrote. Another reminder of the fragility of life and the great sadness that can overwhelm us, especially when we don't expect it. It has meant that I've not stopped to write for the last couple of weeks, though I'm not really worried about that as I feel most of my 'creativity' has been engaged in making some sense of these events and praying for the family. Today is the day of the funeral and we'll soon be making our way to the Church for the final farewell to this brave, caring young woman. It is part of that rich tapestry that makes up ministry....

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Stopping to smell the lightning

On the way home this evening, from my second meeting of the night and at the end of a full day, I stopped. It was a gorgeous evening, but as the clouds started to appear lightning flashed across the sky and grew more and more active and exciting over just a few minutes. I had to stop and just look - I sat there for half and hour waiting for each new burst to appear, for the sky to be lit up again. I thought I would try and write a poem - but settled for some prose instead...

Silent Lightning
It started orange, glimpses of sunset flung out of the sky landing left and right, each bolt giving the countryside around it a sudden burst of light. Skeletal fingers of fire chased each other through the clouds and then disappeared. Every now and then it looked as if the sky above the clouds was bursting in to flame.

As the now invisible sun dipped further and darkness fell, the flames that lit the sky were swapped for photoflash bursts of eye-numbing light. Falling to earth, or filling the sky the light drew attention, then forced it away as it seared the mind.

The air changed from the moist heaviness of the past days into a new fresh lung-filling joyful pure oxygen, no longer needing to be chewed before swallowing, or causing sweat to burst from every pore at the slightest movement. Deep breaths were rewarded with a new sense of being alive and awake in the midst of all this power.

Yet in all of this there was no sound. The thunder beyond reach, the wind low, no hint of rain. The clouds drifted majestically giving this violent scene a strange lack of urgency, as if the light was falling from the too-slow sky.

And until the rain came, it remained to be watched, causing breath to be held and eyes to be filled with too much light. With soul renewed and waiting for the rain to come, i stopped to smell the sweetness of the lightning.

It may not be good, but its a start. I'm sure it is just begging for a metaphor to be drawn from it, or made part of some allegory about life, or trite illustration of faith. No matter how my words may fail, though, the lightning speaks for itself.

Perhaps its coming back

After disconnecting from blogger last night i picked up a pen and my notebook and rediscovered the feeling of having to write. I had to make myself stop at three pages as all the words that i'd obviously been saving up flowed out. I wondered whether it was something to do with the act of using a pen, but then having said that I love to write on the computer. Perhaps it was just the resolve to actually get on with it and to work at it.

It was the same today - I found myself with a few minutes to stop whilst visiting a local hospital - I sat down with a coffee and 'whoosh' out came the words. I've never felt that compulsion that other writers have talked about until today - that feelling that I must write, as though the words are trapped inside and they need to come out. The three pages was a doddle, took about 20 minutes.

I think that creativity is something God-given, i also think that it is given to everyone and we can use it or not as we choose or have opportunity. I know I'm not a great writer, maybe I could be, but for now I know that alongside my calling as husband, father, priest & motorcyclist I am a writer. Say it proud now!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Creativity, Confusion and something else beginning with c that i haven't yet thought of

I've been away on a holiday, and a very good one it was too. I spent some time with my family (I love being able to say that), ie wife and kids, and stayed with a great friend in York then we were very kindly loaned a house in Fairlie, West Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde. It was a time to rediscover an old friend and why he is such a great man, to have some very high quality time with the loves of my life (Jo, Katherine and Jack) and to rediscover a bit of the creative urge that got me into this writing business in the first place.

Jem (the aforementioned great friend - blog link is on the right of this page) is doing something about creativity - a course or something. As part of this he disciplines himself to write three pages of text a day. This seemed like a good idea, so for the last part of the holiday I tried it for myself. It was amazing, the words poured out of me, my thoughts, my feelings, images in words, things which made me laugh, things which made me think. I couldn't wait to pick up my notebook each day and make the next entry - I even bought a smaller notebook to carry around with me and scrawled thoughts in it every day. I sat out on the balcony of the flat we stayed in in York and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was like rediscovering a vocation. I couldn't wait to get back and start typing away on the PC and writing huge creative bits of this blog and start writing poetry again and and and and....

And then i came back home.

In the eight days since I've returned the only writing I've done is lists of what to do and a sermon. I get up (normally in a woozy and not entirely compus mentus manner) and help get my daughter ready for the morning, i eat my breakfast, i pray and i work, then when i get home in the evenings i watch TV or work, or go out with friends. None of this is bad, obviously, and it has been a happy week or so - but i felt so fired up last week to write and write, to get that book done which has been nagging at me for the past two years, to write some articles, to start some research, to simply sit and scribble. Where has that gone?

I think I'm going to stop now, my day is drawing to a close somewhat earlier than usual (only about 10.30pm now ) and i might do my three pages before bed, get up feeling slightly less woozy than usual after an early night and do some more writing before the day begins in earnest again tomorrow. Pray for me brothers and sisters :-)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Discovered what Theologian I am

Online quizzes are fun. This was the latest from (

You scored as Friedrich Schleiermacher. You seek to make inner feeling and awareness of God the centre of your theology, which is the foundation of liberalism. Unfortunately, atheists are quick to accuse you of simply projecting humanity onto 'God' and liberalism never really recovers.

Friedrich Schleiermacher




J├╝rgen Moltmann


Karl Barth


John Calvin


Paul Tillich




Charles Finney


Jonathan Edwards


Martin Luther


Which theologian are you?
created with

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Joyful living

A few years ago the musician Frank Zappa asked the question ‘does humour belong in music?’ – actually it was the title of one of his albums. The only reason I mention this is because one could equally ask the question ‘does humour belong in faith?’. I hope that most people would answer ‘yes’ without having to think about it – but unfortunately a lot of people I meet seem to think that the Christian Church is a pretty humourless organisation. Sadly, Christians have a reputation for being serious and sombre most, if not all, of the time. I remember as a teenager someone saying that Christians were people with ‘black suits, black books and black looks’ – not really a very good advert for the Church at all.

But Christian Faith certainly isn’t one that is meant to be overly-serious. We do take very seriously the problems and difficulties of the world. Most Christians have a concern for justice and a hope for peace which occupies a lot of our time and energy. We recognize the very real effect of evil in the world and the pain and sadness that sin and death bring about in our creation.

Yet amongst all of those very real, very important situations we also have a faith that is filled with ‘joy and peace in believing’ as Saint Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans Chapter 15. Jesus himself said in John’s Gospel ‘I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly’ (John Chapter 10 v 10). We continue to worship God in our Churches, our homes and our lives because of the great joy that fills our life as a result of God’s love for each one of us.

The Christian Faith is not about rules and regulations, about being serious and sonorous, it is (as I wrote last month) a celebration of God’s love and new life. It’s not about pretending that everything is wonderful in the world, but about saying that amongst all of the worst that life can throw at us the one thing that we can depend on is God’s grace, love and mercy. Nor is being a Christian about saying everything will be alright in the end when we die and go to heaven, but about trying to bring God’s life into what is a broken and fallen world.

If we look at the stories of Jesus in the Bible we see a man who shows us what God is like. This Jesus is full of all the feelings that we have – passion, sadness, hope, faith, weakness and joy. He tells stories and says things which are meant to make us smile as well as make us think – we have no pictures of Jesus in the Bible or descriptions of what he looked like, but it does seem to me that he must have spent a fair amount of time smiling when he was speaking to people. He was someone who took God’s demands on his life seriously, but he speaks about faith in a joyful and passionate way. May we all feel that too! To quote St Paul in full
‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘ Romans 15 verse 13

Monday, May 16, 2005

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Pentecost was a great celebration in the Parishes i went to yesterday, a bit of a glimpse of what we can be as the Church when we let ourselves be open to the life of the Spirit! I only had four people in the tiny village Church i went to at 8.30am, but it was a great service of Holy Communion and i can honestly say that God was very much a part of our prayers and worship as the four of us gathered in a Church full of the prayers of the saints over many centuries. We may have been few, but the Angels and Archangels were having a party nearby and we got to join in...

Then to a larger celebration (remembering that larger equals about 50 in these parishes) in another Church. In lots of ways it was a traditional, unexceptional Eucharist - but at the same time it was full of joy and life and touched by the Holy Spirit in such a way that made our liturgy and all of our worship come alive. No, there were no noticable tongues of fire, miraculous healings, speaking in tongues - but the life of Christ was there and I hope God was blessed as much as he blessed us!

Every now and then heaven breaks through and we all get to share in it.

Hallelujah (twice in two posts, must be good!)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Reflection, Royalty and Rejuvination

Had a great time this week staying at Windsor Castle, or rather at St George's House in Windsor Castle. Yes, that Windsor Castle, where the Queen lives when she isn't at Buckingham Palace or Balmoral or Sandringham or wherever.

Didn't get to see the Queen, but did get a few days of serious thinking about what this Church business is all about. A bit of time out of the Parishes to think about Parishes is quite a good thing from time to time.

This time together was called a 'Parishes Consultation' and whilst ostensibly concerned with reflecting on 'Clergy Spirituality, Lay Spirituality, is there a difference?' actually offered the chance to reflect in some depth on many aspects of the church and her mission and ministry in our present day.

We had some very nice, very traditional services, good food, comfy beds and some excellent talks by various Canons of St George's chapel, as well as the obligatory and enjoyable tours of the Chapel (which is the home of the Knights of the Garter, the Order of St Geoge) and the State Apartments of Her Majesty. More than anything else, though, we had time to talk, to think, to be together and consider the reality of some of what is happening in the life of the church today.

One of the strengths of the consultation was that it wasn't a 'Vicar-fest' but a group of lay people and Clergy talking together, laughing together and tackling issues which are real to us in our everyday lives as church.

Topics were wide ranging and diverse - lay and clergy roles, changing times for society, struggles of churches in small parishes, worship, engaging with the historical demands (ie mainly buildings) of being the Church of England etc etc

What came out of the all the discussions, though - both individual and corporate - was a feeling of excitement about our faith and a desire to be bold and vital in our expression of Christianity. There was a lack of embarrassment when talking about the Good News of our faith - a desire not to 'buy in to' the 'seige mentality' that the church so easily adopts - a heartfelt cry to put joy and faith and love in the centre of our expression of faith.

In my recent deliberations about ministry I have failed to express, perhaps, something of what all this ministry business is all about, in fact what all of this Christian Faith is all about. It is about Jesus Christ, and the great things that come from our relationship with God and with each other because of him.

I am excited about my faith, I am excited about this calling to ministry, I am excited about the calling of the Church to proclaiming Jesus Christ, and I am excited about the love of God which is so great and so awe-inspiring - and well worth shouting about.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost, that wonderful festival of the joy giving Spirit who lives in our hearts through faith and fills us with God's love - a good opportunity to remember the gifts of a gracious God, and to resolve to live in that joy and hope in all of our lives. Amen! Hallelujah!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

just tired and over-emotional ;-)

As i have carried on in ministry i have learned that i have limitations

'no, really?' i hear you cry!

Well, obviously i've always been aware of my many shortcomings, what with having a natural tendency to low self-esteem and all that, but it is amazing how the training that many ministers receive and the attitude of those we minister to and with gives the impression that the ordained leadership of the church can and must be omnicompetent - as if we meet every job with a cry of 'this is a job for Clergy-man' (or -woman, -person, - squirrel or whatever) and rip off our normal clothing to reveal a shiny dogcollar that magically equips us for every situation, and our super shiny halo that lifts us above all we survey....

Of course it isn't like that. As a minister of the Church i hold tight, or rather i cling, to that wonderful phrase 'the Grace of Orders' (ie Holy Orders, what we who are ordained are called and subject to). It is this wonderful, sustaining, life-enhancing grace that seems to emerge just when we need it and stops us from going under. Really it is just a shorthand way of saying that whatever we are called to God is sufficient for our needs - whether it be ordained ministry, teaching, law enforcement, medicine, business or commerce or whatever our vocation is.

On the whole, my theology of priesthood and ministry stems from an understanding that together in Christ we are part of the 'priesthood of all believers' and that from within these ranks some of us are freed up to minister to and on behalf of the Church as our full time work. Yes i believe it is a vocation, yes i know it is more than a job, but ultimately any calling to ministry only finds its fullness in partnership with all who are working within the Missio Dei, the mission of God, which is the work of all Christian people.

So when we as ministers find ourselves overwhelmed, it is often because we have neglected that partnership, or have been unable to truly enter in to that partnership - for whatever reason (lack of people, resources, time etc etc)

With all that has happened in my life in the past few months i have reached a point where i seem to feel tired all of the time - partly because i am busy, partly because i am not sleeping enough, but mainly because i have invested much of myself in what i do, and i give a lot to it. I do this because i love it, and know (as i have said just a couple of weeks ago) the huge privilege that it is to do what i do - but i have to a certain degree filled up my days with doing and not enough being, i have neglected disciplines of prayer and stillness, i have not cultivated the shared ministry that i perhaps should have.

I have learned to distinguish between simply being tired due to busyness, and that emotional tiredness that comes from any part of life in which we give of ourselves. I have the opportunity to reflect a little more upon that this week as i go away to a 'parish consultation' at which i am sure such issues will be brought up.

Until then i keep on believing and remembering - just to get Biblical for a moment - 'I can do all things through the one who strengthens me' Phil 4.13

Monday, April 25, 2005

The privilege of ministry

Today was the day of the funeral of the aforementioned musician (did anyone notice my deft use of the word aformentioned there - i took an online IQ test and apparently am quite clever, its just a shame no one has noticed)

Anyway, it was a good funeral - at least as good as these things can be! It had laughter and some tears, some very good tributes by some very accomplished musicians and a chance to celebrate a life as well as mourn its passing.

And my reflection on this? Well, its a reminded of the huge privilege we have as ministers of the Church in being allowed in to the most profound times of people's lives. It is of course also a huge responsibility and i, normally a placid type of person, get furious when i hear of the abuses that those who call themselves pastors and ministers are often guilty of.

I have quite a high view of the calling to ministry, and - i hope - a humility that goes alongside that as i realise how inadequate i am for the task! thank God for the divine assistance that seems to go along with this calling. I don't just mean ordained ministry either - all Christians are called to serve the community in which God has placed us and that responsibility must be taken seriously.

I love being freed up by the Church to visit, to pray, to offer support and help at people's time of need and to rejoice with those who celebrate new life or the beginning of a new phase in their relationships. I love my parishes, honest, even the cantankerous and the difficult people, because they are all valuable and unique. If i ever lose this sense of wonder and of joy, along with the sense of responsibility and the work it takes to keep going in this, i think it will be time to give up. I hope that's not sometime soon.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Express yourself

I spent the morning today with the widow of a very talented and dedicated musician. It struck me in conversation that to this person music was life, it was all about communication, expression, emotion, mystery, precision, hope, love. Music was all.

Music is, of course, a language that is powerful and affecting. It is something that most of us are used to in the background (as i type this i have my internet radio playing some very chilled jazz - no doubt that i will be enjoying something heavy, or folky, or poppy any moment). Because music is so much in the background we often forget its there, a bit like we can forget what a gift language is because we spend all of our days gassing away - well i do anyway.

It is easy to debase the languages and forms of expression we rely on, to allow things which can be exceedingly positive to adopt a neutral policy. I do this with my music, my writing, even my observance of faith. Thank God that every now and then we all get a glimpse of the beauty and splendour of it all to remind us of all that we've been given. That's what this morning's visit taught me as i encountered through the stories of one person the life and expression of another person - what a joy!

I wish i was a musician, instead i am a guitarist of the 'bang out a tune' variety. But rather than envying others their language/expression i can appreciate and enjoy it. I should probably spend more time learning to use my language, that of words, and writing more - but there's enough guilt in my world for all the things i should/would like to be doing and i continue to do what i can as i can, with the help of God.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

a flurry of activity

twice in two days - i obviously have more time than i know what to do with (ha ha)

whilst i wait for a friend to turn up and help me transport an item of garden furniture half a mile up the road i have a few moments for reflection, and these reflections have been inspired by the excellent thoughts for this week, and a link to an earlier blog, by sarah dylan breur

I have problems with the idea of pastoring in the Church in the classic sense. By that i mean that the word pastor means, in its etymology, something akin to animal husbandry, which at worst suggests that there in an inherent superiority of human beings over animals and that somehow this idea spills over into the relationships a minister has with her/his people. In other words, to quote one of my lecturers at Theological College 'I don't like calling myself a pastor because you aren't sheep'.

I do see the positive side of that image, of nurture and self-sacrifice that comes with the image of shepherd, but i see the danger of patronisation, control and a latent superiority complex that can come with ministry (not with any of the minsters i know obviously...)

To carry the image on further, as we think of Christ the Good Shepherd - an incredibly powerful and important image, i agree, but one open to abuse as congregations and ministers are too quick to take on the sheep image and divest themselves of the Christian responsibility to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" ( Philippians 2.12). There is way too much 'spoon fed religion' in Christian circles and taking the image of sheep and shepherd too far is, i believe, contributing to a faith where people are more concerned with 'teaching' (ie what the minster says) than 'learning' (discovering through prayer, scripture and study, as well as actually getting on and living the Christian life).

Here endeth the rant for today...

baaaa humbug (geddit??!!??)

Friday, April 15, 2005

i'm baaaack

Actually, I've just popped in because i thought i really should start to say something again. Things have been very pressured lately just because of the time it has taken to do everything that needs to be done - so much for this being a one day a week job!

I have six wonderful parishes full of intelligent, committed, thoughtful, concerned people. Many of the expectations placed on Clergy are unrealistic, but there is a certain level of pastoral visiting that one needs to do, after six months of unsettled life with a move, holidays, Christmas, a new baby etc it was time for me to do some remedial work, to visit as much as possibly could - this has been the focus of the last three months or so....

It goes on, I continue to make as much time as is humanly possible for visiting people, alongside other meetings, appointments, service planning and leading, events, praying, reading, writing sermons, and of course the hours i spend in a car getting between places. This is not a complaint, just a realisation that has been dawning on me that i am probably not that model of an unhurried and balanced life that i have always wanted to be. I don't mean that i think ministers should be slackers, far from it, but in a world that is hurried, time pressured and constantly 'striving' i do think that the Church could, and perhaps should, offer an alternative. We in the Church are called to pray, to make time for people, to be available. Ministers are often not good examples of that.

All Christians, indeed all people, constantly strive for balance. We in full time ministry are not alone in this, of course - and in many ways the flexibility that working for the Church offers in terms of being able to make time for family and to live where we work is nothing but good. In the end though, a burnt out person is not a well balanced person, and a burnt out minister is not an example after the model of Christ. May God preserve us from busy-ness.

TTFN, no idea when i will be back...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's a boy

The title says it all!

Jack David McCollum arrived on Sunday morning at 6.15am - after saying in my last post i was expecting to do services, the whole day was completely banjaxed...

I'm not going to do one of those blogs which goes on about the life changing nature of having a child or being there for the birth etc etc - if you have children you know, if you don't then the likelihood is that you don't really want to know. I just want to say that my perspective on life has been altered somewhat by recent events - but i guess perspectives are always being altered for all of us anyway so no great revelation there...


Saturday, January 15, 2005

A lot more weeks without blogging

It has been nearly two months since I visited my own blogsite or wrote anything here (just in case you'd not noticed). There are a number of reasons why this happened, Christmas services & busyness (occupational hazard), immanence of small child appearing (no, not happened yet, but we have been anticipating for three weeks now) and generally lacksadaisicalilty (not sure if this is a new word, but do quite like it).

Actually, the real reason is that i have felt something of a lack of investment in this whole blogging process. When i started it was all very exciting and a few people responded and it was fun and i spent lots of time and energy putting stuff in. I also felt it was somewhere i should be honest and after a couple of quite vulnerable postings i think i wondered if i'd said too much for my own comfort and left a couple of people guessing as to whether i was talking about them etc. Then it became a bit of a run of the mill thing and i didn't get any responses and couldn't be bothered to put the same effort in and other things became more pressing and, well that's it - no blogging, no bother.

But now i am feeling some kind of need to rekindle this whole bloggy flame thing (and you may quote me on that, as i think it's a great phrase). Perhaps it is a perverse desire to expose my deepest thoughts on the internet for no-one to see (well i have no idea if anyone reads this), perhaps it is because i want to make a mark somewhere, even if it is invisible, perhaps it is a need to do something, anything to create an identity in this new cyber age - whatever it is i am back, at least for this posting, and thinking hard about what i could and should be writing about.

that's it for now as this is a Saturday night and i have services in the morning to prepare for, unless baby arrives of course.