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...