Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Heatwaves and holidays

Said i would say something about holidays, so just a few rambling style meanderings as i reflect on recent relaxatory revelations - this means nothing, but i like the sound of it. I don't have the profound insights of Jem Clines about our travels but it gives me a chance to waffle a bit...

The start of a thunderstorm as i type here in South Cambridgeshire certainly reminds me of our time away in Bergerac - it was very very hot - the heatwave in the UK feels almost cool in comparison - and prone to thunderstorms, which could be incredibly exciting, particularly the nighttime ones, but once they went we again were greeted by clear skies and fantastic weather.

It was the heat that shaped our holiday - keeping kids out of too much sunlight, choosing what we would eat, making sure we stocked up on water, driving at certain times of the day (no air con in the car, our clunky old volvo), deciding which places to visit that might be shady, looking for cool places to park, not wanting to make too much effort etc etc etc.

The Dordogne is beautiful so we enjoyed our travelling around, seeing places that now feel familiar and discovering new places. Unfortunately there is little public transport, and its difficult to use buses and trains with two under fives in tow, so we had to rely on a car. This proved to be troublesome as on one day out my handbrake cable snapped, and we had to hire a car (which did have a.c.) as i endeavoured to explain to a local mechanic what was wrong and to understand his response. Fortunately a friend of the family who own most of the house we use (we have an 11 % share, roughly the size of the toilet i worked out whilst we were there) is proficient in English and she explained over the phone what was wrong and interpreted the answer - ie that there are NO volvo dealers in the Dordogne and we'd have to wait a week for the correct bits to arrive. Anyway, we always have to have one disaster on holiday and this one was relatively simple (not the car crashes of previous experience, or wife's serious sunburn of one year). I broke the cord which started the lawnmower which was a disasater for the lawn, but not for me as i got to skive of this minor piece of domestic activity and play another game of scrabble.

All in all the holiday was probably one of the most relaxing times i have ever had, despite a 14 hour drive at either end and the stresses of keeping the kids safe, amused and occupied. In part this was due to not trying to do anything that looked or felt like work, so perhaps taking a laptop (as mentioned previously) was good after all.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Amazing how quickly it all comes rushing back

Having been back at work for about five hours i seem to have spent the last four and a half on the telephone catching up. Nothing went drastically wrong whilst i was away and in fact there have been some good things going on, so apart from a mountain of mail that is causing me to turn ashen every time i think about it i don't have a huge amount to make up for now i am back.

It's summertime (in case anyone had missed this) so meetings are all off until September, as are the various school events that conspire to fill up my weeks. My hope is that this will allow me some time to get back to visiting and getting my study and everything else administrative in to tip top order whilst things are quieter.

So, about the last few weeks, i know you're dying to know! Its been a great time, just busy. Before i went away we all geared up for a variety of events, it being summer there was a whole load of fetes and summer 'do's that were enjoyable and time consuming. I missed a few by going away on holiday, which i am not completely gutted about as there are enough clergy to cover things now.

That was one of the major changes, on the day before i went away we had our curate ordained priest and two of our long-term Church members ordained deacon, so we now have four full time priests and two voluntary deacons on our team. Despite my constant carping on about how the Church should be made up of all the people and that ministers exist to support not just to do everything the presence of more ordained team members will be a boon to our situation here in these rural parishes. We celebrated this at a service on the morning of the day i left, which i ended up putting together but not having to do anything but play in the music group for. It was a celebration of ministry generally, but a celebration of what we have been blessed with in our team especially.

This of course presents me with something of a crisis of conscience - or theology - which people might want to comment on. I do sincerely believe that the Church is called to every member ministry, and that the emergence of new forms of congregation, structure and ministry is an exciting and spirit-led innovation. I do believe that there is a role for those who are trained and theologically educated to offer their support, and leadership, to the Church as ministers (lay and ordained) and that the Anglican 'three fold order' of Bishop's, Priests and Deacons is still an appropriate model within the Church (not the only model, but a workable and - dare i say it - spirit inspired model). Alongside this i hold the tension of how people in the C of E (perhaps in most Churches) percieve the role of the minister, which is still often to do everything: to lead and to teach and to guide worship and to pastor and to administer etc etc etc. This is, of course, an unrealistic model in the Church today, one which is rediscovering that ordained ministry is just one part of the ministries of the Church. Pragmatically it is also unrealistic to expect a Vicar to do what s/he could do years back when most parishes were single community benefices. I also think that Biblically putting all the ministry of the Church into the hands of a few is inappropriate and ignores the diversity of responsibilites and callings within the body of Christ.

So here i am rejoicing in the calling to ministry of two new curates and the release of Curate 2.0 as she is now given the authority and blessing of the Bishop to exercise the ministry of a priest. Yet at the same time I recognise that we are in danger of simply shoring up a top heavy, clergy led model of minstry which is failing the Church and (in the words of a previous Bishop in this diocese) frankly unbiblical and needs some repentance from.

I find myself caught between ideals and pragmatism, between frustration and relief, between a hope for a broader ministry without me having to do quite so much and a fear that we might just be giving people the idea that the Clergy do everything...

That was part of my thought process of the past few weeks, no resolution of course, hence another attempt to throw things into the ether and see if anything comes back. If nothing else at least i have put this into words and i can come back and read what i think!

Plenty more to come about just about everything and maybe even some holiday snaps in the near future. Got to get back to doing Clergy things now ;-)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Still here - or rather 'I'm back'

Thanks to all of you who've not completely given up on me (my site stats show that there are a few folk popping back every now and then to see if i am still alive). After a few ridiculously hectic and fatigued weeks we went off on holiday for THREE WHOLE WEEKS to the house in which we have a tiny share in Bergerac, France. It was a wonderful break and very refreshing. The kids were delightful, wife and I got to have real conversations, and apart from the handbrake of the car snapping and me breaking the lawnmower there were no major mishaps!

I read a lot too, not as much as usual as there were real people to talk to (my wife, parents in law and mum at various times) - the brain cells also got a bit of a work out as i thought about life in general, theology in unguarded moments, and the possibility of writing a novel (ideas are formulating in a way they've not before). I did find myself hankering after the laptop that i had chosen to leave behind as i really did rather like the idea of getting some stuff written and in the heat there the idea of picking up a pen and putting words on paper all seemed a bit much.

My mind is racing with possibilities of things i could say now, but i will leave you in suspense as I try for an early night and put my thoughts in some kind of order to offer them abroad in the next few days.