Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas everyone

The title says it all really!

It's about 1.40am and I have just got back from the last of my 'midnight' services - which started at 7.30pm! It has been a great evening, with lots of people taking part in the celebrations. As you might have guessed, the last few days has been very busy, so apologies for not posting, the next few days may well be quiet too as I gently conk out and spend some time recovering.

But to all of you, a Blessed and Peaceful Christmas to you and yours!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Carol services - to preach or not to preach?

Some of the Parishes in the Mission Community have decided to stick with the very traditional (and very long) nine lessons and carols, though two have decided to go for a shorter version of the service with a talk included (still about 20/30 mins less than other version so a sermon in the trad version is probably too much and I will forgo a talk!). Here's the talk I did last night, I may use it again tomorrow at the other church which has gone for a pruned down version of the lessons and carols!

Christmas Carols 2008

Turn away from the lights

Many of you will know that i am a biker. I do like motorbikes, and take the opportunity to ride whenever i can – and I’m not one of these fairweather bikers, oh no, I will ride wherever and whenever, whatever the weather. And today I got to ride my bike for a couple of hours, which has topped me up, fix wise, for a few days, though you will all, I am sure, be pleased to know that I am riding extra carefully due to the slippery roads at the moment!

But, and some of you may have heard me say this before, there is something you have to watch out for in the darker times of the year. Lights. You see, in a car it doesn’t matter quite so much where you look, your big metal box will keep going in the direction your steering wheel points it, but on a bike, much of your direction comes from where you are looking, because a bike is steered by the way you sit and lean, not just by the handlebars. So where the eye leads, often unconsciously, the bike follows.

Which means that in the winter months, you have to be careful not to be distracted by the lights of the traffic on the other side of the road. You have to keep your focus on the road ahead and not be constantly looking around. Which is quite difficult for someone like me who tends to be distracted very easily. My mum calls it ‘being butterfly minded’ – which is true, if I’m honest.

If you look around at this time of year you will see lots and lots of lights. We’ve got some here in the Church...

Tired but happy

It's continued busy, but it's going well, the feedback from the events & services we have put on in the Mission Community has been very good, and people seem to be enjoying our Christmas celebrations in these Parishes. Tomorrow sees three more carol services led by myself, one of which is shared with our Methodist friends in Dalwood (there are two other services in the Mission Community, presided over by other Clergy), then next week sees four services I am taking (with two I'm not taking as well) on Christmas Eve (one Crib service, three communions for Christmas) and two on Christmas Day I am leading (three being ably handled by other ministers). We do Christmas big time in these Churches, but then that's how we always did it in PapworthTeam as well, so its not a surprise.

Yesterday was a good day too - I had Christmas lunch at the local primary school, then a very well supported and enjoyable carol service at Stockland in the evening, followed by a fun evening of carols, some very funny party pieces and generally very uproarious entertainment in Dalwood's pub, the Tucker's arms. Actually if I can insert an ad break here, not that I am sponsored in any way by these organisations (honest) - the local pubs around here are exceptional, there is a warm welcome, good food, good service and (v important in my opinion) good beer. Kilmington has the Old Inn and (perhaps unsurprisingly) the New Inn, Stockland the King's Arms and Dalwood, as mentioned, the Tucker's Arms. Local pubs like these are crucial to the heart of their village communities and worth supporting for that reason alone, though having said that, they are all good pubs!

So yesterday was a good day, but as it meant that my day off was pretty busy, I am taking some time today. Just off now for a couple of hours to see my sister, who is popping in to see my mother, so a short drive down the road, some lunch and back to work!

I will post my sermon from yesterday's carol service later. See you...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sermon for a cold morning

This was the sermon last week (10 days ago, this Sunday was Christingle, so I spoke about Christingles and being lights to the world in our own ways) ... Some of it was recycled from a previous year, which I rarely do, though I did rewrite much of it. It seemed too good a theme to waste, really!

It was incredibly cold on the way to church that morning, as previously related, (not cold compared to some of my blogging buddies around the world, though) with frozen roads making it all very exciting!

Here's the sermon, I leave it up to you to decide if it was worth recycling

Preparing The World

This week I watched a movie about Father Christmas which I enjoyed very much, it was the third one in the series known as ‘The Santa Clause’ movies – called the ‘the escape clause’ and had a very positive message about love being the focus of Christmas, and that the true magic of Christmas wasn’t about toys or commercialism, but about family and friends, about giving and caring. There are many people who feel the same about Christmas time, and the Church should encourage such thoughts as Christmas approaches, but as the shops are packed, decorations are going up, turkeys are being chosen (or nut loaves depending on your preference), carols are being sung, parties are happening, presents are being wrapped, postmen (and women) are complaining, plans are being made, TV guides are being searched for all the best programmes - into the middle of all this comes a voice:
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

It’s not a very loud voice, compared to most of the noise of Christmas, in fact it’s easily missed. It seems to be the quietest voice of all in today’s Christmas - but that doesn’t mean it’s not there -
“Prepare the way of the Lord…” [more]

time for a stolen meme

It's been a while since i swiped a meme, as usual it comes from Dr John who in turn got it from everything and nothing

1.Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper

2. Real tree or artificial? Real, both at home and in all the churches I serve

3. When do you put up the tree? Mid December for Churches, when my wife nags me to get it sorted at home

4. When do you take the tree down? Epiphany

5. Do you like eggnog? I like eggnog latte, but not sure I have ever tried eggnog itself

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Bicycle

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, a very nice carved olive wood set from Bethlehem

8. Hardest person to buy for? My lovely wife

9. Easiest person to buy for? Mum

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I couldn't bring myself to be ungrateful for anything, people are so generous!

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Both

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Muppet Christmas Carol or It's a wonderful life

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? December 24th ( my wife says I am a bit last minute)

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No,the paper often gets reused though!

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Turkey & all the trimmings

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear lights

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Come All Ye Faithful

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Don't really have much choice, as working until lunchtime, and too tired to do anything after! Tend to go away over New Year.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Probably, but that would just show that I have no life and an amazing capacity for trivia

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A Star

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Morning, after Father Christmas has been.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Not having enough time to do all the fun stuff that is going on or get to all the parties we're invited to

23. What I love most about Christmas? Church & family time

24. What do YOU most want for Christmas this year? Peace on earth, goodwill to all people! And some socks, come to think of it.

25. Any last thoughts? I will use Dr John's wonderful answer which says all I could ever want to - Don’t forget the Christ of Christmas-the real gift.

All I want for Christmas the ability to be in two places at once...

If you got the idea that things were busy in my last blog posting (which was, I admit, a little while ago) then you ain't seen nothing yet. It's busy here, to say the least, and I am looking forward to a little break after Christmas. I have endeavoured to be at most events I have been invited to, but even then a couple have slipped through the net due to other commitments, and simply not having enough time or energy to do everything. I decided I really had to have an evening with my wife and not be rushing out from the family on Monday night, as I have done every other night for the past week or so, but it meant missing a village event that I would have liked to be a part of. I simply couldn't do any more, or I would probably be little use to anyone when we get to the Carol services this weekend and the Christmas celebrations next week. I am giving up half of my day off to do a carol service and then head off to a local pub to sing carols with an excellent choir tomorrow anyway, I didn't really thing I could fit anything else in. (for those of you who get very anxious when clergy start missing days off a) I will try and take a few hours off on Saturday and b) it's only once a year, or at least that's the plan - trying to fit in all the Christmas events is virtually impossible).

All this, though, has caused me to consider my response to the expectations of parishes - I have tried to get to as many events as I was able to, but obviously can't do it all - and I can't live up to the expectations of five parishes who would all like to have the Vicar at events. Am I trying too hard to live up to unrealistic expectations? I certainly do a good job of beating myself up (metaphorically speaking, obviously) when I miss anything!

I don't feel that, on the whole, these new, wonderful (and they are great) parishes are overly demanding, the Churches are putting huge amounts of effort into putting on events themselves and are, as I have said before, extremely grateful and welcoming when I do manage to get to something. There are occasions in the life of any village, however, where there is an expectation that the Vicar will turn up, and I continue to struggle with how appropriate it is for me to try to live up to that and whether I am trying to live up to unrealistic expectations.

The danger for anyone in a 'dispersed ministry' is that we try to get to too many places, too many events and that ultimately we spread ourselves so thinly that we are little use to any of them. In the past ten days I have been to five school services, three Christmas lunches, three pastoral pub visits (with some amazing conversations about faith whilst there), a dozen or so church services, two funeral visits and the funeral that went with them, a baptism visit (takes an evening out of a week), various social events and some home visits. I'm not complaining, exactly the opposite in fact, it has been a great time, but its not something I could sustain in the long term, nor could I realistically have fitted much more in. It's worth saying that I got to spend some time with my family too, and made sure that in the middle of all this I did actually take a whole day off!

So part of my adjusting to a new situation, a new set up, is trying to share my time realistically. It is a good thing to have to remember that I am not superhuman and shouldn't consider myself to be (definitely ideas above station there!) and to plan how I might be as visible as possible whilst effectively meeting people where they are. It's also part of the education of parishes that this generation of ministers have a responsibility for that not seeing the Vicar and seeing instead another member of the Clergy or a lay minister or other members of the Church community is not second best - in fact in certain situations the 'other person' may well be the best person to see.

As you can probably tell whilst I talk myself into circles here, I am considering and reconsidering both my role as Vicar and the role of our other ministers, and of the Churches and the people within them as meeting the pastoral and social needs of the parish. I won't always get it right, and I am sure I have made some gaffs already, but I am striving to do my best and to discern the best way forward too! I suspect that this will be something I work on for the next, oh, twenty or thirty years or so...

Monday, December 08, 2008

What a weekend

Ice skating, Jazz Musicians, Singing workshops, Christingles, it's all happening here....

I am overwhelmed by just how much is going on in these villages, and how much effort people put into making community. As a minister, and particularly as a 'Parish Priest' I am a great believer in community, and feel that bringing folk together is part of our calling as the Church, in an effort to stem the 'dis-integration' that makes up our western society. In these villages, though, I find myself swept along with the tide of those who are already working hard to keep people together, to build up friendships and to offer to our communities reasons to meet, to share, to be together.;

Of course, in my role as Vicar, I also have the calling to proclaim the deeper community that comes from being a part of the body of Christ, the binding together that comes with faith in Jesus, in whom all things hold together - so I believe part of my role is to be at these events that celebrate and that encourage community and also to offer and invite folk to be a part of this body which is the Church. It involves a careful balance between affirming all that is going on and speaking also the language of faith, of fellowship and of redemption. A task I rarely feel up to, but rely entirely on grace to undertake.

But that, in some ways, is a diversion from telling you all what an amazing weekend I have had! The jazz singer, mentioned in the first paragraph, was (and is) Cleveland Watkiss, talented, funny, friendly, generous and all round brilliant. Cleveland came to one of the Churches I minister to this last Saturday, firstly to lead a fun but slightly demanding (in terms of being willing to be embarassed) singing workshop, then to stun us all with his Vocal Aerobatics and exceptional Jazz Trio CWT in concert in the evening. I loved every minute of both the workshop and the concert and was bowled over by the fact that a small village of about 400 residents could host an international Jazz sensation, and make such a good job of supporting and enjoying such an event. It was also the first event I had actually been a part of at Stockland Church so it was a fun introduction to the life of that Church.

On Sunday I was dreading the run between three Churches, on a morning where the roads were frozen. These are tricky lanes, one track, with high hedges and a fair amount of grass growing in the middle - they are not major highways! Between the 8am and 9.30am services I took things very easy and only encountered a couple of dodgy patches - the Ice Skating I mentioned earlier was in my car! Again, between the 9.30am and the 11am service there was some exciting driving, and at one point I thought the ice was going to stop me actually getting uphill at one point and I might be missing my later service. As it was I got to everything relatively on time, had a very good Sunday morning and didn't damage either myself or the car. The services themselves ranged from the very traditional 'Prayer Book 1662' via the usual 'Order 1' to the joyful chaos of a Christingle. A very good morning. I think we are going to have to work on service timings, though, getting from a 9.30am service to an 11am is something of a disaster.

So a good weekend, today spent trying to put together services for Christmas time, more Christingles, 9 Lessons and Carols, fewer lessons and carols etc etc which has almost caused mental meltdown - but the admin has to be done! I went out for a pint of well deserved Ale this evening and met some folk at the local pub who I enjoyed chatting to, so that made up for the dreary day.

More soon!

Friday, December 05, 2008

So, what's been going on...

I must admit to a fair amount of heartache on moving away from Bourn a few weeks back. To see the house that had been our home for the past four years empty and set off to a place which the family didn't know was quite a daunting experience. After the frustration of our ISP shutting down my account a day early (and then completely cancelling it rather than transferring as requested so it ended up taking six weeks to get back online and to have our phone service up and working - as both are tied in together) I was annoyed at not being able to send out changes of address to my online contacts or to tie up the last few ends I planned to.

Our moving weekend was split - packed on the Thursday and Friday, then we stayed with the lovely wife's sister for a couple of nights and went to a friend's wedding which was a great way to distract us from all that was going on. The wedding was a great day, with a Priest who looked like Father Jack from Father Ted! Then a reception at an amazing venue in North London with incredible views and lots of laughs! My buddy Herr Doktor Tom (one of my longest standing and most loyal friends, also one with a fantastic sense of humour, huge brain and good taste in music) and his wife Dr Claire had a slightly alternative reception, without all the usual long speeches, but those they did have were well worth listening to, all the music was live, with some great performers including the talented and very cool Steve Lawson, then a surprise guest, Jason Rebello, Jazz Pianist extraordianaire! Once I had picked my jaw off the floor (last time I saw Rebello was with his band at the Pizza Express Soho, a great jazz venue) we were all treated to some wonderful piano jazz, including an improvisation on the theme of Thomas the Tank Engine for the benefit of my Son Jack who stood enraptured by the workings of the inside of the grand piano Jason was playing.

A great wedding, a great diversion, another night at the gorgeous wife's sister's house (I got to sleep on the sofa as the spare room was full of my wife and children) then we set off down here to Devon where we went to stay at my Mother's house for a night before meeting the removal chaps at our new place.

Again we were all struck (well, the grown ups were, the children were just bored to start with as there was no TV, toys or books available) by the beauty of the area. If I can sort out exactly how to extract some piccies from my iPhone I may well add them to these pages - they may not be brilliant, but there's a few atmospheric photos in there which (for me) give an impression of why I love this area. There's a few in a previous post about moving which you can find here.

Apart from the stunning nature of the locality (It is designated an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and joins onto the 'Jurassic Coast' which is a 'World Heritage Site' so there is a fair amount of wow factor here.) there is so much going on in these parishes that I have problems keeping up with it all. There's a high level of commitment to community, to churches and to each other in these villages which I am doing my best to plug into and generally to enjoy. I'm not going to go on about work at the moment because its my day off and I am trying not to think about that too much :-)

More another time.... Am about to investigate iPhone photo importing....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another sermon, this one for Advent Sunday

We had a service on Sunday for all of the five Parishes in the 'Five Alive Mission Community' which was an advent Carols service, most enjoyable with a very good choir indeed and lots of 'lusty singing' as Wesley might have said!

So here's the words I offered, or the taster anyway!
Genesis 1.1-5
Psalm 43
Isaiah 45.2-8
Isaiah 9.2-3,6-7
Psalm 36.5-10
1 Thessalonians 5.1-11, 23-24
Isaiah 60.1-5a
Matthew 5.14-16

Advent 1 2008 Year B RCL

Looking for the Light

Have you started dreaming about what presents you hope to get for Christmas yet? Have you started thinking of the wonderful reaction hope to see on the faces of friends and family as they open up the gifts you bought them. Are your expectations high? Us human beings are pretty good at building up our expectations - a theme that is particularly pertinent as we dream of the wonderful gifts we hope to receive and as we tell ourselves that we’ve finally found the perfect present for the person who has everything.

Unfortunately most of these expectations seem to be dashed as we find our new video game, gardening equipment and expensive jewellery have become badly knitted jumpers, funny coloured ties and an abundance of hankies with your initial on the corner - and that the inventive and original gift you gave is exactly the same as that which three other people gave as well. Our expectations never really seem to be live up to.

God never seems to live up to our expectations either. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, though.[more]

Catching up with sermons and stuff

I thought I would share my first sermon in these new parishes, preached a couple of weeks ago it was something of a nerve racking experience! As always, it starts here and is carried on at New Kid Deep Stuff

2 before Advent (2008) Year A RCL Principal

Risking our Talents

It’s somewhat nerve racking to be preaching a first sermon anywhere – but especially in one’s new parishes. This is the point where people could start thinking ‘oh my goodness, what kind of Vicar do we have?’ – Which may or may not be a good thing!

And it doesn’t help that the reading set for today, the Parable of the Talents, is one of the more difficult parables we could encounter! It’s not difficult to understand, the two servants who were willing to take a risk with the talents they were left with are rewarded, the one who lost his bottle and buried his talent in the back garden is punished. That’s clear enough, it’s what it might mean for us that might make it more of a difficult parable to deal with!

The Revd Ian Paisley is reputed to have preached on this particular parable once, and to have been interrupted as he talked about the place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. One older woman in the group who were listening responded with ‘what about us who don’t have any teeth’ to which Paisley responded ‘Madam, teeth will be provided!’ I’m not sure how much truth there is in that story, but it does seem to illustrate how literally some take these stories, and actually how powerful they can be in shaking us up! If we allow them to, that is…

Never believe what you read in the papers

I managed to get a whole page in the local rag, which you can view here (28mb and only available until 9th December) or I will try to get the relevant page uploaded here, so if you can see it below then it's worked!

I don't have tattoo's and piercings, though! Bit of an exaggeration, I have one tattoo on my bicep (done when I had biceps) and a pierced ear!

Other than that they did report most of what I said pretty fairly....spelt my name wrong, or rather both names (Christian and Surname), but I think that's compulsory - something to do with tradition, or an old charter, or something... Oh, and the picture is dreadful - probably because it actually looks like me :-)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Back at last

Well, we're here, beautiful, often sunny, friendly, Devon. It was a surprisingly easy move, not least due to the excellent removals firm we had (Pooleys of Suffolk) and the exceptional welcome we have received on arrival.

We have, though, been offline and off the phone for over a month, and I have started to get the jitters. I have missed being able to blog, or even to be able to ring around with change of address details for credit cards etc etc. It has been driving me crackers.

Not that I have had much time to sit down at the computer and blog anyway, the initial rush of events, services, meeting people, meetings, pub visits etc etc has been overwhelming, and its only now that I can sit down and get to grips with some admin, and take some time out to blog. Not that I'm going to say much today, as I have to get on with putting together Advent and Christmas services. For now I just want to say 'it's good to be back' both in terms of online and being here in Devon, land of my birth, home of my forebears etc etc etc

The adventure continues....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

As promised, again

A follow up to the Moan Moan Moan sermon...perhaps a bit more sympathetic!

Year A Proper 21 (2008) RCL Principal
Seeing from the other side…

Last week I preached on moaning, and talked about how good we, and by we I mean most human beings, are at moaning. It doesn’t matter what our usual temperament, or whether we are generally happy, give us the chance and we will be away, grumbling about the weather, the economy, the government, the way things aren’t what they used to be, the Church, the world, whatever.

This train of thought was inspired by the Israelites in this amazing story of the Exodus. Freed from Egypt following the 10 plagues, brought through the red sea without even getting their feet wet, they seemed to follow that up with a protracted campaign of complaint. At least that’s what the text seems to say. First of all we have complaints over bitter water, which is sweetened by God and made drinkable, then complaints over the lack of meat and bread in the desert. We had that almost incredible moment when they seem to say ‘it was OK in Egypt really because the food was good’. No matter that they were in slavery, no matter that at the end their children were being murdered, that they were being beaten and oppressed – they got meat and bread. Now I am as fond of meat and bread as the next person, as is obvious, but when compared to being free or being enslaved, even I would take the freedom and get on with sorting out the meals later. It reminds me of a picture I was sent yesterday which said in large letters ‘never underestimate the power of stupidity in large groups of people’. [more]

As promised!

A longer talk, part of a series on parables, as always continued on New Kid Deep Stuff

Coming home – the parable of the lost son

Jesus was a consummate storyteller. It may seem obvious to us now, but the way he used parables was, though not unusual in the ancient world, certainly striking and filled with a depth and meaning upon meaning that even now through the ages resonates with us as we try and know him more and seek his will and the Kingdom of God that he proclaims.

And today we are faced with one of the most striking and, in some ways to the leaders of his day, disturbing parables that he told. The parable of the prodigal son, as it is known, or perhaps more accurately the prodigal father or the lost son (as it is headed in the New International Version that we have here).

Of course, like most Biblical passages, it helps to have a bit of background, a bit of context to add to our understanding and, whilst we could probably never know the definitive meaning of any parable – as every time we read one new meanings come out – it might help us grow in our appreciation of all that is in this parable. [more]

The incredible disappearing Vicar

As you might have guessed, the painful process of moving has been preoccupying me for the past few weeks so blogging has gone right out of the window! In fact I am sitting here in my study, empty except for my PC and junk on the desk, surrounded by boxes, whilst the removal company men are stopping for lunch. It's an odd time, a certain sense of excitement at moving on, with some trepidation about what's next and a huge sadness at what we are leaving behind. There's much that is good and worth celebrating about this Team of Parishes and the clergy colleagues I have, we have made great friends here and been very happy, though we have had lots to do and it has been very hard work much of the time....

I think that the most striking thing had been, looking back, how much I've learnt, how my life has changed, and how I have discovered much of who I am as a minister and as a person. These revelations haven't all been easy, and there's been some heartache and struggle, but as for where I am and where I'm going I am pretty much at peace with all of this.

The next time I write I will be in Devon, in my new home and looking forward to a new ministry - unless I can get the hang of blogging by mobile (on my shiny new iPhone) then it may be another few weeks before I get to do this - I don't think my internet will be connected until November 8th or so. I do have a couple of sermons/talks I want to put up so I will investigate that in the next few hours before I get unplugged (internet wise, rather than personally, obviously - I am actually solar powered) - there may be something to read here in the near future.... or maybe not....

So it's goodbye from Bourn, Cambridge, God bless.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ironies in preaching

Did a big sermon about moaning which is posted below, as you may wish to read it is all about people complaining, and not getting just how much God loves us, and that our attitude should be one of gratitude rather than moaning.

After the sermon my first comment was 'you started the service three minutes late and it went on too long...'


Year A Proper 20 (2008) RCL Principal

Moan Moan Moan

We are all very good at moaning. Lets be honest. There’s nothing most of us like better than a good moan. We might not naturally be inclined to moan, we may be quite happy with our lot, we might be the type of personal who is settled with what she or he has, but if we get the chance, nearly all of us like to really let rip at a good moaning session.

PCCs have a reputation for being such events. In your average stereotypical PCC meeting, the Vicar moans about wanting to change lots of things and not being able to, then the people moan that the Vicar wants to change everything and in the end very little happens. Then the Vicar and the PCC go home and moan about being on the PCC and wondering why it all happens, and I suspect the Lord groans too.

Not that this is the case in our PCCs here, actually I have to say, and I am being sincere, that most of our PCC meetings are productive and, though sometimes tiring and often containing what we might call ‘a full and frank airing of opinions’ we usually find we have much to be thankful for and over the past few years in these villages our PCCs have accomplished a huge amount, for which I am thankful. [more]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Oi be doin' me blog, yarrr

Well, ye scurvy dogs, 'tis international talk like a pirate day and I be celebratin', a keg o' rum and a boiled parrot, i reckon....

Crossing the Red Sea

Struggling with Biblical stuff, a sermonic reflection!

Year A Proper 19 2008

Set free!

One of the frustrations of reading through the Bible the way we do Sunday by Sunday is that we often, like this week, have three amazing, awe-inspiring and challenging readings and then don’t have time to address all of them in the sermon – or rather if I tried to, then we would be here for most of today, if not most of the next week and maybe beyond…

Not a great way to be remembered, as the Vicar that went on and on and on and on….

Which of course I am never guilty of – ahem.

So it falls to me to try and pick perhaps one theme or idea from these readings and use that! [more]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Small endings....

Life at the moment is a series of small endings, final PCCs, final services in some Churches, last visits to people, a huge amount of sorting out.

In the midst of this we had a new beginning, as our new Team Rector took office at a rather lavish ceremony in one of our Team Churches on Wednesday evening, we had the Bishop of Ely, our Archdeacon, the Rural Dean and a host of civic dignitaries come and and mark the beginning of this new phase in the life of our Team. I have tried to avoid talking too much about my leaving until this point, as I didn't want the two to be confused - as I have said countless times, the appointment of a new Team Rector is nothing to do with my moving on, in fact it was one of the factors that made it harder to think about moving as she will be a real boon for the team, and having worked with her for four years I am constantly impressed by her vision, her pastoral skills and her energy and sensitivity in ministry.

So we had a great service, at which I had a minor, rather invisible part (by choice) as part of the worship band, which was great fun. One of the things I will miss when I move is being part of a small group of musicians who lead worship for our fortnightly worship services. It is one of many things I will miss.

So our minds are now turning towards the practicalities of the move, packing, removal companies, setting up essentials like a phone line and utilities at the other end, getting motorbikes sorted and/or crated, how to get both cars to Devon, picking up our ebay purchases for the new house! Our holiday, which I mentioned I might blog about, seems a long way away, though if some time is available, i will say a bit about that. Now it's time to enjoy a day off, with my rather late breakfast waiting for me in the kitchen, then to cut the lawn and get a few odds and ends sorted today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is 'blearghhhh' because that's how I feel - bit nauseous, bit tired, glad I don't have a meeting tonight.

I'm not moaning, its partly because I've been trying to catch up on various things, including writing magazine letters, shredding lots and lots of bits of paper I don't want to take with me when I move, meetings (some better than others) and various admin bits - I'm just doing lots of things and have got lots done, not a bad thing at all.

Right now, as well as feeling slightly ropey, I've also got a bit of a caffeine overdose which a couple of hours with the children will soon deal with. I do like the fact that being with my gorgeous offspring (I am biased, I know) completely takes me out of myself and I just get on with playing, readings stories, feeding, bathing or whatever needs doing. I think that every now and then (well, most days) I need something that takes me 'out of myself' and makes me just get on with stuff! It's easy in this job to be introspective and indulge in a fair amount of 'navel gazing' - of course there are times that this isn't possible, but equally its a trap that is easy to find ourselves in, particularly on a day like today which has involved lots of admin and sorting out the study (the shredding was fun, though).

So thank God for reality checks and the grounding that having a family gives.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We're still here

Glad to see that the startup of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) hasn't reduced us all to our constituent molecules or otherwise ripped the fabric of time and space apart. It was quite fun listening to the radio this morning as the reporter sought to make the start up exciting!

There is a good, short reflection, on this event (or number of events, as that's what its for - to create a number of observable 'events') from a Bishop in Europe here - and a great rap too (not by the Bishop but embedded from YouTube). May it 'rock you in the head' - as it says in the rap... Or perhaps that should be 'rock thee, verily, in the head' to put it in religious language...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Another Sermon! Two in one day....

Year A Proper 18
Being Church
I don’t know what your perfect Church would look like!  A lot of people who call me about baptisms and weddings in the team mention how much they want their service to take place in this building or that building because it is such a lovely Church.  And their concern in many ways is about the building…
I think many of those who visit our churches, though, are pleasantly surprised that what makes our Churches such good places to be a part of is not how well kept they are, or whether they are architecturally wonderful, or even if they look like Churches are meant to look.  It’s the warmth of the welcome, the genuine love that many of our congregations have for each other, and a desire to follow Jesus that makes our Churches special. [more]

Sermon catch up

There are obviously hoards of folk out there who are lost without my words of wisdom, so I thought I would get the last couple of week's sermons posted.  Here's the one from 9 days ago, not one of my best, written with brain determined to function but not quite achieving that aim....

Year A Proper 17 Principal

A few weeks back I talked about how we picture Jesus – some of us seem to be stuck with a ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ picture – all tied up with Victorian Kitsch and nicely scrubbed children gathered around a blue eyed saviour – some picture a revolutionary, shouting insults are the Pharisees, whipping traders from the temple courts, others prefer a more intellectual picture, with Jesus debating with scholars and scribes.  The list goes on – and having preached on this once I don’t plan to save myself the trouble of preaching by just saying the same thing again.

One of the points I wanted to make, among others, in that sermon was to say that our picture of Jesus, whatever it might be, cannot ever be enough – there will always be more to discover, more that challenges us, more to inspire and disturb.  And so it should be. [more]

Monday, September 08, 2008

Where we are and where we're going

To be honest, that last post was a bit useless, so much to say and little motivation - due to the whole 'catching up' thing that sometimes makes holidays feel like and intrusion rather than a liberation.

I have actually been back at work for a week, and don't really seem to have achieved much at all - it feels as though I've been paddling madly and getting nowhere... The reality of the fact that we are moving in seven weeks is really hitting home, when we were the other side of our holiday it all seemed a very long way away, now its only a few weeks off I find myself thinking about how much I need to get done before I start packing let alone thinking about packing and moving and starting again.

The announcement of my move has had one effect that, though not a great surprise has been quite overwhelming, the number of people who have expressed regret that we are going. I knew a few folk would be disappointed that we were leaving, but the strength and the sincerity of people's feelings has been much greater than expected. I regret the number of friendships that were really starting to grow - particularly with those outside church circles - that may not last with such a great distance between us. A number of people who are parents of children at the school where my daughter goes have taken a year or so to realise that just because I am the Vicar it doesn't make me mad, frighteningly religious or 'holier than thou'. One or two of the other 'dads' in particular have started to become very good friends, and (at the risk of sounding overly soppy) I will miss them.

Not only that, there have been people who I have only met once or twice who have expressed a deep regret that i will no longer be Vicar. I'm not really sure how to react, or how to say that it's not because of any deficiency in these Churches or villages that we are going elsewhere, quite the contrary - its the idea of new challenges, of doing things differently, and because being a minister is not a job that can go on and on endlessly (though some might describe my sermons in such a way). The longer we stay here, the more attached we and our children become to the village, and the fact is that being a 'Team Vicar' as I am now is often seen as an assistant's post rather than one where I am fully responsible for the ministry of the Church. This isn't the case in our own Team setup - it is definitely a partnership of equals in this team, a culture fostered by the last Team Rector and very much an aim of the new TR - but from the outside staying too long in this position could cause questions to be raised as to why I haven't been willing to take on 'in Incumbency'. So for that, and other good reasons, it is the right time to move on - and I have discovered that there's nothing like announcing you are going to encourage and affirm you in your ministry (and to help convince yourself that you aren't either completely rubbish or very unpopular!)

That was a somewhat unplanned reflection, I've not said anything about our fantastic trip to the Dordogne in August, nor posted my last couple of sermons, so there may (or past history shows may not) be a flurry of activity over the next day or two....

Thursday, August 07, 2008

normal service will be resumed

as soon as plausible....

Off for a few weeks, might not be able to blog in the meantime, if not then have a good time this August folks!

Oh, and its our fifteenth wedding anniversary today, so am spending it doing admin before I leave :-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Another stolen Meme!

As Dr John said, Melli's blog is a goldmine for memes. I like this one

1. If I could travel back in time, I'd go to the gym more as a young man (or tell myself to go to the gym more, whatever makes sense!)

2. Give me truth or give me nothing

3. I am listening to the Resurrection Band.

4. Somewhere, someone is thinking what's the Vicar doing?

5. I'll always be in love with my family

6. My idea of a good time includes motorbikes, music, worship, God, friends and family - though some of these are incompatible with others

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to seeing the batman movie tomorrow my plans include working and getting things ready for holiday and Sunday, I want to celebrate my mother's sixtieth birthday, followed by a trip to France

I know that it's meant to be a Friday meme, but by then I will be gone down to Devon, another look at the Vicarage and meet a few Parishioners, then party with mum for the weekend, then take her off to France for a week's holiday. I need to clean house here, and get the list ready for the house/dogsitter of where everything is and what the routine is for our lovable hounds!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monday thoughts and a sermon

Good day yesterday, Sunday, only two services and both were encouraging and energising (which can't always be said about Sunday worship services!) A simple Holy Communion from the book of Common Prayer (1662) to start my day and a contemporary language Parish Communion for our mid-morning service, two Churches not far apart so no rushing about trying to get there on time, both well attended and both with a feeling of worship and friendship and prayer. Like one of the parishioners said about another event a little while ago 'it's like we turned up and God made sure he was there too'!

I preached on the Old Testament reading which I had preached on before, it felt right to use some material which I had used previously again, which rarely happens. I'll put that sermon at the end of this post with a link to the full text at New Kid Deep Stuff.

Today has been spent mainly in the company of the Rural Dean, who was undertaking the Archdeacon's visitation (ie check up) on his behalf. The formalities all went well, thanks to very organised Churchwardens at the Church we went to, and afterwards the Rural Dean and I spent a couple of hours chatting, having lunch, and generally putting the world to rights. It was a very enjoyable opportunity to spend some time in reflection on my time here, and to have a good natter...

I went into Cambridge this afternoon to visit a Parishioner, it takes some time to get into the hospital, walk to the ward (the place is like a small town) and get out again, but these visits are important and I am glad I went. That took up much of the afternoon and since returning I have done the mundane tasks of the day like cooking some supper, making phone calls and sitting down to blog!

So here's that sermon I was telling you about....

Proper 13 (2008) Year A RCL Principal
Wrestling with Angels

When I was younger – in my early Teens, I think, there was never anything on TV on Saturday’s apart from Grandstand or ‘Dickie Davies’ world of Sport.’ As someone who didn’t appreciate spectator sports, this used to leave me frustrated and annoyed! There was one thing that grabbed my attention, though, (and considering it was 25 years ago now, it must really have grabbed my attention!) and that was the Saturday Afternoon ITV wrestling! This was in the days of ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Giant Haystacks’ – it mainly involved huge men grunting a lot, running around a ring and jumping on each other!

But it was the sense of theatre, the make-believe aspect of it that really caught my attention. I was na├»ve enough to think that they might really be fighting – my illusions have since been shattered! But apart from that aspect of the make believe there was a sense of unreality about it – it seemed to be a game, not real, something that didn’t really hurt, despite the moans and groans on the TV. Of course, I now know that none of it was real, and the US wrestlers have taken the whole theatrical aspect of wresting to extremes with ‘WWF’ and ‘WCW’ (ask my nephew if you want to know what that stands for). But wrestling, at least any wrestling outside of the Olympics, has connotations of falsehood, unreality about it. [more]

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Blog!

I found a cracking new blog today, written by a buddy of mine in Milton Keynes, another Anglican Priest and all round good chap - he's written some very good reflections from his time on sabbatical over the past few months and I highly recommend a visit. I must now put his blog on my sidebar, and had I known he would have been one of the magnificent seven yesterday...

Though I'm not sure who I wouldn't have had from the list!

find Tim's blog here


It's been fun catching up on the blogosphere, and following a link from Quilly I ended up at insanity prevails where was posted a reading meme, so here's my version....

1. Do you remember how you developed a love of reading?
I can't remember a time when I didn't love reading, at school I used to (metaphorically) devour books, and read them again and again - I used to love the imagination that went into comic books (especially Marvel & DC) and just read and read and read and read.

2. What are some books you loved as a child?
I used to read the professor Branestawm books, Harry Harrison's 'Men from p.i.g. and r.o.b.o.t', there was a lot of sci-fi in my early reading, and I had read H G Wells' 'The War of the Worlds' about a dozen times before leaving Primary School. I did like Roald Dahl books, though I tended to read things like his short stories rather than his children's books! As mentioned above I read lots of comic books and particularly enjoyed Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America & Captain Britain, Fantastic Four and the Hulk.. I don't remember reading children's books of the Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter type, I probably read more of them now with my own children than I did when I was younger.....

3. Do you have a favorite genre?
I still love Sci-Fi and fantasy, particularly funny stuff like Pratchett and Robert Rankin, but also read a lot of philosophy and Theology. I like a good thriller, and have discovered lots of contemporary Novelists which I enjoy and which will appear in the last question here. I do like reading Postmodern stuff (whatever that means) eg Douglas Coupland and of course read lots of the Bible, so a huge number of genres there. Every now and then I will pick up a poetry anthology and remember just how much I love poetry - one of the great things about the internet is that I have found lots of sites where I can look up poems easily!

4. Do you have a favourite novel?
How long do we have? I love lots of novels, but I think 'Time's Arrow' by Martin Amis is an exceptional novel, quite profound. I have recently read 'The Book of Dave' by Will Self which I enjoyed very much indeed.

5. Where do you usually read?
Everywhere! I do have a weakness for reading in the loo, but my favourite place is in the sitting room when no one is around and I can wrap myself up in a good book. I also love reading in coffee shops. I will read anything and everything, if having breakfast alone with nothing in reach I will often read the cereal packet!

6. When do you usually read?
All day, and sometimes in the evening, never in bed as I tend to go to bed after my wife and the light is already off!

7. Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
I never have less than half a dozen on the go at once, I like to have lots of different styles going on, so a bit of 'pop theology' along with a couple of novels, maybe some philosophy, a couple of review books, some funny stuff.

8. Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
It depends what it is and why I'm reading it. When i have written essays and longer talks and done research for them I read at a desk in order that I can quote and cite the material. I will often have a pencil handy when reading nonfiction books in order that I can underline and make notes.

9. Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
I buy most of them, quite often in charity shops or at Church fetes and the like, and though I keep lots of them, I also give lots away or redonate them to charity shops. If I have read a book I liked which was lent to me, I will buy a copy in order that I might lend it too! We have lots and lots of bookshelves around the house, and I have a study with a few hundred (at least) books in it.

10. Do you keep most of the books you buy?
Ah, I seem to have answered this already...

11. If you have children, what are some of the favourite books you have shared with them?
My children seem to love reading even more than me! I am enjoying 'The Worst Witch' series by Jill Murphy and some Roald Dahl that I've not read before, like the BFG and Fantastic Mr Fox. There are also some great children's versions of Bible stories which are fun, like Mick Inkpen's 'stories Jesus told' series.

12. What are you reading now?

Saturday, Ian McKewan
Sowing, Reaping, Keeping- People centred Evangelism, Lawrence Singlehurst
Return of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson
Jean de Florette et Manon Des Sources
Hey Nostradamus, Douglas Coupland
Prayer, Philip Yancey
Messy Spirituality, Mike Yakonelli
a random Doctor Who book i picked up at a fete called 'The Clockwise Man'

13. Do you keep a To Be Read list?
No, just piles of books I keep topping up and then carry around with me for a while so I can read them whenever I have a few spare moments, then they get put on bookshelves or recycled by being given away/donated/lent

14. What’s next?
I've got three or four books to review which I really must get around to.
Fury, Salman Rushdie
Preaching what we practice by Schlafer & Sedgwick
Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels
Loving the Church You Lead, David Hansen
Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf
Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman

15. What books would you like to reread?
I would like to get through Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth as I've only ever dipped into them. I would like to read Terry Pratchett's discworld books again, and 'Good Omens' which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman, Robert Rankin's books would be worth revisiting and Joanne Harris' novels.

16. Who are your favourite authors?
I have many, and amongst them are Louis De Berniers, Will Self, Alexander McCall Smith, John Ortberg, Walter Wangerin, Karl Barth, C S Lewis, Philip Yancey, Mike Yakonelli, H G Wells, Joanne Harris, Ian McKewan, Peter David, Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, Miroslav Volf, Karl Rahner, Rowan Williams, Douglas Coupland, Donald Miller, Rob Bell, Stephen Clarke, Jules Verne, and amongst poets I like Stewart Henderson, T S Eliot, Mike Starkey, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Coleridge, William Owen and much much more...

Quick link

Sank has responded to my comment about his groovy guitar playing with a post of a song called 'The Cape'.... Enjoy

Friday, August 01, 2008

nearly there

According to my archive, 09/08/04 was my first blog post ( for those who do it the wrong way round, that translates as 9th August 2004) and as I know its unlikely that I'll get to post that day, as I am travelling down to see my mother for her birthday celebrations and then off to France, I thought I would just mention it as I'd thought of it!

I'm only on 576 posts, so it will be a while before I get to give out some tremendous prize when I get to my 1000th, which seems like more of a crucial milestone really.....

The magnificent seven

As promised, here are seven blogs worth visiting, as well as the ones mentioned in my previous post - ah, heck, go and visit all the ones in the sidebar, they are all worth a visit!

But here's the pick for today....

Old and in the way - I love Sank's blog, home grown wisdom, funny stuff he and his family are up to and lots of great stories about their various adventures. Gary himself comes across as wiser and funnier than he probably thinks he is. He's good on the guitar too - check out his flikr link!

Nick's Sanctuary - Nick is a Christian who thinks deeply and writes powerfully about pretty much everything and anything. He knows how to have a good rant every now and then, but he's always measured, considerate and often able to point out things in an enlightening way - very good on Doctor Who and sci-fi and faith generally, I like his recent thoughts on Roboboy too!

It's Kinda Confusing right now - Tom himself has admitted he's been a bit flakey lately in his post frequency (perhaps even less frequent than me!), but now he's all shiny and married he has posted a couple of great thoughts in the past few weeks, obviously wedded bliss is inspiring... Tom's archive is well worth exploring as he thinks out loud about life, faith, hope, fear and all that stuff

Dave Walker's Cartoon Blog - Witty and insightful observations of the quirks and quandries of the Church of England, very well worth a visit, funny and often quite thought provoking. Yay, go Dave.

Annie Porthouse - I wish Annie blogged more frequently, cos she always writes good stuff. Annie is a writer, a Christian and someone seeking to live ethically and generously. She's involved in 'generous' which (if I've got my facts right) sprang from the Greenbelt project called 'The year of living generously' which sought to challenge people to commit to lifestyles that were (and are) generous towards ourselves, neighbours, God and God's creation - initially for a year but those who took part I think found themselves profoundly effected by it all!

Diary from England - Naomi's observations on life in this particular corner of our sceptred Isle. Warm, informative, enjoyable, sometimes quirky, often funny. It's nice to go and read the thoughs of someone who is genuinely good natured and doesn't have a big agenda behind what she writes.

and last but not least, not that these have been in any particular order!

Eric has Issues - thoughts from someone whose thoughts are worth reading, frequently entertaining, often containing lots to consider, approaching life with humour and reflecting on the vagaries of the world in his own inimitable way.

So, to all of you listed above, please feel free to swipe the award artwork to add to your blog, then pick seven of your own, should you wish, to share the award. If you aren't on this list, don't worry, as Dr John pointed out, with seven people above potentially choosing seven other blogs, and the chain continuing, there is a very good chance that most everyone on the internet will end up with it at some time!

On feeling encouraged

Bill at The Old Fart's Blog has given me the great honour of awarding me the Brillante Weblog accolade which he, in turn, has been awarded by Dr John... He says its because I can make him laugh and think - which is one of the most encouraging things I think anyone could ever say about my blog, so many thanks Bill

There's a condition attached, which says that I too must nominate seven blogs to receive the same and say why - though Dr John and Quilly and Bill, three names which would naturally come in those seven have already been nominated, so go visit them anyway as the award is deserved by all three - Bill because of his warmth, thoughtfulness and honesty, Dr John because he always has something good to say and Pigeon Falls is wonderful, Quilly because she is funny and thought provoking....

But with those three out of the running I will scour my links list (to the right) and think again.... More later today!

The second encouragement was probably the most moving and profound thing anyone has ever said to me in ministry, or even in my whole Christian life (I was quite keen on telling people about Jesus even before I was be-collared)....

A parishioner who I have know for four or five years in one of our smallest villages called me to discuss baptising his granddaughter, something I am very happy to arrange. I like this chap and his wife very much, I have enjoyed evenings at parish events nattering away with them and have had a few opportunities to minister to them and to their family over the years. Like many parishioners who have become friends there's a level at which I would love to cultivate my relationship with them further, but time and life in general have not really allowed it. I didn't think I'd done a huge amount over and above being my usual self - ie there was no specific instance which I have helped them through, I've never sat down and just 'talked faith' with them, they are not frequent attenders of the church - though I don't doubt the genuineness of their faith. Yet in response to my telling him that I would like to do this baptism, but that we need to have the service before October because I am moving he said to me...
'My wife is a committed Christian, and I have always had difficulty with faith, but in the time I have known you I have learnt more about true Christianity than at any other time in my fifty-nine years of life. I wish you all the best in your move, but we will sorely miss you'

I was, and am, totally blown away by such kind and encouraging words.

This isn't to 'blow my own trumpet', as it were, but more of a reflection on how 'just getting on with it' in terms of Christian witness, just trying to live faith with integrity and honesty can have a profound effect on other people. I know I am not a 'super-Christian', I make mistakes, I upset some people by being a bit rough edged and others by not being terribly assertive or organised. I frustrate some by being 'evangelical with a liberal edge' and others by being 'liberal with an evangelical edge' (it depends where you stand when you look at me, I guess) and I have re-occuring bouts of 'foot in mouth disease'. I don't claim to be perfect but even in my everyday, relatively normal way I realise I can change people's lives by simply trying to be the person I think God wants me to be, and to follow Jesus in my faltering, sometimes mistaken, sometimes tired, sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes doubting, sometimes hopeful way. More than anything else this should be an encouragement to all of us that Jesus can work with even the least promising of material :-)...

God bless you in your seeking and finding, your following and faltering, your faith and doubt. More about the blog awards later, hopefully today, maybe tomorrow. And thanks again Bill!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Neither here nor there

It's a funny thing being appointed to a new Parish - whilst still very much concerned for the wellbeing of my current Parishioners and with carrying on as regardless as possible in living out and developing the vision of our Team, I am also starting to drift in focus towards what needs to be done, and all the exciting possibilities of my new role down in the Wild Westcountry...

I say this because we (the family) have just been down for a few days to meet up with the Diocesan Surveyor, who cares for and supervises the work on Clergy homes for the Diocese of Exeter. We talked bathrooms and kitchens and carpets and curtains.... New windows and doors are being fitted, gates fixed, gardens sorted etc etc, knowing that this place will be our home, and seeing more of it is making our move in October more and more a reality.

For those of you who don't know about the system of Clergy housing in the Church of England, let me enlighten you. Part of the role of a Stipendiary Parish Priest is to be in situ and live within the community s/he serves - due to the prohibitive costs of mortgages in some parts of the country, and the fact that Clergy often serve for anything from four years to twenty and therefore might move with some frequency (I've been here for eight) it would be nigh on impossible to be constantly buying and selling property so there are a network of houses, usually called Vicarages, Rectories or Parsonages, which belong to the Church and come with the job. These houses have to conform to certain minimum standards, four bedrooms, separate study area, garage, garden etc etc in order to suit clergy with families and who have certain responsibilities in terms of admin, meeting people at home and all the variety of things a Clergy house may be used for.

So when we take on an appointment, we are to a certain degree taking on a lifestyle (living above the shop, as it were) and a location too. Its all a part of the decision - in fact deciding not to take a job recently offered to me was highly influenced by the state of the housing! It wasn't the right job either, though I knew the other candidate and was very pleased when he took up the offer!

Our new house is a relatively recent build, 1980s, but was purpose built, so has a good study which is separated from the house by an inner dividing door. The rooms are all a good size, and the views are amazing - from the back you can see for miles out over the Axe Valley and from the side you can see lots of gravestones....ahem.... actually, its a lovely Village Church next door, and a beautifully kept Churchyard.

It's a very practical, and welcoming home and I am actually starting to look forward to moving into it.

But, I do need to stay here, focus wise, for another 12 weeks or so! I love these parishes, i love these people, I have plenty to do, lots of people to see and take care of, and they deserve and warrant my full attention in these coming weeks. I am looking forward to some holiday in August, but apart from that I need to try to avoid being distracted too much by the upcoming move!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Made me laugh

Every week into my email box drops another edition of Ralph Milton's Rumours - an often insightful and thought provoking look at the week's readings with a sense of humour, and a few general comments on life. Rumours is available by email subscription at rumors-subscribe[at] (its free!) and by checking out the Rumours Blog here...

Anyway, enjoy....
The panicky world learns that a giant meteor will crash on earth's surface in 10 days and end it all.
* Roman Catholics: converge on Rome for solemn papal prayers.
* Episcopalians: stage one last cocktail party before the end.
* Lutherans: “ein deutsches Bierfest” for the same reason.
* Baptists: hold biggest revival in history for one last attempt to turn the whole world Baptist before the end, whether the world wants to or not.
* Methodists: organize small groups for heart-burning prayer and testimony.
* Quakers: sit quietly and await the end.
* Mormons: plunge into the Great Salt Lake in earth's biggest baptism-by-proxy ceremony.
* Presbyterians: appoint a committee to make a thorough study of the entire situation.
* United Church: commission a study booklet so all the congregations can discuss the issue. They are to report back in two years.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fun, but profound!

A half dozen questions about how i take my Ice-cream, but it seems to say quite a lot about me! I am always very sceptical about these blogthings and online quizzes and yet this one seems to be pretty spot on! Usually they say something which I might like to be true - that I am extremely creative or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but this one actually makes some sense....

Your Ice Cream Personality:

You like to think of yourself as a fairly modest person. And it's true that you don't talk yourself up... but you're also pretty happy with who you are.

You are incredibly cautious. You rather miss out on something than make a mistake. No one would ever call you wild... but they would call you responsible.

You are a somewhat open minded person, but deep down you're fairly conservative. You don't like trying new things very much. And if you do find something new you like, you stick with it.

You tend to have a one track mind. You prefer not to multitask.

You are fun loving and sweet. You tend to enjoy joking around and teasing people.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A sermon! A bit about Samson

This is out of the usual pattern of sermons, we have been covering Old Testament figures under the very broad title 'Heroes of Faith' - seeing in these often deeply flawed individuals inspiration for our own journey of faith. This is the end of the series....

Heroes of Faith - Samson

We probably know a number of stories about Samson, perhaps like me you heard the stories of Samson in Sunday school and were presented with a great hero of faith, almost a kind of Old Testament ‘Superman’ – missing only a cape and pants outside his tights. He is renowned for his strength and his long hair – and being tricked by the dodgy Delilah! My My My Delilah… [more]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All quiet over here....

So, why no news? Well its partly been because I have no idea who reads or might stumble upon this blog, so I have had to keep my news off the radar until an official announcement! I have taken up the offer of a job in the South West of England, as Vicar of Six village Parishes on the Devon/Dorset Border! It's all been announced, and subject to me fulfilling the statutory formalities and conditions of the offer I will be off in October to pastures new...

...or rather pastures old, I was born six miles from where I am about to become Vicar and one of the villages which I will serve is a village I spent a lot of time in during my teens at with my brother's family. Even going back there on interview it felt very different to see everywhere from an 'adult' perspective, and it was exciting to hear about all the things which are going on in the churches in these villages - as well as the potential for more to happen in terms of outreach and of serving these communities.

This has been my major news for a couple of weeks now, and every time I have sat down at my PC I've wanted to blog about it, but its unfair both on my current congregations and the place where I am going to allow news of my appointment to 'slip out' before the official announcement - that only leaves room for disappointment, rumours and general bad feeling.

So here I am now, catching up on all the admin I've let slide whilst zipping around the country going to job interviews and seeing villages and all that kind of thing. A quick word to those of you gracious enough to stop by, and I am back to the paperwork. I have at least one sermon to post, so will do that when i have some time, hopefully later on tonight!

See ya....

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A meme

Not done one of these for a while, so whilst visiting Dr John (great blog, go visit) I half inched this from him

1. Any nickname? Big Al

2. Mother’s name? Martha (actually it's Pauline, but no one has ever called her that, Martha is her middle name)

3. Favorite drink? Real Ale or Dr Pepper Zero

4. Tattoos? One, Cross on bicep (or where bicep used to be before it got padded out in a wobbly manner)

5. Body Piercings? Ear, boring but as far as I was ever willing to go....must find my earring....

6. Do you love your job? Yes, but might be looking at doing it somewhere else soon

7. Birthplace? Honiton, Devon, the wild westcountry of England

8 Favorite vacation spot? France, preferably the Dordogne (only area in the world that sounds like a Tigger sound effect)

9.Ever been to Africa ? No

10. Ever eaten cookies for dinner? No

11. Ever been on TV? Yes, and I was in a rock video once (you can just about see my arm)

12. Ever steal any traffic sign? No

13. Ever been in a car accident? A few minor ones, only once involving another car

14. 2-door or 4-door vehicle? We have two 5 door (including hatchback) and two with no doors (Motorbikes are my favourite mode of transport)

15. Favorite salad dressing? Simple Vinagrette

16. Favorite Pie? Steak and Ale

17. Favorite number? 3

18. Favorite movie? The Matrix

9. Favorite holiday? Easter

20. Favorite dessert? Pecan Pie

21. Favorite food? Chinese

22. Favorite day of the week? Sunday

23. Favorite brand of body wash? Anything from Lush which isn't too girly!

24. Favorite toothpaste? Sensodyne Pronamel - stops my teeth hurting!

25. Favorite smell? My children

26. What do you do to relax?? Music - lots of it, and lots of different types

27. How do you see yourself in 10 years? Older, greyer, hopefully thinner

28. Furthest place you will send this message? (copying Dr John's answer) in cyberspace everyone is the same distance away

29. Who will respond to this the fastest? No idea

`Hooray for the boys in blue'

Got stopped by the police tonight on the way home from a Church interview evening where we were interviewing candidates for the lay training courses on offer from the Diocese. I had been out for a pint of beer following the interviews, so i was a bit nervous about whether or not this would make me a candidate for drunk driving! It seems that my front headlight had blown sometime this evening, so they stopped me to let me know, and I suspect that anyone pulled over at 11pm is routinely breathalysed - i blew into the little tube and was informed that i was less than half the legal limit, which was fine, but that I shouldn't take it for granted that I was OK just because I was! Hooray for the police, keeping the world safe from squiffy vicars!

On a serious note, though, I was reassured that those who are out and about who have got themselves tanked up from a night on the booze need to watch out. I am not in favour of drinking and driving, and if I had had more to drink then I certainly wouldn't have got behind the wheel. So rather than grumble at being pulled over, I am grateful that the local police are out doing their job...

Must get that headlight replaced tomorrow, they could have cautioned me for a 'moving traffic offence', but let me go home with the advice to get it fixed soon!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Amidst all the chaos....this week's sermon

It's time for another sermon...

This one was written for my interview on Thursday, or at least the basis of it was (preaching a sermon at the start of an interview is definitely a first for me, and I was more nervous than i have ever been at the start of a sermon! And during!)

I fleshed it out a bit for Sunday, and extrapolated more as I went along, but here's the basic text, or rather (as always) an introduction with more to be found at New Kid Deep Stuff...

Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30

Tricky Jesus

In my wife’s room as she was growing up there was a picture of Jesus surrounded by animals and children – a wonderful example of Victorian Kitsch, all soft focus and shiny blonde Jesus – around it was a line from a well known hymn which said ‘all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all...’

It was a meant to be a comfort, a picture of a Jesus who welcomed the vulnerable and who projected an aura of love and acceptance. It didn’t possess any particular artistic merit, but was unthreatening and warm.

I’m not sure what picture you have of Jesus in your own mind, perhaps you share such a ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ image, perhaps you have a mental image of the publicity campaign a few years back which had a picture of Jesus on a red background, looking remarkably like the Che Gevuara pictures which have adorned lots of student walls for the past thirty years or so which say ‘Meek. Mild. As If’ Or maybe an image of a man on a cross, or Christ surrounded by light rising into glory, or a Jesus who never blinks like Robert Powell in the Jesus of Nazareth TV series. I could go on and on... [more]

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Now the truth can be told

Not been blogging, and been quite distracted lately, due to the last week where I went around the country and had two job interviews! I have been thinking very seriously about 'discernment' and how I find out God's will for what I should be doing - normally I just get on with things and hope they work out (that sounds like a very Godless statement for a Vicar, but do remember things get prayed about on the way too!)

This week i went for two sets of job interviews, and found myself in the position of being offered both! I have, after prayer and some serious thought and talking things through, declined one of the offers - there were lots of good things about the position, and it was in a wonderful location, but it simply 'felt wrong' as I prayed about it, and various little bits of the process made me less easy about accepting it. I am sure the 'right person' will make a very good job of it and will find it both challenging and enjoyable - but certain aspects of it seemed less like a progression from my present role and either a sideways move or slightly moving backwards. The housing available (which is a very important part of things when you are moving your family too) wasn't quite what would have suited the family. I know that we have been spoiled by the present house we are in, but what was on offer was just too small, especially the study - my crucial consideration!

The second job seems very much a move forward, but is very much out in the rural 'sticks' in Devon. There are many many reasons why this would be a good job, and I am excited about the prospect. As I am praying and considering it (I haven't been given a deadline for making the decision to say yes or no, though I hope to visit with my wife in the next few days) I am feeling quite excited about the possibility - though I am still considering whether or not we are being called to move on from this present team, and from parishes I love deeply, from people who are grappling with very real issues of how to live and proclaim faith. I am torn, and continue to pray - and for any of you out there for who prayer is a habit or a desire, i would be grateful if you could aim a few for me up to 'the big fella' (or 'lass' if you have a broad theology!)