Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday Morning

Our Tuesday morning's are always colourful! We meet together as a team of clergy and laity to pray and then to discuss business relating to our ministry in these villages. It is a very supportive group, and a reminder that this ministry business needs to be done together.

What do I mean by that? You may ask, and if you don't I will answer it anyway...

For years the Clergy of the Church of England were trained as 'lone rangers' - those who were called to be Clergymen (and it was men) were set up to try and deal with everything. Often they would have no more than two or three parishes (those were the days) and in urban and sub-urban areas only one parish, and they would run everything in those parishes, with the help of a couple of churchwardens (elected lay representatives) and a PCC (Parochial Church Council). Further back in the mists of time the Churchwardens were actually appointed one by the bishop and one by the Vicar, to support the minister in his ministry, but that moved on some time ago.

And everything 'religious' or vaguely spiritual was considered to be the work of the Parish Priest. Baptism and Confirmation preparation, Marriage preparation, Bereavement care, Pastoral visiting, Lent groups, Sunday services, preaching (and all the preparation that goes with that) and all the special services that happen throughout the life of a parish church. When a minister had only one church, or two small parishes, this was achievable, but it put all 'church' stuff in the hands of one person, pretty much. People let the 'Vicar' get on with it, and if they didn't want anything to do with the running of the church it was fine, it was done 'Vicariously' for them.

But the practicalities of that have changed, with less people offering for full time ordained ministry and a growth in population that model simply cannot work any more. Alongside that, the theological understanding that the Church is made up of all God's people, not just the clergy, has resurfaced, having been suppressed by an over-clericalised system for about 150 years, or more.

The church is a body, with Christ as the head - that means that no man or woman should take that role of being the sole leader. Yes, there is a place for someone to take responsibility for leadership within the church, there are roles which need to be handled by someone trained and called to minister, but the whole ministry of the church is the responsibility of the whole church. That means that i am delighted that we have capable and gifted members of our congregations who take an active part in the leading of services, who offer pastoral care to our communities in the name of the Church, who lead small groups, who work with the clergy in offering pastoral help, teaching, worship and everything else in our parishes. It's not an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Clergy, God knows we still have plenty to do, but it is an acknowledgment that we are all part of this ministry and mission of the Church with us Clergy having certain responsibilities - and hopefully an overview of what is going on - within that.

So Tuesday mornings is a good reminder of that shared calling, as we share vision, moan, laugh, think, pray, plan and organise together. The team in this group of parishes in which I minister is the best team I have ever been privileged to work in, there is a real sense of shared calling and shared responsibility and a desire to support and encourage one another, along with a sense of accountability to one another for our part in the ministry in these parishes. Long may it continue - and long live Tuesdays!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sad Vicar

Sometimes I am asked how those of us who offer bereavement care cope with all the sadness we encounter, and the short answer is we just do! I recognise the need to be the one who knows what is going on and whilst involved and concerned about the bereaved I also need a measure of detachment in order, to a certain extent, to facilitate and free up the grieving process for those left behind.

But it doesn't stop me feeling sad about losing folk. In the past few weeks we have had a sudden death, a relatively young death and today the death of an older (but not very old) man who was a real stalwart of the church in the village where he lived. We have had other deaths in the villages, and i have mentioned the number of funerals in every post recently, but some feel, as it were, more 'natural', whilst others I have felt quite affected by.

The loss of this very active, very committed church member today is one of those. I knew this person well, I was very fond of him - he was a genuinely good man, not a saint (and he wouldn't thank me for making him out to be so) but a good man! I will miss him.

Sometimes being a Vicar makes me sad.

Catching up!

A talk I gave last week about why I am a Christian!

Men’s Group Jan 2008

Jesus – What’s the point?

Over my time as part of this group I have experienced different types of talks, and in your time coming to this group and attending Church generally I am sure you have heard most of the types.
For example -
There is the sonorous, theological type of talk filled with gravitas and tackled slowly and at great length.
There is the excitable, babbling type of talk with very few pauses for breath - lots of enthusiasm and very little substance.
There is the worthy type which endeavours to change us all for the better, said in great earnest with lots of meaningful looks.
There is the intellectual type of talk where the speaker spouts Greek, Hebrew, Latin, odd sounding German words and generally makes very little sense.
There is the classic ‘fire and brimstone’ talk-come-sermon designed to scare the hearers witless and spoken with great and powerful voice and much feeling. [more]

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Still thinking....but

not writing!

It's been a busy three weeks around here, yes I'm often busy, but the act of sitting down at the computer and writing something (vaguely) coherent (apart from sermons) seems to have escaped me for some time! The only way I could get a thinking blog award for 2008 is if the thinking doesn't go hand in hand with actually writing anything down!

We had a long run of funerals here, not unusual to get a number after Christmas, it does seem that people hold on until after the holidays to let go and the weather often turns which sees and increase in deaths - but this year has been particularly bad, and mainly because a number of these deaths have been unexpected and often tragic. All deaths are terrible in the sense of loss and sadness, but some even more so if it is a younger person or a very sudden death, and we've had a few of those. I think that in a village community it has more impact on the whole community than in the urban and suburban ministry which I have experienced - mainly because (for better or worse) people are so caught up in each others lives in these villages. So there has been a cloud of shock hanging over this village due to a sudden death over Christmas and the loss of a young father who had been struggling with cancer for some time now.

As well as this there have been some particular issues which have taken lots of time and energy to engage with. I've said before that the ministry of the Church of England whilst not unique is quite unusual in that we find ourselves responsible for all people of any faith or none in our pastoral remit - so I often find myself involved with people who have little or no contact with the Church when they find themselves in a place of pastoral need. It is one of the reasons I am committed to the particular (or peculiar) expression of Christian faith which is the Church of England - our very setup is Mission orientated!

By this I meant that Mission is often confused with Evangelism. Evangelism is the particular proclamation of the Christian Gospel which seeks to draw people into a realisation and acceptance of Christian faith. Mission is God's giving of himself (or herself if you prefer) to the world - something which we as human beings are privileged to share in, but something which is very much the work of God in which we have a part. This mission, I believe, goes hand in hand with the proclamation of the Good News of the Christian Gospel, but is greater and wider than it. So when we as Christians reach out, with no strings attached, to serve our communities, we do it because it reflects a God who loves and cares for all people. That love is expressed most fully in the good news of Jesus Christ, but extends beyond a particular and specific expression of gospel truth to a genuine concern for the well being of people who may not call themselves Christian or seek to be a part of the Church. In this sense I am a minister of God's mission but not always an evangelist!

So, a weighty and perhaps seemingly pretentious excuse as to why I've not been blogging, I've been seeking to fulfil a missionary imperative!

I do have some sermons which I want to post, but it will have to wait until I've written one for tomorrow, which is my next order of business...

after this afternoon's funeral visit, of course!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Thanks Bill

Greatly cheered in the midst of what has turned out to be quite a tough weekend by this from Bill over at the Old Fart's Blog

In return I will nominate a few from my own sidebar as well as saying that the Old Fart is well worth a visit!

Blogs that inspire me, in no particular order

Nick's Sanctuary
Dr John
Dylan's Lectionary Blog
Dave Walker
Jeff Weddle
Nick Page

All of them are fun, rooted in the real world and full of things which really do make me think. There are lots of other blogs I visit and enjoy too, but these particularly have the effect of inspiring me! Most of them are also big on humour, I guess for me spirituality and humour are interlinked...

I should say, I might not always agree with the thoughts or opinions of the above, but they all make me think, and challenge my thinking on a regular basis!

If any of them visit here then I think the deal is that you are allowed to use the little picture on your own blog! I just copied it to my hard drive and posted it to blogger... So if you want to...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Getting back into the swing of things!

I thought I would start the New Year as I plan to go on, by linking to my sermons! I've not done this for months, so here goes with my Epiphany number!

Epiphany (2008)

Come to the king, whoever you are…

I don’t know if you remember the Christmas publicity campaign from a few years ago, one which caused some controversy at the time, but being broad minded myself I rather liked it. It had a cartoon picture of a shocked face with a caption which went something like this:
You’re in a stable, you’ve just given birth and now three kings have turned up with presents for the baby – talk about a bad hair day.... [more]

Friday, January 04, 2008

New year blues

Actually, not so much blues, as still recovering from the tiredness of the Christmas period and various poorlynesses (it is a real word!) which happened to and around me over the past few weeks.

Christmas was in many ways a blast! Our services were all well attended and filled with joy and all the wonder of the Christmas story. I managed to get all my services sorted, albeit some of them at short notice, and even wrote a few new sermons, which I haven't managed to post on New Kid Deep Stuff yet. Unfortunately the flu-ey bug which I caught really hit over the week before Christmas, when I had no chance to stop and recover, so by the time I got to Christmas day itself I was feeling pretty awful. I didn't let it dampen my spirits though, and the worship over Christmas time was pretty special.

The worst thing that happened was in the midst of this - on Christmas Eve - we lost someone in the Parish who died very suddenly, so I had a fair amount of rearranging to do to make sure I could be with the family. The funeral was today and it was a wonderful example of the church pulling together to support and help a member of the community. I was moved not only by the strength of the family dealing with this tragedy but by the warmth and support of the congregation for them. It was as positive a service as it could have been, a proper goodbye and offering the deceased into God's keeping. I've said it before, and don't mind repeating myself, but it is a huge privilege to be able to minister to people in these situations and to be able to offer them care and love in the name of Christ. No matter how many times I am called upon to perform this ministry (and I have two more funerals next week) I never feel that it's just another part of the job, but rather it is an important time to put into action Christian love and proclaim the hope of faith.

So a little catch up on some of what has been going on. More another time.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Wow, the end of 2007 has flown by and things have been completely manic around here, the various bouts of illness (which eventually overtook all four of us here at the Rectory) combined with some unexpected pastoral events along with a lot of Christmas activity left me as near to complete exhaustion as I have ever felt. It just seemed to be relentless! A few days away have helped, though my hoped for week off hasn't been possible and having worked a couple of extra days after Christmas day I find I have to go back tomorrow to get some things sorted out...

no rest for the wicked!

But before I amble off to my bed I wanted to wish you all the best for the New Year, may 2008 be a better year than 2007 for all of you. thanks for the good wishes and the various comments over my couple of weeks of complete absence from the blogging world, I really appreciate it. There's been a huge amount going on in my head which I have longed to get down on the blog, but maybe I will wait until there is some semblance of mental order before actually letting my many and various thoughts loose on the world.

See you later in the year (hopefully tomorrow!)