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!)