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....