Monday, July 13, 2009

Just for a change, a MeMe

Been a while since I did one of these, thanks to Dr John for posting, in turn taken from Bill at the Old Fart's Blog

Have Any Pets: Two Dogs
Have Any Children: Two aged 7 & 4 - one of each kind....
Smoke: Ummmmm, yep
Drink: Whenever thirsty, yes.
Exercise: limited
Spend Your Life On Facebook: No, but keep forgetting to exit before leaving PC so give the impression I am there all the time
Play On A Sports Team: ha ha ha ha ha ha
Belong To Any Organizations: Campaign for Real Ale, Rural Theology Association, Greenbelt Angels, Writer's groups, BMF, oh and the Church, tend to be quite involved in that, I also used to be CMA (Christian Motorcyclist Association),
Love Your Job: Mostly
Like To Cook: Yes
Play An Instrument: Guitar, but not as well as I would like...
Sing: Yes, in tune but with no finesse.
Dance: 'The music moves me, but it moves me ugly'.
Speak Multiple Languages: Passable French alongside my passable English.
Ice Skate: Never really saw the point.
Swim: Yep, but have to watch out for harpoons as often mistaken for great white whale...
Paint: Only walls, and usually only when I move into a house...
Write: Love to...
Ski: Why would I want to?
Juggle: Really, life's too short to learn to juggle.
Do you wish you lived somewhere else?: I have days when I wish I'd taken my chance to move to the USA, and others when I want to move to France....
Do you like roller coasters?: Not really.
Enjoy spending time with your Mother?: Yes, but she is a very bad influence on me :-)
Ever think about the price of gasoline?: Not really.
Sleep with a fan on?: I live in England, how often would I need a fan?
Have a good handle on spelling?: It is one of the few things I am very good at.
Ever type "kik" instead of "lol?: No, never use lol - for some irrational reason I find it irritating.
Know how to play chess?: Yes but well out of practice.
Ever miss being a little kid?: Not really, though I wish I had the energy I had then!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Why does the Vicar blog?

I've been musing over the past few hours over the reasons I continue to blog. As many of you will know I continue to twitter frequently and I keep in touch with folk via facebook and though sometimes neglected I do keep coming back to this blog and waffling away, and when I have time I love to look around my friends in the blogsphere and to read opinions that inspire, challenge, disturb and confuse me - all of which keeps me thinking.

Every now and then I do ask myself if this here blog is an exercise in narcissism or an ego massage for a cleric that wants to be considered slightly cool and alternative (as if!). Often these thoughts end up being voiced out loud and you have to put up with them so if I've said this all and you've read it all before I apologise, but here goes.

I continue to blog because I think there is an unhelpful amount of mystery around what it is that Clergy actually do. There's the constant quip I hear about us working one day a week - each time said by someone who seems to think they are the first person who has ever said it to me - which is actually quite a good way to start a conversation about what I do, and indeed why I do this job. In many ways I do consider myself extremely fortunate to do what I do, there is a flexibility about my work that allows me to spend time with family every evening before I go out to evening meetings. I live in a very nice house in a beautiful part of the world and I have the opportunity to meet with people from all walks of life, to talk with them to share the best and worst parts of their life and to offer them unconditional support and love in all that they are going through.

I also work some long hours, can't take weekends away with family and find that days and evenings are filled with meetings, committees and admin that sometimes drives me crackers.

But much of this is a mystery to many. Not many people know what goes into a funeral, or what to do when someone has died (get in touch with a funeral director as quickly as you can by the way!). Few people know that when they are going to be married in church there are legal requirements that need to sorted and 'Marriage preparation' they will have to undergo. Few people know that if they or their children are going to be baptised then they will have to go through preparation for that. Very few people know how much work goes in to putting together a Sunday service, or a sermon, or a Bible Study, or a presentation to a meeting, or an assembly. Few know that as well as the Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals for which we prepare and support people Clergy also visit the sick, pray with the anxious, listen to those who need to talk, go to see the lonely, get invited into schools, take part various events around the community and generally try to be a part of their villages.

I can blog about all this. I can share something of the joy of having these roles in my everyday ministry.

Also many Clergy (not all) are theologians, and we appreciate the opportunity to share ideas, to voice out loud some of our thinking, to put our sermons and talks 'out there' for comment and critique. Particularly if, like me, you are a frustrated writer still wanting to say something but not sure what blogging is an outlet for something of that.

The other reason for blogging is that when I have time and when i have something to say - or even sometimes when I don't - it's fun. It's fun too to talk with others, make new friends and generally interact.

So whenever I have the chance, I'll keep blogging. So please keep reading, commenting, asking questions and generally being about. And to those of you who blog as well, keep in touch and remind me to come visit as I do love to read what you have to say too!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How do people see us?

Some conversations I have had lately, along with some listening I have been doing to the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast (the cool Mars Hill with Rob Bell, not the other one) whilst driving around, mainly to Exeter, over the past week or so has got me thinking again about a perennial problem for both ministers and the Church in general. Well, not necessarily a perennial problem, perhaps more of an ongoing issue.

What do people think of us?

I have an image problem, by which I mean I worry too much over what people think about me. I am one of those aware enough of my own insecurities to know that I like to be liked. I worry that people might not like me, or that I might offend people. There are good reasons and bad for this - the good reasons are that I don't want to be a barrier to people finding out about faith, or that I might skew perceptions of the Church by the way I present myself and share the Gospel. The bad reasons are all tied up with when I feel insecure in myself and simple want people to like me and make me feel loved! If I step back, I know that I am loved and whether or not everyone likes me is simply irrelevant/

But as a minister, a full time 'professional' Christian, my activity, my presentation has perhaps undue influence on people's perception of the Church. It means I do think about how I act, it means that sometimes I have to bite my tongue, or not rise to the bait that is offered to me to say or do something that will re-inforce people's prejudices about Christians. It does mean I struggle with speaking out or shutting up, but more about that in a mo.

At the same time the Church has an image problem, that we are middle-class, middle-age, uptight, legalistic, moralising busybodies. There are accusations of hypocrisy, of double standards, a perception of the priesthood being filled with at best doddering idiots and at worse child abusers, philanderers, thieves and the wilfully malign. There is often a perception that the church is divorced from the real world, more concerned with keeping up standards (particularly what are seen as outdated moral standards) or with internal squabbles such as the ordination of women or of homosexuality. Many of these accusations have some foundation in reality, though the image has been skewed by the way that many of these things are reported both by conventional media sources and by the world of mouth methods of blogs, websites, pub conversations etc etc. Rob Bell says that it's not institutions that can take the blame for wronging people, but the individuals within institutions. And part of the problem is that more than in most institutions the individuals who make up the Church are identified with the whole body. This should be a good thing; when one suffers all suffer, when one is joyful all are joyful, all have a place in the church and we together are the body of Christ - unfortunately the converse is true also; when one abuses, all are seen as abusers, when one is corrupt all are seen to be so etc etc.

In Acts Chapter 2 there is a wonderful record of how people saw the Church - that believers shared all in common, that no one was in need, that they were joyful, that they served one another and ministered to the needy and that they worshipped God. I don't hear a lot of that around the villages I serve, though the irony is that this group of parishes I serve, as I said in my musings for this month published previously, is packed with Christians who live their lives of faith everyday. Loving, prayerful, joyful, warm, gracious people who are great adverts for the Church but few on the outside make the connection that it is Christian Faith that inspires many of these wonderful people to do and be what they are.

We need to build up those connections again between people seeing 'good Christians' and realising they are part of the body of Christ and that this body is seeking to live out values of the kingdom of God. I hear a lot of 'you're not like I expect a Vicar to be' to which I normally respond 'I've not met a Vicar who is!' likewise if we live faith, live the values of God's reign and follow Jesus with all that we are, in every part of life, then those who look from the outside will see the people of God, the Church, the Body of Christ as a place that is life-giving, life-affirming and life-filled - and might even want to be a part of that.

But there is another side, and it's a part of being a minister, and being a Christian that should challenge me and should challenge all of us. We are not in the business of being liked! We are in the business of being faithful - and sometimes that may mean speaking out against injustice, sexism, racism, bigotry, prejudice and wrongdoing. It's then we need the courage of our convictions, the strength and inspiration of the Holy Spirit not to worry about whether people like us but to speak the truth in love, standing up for the values of God's kingdom; values which could change the world if only we would let them.

It's not about stomping over other people with our religious boots on, nor is about allowing the truth to be stamped on by other people's prejudice. We need to find that balance between simply being there and loving and affirming, and being willing to speak out when need arises. I need to find that balance, I need the courage to live a life worthy of the calling to which I have been called. Pray for me, and I will pray for you!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Another sermon...

I went a bit mad this last Sunday and ended up doing three different sermons at three very different services, so here's the one from the 'main' morning service, based on the Gospel Reading for Trinity 3/Proper 8

Year B Proper 8 (2009)

Turning things around

Irishman walks into a bar with a pig under his arm ‘where did you get that’ asks the barman? I won it in a raffle’ replies the pig….

Firstly, I am allowed to tell Irish jokes because I'm Irish (kind of). Second, at the risk of taking one of my favourite jokes to bits too much, I like this joke because like all the best jokes it thwarts our expectations! Jokes are funny (if they are funny) because something happens that we weren’t ready for! Likewise the things which stick in our minds from the Bible are the things which turn the world upside down, that remind us that there is more to this faith business, and especially to this Jesus chap, than we could contain in all of our theologies, philosophies, traditions or ideas. [more]