Saturday, May 30, 2009

A good day off - mostly

I had most of today off and got lots of bits done, bits around the house, looking after a poorly little man (gorgeous son has had a bug for a few days, has spent some time conked out on the sofa). I also got to ride for a bit this afternoon (yesterday turned out to be too busy after all). Just an hour or so out on the bike, a quick blast to clear away the cobwebs and take some perspective time!
Just me & barny (the Beemer) on Twitpic

This evening was enjoyable but also quite hard work! It was an Art & Craft show preview at the village hall next door. There is an incredible amount of extremely high quality art, some (much) of it moving and profound. The display is on all weekend, mainly comprised of artworks by local people and was a reminder of how many gifted people there are in these villages, if not every community. As part of the evening some of us were asked to share our favourite poems, I shared two, one by Gerard Manley Hopkins and the other by John Betjeman. It was a great evening, but a lot of people wanted to talk to me, many about Church, so the idea of having a full day off fell by the wayside, one of the hazards of living and working in the same community. Tiring but fun, though.

Here's the second poem I shared, thought I would leave this with you :-)

Blame the Vicar

Written by John Betjeman
When things go wrong it's rather tame
To find we are ourselves to blame,
It gets the trouble over quicker
To go and blame things on the Vicar.
The Vicar, after all, is paid
To keep us bright and undismayed.
The Vicar is more virtuous too
Than lay folks such as me and you.
He never swears, he never drinks,
He never should say what he thinks.
His collar is the wrong way round,
And that is why he's simply bound
To be the sort of person who
Has nothing very much to do
But take the blame for what goes wrong
And sing in tune at Evensong.
For what's a Vicar really for
Except to cheer us up? What's more,
He shouldn't ever, ever tell
If there is such a place as Hell,
For if there is it's certain he
Will go to it as well as we.
The Vicar should be all pretence
And never, never give offence.
To preach on Sunday is his task
And lend his mower when we ask
And organize our village fĂȘtes
And sing at Christmas with the waits
And in his car to give us lifts
And when we quarrel, heal the rifts.
To keep his family alive
He should industriously strive
In that enormous house he gets,
And he should always pay his debts,
For he has quite six pounds a week,
And when we're rude he should be meek
And always turn the other cheek.
He should be neat and nicely dressed
With polished shoes and trousers pressed,
For we look up to him as higher
Than anyone, except the Squire.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And in case you've forgotten

A piccie of my lovely motorbike....

Won't be riding tomorrow, as monsoon predicted - but hope to be out and about on two wheels on Thursday...

Not a long post today

Thought I would point towards this excellent thought by 'Liturgy' about saying sorry, and to remind you of some thoughts which contain a similar point here...

A good day, despite a ridiculous amount of admin - a reminder though that the organisation of certain services is crucial to meet the needs of certain people. I am in the process of arranging two funerals, which need time and effort to make them appropriate to the two important, special people we are saying farewell to. I am also putting together a service for Pentecost which will, for a good number of people, be an important observance of the birth of the Church and a reminder of God's promise of sustenance, life, comfort and joy through the gift of the Spirit. As the Archdeacon of Cambridgeonce said to me - don't think of the admin, think of the people who will benefit from your planning and preparation.

A day of admin (with a couple of visits, including a deathbed visit that, through the grace of God, turned out not to be a deathbed visit) was enhanced by a trip to the local pub this evening where I ended up talking faith and motorbikes and lots of other things over a couple of very enjoyable beers!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ascension Day

We had a great service on Thursday evening at the little parish Church at Shute. It was a beautiful evening, the sun shining and the sky clear, the view of the valley from there was lovely and as I drove to the service I could see the sea down the Axe Valley. I did get to do that drive twice, as I left my sermon at home in my study, fortunately I had arrived half an hour early, and as the Vicarage is only five minutes drive away had time to get back and pick up the aforementioned sermon.

I think it was worth driving back for! The full text is as New Kid Deep Stuff, my companion blog to this one, and here is the starter...

Ascension Day (2009) Eucharist
Goodbye, God bless

Ascension day seems a funny day to celebrate. A strange time to have a feast (which of course our Communion is here this evening)! Because, if you think about it, it’s a celebration of something quite difficult.
Have you ever had that feeling of saying goodbye to someone that hurt so much it made you ache? Sixteen years ago Jo and I, who had had an on-off relationship for a few years, found ourselves living in London and York, and at the end of a weekend together we would have that awful goodbye as one of us got onto a train to leave our respective cities. It was probably this ache, this loathing of separation that meant that she came out with the best proposal ever – oh well, we might as well go for it then.
I’m sure for all of us we can understand that pain, perhaps in a smaller or greater degree. Saying goodbye to someone we care about, letting go of them and trusting for both their well-being and the well-being of your relationship with them can be difficult.
It should, to a certain extent, have been the same for the disciples, having had the pain and despair of losing Jesus which was replaced by the joy of the resurrection and the days they got to spend with Jesus afterwards, they were again losing him. Ok, so this time there wasn’t the agony of seeing him suffer, nor was there the same kind of fear that they had experienced before their encounters with Christ – the fear of being caught, the fear of dying, perhaps even the fear that it might all have been a waste of time. But at the same time, Jesus was leaving, and they had no idea when he was to return. There was the promise of his return, but though they hoped for its immanence they had no date, no time, and no firm promise that it would even be in their lifetimes [more]

Vicars have worries too!

I have endeavoured to make this blog if not a place of full disclosure, then at least somewhere I've been honest about things which have gone on, without mentioning names or places usually as I don't want to be either pastorally insensitive or seen to be critical of people.

It's difficult sometimes to know just how much to say about oneself on a blog, particularly being in a very public, very well known position. A position which carries with it some responsibility for the well being for the people and places in my care.

So when I found a lump on my neck, where my lymph gland is, I was not only anxious that it might be something sinister, but apprehensive as to how much I should share with people. Hence my recent silence. It is natural, for most of us, to think the worst when something like this appears, and I didn't want to worry my parishes without reason. Whatever my own personal strengths and weaknesses, the people in our Church congregations invest a certain amount of trust in their ministers, and we have the perhaps unenviable role of holding together these congregations whether or not we feel worthy of such a responsibility.

So, I thought it better to say nothing as, unlike in my last parishes where I didn't publicise this blog too widely, lots of people in the Churches around here have told me that they check out what I am saying every now and then - I also get feedback, good and bad, on the things I write; for which I am very grateful.

I do have a lumpy lymph node in my neck. It doesn't look as though there is anything sinister there, but the doctor is keeping an eye on things and I am under the care of a consultant in the regional hospital at Exeter. X-Rays and blood tests haven't (as far as I know) flagged up any issues in particular, and after an Endoscopy which looked at my throat, via my nose, there was nothing visible which caused the consultant concern. I told a few people about these tests and about the Doctor's concerns and was extremely grateful for the messages of support and the prayers I received since it was discovered. I am convinced that it is the prayer which has kept me going over the past few weeks, and I have had some moments where a deep sense of calm has overwhelmed me and have wondered who was praying for me at that particular time.

There's a kind of 'watching brief' on my lumpy neck at the moment, there are no signs of a tumour in my lymph node, but the consultant wants to see me in a week or so from now just to check me out. It's meant that I haven't wanted to say anything, rather than worrying people and has been enough of a distraction to keep me from blogging. Alongside this I had something of a cold and feeling of being generally run down, so though I have kept all my set appointments and been to meetings etc, it didn't seem appropriate to go and visit folk to whom I might spread my bugs!

For the time being, then, I hope that it will be business as usual, and i will catch up on this blog over the coming days and weeks when I have a moment. I do have a couple of sermons to put on the New Kid Deep Stuff blog, and lots of random thoughts noodling around my brain which have been put off whilst I thought about how to share this news. As I said in my last post, you might not be able to shut me up!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thought for June...

I was very struck by a talk by John Bell as I listened whilst driving through the lanes of Devon today, it has influenced greatly my thought for June for our local Parishes Magazine - known as 'the Parishes Paper' it serves the whole of the Five Alive Mission Community. I wondered whether this might be a bit heavy for a Parish mag editorial, but submitted it anyway - and this is the first time I have posted something before it is properly published, so let me have your feedback in the next few hours and I can send out a corrected/amended/highly altered version if necessary...

Though probably not.

Faith in the Church? [more]

Sermon catchup, again!

There are various reasons why I've not been blogging for a couple of weeks, but just to keep you all in suspense, the likelihood is that I won't be doing much for the next few days either, sorry. Something has cropped up that is preoccupying me, but that I can't quite say anything about yet. When the time comes I suspect you won't be able to shut me up, but for now I am afraid that this all consuming thought isn't for general consumption...

So, here's sermons that I should have posted before...

One from last Sunday, now I must confess this to be a rewrite, I was poorly last week, and didn't have time or energy to write a full sermon, so used the shape of a previous one and built on it.

Easter 5 (2009) Year B RCL Principal

Pruning & Growing

As anyone who has talked to me about growing, sowing, weeding and reaping will know, I am not a gardener – and one of the attractions of moving to the Five Alive Mission Community was a generous offer by one of the parishioners in Kilmington to take care of the Vicarage lawn so that I didn’t have to make the time for garden upkeep.

So I will mow the lawn or strim if necessary – and I have started the process of clearing the new bit of Garden that we have been able to adopt at the end of the current Vicarage space. Having said this, the aforementioned garden care parishioner crept into our garden yesterday afternoon and did more with a proper strimmer in half an hour than I had managed in three hours the day before! The only other thing I will do in any garden is prune.

Well, not so much prune as hack, slash, clip, cut and slice. I have a bit of a reputation in my wife’s family – many of whom are keen gardeners – as somewhat over enthusiastic in my approach to pruning. In theological college I had a reputation for being ‘the Clematis killer of Westcott House’ after a very exciting session with some secateurs and the once bushy Clematis outside our flat. To be fair, the clematis grew back rather well, until it was blown down in the Winter gales a few years back – seven years after I left! [more]

One from the Sunday before. I ended up not using this one as my early service is one without a sermon, I didn't need it at the second service and the third service was a family service.... It might be used, with adaptations, when the readings come up again in three years :-)

Easter 4 (2009) Year C RCL Principal
Shepherd and sheep

April has been, for me, a time of reflection and looking back at the last 6 months or so of my life and the life of these Parishes. The first Easter a minister gets to spend in his or her Parishes is a very important one, not only for the obvious reasons regarding what we all believe about Easter, but because the way we celebrate Easter reflects who and what we are as Christians in these fellowships of which we are a part.
So the celebration of Easter left me feeling tired, but very happy. Our celebrations were well attended, they were friendly and they were joyful. With the Annual Parochial Church Meetings that took place at around the same time I have had a time when I have given thanks both to God and to the many people who work so hard, and often without the thanks they deserve. to keep our Parishes not just going, but growing. [more]

So that's it for now, more relatively soon. I am now looking forward to a day off...

Except I might post my thought from the parish mag in a moment....

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Gospel Service Sermon

Trying to catch up a bit! Here's last Sunday's evening sermon...

Jesus is Gospel….

In my first weeks here we had our first Gospel service with the Kroft Originals in Dalwood. It was a great service, as this one is, and I had two instructions regarding the sermon – keep it light and keep it short! Funnily enough on my way out of Church this morning I said I needed to work on this talk and a certain Churchwarden who shall remain nameless said ‘not too long!’ – I can’t make any promises, but hopefully no matter how long this it will speak to us.

The difficulty I have is that I have so much to say! Just as I took the opportunity it introduce myself at the first of our Gospel services and to say a bit about my belief in the Good News – which is what the word Gospel means – I am keen now to reflect a bit on my first six months in our parishes, and to say a little more on this ‘Good News’ business which we Christians make so much fuss about![more]

Friday, May 01, 2009

back again

I've been thinking about blogging for a week or so since I returned from my Post-Easter break, but to be honest have either been short of time or energy to make it happen. I have kept up the twittering, until today, but the idea of sitting down and making order from my thoughts has been somewhat beyond me!

I didn't really talk about Easter Day itself in my last post, which was a great day and at which many good things happened. It wasn't any easy day, though, and a couple of conversations (nothing to do with Easter itself) which took place meant I felt very much that the 'honeymoon' which goes with the first few months of being in a new parish or, in this case,Mission Community was very much over. But more of that in a mo

We started Easter Day overlooking the stunning Devon Countryside from the top of a hill on which stands the Armada Beacon - the warning beacon used many years ago as part of a series of beacon fires to warn of impending invasion by sea. The beacon keepers hut is a small stone building which bears a passing resemblance to the empty tomb and is an ideal place to start Easter Day, so we sang and praised and heard the Bible account of the resurrection on the top of a hill which overlooked stunning valleys at 7am on Easter Day.

My next service was a 9.30am Holy Communion, a great opportunity to celebrate the Church's greatest feast, and it took place at a Church I didn't get to celebrate a Christmas Communion in, a Church so busy that I was late setting off to the next service. The 11am service was equally busy, and a lively Holy Communion during which the young people went to the garden of the Old Vicarage next door and had an Easter Egg hunt, joining us again for the Communion itself. Following the service I had a rather involved conversation with someone who, shall we say, holds different views to me about a number of issues, and from whose conversation I found it difficult to extricate myself. It didn't help that this person's involvement had caused a relatively benign situation in one of the parishes to become something of a headache. But the details aren't important, it just struck me that even on such a great feast day things weren't terribly easy, and (probably rightly) I wasn't getting away with an easy ride - if there are difficult situations they need to be dealt with! I should say that this person I find very likeable, and on many issues we would agree - I like this person, but I was frustrated at the difficulties that had arisen around a particular issue in which they were involved.

Following these services I took Communion to someone unable to get to church, a tremendous privilege and a deeply moving short service. It went a long way to gathering my frayed nerves.

On returning home - having been out for about seven hours - I found myself involved in an email conversation about an important issue, which made me think hard about a particular congregation and my desire to keep them united in love and service, but left me wondering exactly how that can be achieved.

So my Easter day had highs and lows. Of course at its heart it was filled with the joy of the Resurrection and the life and love which permeates these Church fellowship, but also contained reminders that the culture of the Church is sometimes difficult and those of us called to ministry are called to hold together the joys and disappointments in our communities.

I am comforted by the image of the risen Christ showing his scarred hands and feet to the disciples. In the midst of resurrection are those reminders of the pain and brokenness which comes from sin and death.