Friday, December 31, 2010

Last of the y ear

So all that time I though I would have for reflection and writing has zipped by, only to filled with the joy of family and lots of fun - so no regrets!

Before I get to the next year though, I thought I should stop by and wish you all 'Happy New Year'  I hope 2011 is a good one for you and yours.  God bless, and I will leave you with my thought for the New Year from the Midweek Herald....

Listen!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fifteen Films Meme

He's done it again, that Mr Ritchie over at Phil's Treehouse has lured me into a meme, this time on fifteen films - as Phil writes...
The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen films you’ve seen that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen films you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
Not in order of preference.
1 The Matrix
2 Star Trek VI
3 Crossroads
4 Saving Private Ryan
5 It's A Wonderful Life
6 The Wizard of Oz
7 Ferris Bueller's Day Off
8 This Is Spinal Tap
9 Angel-a
10 The Empire Strikes Back
11 Fargo
12 Sliding Doors
13 Sleuth (the original, with Michael Caine & Larry Olivier)
14 Roman Polanski's MacBeth
15 Condorman

Yep, not a lot of high fallutin' stuff in there but in less than five minutes these are the films that most stand out for me mentally.  I could give a reason why for each one, but rather than waffle on, if anyone wants to know 'why?' then post a comment and I will respond. I didn't give any links for the movies I recommend you go check out IMDB if you don't recognise the names :-)

Following the tradition of the good Dr John, late and lamented, I don't tend to tag people - if you do this meme please let me know so I can come and explore your choices :-)

There's no stopping me when I get going on this blogging, Melli has previously commented on my tendency to flood my blog in one go having said nowt for ages.

Laters

And a though for the week too

You've never had it so good... Two posts in one hour (removes tongue from cheek)....

Listen!

Before the end of the year...

I thought I really should put some thoughts down on, um, virtual paper before the end of the year, as this one time obsession of a blog has been repeatedly neglected in the past year.  It has been a funny old year for all sorts of reasons and either for reasons of sheer busy-ness or because my brain has been full of other things I have been less inclined to put things on paper.  I've had a few things going on that have distracted my thinking, feeling and doing processes in the past year or so as well so all in all the blog thing has been on a bit of a ropey footing lately!

I find myself in a strange position, there are lots of things I would like to say, and lots I can't because of the very public nature of a blog.  Not that there is anything negative to say, but just that of the thinking out loud aspect of blogging I might find myself saying something that is simply unhelpful!  I am not trying to be a 'man of mystery' but find that some of the things I am wrestling with, considering and praying about are much more to do with me than with the world outside and it wouldn't be beneficial to air them!!!  

This year has seen a lot of learning - and some lessons that should have been learned earlier!  I am constantly amazed and gratified by the dedication and commitment of members of our Church and Village communities to the life of these villages.  I have experienced some uplifting and inspiring times of worship and service.  I have enjoyed visiting people around these village communities, and I have also had some joyful and sad times with the round of Weddings, Funerals and Baptisms.  I am grateful for the support, challenge and prayer I receive from dedicated Christian people in our Church communities and from able and dedicated colleagues.  In many ways what is going on is very good indeed.

But as one year wraps up and another comes I am also aware that after two years of looking, listening and praying there are things we as a group of parishes in this Mission Community need to tackle more strategically - not necessarily changing things (though that may, with a bit of prompting from the Holy Spirit, happen) but thinking about what we do well and building on that.  

In two years I can only think of a handful of things I have encouraged and/or instigated that could be considered 'change'.  I am not someone who tries do do things differently for the sake of doing things differently - but I would hope that I am flexible enough to consider and work at alternatives where that need arises.  Likewise I hope that with a bit of help from above and my Christian brothers and sisters we could formulate a vision for where we are going, and why, and consider again what being a 'Mission Community' really is!

I may well get back into the swing of this blogging thing again as I have a few days to re-establish myself whilst I am officially on my post-Christmas break.  So I won't wish you all a happy New Year quite yet.  But as we are only in the third day of the season - Happy Christmas to you all!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Something lighthearted

Phil Ritchie, over at Phil's treehouse, has posted a meme at his blog (at the time of writing this it was on the right hand side of the blog in my links) which caught my imagination!  It's a fifteen song meme, and I will cut and paste his intro here:

First fifteen music meme

1) Turn on your MP3 player or music player on your computer.
2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
3) Write down the first 15 songs that come up–song title and artist–NO editing/cheating, please.


So here's my list (If the Song is highlighted, the link goes to the song on Spotify - though some of these may be linked to my own iTunes library and may come up blank - if so, sorry - , if the album is highlighted you can go and have a look at Amazon.co.uk's listing):

  1. It's The Sun – The Polyphonic Spree (The Beginning Stages Of....)
  2. The Last Time – Talk Talk (The Collection)
  3. We Declare Your Majesty – Kate Miner/Derri Doughtery (More...Best Worship Songs Ever)
  4. River of Bass – Underworld (Dubnobasswithmyheadman)
  5. Zadok The Priest – Choir Of King's College, Cambridge (The World of King's)
  6. Offertorium: Assumpta et Maria– Pro Cantiona Antiqua (Palestrina - Missa Papae Marcolli)
  7. Give Me A Sign – Foreigner (Can't Slow Down)
  8. Temptation – Heaven 17 (101 80s Hits)
  9. Walk On Water– Marc Cohn (Marc Cohn)
  10. Still – Hillsong (iWoship: No Boundries)
  11. Turn Turn Turn – Bruce Cockburn (Where Have All The Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger)
  12. Wrap Me In Your Arms – Freddy Rodriguez (Light In The Darkness)
  13. Shipwrecked – Genesis (Calling All Stations)
  14. The Swamp Song 1 – Oasis (What's The Story Morning Glory)
  15. You Get Bigger As You Go – Bruce Cockburn (Humans
Not sure if I am meant to add any comments here - but I will anyway (Phil did, so I am just following his example)...

Interesting mix - it made me check how many tracks on my iTunes library - having transferred 20 years of CDs and made the most of cheap downloads I am now at 15815 tracks in my collection, so there was a pretty good selection.  

Not all of the above tracks are ones I particularly like - things like my 101 80's hits I bought so I had some albums for 'guess the track' at the quiz nights I run - and Heaven 17 were never a fave band for me, though the song has grown on me... A few of them are from albums I have reviewed for Cross Rhythms (a duty which I have neglected in the rush of the past few months, I have some really very very very overdue reviews due and feel awful but haven't had time to do them!!!) and the ones randomly chosen above are the worship ones (Freddy Rodriguez & iWorship), both very good albums! (The More....Best Worship album was bought a few years back to increase my new songs vocabulary and so I could learn to play some new songs for worship).


Every time I buy a CD, either for myself or my wife, it goes onto iTunes so we can argue about what to listen to in the car on long journeys, so a fair number of things on my iTunes are 'definitely not my bag, baby' - to quote Austin Powers.  Having said that some things have grown on me, like Talk Talk (on the list above) and Gabrielle, Jack McManus and a few others...


Classic Music is something I came late to, and I am still not always convinced that it is in any way more 'cultured' than any other type of music - in fact quite a lot of classical music I find a bit overdone and the simplicity of a guitar and voice I find profoundly moving.  My musical taste is eclectic (or as some call it 'a mess') but I do like lots of different kinds of music -rock, pop, metal, piano, classical, choral, vocal, folk, electronic, jazz, blues, dance, ambient, experimental, orchestral, worship, country, acoustic... the list goes on and on and on.  And I am always willing to give most musical genres a listen.... there are some I veer away from just because they do little for me - hip hop, dance, grindcore, thrash, big band, opera - but there are outstanding tracks in each type of music and now it is so easy to download legitmately and to listen online to so many tracks I am more likely to try different styles than I was.  But with so many already on my iPod and PC, I don't really need to branch out more.


  I was glad to see two tracks by one of my very favourite artists in my random selection - Bruce Cockburn,   fantastic singer songwriter and wonderful guitarist.  Sad that the Underworld track wasn't from their earlier stuff which I really enjoy - Underneath the Radar and Change The Weather particularly (though I like their odd synthy rock stuff from when they were Freur, or squiggle as some knew them), and disappointed that my favourite band of all time DARE didn't make it despite taking up a disproportionate amount of space in my music library - I think I have pretty much everything they have ever recorded....          

A glimpse into my strange musical mishmash mind - thanks Phil for the inspiration!  I think I might have done this before without quite so much waffle, might look back over my blog posts and see if that's the case... or perhaps it was on Facebook!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If I can't get around to writing anything

Perhaps adding my thought for the week as something spoken will fill this sadly slightly unloved space....

Listen!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The adventure continues

I realise that over the last few blog entries I have had a few polemical moments and thought it was about time for a more mellow and positive entry - particularly as this is the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'! Even though its my day off (not really happening today as harvest festival for school, will try to take tomorrow instead) I want to say something about ministry and to get rid of the last less than cheerful heading for my blog :-)

A funeral, a wedding rehearsal, village eucharists, schools services and various visits and events in this last few days have served to remind me just what a privilege this ministry is! Likewise a conversation with a gentleman who is congregational member, deep thinker, and deeply committed to the life of both the parish Church and community in where I live has helped me to see again just how fortunate (or blessed if you prefer) I am to be in this place, with these people, doing what I do. And grateful for dedicated members of our congregations who simply want the best for their churches and village communities!

Because of the huge changes in the nature of Anglican ministry, because of the history that sometimes hangs around our necks like the Ancient Mariner's Albatross - particularly the perception that 'every village had a vicar' - because the church and our society are caught up in the middle of incredible changes, the move perhaps from the epoch of 'Modernity' to something else not yet formed (I won't get on to Post Modern philosophy and cultural shifts here, but things are changing) then its easy for Clergy, and particularly those of us who are 'thinking out loud' about some of these things, to get a little bit rattled, and sometimes strident, in the way we express the need to change.

Of course, I come from the background of a couple of degrees in theology and twenty or so years in pastoral ministry - Parish, Schools and Universities - the last fourteen of those as an ordained minister. I've had the benefit of time and experience that have allowed me to grapple with issues of ministry and mission in a way that few are able to. Not that I have the answers, but just had lots of experience of having that as my focus. Most 'normal' members of our congregations and villages haven't had time, or perhaps inclination, towards such navel gazing and my sometimes strongly expressed views are a complete surprise to many of them. Many these folk have expertise and experience in fields I can't even begin to imagine, some of them have been very prominent and/or successful in the field of education, commerce, finance, defence, health, business and much much more. If someone came up to me and tried to explain the exact causes of our current economic crisis using their experience in banking or finance I would be complete bamboozled by that - why should I expect my twenty years of musing on the life and witness of the Church to have any different effect?!

So my experience this week, and my conversation this morning, have served as a salutary reminder - choose one's words well, share appropriately, don't expect everyone to have the same experience - and certainly not the same opinion - as onesself, and enjoy the privilege and adventure that this calling to Mission and Ministry offers! Deo Gratias!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Feeling a bit sad

Don't worry, I'm not drowning in the depths of despair or anything like that. I am just a little bit less of my usually cheery self than usual (or as a newspaper recently described me - a bit less of a 'jolly Motorcycle-riding Vicar').

The news that has brought about this alteration to my disposition is that the friends with whom we share ownership of a property in France would like to 'buy us out' and in return for a share of our contributions over the past five years, less a few expenses. would have complete ownership of the property (which they pretty much have anyway).

An odd thing to feel upset about, but on reflection I realise this is because of a number of factors which I do think its worth mentioning here - partly because this is meant to be a place of reflection and meaning as well as home to my occasional rants!

Firstly this represents the end of a certain stage in our friendship with this other family. Not that we aren't friends still, but that since we moved away from Cambridgeshire it has been difficult to maintain the level of contact we would like with our old friends. Their family are growing up and their children would like to use the house in the summer time without their parents around and our part in the agreement prevents that freedom. It's change for them and for us - and though it has taken a while to catch up on this front, it has done now. I think they were very generous in letting us come in with them on the original purchase and should we have stayed in Cambridgeshire this particular 'ending' may or may not have happened, as we would perhaps have worked out different ways of using the house as we went along but being so far away from them makes communication less natural and more difficult. So reason number one for my sadness I think is mourning that loss of a certain level of relationship and realising that it is the breaking of a connection with friends. One of the hazards of ministry is that we move on, often some distance away, and keeping up with friendships that are 'easy' in situ is not always as easy some way away from each other...

Secondly I realise that I am a 'person of place'. Some people like exploring, some people sit lightly to where they live, some people do feel at home 'wherever they lay their hat'. I don't. I think I'm quite flexible in where I live and where I stay, and we have moved as a family three or four times in the past ten years and before the children arrived we moved six times in ten years (or was it seven?) but it doesn't take me long to invest in a place, to feel that I am at home there, and to make a place 'mine'. Even in someone else's house with someone else's furniture I've felt comfortable in rented accommodation over the years. And despite the fact that our share in this house is very small compared to the outlay of our friends there has been a sense of making a place home in 'our' French house. I enjoyed exploring from a base, feeling at home enough to branch out, and (in the past few years) meeting up with other good friends who visited the area too - as well as having the freedom to invite other folk to come and stay with us and not worry about how the logistics of that were going to work.

Lastly, I guess its just about memories - though I found our last holiday slightly difficult for various reasons, the past five years (every year since our son was born) have collected many good and happy memories in those three weeks we spent in the same place every year.

So we will be taking our good friends up on their offer of buying out our share - particularly as they obviously want to invest more in the place, continue to make it their own and make improvements to it, have the flexibility to call it theirs and go when suits their family and its needs. They are great friends and I'll miss that connection, but don't feel any resentment - particularly as with their usual care they have made a generous and thought out offer for our share. I guess its time to make some more memories somewhere else...

Still sad though...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I really should update my links

I haven't got around to putting up a number of good bloggers on my sidebar - or weeding out a few out of date ones... For now I would like to encourage you to visit good folk such as the Church Mouse, Revd Lesley, Charlie Peer and Phil Ritchie. I think Mouse might already be on my feed on the right but need to go into the list on the left!

I can't bring myself to remove link to the late Dr John's blog though. Still missed....

We plough the fields and scatter...again....and again

Thanks to a bit of prompting from three excellent posts The Church Mouse, Charlie Peer and Red I have been inspired to add my bit about harvest festivals and their relevance in today's world.. I would recommend reading the above posts in the order I've put them, and look through the comments too, it's an interesting read.

Harvest Festivals could be considered the bane of some Clergy lives! I have done around a hundred or so (by my rough guesstimate) in the past fourteen or so years since I was Ordained. We had a school one and a Church one in my first Suburban London parish, nice and simple. In my second parish in Central London we had a Church Harvest Festival, and I was chaplain to four schools who liked a good Harvest Celebration. Then I moved to a Thirteen Parish Team with four schools who all celebrated Harvest in our 'soft rural' setting in South Cambridgeshire and after eight years there I lost track of how many I covered... I usually did two of the schools and up to eight of the parishes in any one year. Now I'm in another, slightly 'harder' rural area (though not as isolated and very rural as Dartmoor or Exmoor which are both in our Diocese) with Five Churches, or six including a daughter Church in a tiny village which always wants a harvest and Four Schools, all of whom enjoy their harvest celebrations.

Long winded background, but all because I want to say that not one of those Harvests felt 'Irrelevant' or outdated or out of touch with the contemporary world. Urban and Rural settings both appreciated the need to remember where our food comes from, both in terms of the producers and the God who we believe provides for us in a wonderful, though perhaps not quite so mechanistic as some seem to envisage, way.

The Church Mouse points out that Harvest as we know it in the Church of England is a Victorian invention from a rather eccentric Cornish Priest. And says that we are disconnected from the cycle of food production, particularly in urban areas, that the Harvest Thanksgiving marks. These can be seen as reasons for dropping 'Harvest' as we know it I can see that argument, but we are also disconnected from the community ties we used to have, and we live in a very self-serving culture, and there are many other social mores that as a Church we are critical of - do we drop anything that people don't 'get' straightaway or do we take on the role of apologists and evangelists for a gospel that is 'foolishness to the Greeks'?

I do think there are plenty of 'Victorian Values' that the Church needs to drop and move on from, particularly with regards to the idea that somehow Christianity is tied up with holding to a particular set of moral standards. We could also do with leaving behind a few of the awful Victorian Dirges that the Church seems to cling on to in the misbegotten belief that they somehow represent the pinnacle of worship. There's a few buildings that might benefit from the ministrations of a Diocesan Arsonist too. But I'm rambling. Just because something was started by a slightly-not-quite-right-in-the-head Vicar in the Victorian Era doesn't mean we have to stop doing it. If we stopped doing things inspired by odd clerics, the Church of England would have very little to keep itself occupied with....

But the disconnect between Food production and the cycle of the Agricultural year and people bringing what they have produced to offer in Church is something that does need addressing. I'm not sure the best reaction to something that doesn't quite fit is to drop it - and if we need (as is claimed) to explain the meaning behind something then the Church is fulfilling both an educative and prophetic role it should be fulfilling!

It also strikes me that the recent interest for seasonal foods, slow foods, local produced goods, farmers markets, farm shops and fair trade as well as the popularity of local munchies guru Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall and other celeb chefs and cooks have also tapped into a desire on the part of many people to go beyond the cheap food culture and connect again with food that we both need and enjoy. The Church should surely be building on such interest and addressing the desire for connection with these things - which serve to build awareness of our interconnectivity and draw people into community.

Lastly, I think that Harvest being at Harvest is quite important. I grew up in Church traditions which barely acknowledged the seasons of the year and it sometimes felt marked only those parts of the 'Church Year' which they couldn't avoid - Christmas and Easter. I can see why they did this, as the focus was on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus every week, but we human beings are time-bound, we mark the cycles of the year and we are a part of the change of the seasons. I think the Church is enriched by marking the seasons and even if they aren't very visible (eg in City centres) they should still be observed and enjoyed and used as reasons for people to get together, give thanks and enjoy being with one another. We may not have people out in our city streets gathering in the fruit of the field, but that doesn't mean we don't mark it happening as part of our world and highlight it - helping people be more aware of our world and all that God has given us.

Hmmm, not quite as coherent and significantly more long winded than planned. But I enjoyed the process :-) Well done Mouse - once again got the blogosphere and twitterverse moving :-)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another sermon, as it's been quite a busy week...

I've prepared quite a few sermons this week, and because of the unique nature of all the events I haven't even been able to reuse bits of older sermons, or the framework of older talks - so I thought I might as well get some use out of them and pass them on!

St Michael & All Angels (2010) RCL Principal



Problems with Angels

Let me start with a confession. I have a problem with Angels… Not that I mean I have Angels under the bed or falling out of cupboards or anything like that, but I struggle with the whole culture of Angelic beings that has sprung up both within and beyond the Christian Church. Guardian Angels, Healing Angels, Warning Angels. New Age Spiritual Beings. All the Angelology (if that is a word) that I’ve heard about since I was a child. And this obsession with Angels isn’t a new thing – the Church wasted far too much time in the medieval era talking about how many Angels could dance on the head of a pin, or what the exact order of rank in the nine heavenly choirs is. [more]

A picture from the Ordination

Thought I should let you see a bit of what happened and what the last posting referred to - here's a picture of the Bishop of Crediton, Kate (our new priest) and myself after the service on Saturday last. With a bit of lovely Devon blue sky in the background...and the roof of my Vicarage in the background too!

An Ordination Sermon

It is very unlikely that I will ever get to preach at an ordination again - but last week I had the immense privilege of speaking at the ordination to the Priesthood of our Curate, the Revd Kate Woolven. It is worth following the link to the lessons for the day before reading the sermon here....


Ordination Sermon – Kate Woolven

What a privilege it is to be here. Celebrating the ordination of Kate as priest within the Church of God as part of the people of God! Today is a good day, and a wonderful occasion. Already in the weeks Kate has been with us she has proved herself to be a competent, compassionate, warm, funny, thoughtful, faithful, spiritually mature and committed minister – and I still keep being told how good her sermon was at the last Mission Community service we held! Now we share in the next stage of Kate’s journey of being and becoming who she is called to be under God. We are here to support her as Bishop Bob ordains her to the office and work of a Priest within God’s Church. Alleluia! [more]

Sunday, September 05, 2010

And now a sermon for this Evening!


St Giles Patronal 2010

Saintly Calling

It’s a pleasure to be gathered here with the people of God to celebrate our patronal festival at this evensong this evening. A pleasure because our remembrance of Saints, and today we remember particularly St Giles of Provence, is an uplifting way of reminding ourselves our our heritage of faith, and because a patronal festival reminds us of our heritage and history in this place, and calls us to faithfulness as God’s saints here and now in our parish and as part of our Mission Community.

As I said this time last year (though I would be interested as to who could remember that, I had to look it up). We have a good example for us in St Giles of Provence whose feast day was actually on Wednesday of this week just gone...[more]

A sermon from this Morning

It's about time I posted a sermon up here, so here's this morning's offering... or at least a taster, click [more] for the lot!

Proper 18 (2010) Year C RCL Principal



Grow Up!

One of the subjects that comes up again and again in our household, as is probably the case in any household with small children, is ‘growing up’. What do you want to be when you grow up? Is one of those questions that Katherine and Jack seem very happy to keep replying to, despite giving different answers most times its asked. Or there are comments about ‘how grown up they look’ or ‘aren’t they growing up fast’. Most of us have probably heard all this before and if we don’t remember people saying it to us, then we probably remember it being said to our children, or grandchildren, or other family members or friends... [more]

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Slight correction, addition, amendment, or something....

I am grateful for the feedback I've received on my post yesterday about ministry, and on reading it back (as you do after a bit of a rant) there was one statement I particularly wanted to say something about. Actually there are lots of parts I could expand on, but one thing I think bears a bit of scrutiny.

I said that Clergy are 'defined by their education and the way they dress'. What I meant by this is that people often defer to me in 'matters spiritual' because they know that I have some kind of training for this ministry business. I also have a fair amount of experience, and have made my share of mistakes and hopefully learned from them. I think that trained and resourced members of the Church are crucial, though it isn't just Clergy that fulfil those criteria - we have gifted and dedicated Readers, and various members of our communities with oodles of training and experience under their belt. My experience of Readers in the three Dioceses I have worked in has been that their training has been excellent, and in places (particularly with regard to preaching and homiletics) better than some of the training I received. At the Theological College I attended the Theological teaching was excellent, the pastoral training very good indeed, the liturgical and worship leading treaching was good too and overall I felt very well supported, but it seemed to be just expected that I could preach and that the parish I was attached to for two years in Cambridge and my wonderful training Parish of All Saint's Hampton would tell me if my preaching was too grim....

Straying a bit there, but wanted to say that to define Clergy by 'you're trained to do that' - a phrase I have heard a number of times over the past fourteen years - is to both limit the involvement of the whole people of God (see last post for that rant) and to assume that somehow training might equip a person to lead. But more on that in a mo.

As for 'the way we dress'. I do tend to wear a clerical collar when on duty, which is most of the time, for worship I usually wear robes, not big flouncy stuff but traditional Anglican robes and a few bits that have worked themselves into usage (Cassock Alb, Chasuble) in the past few decades. I like robes because they point beyond me and my dress style (or lack of) and say that "this is the worship leader (or, as I prefer, 'lead worshipper')" without making a great statement about who the person inside the robes is. Hmmm, that might be a discussion for another post.... I wear a clerical shirt most of the time because it says that as a representative of the Church I am available to people and hopefully just reminds folk there are still a few of us involved in Church. On a purely pragmatic level it opens quite a few doors - metaphorically speaking, and even literally once when I lost a key - though some would argue it closes some too!

But of course what really defines a minister, lay or ordained, is their calling from God. In the Anglican Church that calling has usually been tested, recognised and affirmed by the process of training, ordination and/or licensing. I do believe there is a place for Ordained ministry - my frustration is when Ordained ministers are seen as the only valid expression of Christian ministry. We definitely need to move beyond that one!

I hope this conversation will continue. I've still got lots of things I probably need to explain and plenty of holes in my argument and am always open to correction, debate, and every now and then a bit of a disagreement. Thanks for comments so far, here and on FB and Twitter - Keep the Faith, then share it around a bit!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Excellent

Nice bit of ASBO Jesus

Taken from here... thanks ASBO...

The Vicar is dead.....Long live the Vicar!

On return from holiday I had lots to deal with, a pile of mail that was nearly as tall as me, various calls to respond to, and an update on all that had been going on in my absence. All good, or rather everything went well, though it had been extremely busy and very well covered by my colleagues.

In the week since I've got back though I have had a number of conversations where people have expressed disappointment that 'The Vicar' didn't do X or Y, or that Clergy haven't visited certain folk - despite the fact that I know I have extremely competent colleagues and very good lay pastoral visitors from all of the Churches who have handled things as well, if not better, than I ever could. It boils down to the erroneous belief that things are somehow more 'kosher' if a man (preferably a man in many cases, but that's another issue which I am not going to rant about today) with a 'dog collar' does it, be it opening fetes, visiting people or services in the Church.

The Church, if it is going to survive, must get beyond this idea that faith is done on their behalf by a person in a dog-collar! It's not unique to the C of E, but is prevalent in our structures and history, including the very job title - Vicar comes from 'Vicarious', which does mean 'on behalf of' - though the history of that title can wait for another time...

It is, though, both impractical and theologically lacking to expect one man or woman to 'be' and to 'do' the work of the Church. The Bible is quite clear that the body has many members, not just one, and that the only head of the Church is Jesus, not a bloke in a funny shirt who wears dresses on Sundays (or a woman in a funny shirt who may well wear dresses every day).

The problem we have in the Church of England is that the parish system has worked so well! By this I mean that there is, particularly in rural areas, quite a strong feeling of belonging to a parish, and a sense of ownership of the local church - even if someone never goes in to the building or joins in the life of the Christian community. The myth of 'every parish had a Vicar' (which apparently was never the case, though there were many many more Clergy full time in the Church of England with fewer Churches to cover between them) has hampered the ministry of the Church in recent decades as so many people still expect 'their' church to work with the same model of one man (and it was a man) doing everything 'Churchy' for one village.

Purely in practical terms this is an impossibility, there are seven full time ministry positions for thirty six parishes spread out over a very large and not always very accessible area in this Deanery. That number of ministers is likely to halve in the next four years, and by the time I retire (still twenty five or so years away, God willing) there may well be only one Stipendiary Priest for the Deanery. We hope this will go hand in hand with an increase in voluntary and self supporting ministers (both lay and ordained) but the days of one Vicar, one Parish are long gone (if they were ever here) and are unlikely to come again.

But the idea that there is only one 'religious expert' in a place and s/he should have all responsibility for teaching, pastoring, leading and administering the life of the church is a nonsense from the start. It denies the giftedness of many Christian people and the shared vocation of the people of God to mission and service. It locates 'spiritual power' and the exercise of power and authority in one person who is, ultimately, defined by their education and the way they dress rather than sharing that spiritual authority to live and proclaim the gospel in the power of the Spirit between all the believers in any community. It's a flawed model, the Church of England particularly needs to move beyond it very quickly and to move towards 'every member ministry' in a decisive way and to share a new way of working that allows those called to specific ministry within the church, whether ordained, licensed or 'authorised' to exercise that ministry as part of the whole body, rather than as a special individual that just happens to have a body of people attached to them.

Our struggle, again perhaps mostly in rural contexts, is that the perception both within and beyond the church is that things only have proper religious kudos if the Vicar or a member of the 'ordained class' are involved. It is this generation of ministers that will have to change this mindset and move people beyond a narrow understand of what both 'Church' and 'ministry are'.

But it is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to live up to people's expectations - hence the title! I catch myself trying to do visiting which is more than adequately done my other members of the Parishes. I tend to take control over services where I could hand over much more of what goes on to other people in the local fellowship (though this is sometimes because those originally charged with certain tasks don't turn up...and even the most resilient worship leader can end up with trust issues having been let down a few times!). This model of ministry will be hard work initially, it involves training, resourcing, supporting people in their expressions of ministry, it involves letting go of some of the power that Clergy have had in the past, in involves taking risks as people discover their gifts, and discover what they're not gifted at (sometimes very publicly), it involves communication, organisation and even a level of conversion - to a new mindset and a new way of being Church. It's 'easier' for many ministers (including myself) to seek to prop up the failing models of ministry and to fall into a maintenance mode which actually is more like a downwards spiral; trying to live up to false expectations, trying to do work which others could do perfect well, trying to hold on to things 'as they were' and failing to move forward as the body of Christ in our shared calling and vocation.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Allo' Allo'

Bonsoir, Toute la Monde (not sure I got me le's and la's right there) ! I am winding down (though it feels a bit like winding up at the moment, there is sooooo much to do) for my annual holiday in France. I am pleased to say that over the next three and a half weeks for the most part I will be relaxing, maybe a bit of writing, plenty of reading and time with my beautiful wife and family. So I thought I would pop by and say that the potential lack of being around that this will bring is not evidence of further neglect of this blog, but the likelihood of a lack of Internet connection in the wilds of Sud-ouest France. So here's another of those pesky thoughts for the week... if I get time tomorrow between meetings, funeral, wake, visits and admin I might be back, but I make no promises! This one is from mid May...

Strange Church

Having a couple of days knocked out of this week by a stomach bug I realised how much I depend on my routines, the same things that crop up with some regularity. No matter how radical or rebellious we think we are there’s a certain point at which we stop feeling comfortable – out of routine, a strange place, amongst a certain people, wherever. Recently a group of trainee ministers was sent into a betting shop and told to place a bet, they all talked of being uncomfortable and not knowing what to do and were then told that their experience was like most people’s feeling in Church – we have strange ways of doing things and rarely realise how odd singing, praying, listening to sermons is to most normal people! I hope you’d find a warm welcome in your local Church, and encourage you to try it – it’s different but good!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gotta be done

Another thought for the week.... catching up gradually... never realised I thought so much! Go to the Midweek Herald for current thought and local news from East Devon....

Pray?

Do you pray? There’s an old quip that ‘there are no Atheists in a foxhole’ and I know that faced with difficult times, with nowhere else to turn, people often to try to ‘open negotiations’ with ‘someone up there’ in the hope they might be heard. But prayer isn’t just about asking God for things, like a kind of religious shopping list, but includes praising God for who He is, thanking God for all He’s done and trying to find God’s will and guidance for our lives. That means we can pray with music, with silence, with others, alone, by reading the Bible, by going to church, by walking in the fields, by laughing, dancing, sitting, kneeling, standing. Prayer isn’t about trying to get God to do stuff for us, but about making time to be with God – find your own way to pray, and ask others how they pray!

Words of wisdom

Me: Should I join group X?
Gorgeous Wife (henceforth GW): No

Me: Should I stand for General Synod in the September elections?
GW: No

Me: Should I offer to take over as Rural Dean when current one stands down?
GW: No

Me: Should I start a new....?
GW: No

Me: How about....?
GW: No

GW: Don't do too much.

Some of the most sound words I have heard for a while, said by someone who cares...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Still thinking

Thanks for comments on last few posts, and conversations which have ensued on Twitter and Facebook! Whilst I am considering whether to write anything else on those particular themes here's another thought for the week... This one from the week before our General Election

I’m not going to tell you how to vote but I am going to ask you to vote.

Some people say “Faith and Politics shouldn’t mix”, but I would say “nonsense” to that. If faith doesn’t leak in to every part of our lives then it seems a pretty worthless faith.

Being a Christian isn’t about ‘my’ belief or what ‘I’ want, but about holding to values which reflect God’s love for every one of us – so if we follow Jesus’ call to “love God with all your heart, soul strength and mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself” then when faced with a ballot paper we should think not just about what is good for ourselves, but what is right, good and best for those most vulnerable, the poor, the sick, the isolated.


Let your faith come out in your vote, but whatever you do, vote!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

An answer to a comment

I tried to write this as a response to a really good comment on my previous 'don't make me angry' post - but it was a bit long. So here it is as a post... don't read on if you get wound up by wishy-washy liberalism of the Anglican variety, cos here it comes... And it's not terribly well worked out either, as it was an off the cuff reply to a comment... You'll soon see why it was a bit long to be a comment....

Thanks all for your comments! I really appreciate your thoughtful and thought provoking response so I'm going to address the third comment particularly. I may not do that very well and there are plenty who could respond better than me. And I do recognise that in our interpretation and understanding of Scripture I may well be far from you... and not necessarily right!

My experience of Reformed doctrine (it's the tradition I came to faith in and one I grew up in) was that it made the Gospel exclusive - only to those who grasped on a certain intellectual level and made a certain commitment to Jesus Christ and along with that came a certain way of seeing the Bible and a set of doctrines which had to be subscribed to; particularly that of original sin, inerrancy of Scripture and a literal interpretation of the Bible as it stands in the canon of 66 books. Along with this came certain understandings of a seven day creation, headship of men over women and a variety of other viewpoints that come with that particular way of viewing Scripture. There was (and is from those of my friends who remain in this tradition) a sense of 'we've got it right and everyone else has got it wrong' that pretty much discarded any of the history of the Church in the 1800 or so years between the early Church and the evangelical revival of the Victorian era. There was also a feeling that in some way this interpretation of faith was the only one to lead to salvation - and everyone else was consigned to eternal punishment. In my experience this isn't a straw man, it is a significantly narrower understanding of faith than I would subscribe to, and that the historic formularies of the Church bear witness to. I seek (and often fail to find) a balance between Scripture, reason, experience and the history and tradition of the Church - and though I see Scripture as having primacy and 'containing within it all things necessary to salvation' I don't worship the Bible nor do I think it infallible. When Paul talks in 1 Tim 3.16 of all scripture being 'God breathed' he is arguing that the early Church should not discard the Law, Prophets, Wisdom and History of the Jewish People which we now call the Old Testament. He is not claiming inerrancy for his own writings, nor even that his own words are Scripture, nor the Gospels which weren't written at that time. The reformed Churches I grew up in (and still have connections with) tied this all up together, and it went hand in hand with an attitude which I could only describe as judgemental, with Grace as a kind of 'afterthought' on God's part in response to sinfulness. So I don't write from an attitude of looking from the outside and I was part of such communities for most of my formative years, and it grieves me that neither they nor the wider (New Frontiers) community they were a part of have moved beyond such understandings.

2. Everything I have seen from Driscoll (and I have seen and heard a lot) I have found contains a sort of false humility, particularly when he addresses movements similar to his own and says 'these guys (eg McLaren, Rob Bell) are wonderful but wrong, I love them dearly and some of what they say is right (ie in accord with me) but they aren't preaching the Gospel'. I find that arrogant and offensive, and I think he's an inadequate theologian. Though he mentions his qualifications, much of the 'learning' he refers to seems only to serve in backing up what he has decided is the case before he reads it and his view of Scripture seems to be 'this bit of the Bible backs up what I believe and should challenge you to believe what I do' rather than coming out with or being challenged by anything that isn't in his narrow field of faith. There are very few ministers of any tradition I have found quite so objectionable. I come from this tradition, and I have been a part of it, and think that at one time I was being groomed for leadership in it but I was challenged when I actually read the Bible without it being interpreted in that way, when I read well beyond the boundaries of what was 'acceptable' to the tradition I was in, when I was confronted with material, both Biblical and otherwise, which I had to struggle with and consider and work out, prayerfully, for myself and distinct from what I had been told it said.

3 I don't see hell in Scripture linked to condemnation of non-believers. It refers particularly in parable form, and I think as hyperbole, to those who call themselves followers and fail to walk worthily (sheep and goats, wedding feast, wise and foolish virgins) but as a place of eternal torment for those outside of a certain way of believing I haven't found compelling Scriptural evidence. On a purely analogous level, any punishment that has no purpose but to punish people (ie that has no redemptive quality) is simply torture. I can't see that a God who loves the world and sent his son into the world not to condemn it but that it might have life would then consign the majority of the human race to perdition because they didn't sign on the dotted line in the right way. God's Judgement I would say is ultimately 'for' us, rather than 'against us' and the ultimate choice of rejecting God (which all have) isn't met, i believe, with punishment, but with non being. The Doctrine commission of the C of E in an excellent report called 'The Mystery of Salvation' says 'Hell is not eternal torment, but it is the final and irrevocable choosing of that which is opposed to God so completely and so absolutely that the only end is total non-being.' That chimes with my understanding, and amongst the pictures of lakes of fire 'for the devil and all his angels' in Revelation there is the picture of the New Jerusalem in the centre of which is the tree of life, of which only the citizens of the New Jerusalem can eat. If that is the case, then bearing in mind it is 'picture language' then those who choose not to enter the New Jerusalem have no life. This makes me an annihilationist, I know, but I think it is Biblically consistent. Only a God who delights in torture (hence my throwaway but not measured comment of a Sadistic God) could ever torment eternally. I could go on more and more, but I would recommend looking for a second hand copy of the the book 'The Mystery of Salvation', it's very well written and challenging, and very scriptural!!!

4 - the Ultra prevenient Grace is a emphatic way of saying God's grace comes first, God's first thought is a 'yes' to humanity, and that the eternal state of God's being is love, as shown to humanity in his grace. As one of my theological lecturers said to me as an undergraduate 'why do we have to interpret it as being saved from something, surely being saved for life with God is more consistent with God's position of love as exhibited through Scripture?' He also said 'Why do we claim that the ultimate freedom is to say 'yes' or 'no' to God, surely the greatest freedom is that God allows us to say 'yes' to himself, as God says 'yes' to us'. That's where I come from.

I preach the Gospel of Jesus, his life, his death, his resurrection as an invitation to life in all its fullness, not to being saved from hell. It's becoming who God has made us to be, it's sharing in the freedom of the children of God, it's faith, hope and love. The concept of 'Advocate' (which we often translate 'Judge) in Biblical times was not of someone seeking to prove your guilt or innocence - that's more of a Roman invention, (like the Pater Familias as head of the household) - but of someone seeking to judge for you, ie in favour of you, who would speak on your behalf. I believe that God shows himself to us, and that this will be our final judgement, that when we stand and face him it won't be to explain our actions in life, or justify ourselves, but to respond to him. I believe that this will be what brings us to life or not, and that those who even in the face of God choose to reject him will then have chosen not to partake in the eternal divine reality which we often refer to as 'heaven'. I also believe that in the face of the Glory of God there is a chance that all will choose him, and I am not the one to judge who is in or who is out. If Jesus could pray 'father forgive them' for those who nailed him to the cross, who am I to decide if someone is worthy of God's forgiveness and grace.

Here endeth the sermon.

Garbled? Probably, but I live in the hope of Grace, and in the knowledge that in the death of Jesus Lord and Saviour of the world, death has been conquered, and sin has no power.

And another thought

Yep, as I seem to be on a roll, blog wise at least, I thought I would throw another 'Thought For The Week' out there, courtesy of the Midweek Herald. This one from 21st April...

Stop Talking

I have sat looking at my computer screen for some time and haven’t been able to think of anything to say. Which makes me think about saying nothing! What I mean is (and I’m sure you didn’t expect me to leave it there!) that often our world might be a better place if sometimes we said less… If politicians could stop pretending they have the answer to everything, if Christians (including Clergy) didn’t try to give trite responses to some of the most difficult parts of life, if all of us were willing to not talk our way through the world but occasionally leave a bit of space for silence. Sometimes, if we have nothing to say, its better to say nothing. Sometimes having the honesty to admit that we don’t know, that we have no answers, and to be quiet and listen would be by far the best response.

Another sermon....

Year C Proper 5 (2010) RCL Principal

Psalm 146
Galatians 1.11-24
Luke 7.11-17


The Big Picture

I don’t know if you have ever seen the magic roundabout, a rather surreal children’s TV show from the 1970s that was made into a computer generated movie a couple of years back. It was a very strange show, but great fun, and even my children aged 5 and 8 enjoyed reading a book we found in a Church jumble sale about the characters going on a picnic – which I am happy to go through in detail if anyone would like to later! [more]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A sermon for you

It's been far too long since I have inflicted a sermon on you, and the New Kid Deep Stuff blog is looking sadly neglected. Here's a sermon from a few weeks back! I may well post a few more in the coming days.

Easter 5 (2001) Year C RCL Principal

Acts 11.1-18
Psalm 148

John 13.31-35

Letting the outside in and the inside out…

Early one morning a young man received a telephone call, rather unusually God was at the other end of the line. Hello there, said God, I’m coming to see you today.

Rather excited this young man set about clearing up his flat, tidying up, dusting, hoovering etc etc After a couple of hours of this the flat looked fantastic – and he sat down to wait. [more]

Thought for the week - the saga continues

I should be writing this week's thought for the week, but am preparing for a wedding, so here's one from a few weeks back - three weeks after Easter to be precise. These 'thoughts' are, as always, from the local paper - the Midweek Herald.
Still Easter

So the choccy supplies which received such a great boost a few weeks ago are probably pretty run down now. The bank holiday memory is dwindling, the school term has begun and life will probably get back to something like normal. Easter feels a long time ago. Except it’s not. In the Church we formally celebrate Easter for 50 days until the day of Pentecost (also known as Whitsun, the birthday of the Church). Even more than that, though, Easter for those who are Christians is not just the one day, but every day. The new life that Jesus brings isn’t a one off, to be kept in a box and enjoyed with chocolate once a year, but a relationship which is ongoing. Christian faith is concerned with how we live our lives and with being forgiven, loved, loving and prayerful every single day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't make me angry

Of course pretty much everyone knows the rest of that quote...

...you wouldn't like me when I'm angry!

That is, as I think I've said before, one of my great concerns - not being liked. It's foolish and stems from some deep insecurities, I'm sure, but I like being liked. I suspect most of us do.

But it does sometimes hold me back from saying what I actually think and feel, particularly in public forums (fora?) such as here, or Facebook, or Twitter, or even in conversation or around and about. There was an article a while ago in the Church Times about Clergy Stress and one of the notes said that many found it hard that they had to 'be nice to difficult people'. There's some debate as to what that might mean! Being 'nice' is, though, the perennial image - and perhaps failing - of the Clergy, and certainly a trap I find myself falling into.

One of the problems is that when something does actually challenge the niceness culture, when something happens, all the bottled up and repressed anger or whatever can suddenly pop out and all sorts of views, ideas, issues, stresses and opinions can come out in a rush - sometimes unrelated to the issue or event in question, often making such an event or issue more than it need be.

My two flashpoints, which threaten to breach the dam of all my niceness, are these; two things which make me angry, sometimes needlessly, often with good reason:

Technology

and

Exclusive Christianity


I suspect that most of us will go along with the technology thing. I love the things that my PC, iPhone and all the other associated gizmos and gadgets I have picked up over the past few years allow me to do, though I sometimes wonder just how much more distraction I could have in my life! When it goes wrong, though, my tolerance level drops through the floor... Mostly this is trying to produce and print things on a timescale, but sometimes its to do with things slowing down for no apparent reason. Getting angry with keyboards, PCs, Printers etc when they go wrong is completely pointless and unreasonable - but it's better than kicking a cat in frustration.

More important is the Christianity thing. My understanding of Christian Faith is that begins with Grace. I have an understanding of ultra-prevenient Grace - that God's love and grace come first, that God begins with an attitude of love towards humanity and that this love has been shown in its fullest way in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (of which I could say more, and probably will). This means I believe that God starts with an attitude of love towards his creation.

I saw a video today that suggested God starts with an attitude of hate. Hating sin, hating evil, and hating humanity that is so sinful. Mark Driscoll offers an exposition of Psalm 5v5 which says that God hates evildoers. In this understanding God's holiness means that he cannot stand sin or the people that sin, and that his love reacts to this by sending Jesus and Jesus saves those who come to him and accept him and believe in him. Along with that you also have to believe a whole load of reformed doctrine or you are in sin and God obviously hates you as you are an evildoer. I'm not going to link to the video because it made, and still makes, me so angry. This along with a whole load of other stuff (I went back and edited that word, stuff will have to do) which I have seen from that whole reformed movement that I have seen and read fills me with sadness, anger and a certain level of despair for the Church and reminds me why I have a fair amount of sympathy for Atheists. It begins with a God who is angry, vengeful, wrathful and negatively disposed towards the creation he has made. There is such an emphasis on the holiness of God that the stress is on how this holiness cannot countenance sin. Funnily enough, that's not what I see in Scripture, I see the parable of the son welcomed back - not only welcomed but sought, watched out for by the Father (Luke 15), the Samaritan - outcast, unclean, not part of God's people - who gives an example of loving service beyond the boundaries set up by people. I see a God who loved the world so much that he sent his son to take the effect of sin onto himself, the wages of Sin in Romans 8.28 voluntarily taken by Christ.

I don't see an angry God who needs satisfying, but a loving God who puts him (or her) self in our place.

I know this paints me as a bleeding heart liberal and that my desire to try and keep everyone on board with my niceness has failed, but if that's the case then my understanding of and encounter with Scripture leads me to that place. I don't believe in hell (and fortunately nor does my Church) as a place where people are punished for not believing the right things. I don't believe that the effect of Jesus' death, which is the removal of ultimate death, is only restricted to those who have signed up to a certain viewpoint.

As I journey through Scripture I see a lot which is objectionable; genocide, rape, mutilation, war, exclusivity which seem to be approved of by God. I also see those things being turned away from as the Jewish people and later the Christian Church realise that God wasn't sanctioning those things, but that he stuck with his people despite them and even through them. Within itself Scripture contains its own judgement of itself - from Jesus' 'you have heard it said...but I say to you' to Paul's radical re-visioning of the Old Testament and his interpretation of God's message of love.

I see a God who welcomes, not despises. Who forgives rather than judges. Who is love rather than wrath.

And when I am told that only certain people are 'saved' and that we have consigned most of the human race to eternal perdition because they haven't got their theology right, I see red. And I don't believe it, nor do I think it consistent with Scripture. Sure you can pull out proof texts to show that I am wrong and that we should bash the babies of our enemies against rocks, or exclude those who don't measure up to our standards, or make women cover their heads, or exclude women from leadership, or let men dominate, or tell gay people they are bad and wicked for how they are made. I look at the big picture, not the proof texts, and I see in the Bible that God loves us; fallen, broken, failing. And God loves us before we know him, and after - even if some feel the need to tell them he doesn't.

Rant over. There's nothing to see here folks, go back to your lives :-)

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

As the wind whistles around my blog and the tumbleweeds blow up the street you may be forgiven for thinking that I have given up on blogging altogether. I haven't, honest, and I do try and get around and visit as many of the blogs I link to as possible as frequently as possible! I still value the insight and food for thought I get from my blog buddies, I like the challenges I read from those who see things differently to me and I wish I had more time to offer my own reflections here for those who are kind enough to respond and react.

It comes down to time - blogging takes thought and time (though you may not think so looking at the quality of some of my previous posts!). I have discovered that the time I have for blogs and twitter and Facebook, all of which I enjoy and appreciate, has had to take a back seat to the other things which fill my life - particularly my Ministry, my family and my friends. I am sure you'll all be pleased at my attempts to have some kind of work/life balance, or rather to have some integrety and prioritise appropriately. I'm happy with things as they are, on the whole, though have found myself more tired in this particular form of Ministry and life than in any other context. I wish I had more time to pray and to write and must take some of the blame for the imbalances which prevent those things sometimes - or rather which prevent more of those things happening sometimes.

I'm writing this on my day off, which used to be my day I never blogged! I have been abandoned by wife and children - though fortunately only for a few days as they are off staying with my wife's sister and doing all the kinds of things that children can't do in the middle of nowhere - a day at Legoland, Windsor, visiting the shops around London, generally enjoying the noise and bustle of urban life! So I decided to take a moment to say hi to you all and say just a little of what is going on. I do hope to get back into the swing of blogging, but if I am absent for long periods of time it's just because I am focussed on where I am and doing what needs to be done, or simply enjoying life with my family! Having said that, there's a few thoughts percolating around my brain which may well find expression later today...

...after a ride on my motorbike :-)

Oh, and look out for me on twitter (@revdal) as a quick microblog moment is so much easier than sitting here thinking!

And whilst here, a thought for the week (has to be done, for the sake of my own sanity in getting gradually up to date!) It seems an apposite one in the light of what I just said and comes from a couple of weeks after Easter!

One of the things which was difficult but worthwhile for me in the lead up to Easter was the silence that is such an important part of Holy Week. I am not naturally inclined to silence – in fact I find it very difficult. I fill my days with activity and busy-ness and the iPod, radio or TV are often on at home, in the car and in the houses I visit during my week. On Good Friday there is a traditionally a three hour time of silence – though many Churches have shorter versions of that service. Silence can make us confront the things we are avoiding about ourselves, our lives, our faith. It can be a struggle to take time to be silent, and to use that time to pray, think, meditate or just to stop – but if we let Him, God can speak to us in the silence.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A quick link

Am particularly enjoying Maggi Dawn's blog at the moment, especially this poetic reflection (from Stewart Henderson) on Priestly ministry....

So Many Thoughts - So Many Weeks

It is my dream that one day I will catch up with all of these, and will be in sync with the local paper that prints them. It's called the Midweek Herald and can be found here.

A Thought for the Week for the week after Easter!

There are some things we tend to take for granted, some things that are so much a part of life that we don’t really notice them. Churches are like that, in villages they get used for special events, for the important parts of life and death, people use them in directions to get some place, every now and then you might even feel a need to go in, have a look around, take a moment of quiet or say a prayer. But on the whole they are just ‘there’. But the Churches I have been a part of are powerhouses, they work hard to make communities function as communities, they care for the sick, visit the lonely, help the needy. They run events and activities. They worship the God who made the universe. Churches are important, they will support you in need, and need your support. Thank God for Churches.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Allegri's Miserere

Having shared my rockier side with you, here's a gorgeous piece of music which I find profoundly moving.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ministry in more than two dimensions

Despite all my experience, despite the joy of getting to know so many good people, despite hearing so many stories and taking part in so many special events - I still fall into the trap of sometimes failing to see people with all the depth, beauty, wonder, sadness, joy and humanity that they undoubtedly have. What I mean is that sometimes (hopefully vary rarely) I will look at one of my congregations and classify them almost by Mr Men standards: 'Mr Snoozy', or 'Mrs Long Winded', 'Mr Stroppy', 'Little Miss Loud And Somewhat Annoying', 'Mr Won't Shut Up About The Flipping Parish Share' etc etc etc. OK, it's an exaggeration, but it's easy to think of people in terms of how they behave or what they do rather than who they are, to reduce them to two-dimensional figures like characters in a bad novel...

And then an encounter or a moment or an event occurs that makes me think again, and to remember that I am ministering to, or chatting with, or making friends with, or just being with a richly multifaceted human being. A person with stories that could astound - and often do - and a life of their own which is wonderful, profound and affecting. A number of encounters lately have reminded me of this richness that exists - some of them funeral visits where I have heard things about people which have added such depth to my experience of them, other times chance meetings or conversations in Church or the pub or around the villages.

Take for instance one young woman who attends one of the Churches in this Mission Community. The fact that she is young makers her out as something special, but also meant that I thought of her as 'Little Miss Unusually Young For This Particular Congregation' then I went to a concert where she played a musical instrument with such skill and talent along with a depth of feeling that belied her age and I realised that behind my initial limited viewpoint was a creative and inspired person.

Then there was the encounter with someone in a local pub who has been 'Mr Bloke That Sits At The Bar' but in conversation I discovered he was a skilled metalworker, a businessman, an entrepreneur, a farmer and someone who was compassionate, interesting and funny.

Again, at a recent Community lunch I was sitting next to someone who I thought of as 'Mr Quite Deaf' turned out to be an expert gardener with vast experience of travel and a life working in livestock.

I could go on and on. Sometimes I think we all need a reminder to treat people as people, not just lumps of flesh we interact with! As ministers it is easy to reduce people to those we have to minster to or those who are 'pew fodder' or potential members of committees or names on the rota. I have to check myself from just looking at folk as congregation, or mentally dividing up the churchgoers from the non-churchgoers. They, we, are all much loved, much valued members of God's family, made in the image of the divine, and worth so much more time and effort than any two dimensional perceptions will allow.

A thought for a week

It's not THE thought for this week as I am still playing catch up due to my ongoing propensity to leave this blog for longer than I like and then come back with a flurry of posts... Here's the one from Easter - but as Easter should be a 24/7 - 365 experience for us as Christians I am happy to post it now...

and you might get half a dozen more in the next couple of days :-)

Have you ever been a part of something that has changed the world? Maybe you’ve given to a charity? Run in the race for life? Been a part of a world record attempt?

Or perhaps you’ve been to Church?

Yes, the Church has changed the world, or more accurately Jesus Christ changed the world. When he died on the first Good Friday he took upon himself all the evils and wrongdoing in the world from all time. An innocent man taking to himself the sin of the world. And when he rose again from the dead, as we celebrate on Easter Sunday, all of the effects of that sin, the death and brokenness of the world, all of it was defeated. And if we let him, Jesus will change us, we will share in his new life and through us Jesus will continue to change the world!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

REZ Land of Stolen Breath - Mobile.m4v



I have a fondness for heavy rock - goes with the whole biker/guitarist/yobbo vibe that I succumb to every now and then (having spent day at Bishop's House in grubby jeans and clerical collar as I rode to my training day today). For me the epitome of well put together heavy music with a message is REZ aka Resurrection Band. They may have a somewhat different take on Christian Faith to me, in some ways, but the passion and the prophetic nature of their music and ministry inspires and challenges me, I love the music too - though I realise it probably isn't everyone's cuppa tea :-) This particular song is one of my favourites, with a very powerful message behind the slightly ropey 1990s video.... Just a little glimpse into my slightly odd, yet deeply committed to faith, world....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The best laid plans

Ok, so I thought I would get back into the swing of this blogging business and after that wee flurry of postings earlier in the week decided to hold off a day or two before the next round - then the lurgy struck! I think I picked up the same sickness bug that my children had at the end of last week, whatever it was/is it has taken two days out of my week and I am still feeling grim and not eating - though my wife says the not eating is a good thing! I am disappointed that I didn't feel well enough to take the Ascension Day service this evening and grateful that I have a very able and gracious Associate Priest who took on those duties. I think that in the past sixteen or so years I have only missed one other Asc Day service, so am a bit glum about it, but not only did I feel a bit ropey, I didn't want to be spreading any sickness around!

When I did finally make it out of bed today I made myself sit in front of my PC and wrote all the articles and bits and bobs I needed to send off to our Villages Magazine 'The Parishes Paper' - it was already a day late as I did my usual trick of leaving it until the deadline to prepare, and then getting sick on deadline day! So that, along with a couple of letters that needed doing and some diary keeping has been my work for the day. I still need to do my thought for the week for next week as the deadline is tomorrow, and it would be good to have an article to put into another local magazine called 'Yarcombe Voices' which, again, needs to be in tomorrow.

Whilst I think on those things, here's another in my catchup for thoughts for the week! This one from the week leading up to Palm Sunday!

Humility is not a virtue that seems to be encouraged these days; be the best, be famous, be better than the rest seems to be the message that is pumped out through our TV screens and most of the media. Humility is still admired though; when our leaders offer genuine apology, when those who have done well are gracious in accepting their honours, when our armed service members showing great bravery claim ‘it’s just part of the job. In the Church we remember this Palm Sunday the humility of Jesus who rode into Jerusalem not in a chariot or on horseback, but seated on a donkey, a lowly beast of burden. Though the crowds declared him saviour and Lord he didn’t use them to gain power but was willing to face death for declaring God’s message of love, justice, peace and grace. His humility is an example to us all.