Sunday, February 28, 2010

One important thing

How time flies! I have been meaning to write but not got round to it with all the things happening, which I am sure I will blog about soon! But for now I wanted to draw your attention to something that the widow of much loved and much missed George (who was a fellow blogger and friend since I moved here) asked me to mention.

George's son Theo decided, as a new year's resolution to do something he'd never done before - to run a half marathon. Being the kind of family they are the idea was also to make this an event that meant something so he's chosen a charity to support which George would have been very keen on - a children's cancer charity - CLIC Sargent. It's a very worthwhile charity, and kudos to Theo for being willing to do it - can I encourage you to support it via justgiving, please. The page is here.... This is the first time I've ever asked for anything like this on the blog, I hope you all don't mind, but I thought carefully about it and would love you to feel you could support it.

That's it for now, more to follow about the joys and sadnesses of ministry here in God's own county....

Friday, February 19, 2010

What a Vicar does on their day off

Hmm, before I say anything else I should say that I might not be typical of most Clergy in what I do with my day off...

It's been an interesting day, for some reason I didn't sleep at all well last night and I was kindly left alone for a lie in until 9am! My little girl had a long sleep too as she has been in the local Pantomime, and is staying up considerably later than she is used too. But more of that in a moment.

When I did get up I did the usual breakfast/shower/make myself beautiful routine followed by writing a 'Thought for the Week' to be published next week. On reading some headlines about 'The Church' I was struck again how Church only seems to be news when there's a division or a mistake or a disagreement that can be highlighted. So I did a thought about the local church and where the true face of the Church can be seen. I have nearly caught up with 'thought for the week' column on this blog so I may well publish that one on time next Wednesday!

After that I went off to a local scrapyard to try and pick up a hinge for the Land Rover - we deliberately bought an old car partly because it was cheaper, but also because we didn't want a shiny flash car but a workhorse - this means that we bought it knowing there were some bits and bobs to be done to it... We are fortunate to have a friend who knows what he's doing with various repairs and he has been and is very helpful. We found the part we needed and the breaker told me to come back later after it was removed from the car.

When I got home some friends from our old Parish of Eltisley dropped in, it was a joy to see them and they are great people. Moving on in this job means that you leave behind friends and often fall out of touch because you never have weekends to go visit on. It was just like old times seeing them again, and as I have said before this move was a very good thing and these villages are great to be a part of, but I do miss my friends and colleagues from my previous Team. In fact just this week I found myself writing a long talk as a favour for one of my previous colleagues, which I may well publish on New Kid Deep Stuff - as I've not put anything up there for weeks, months even. (That last sentence sounds better as a Snagglepuss impression).

After some chinwag, and a chance to spend a while with my gorgeous children I went off to collect the bit for the car, then we had some more time with our friends, then supper with them (from the local Chippy) and after that I went to the pantomime (with my mum) to see my daughter's performance.

It was an excellent evening, funny, lively, musical and really well done! It showed just what a group of dedicated people within a small community can do. I have to say it was significantly better than the panto I saw last year in a town not too far from here - that one was about an hour too long and not quite as well done all round. There were lots of laughs, some wonderful hamming about and I even got a mention... that's a first!

Never a dull moment in this place. Once again I feel fortunate, or perhaps more accurately 'blessed', to be here.

Now, another thought for the week.... this one from the end of January - and it seems to fit with today's events.


If you ask most people how they would describe Jesus, I doubt many of them would say ‘funny’! But the Gospels, the books of the Bible that tell us about the life of Jesus, are filled with stories and sayings of Christ that are thought provoking, moving, and funny. He talked of God’s kingdom as a party, a feast, he was accused of being a glutton and drunkard, he turned water into the finest wine, he told people to take planks out of their own eye before criticising the speck in someone else’s and he said, in St John’s Gospel, ”I have come to bring life in all its fullness”. These are not the actions of a killjoy. The life of faith is not about being miserable and sombre, but about thanking God for the good things we have and enjoying them. Live life, and faith, to the full!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good stuff, God stuff

I realise that my last post said 'tomorrow' but that as it was posted after midnight it should have said today - I'm not so confused that I think Ash Wednesday is on Thursday!

So far Ash Wednesday has been a good, thoughtful start to Lent. Despite my struggle to get up this morning...yawn... the Morning Service went very well, as a group of Mission Community members from various different villages shared bread and wine, a time to reflect and pray, a litany of penitence and all had a smudgy ash cross inscribed upon our foreheads.

I then went off to Yarcombe, where a 'frugal Lunch' marked the beginning of Lent - bread and soup, but very nice bread and soup it was. Lunch ended with a presentation by the Street Pastors from Taunton, a very good presentation, which talked of the practical ways in which this group, started in London in 2003, is now active in towns and cities all over the UK and seeks to reach out with care and love to those in our cities and towns late at night, particularly those slightly worse for wear after a night in the pubs and clubs. No preaching, just pastoring. Web site worth a visit here!

I have spent a lot of time over the last few days trying to sort out Baptisms - they all seem to come at the same time and I have four families all wanting Baptism services for their offspring over the coming weeks in the same village. We, following the guidance of our Bishops, only offer baptism as part of a main Sunday service, so it gets quite difficult to juggle the usual service pattern in such a way that one of the Clergy can be available at the same time as that Church is due a service in which it is appropriate to have a baptism and which is suitable for the families involved.

So the rest of today sees some sorting out of the piles of paper that cover my desk, some more phone calls, another Ash Wednesday service at 7pm and a funeral visit at 9pm, after which I can write the funeral address for tomorrow and then go to bed knowing that our funeral tomorrow is all in place and sorted.

And whilst here, another though for the week, this one was my 150 word response to the tragic events in Haiti and was published a few weeks back...

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake many are asking “Why did God allow this?” and in this short thought I am not going to try to resolve the struggle that many have when confronted with such tragedy. I do know, though, that that God of the Bible doesn’t “willingly afflict or grieve anyone” (Lamentations 3.33) but is alongside the suffering and gives strength to those dealing with these events and those seeking to help the victims of that earthquake. In the suffering of Jesus Christ on the Cross we see a God who isn’t divorced from the pain of this world, but who suffers alongside us and knows what agony and even death are like. In the midst of devastation we pray for those who have lost loved ones, for those who have died and for those seeking to aid the needy, may they know God with them.

A thought for Lent

Tomorrow is the start of Lent and we will be observing this important day with Holy Communion and the imposition of Ashes twice tomorrow. In marking this day I am going to confuse myself by publishing my thought for the week out of the publishing order! This is my thought for this week, even though I still have a few to catch up on...

Don't Give Up

Pancakes are done, now it’s Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. These days, Lent is normally associated with giving up chocolate or cigarettes or coffee or wine but I would like to encourage you with three words: “Don’t give up!”. The reason for fasting in Lent was to prepare for the great celebration of Easter forty days later and to have a time of discipline before the most important day of the Church year – that didn’t have to mean giving things up, but doing things differently. I recommend you do something different this year, go to Church or to a Bible Study meeting, read a book about faith, make time for a bit of silence or prayer each day, have more time with friends or family. Use Lent as a time to think, pray, talk and reconsider life – or as the saying goes ‘Love Life Live Lent’.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Goodbye John Linna

When I started blogging four years ago (or so, not quite sure exactly how long) there was a blog I discovered very early on which was funny, warm, thoughtful and encouraging. It was by a retired Lutheran minister called Dr John, who had a predilection for Dragons, a great sense of humour and a prodigious and expansive imagination. Every day had a link to a blog site he was enjoying, an episode of his intriguing and fantastic adventures from Pigeon Falls and a few of his reflections on the world around and life in general. Dr John's Fortress was somewhere I returned to again and again, and if I was absent for any length of time from the blogosphere it would inevitably be the place I went to first in my catchup list. Even a couple of weeks ago when I decided to try and blog a little more often my first instinct was to visit the fortress and have a smile and a pause for thought there.

Dr John always seemed to think I was a closet Lutheran, and tried to 'out' me every now and then - some of the most encouraging comments I received here and at New Kid Deep Stuff were responses to my sermons and thoughts from him. I felt very privileged that he considered me as one who shared many of his values.

So I was saddened when Quilly contacted me by email and said that Dr John had died this morning. The blog world will be poorer without him, and he will be missed. For all those sceptics who say that the Internet only creates shallow and meaningless relationships Dr John was the antithesis of this - genuine, warm, not trying to be anything but himself, many of us appreciated what he contributed and he will be genuinely missed.

Requiem in pacem, Dr John, a good man and a great pastor. Remember in prayer his wife Betty, and all of his family in their loss.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

It's the little (and big) things.....

I have never seen roads as damaged, broken and messed up as some of the lanes around here. It has got to the point that lovely wife and I decided we might need to invest in a bigger vehicle - so we have bought a Land Rover Discovery. Some Land Rovers have something of a reputation as 'Chelsea Tractors' - ie 4x4's driven by people in towns and cities who will never need such a vehicle - but around here the large wheels and 4 wheel drive capability is proving to be a necessity - our Discovery is a thirteen year old slightly bashed workhorse that is designed to be driven through stubborn terrain!

And the 'little thing' mentioned in the title is that it is fun to drive! You need to actually drive it, unlike our other cars which despite being 'manual transmission' are simple and easy this one needs thinking about, and is great fun! The 'big thing' is the car itself - it is huge, another reason why you need to be aware of what's going on and careful driving it... I've been out in it last night and this afternoon, and though it won't be my main car I am feeling more confident in it and don't feel quite so daunted by the state of some of the lanes around here now. The joys of being a rural Vicar!

Today was also an important day because I got to announce for the first time publicly that we are having our Curate join us!

And deftly woven into this post, another Thought for the week - only a few left now before it being, as it should be, a weekly occurrence!

Liking Atheists!

I like Atheists. Perhaps a strange way for a Vicar to begin a Thought For The Week, but it’s true! I have been impressed by the honesty, the intellectual rigour and the willingness to ask questions of the Atheists I have met and read the writings of – including Professor Richard Dawkins who recently took part in a service in one of our village Churches. We could all learn a lot from those who question and the life of faith shouldn’t been seen as one of mindless obedience, but instead, as it says in Mark’s Gospel we should ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind’. We should employ all our intelligence and feeling to faith just as we should to all of life; keep asking questions, keep thinking, keep honest, keep loving– and may God reward your searching…and your finding.

Monday, February 08, 2010

There's Something about admin

I have said before, and I make no apologies for saying it again - that admin is the worst part of this job! If I didn't have such a capable and pleasant Administrator who takes on some of the tasks I think I would go crackers... This morning was a three hour meeting with my Administrator where we went through a whole load of different issues that needed addressing - made more tolerable by the fact that we can divert from the subject in hand and have a laugh as well as sharing some of the 'pastoral' issues that crop up around certain administrative tasks.

I guess most people wouldn't know just how much administration and organisation goes into Church ministry. We are slightly hampered in the C of E by being the 'Established Church' which gives us certain responsibilities to the wider community, and also means that those who don't have anything to do with the life of the Church can make demands for Weddings, Baptisms, Funerals and Pastoral care which we are bound to fulfil. On the whole this is an immense privilege and gives Anglican Churches in England a way into serving and caring in the lives of our villages which other denominations don't share. It also comes with a fair amount of paperwork. Now I can do admin, if I put my mind to it, but I don't enjoy it and it seems to expand to fill all the time available if I let it. I'm not efficient, I am not naturally inclined to think in terms of rotas and lists and filing but I can do it. I know of some Clergy that are marvellously good at Admin and i have a (begrudging) admiration for them but my focus is always on what's going on outside of my study; as anyone who has had the misfortune to see my study will know. That's not to say that good administrators aren't focussed on the outside world, but that when I focus on admin, as I have done all day today, I don't think about anything else.

On the positive side, I have got a lot done today, including long emails to the Bishop, and to our new Curate! Yep, that's right, i am very pleased to announce that we are having a new member added to our team in June. She will officially be coming with 'training wheels and L plates' but I am fortunate in having someone who is very competent and creative joining us in ministry here so as she hones her 'ministry craft' I suspect she will also offer an awful lot to our Mission Community even as she learns the ropes!

For those of you who don't know the system that the Church of England puts in place, after two or three years training (either full time at Theological College or as part of a 'distance learning' course) a person who is called to Ordained Ministry is made Deacon and then Priested in a Parish or group of Parishes where they effectively serve an apprenticeship as a Curate, usually for four years. It used to be three years in one parish and then two in another, but second curacies are rarer now than twenty or so years ago. So my new Curate will be serving four years in this place, and by the time she moves on will be able to face the world as a fully fledged Vicar running her own team. I was very fortunate that my Curacy set me up for a lifetime of ministry very well indeed and my training incumbent, for whom I still have a great amount of respect, instilled in me certain values and helped me through certain experiences which gave me the skills and tools I needed for my Ordained Ministry. I hope I will be able to do the same.

On a personal note, I was fortunate to have such an exceptional Training Incumbent, as I only served two years in my first Curacy and then at the request of my Bishop went to a mixed University/Schools Chaplaincy and Parish Church ministry which was a badly cobbled together group of jobs with a semi-competent minister I had to work with. The second priest I was set alongside was someting of a control freak who was absent from the parish yet still expected things to be done his way! He had another job which he was more concerned about and I knew I was in trouble when he started saying 'When I spent eight years in parish Ministry I learned...' and then proceeded to tell me how I was to do my job. Well, having spent nearly fifteen years in Parish ministry (and four years in sector ministry) I realise that he really didn't know a lot about Parishes and certainly taught me very little in the two years I worked there! I was fortunate again for my next position, my first job as Vicar, in that the colleagues I had there were marvellously supportive, varied in outlook and style and willing to take risks as well as working together in mutually accountable ministry. That was a very good first Incumbency, as it's known (an Incumbent is the name of someone who has the responsibility for a parish or group of parishes!).

So a bit about admin, a bit about me, and a bit about ministry. No thought for the week at this time, maybe later... I still have a few to catch up on. Thank you for reading.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Well, that went pretty well

It has been a good day. Having been ill for a couple of days this week (just a bug or something I ate) I was concerned that getting the last minute planning done for our special service this morning might not be achievable - but it was, the music group did well, the readers read well, the children leading prayers was good, the Puppets were fantastic - even my short thought (rather than sermon) was well received.

It was a very unusual service in some ways. We had a visit from the 'Chuppets' - the local Community Church Puppet group who retold (in a very engaging and entertaining way) the story of Jesus stilling the storm. Because this was an unusual visit we had a 'Mission Community Service' which was the only morning service (except for an early Holy Communion) for the five parishes of this group. It meant that we used the format for what is called 'A Service Of The Word' and this allowed us to have a different feel and shape to our Sunday by Sunday worship. It went down well and was enjoyed by most, if not all, of the worshippers.

I then spent the afternoon at the house of friends whose daughter was having a party to which my daughter was invited. It meant I had three hours of relaxed chill time with good company and enjoyed that immensely.

So a good day.

In celebration of this I will post the next 'Thought for the Week' - still playing catchup, but getting there. This one appeared in the middle of last month!

Wherever You Are

Growing up I spent lots of time at Church, Honiton Congregational and Baptist Churches especially. But I also spent time in and around pubs; as barman in the Three Tuns and Coombe House Hotel. For my family, the pub was for making and meeting friends, going to social events and marking special occasions. Going to a pub wasn’t to get as much beer inside you as possible. Church isn’t only for religion. Both are for family, friendship and sharing important parts of life. Now I am a Vicar and a volunteer at the Yarcombe Inn, it seems both those things have come back together! God is a part of all of life and doesn’t live in Church buildings. The Bible says God is with us always, the Holy Spirit can inspire and guide anyone, and Jesus came to save the world – not just the Church or religious types, but everyone.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Me again

Yep, as previous mentioned, once I get going I do tend to say a lot!

Firstly I have discovered I am in the top twenty twitterers in the Twurch of England - not sure it means much, except that I have never been in a top twenty of anything before, so am pleased about that - am also in good company, with the Archbishop of York at number one, Bishop Alan Wilson at number two and number three the informative, intelligent and grace-full Maggi Dawn... You can find the list here .

Next another 'thought for the week' - don't be anxious about them coming out at one a day at the moment, I have only been doing it a few weeks for the Midweek Herald, so I will run out in a couple of days... Then I will post them as they are published once a week. This one was published just after the New Year; here goes...

“Time flies”, “running out of time”, “don’t have enough time”, “too many jobs too little time”, “if only there were more hours in the day”. In our world today we so often find ourselves ‘materially rich and time poor’ and our labour saving devices and distractions of TV, Internet and more seem to fill our days. Time is seen as an enemy, something which seems to be against us.

But time is a gift from God. The moments of each day are given to us to use and it is not time that is the enemy but all the things we choose to fill it with. Perhaps this New Year would be a good time to look at our priorities, to enjoy the time we have with friends and family and doing the things we love. Learn to say ‘no’ to the pressures of time and savour each moment.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Another thought for the week catchup

Might as well get these passed on... Feedback allowed, too late to change them now as they have all been published, but what the hey....

This was printed at the New Year

New Year – New you?

It’s that time of year when resolutions are made to be broken! Advertisers go into top gear trying to get us to diet, give up smoking, drinking or whatever or to take up something new. We all feel the need to improve and do better and New Year gives us a time to make a new start; remember though whatever you decide to do God loves you as you are.

There is always room for improvement, but as St Paul writes in the letter to the Romans “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us”. The life of faith seeks to lead us to perfection, which admittedly might not happen this side of heaven, but God’s love for us is there no matter who or what we are. God loves you, love yourself, love others.

Thought for the week

This was the first of my thoughts for the week, you may be overwhelmed by these for the next few days then very rarely hear from me! These appear in a local East Devon newspaper called the Midweek Herald. It's a rather good local paper, though admittedly I have a vested interest in it!

This appeared in the week before Christmas:

God with us.

When people ask me about what Christmas means I can easily start spouting about a hundred thoughts a minute to do with the often complicated ideas that we Clergy are prone to spout. But being a Devon boy reminds me that some of the most powerful truths in life are the most simple and straightforward, or as advertising companies say “K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple, Stupid”.

The one simple truth that stands out at Christmas is that God loved us, and loves us, so much that he sent his son to be one of us. Jesus is God with us – not up on a cloud, who can’t understand what it is like to laugh, weep, hunger, thirst, get angry or suffer. God with us, one of us, just like us. May you know God with you always, especially this Christmas time. Happy Christmas & God bless you!

Where does the time go?

In a supreme irony, it only seems like yesterday when I resolved to keep blogging! And here I am two months later wondering why I stopped for so long... and wondering why, at nearly quarter to two in the morning I am here now.

The truth is that I have thought often about things to say but not been sure how to say them. A few things have hit me in the past couple of months and I've not been sure about what to say about them. First of all was the death of George, one of those who was always so enthusiastic and supportive about me keeping up a blog, George died of the cancer he had been fighting for some years, long before I was privileged to meet him. I feel guilty that the weeks before he died were so busy that I didn't get to see him, and the end came (mercifully) quickly, and surprised us all.

George's death was surrounded and followed by a number of other funerals, some of which were quite difficult. Death is never easy, but some circumstances compound the pain and hurt that the loss of a loved one inevitably brings. We seem to have had quite a few of those - and I do put a lot of time and energy and emotion into such events and then find I don't have the time or emotional wherewithal to get to grips with blogging.

The pub has continued to keep me occupied. Tonight the show that was the original impetus to us getting the Yarcombe Inn up and running was aired and I remembered just how much effort we had all put into the original endeavour, and how much it still takes. It was a pretty good representation of the even though, even though some of the key players weren't terribly visible and didn't get the credit they deserved. The pub continues to be at the heart of the community and to offer a place where all sorts of events, including a Church group called 'Agnostics Anonymous' can happen.

I've also become a published writer - admittedly only 150 words a week, but still something which takes a little time and effort to get done. A local newspaper asked me to make a contribution (or rather, I offered the skills of lots of local Clergy but was asked to take it on myself) and I have enjoyed the experience of having to think about these thoughts for the week and may well publish them here, at least I will remember to post at least once a week!

To all of the above events add the Christmas chaos, some terrible weather which prevented all travel for a few days, the joy of my son's fifth birthday, various important events, a week out of action with a dodgy neck and the general busyness of ministerial life and there's my nine weeks or so out of the blogging circuit in a nutshell.

So thanks for coming back if you have returned after some time. Normal Service will be resumed as soon as plausible.

God bless