Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas

It's been quite a time here in the Five Alive Mission Community.  We've had some important and quite significant funerals, a wedding, all of the usual end of term and Christmas events and in this past couple of days an almost solid thirty six hours of services - with an eight hour break between 1am and 9am... so I and my colleagues did get some sleep! 

It's a funny thing this Church business, we see people who we never normally see at the services over the Christmas period and some of our regulars make themselves scarce!  And in any year we never know whether there will be more or less than the previous year at any of our services... which so easily leads into the spiral of either self congratualtion or self mortification depending on which way the figures have gone in any year.  Of course we know that the important part of what we do at Christmas is to preach and share the Gospel, and our self worth as a Christian community should never be based on how many 'bums on seats' we have, but it's hard to have any kind of objective measure as to our success in sharing the life of Christ and we so often fall back on figures for attendance!  It is reassuring that in my time here I've not managed to empty the Churches, though, I hope that means I've not upset too many people...

But in terms of the quality of the services, the worship and the sense of community and celebration, this year's selection of services has been wonderful - at least the ones I was a part of (and the others taken by colleagues, according to the effusive feedback I have received).  We have marked the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour with joy!

There's something else that made my Christmas day positive and uplifting and that was (and here are words I never expected to find myself using) The Queen's Speech!  It was encouraging, thought provoking and moving.  There's a very good reflection on it here and below is Her Majesty herself and the 2011 Queen's Speech.

Happy Christmas everyone!  God bless you all and may the love of Christ dwell in you richly.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Had to say "no"

I was asked to cover another funeral today, one which I had already had notice of and knew that it may be slightly contentious for me to turn down because there was an expectation that 'the Vicar' should be the one to take this service.  So I wrestled with whether or not to do it and then handed it one of my exceptionally able and hard working colleagues to do, and she was very willing to do so.

This comes hot on the heels of a request to make sure that a 'Clergyperson' was present at another service because the minister taking the service wasn't ordained.  It wasn't that this minister is unqualified, unlicensed, untrained or unknown to the community where the service was taking place, but simply that this other minister doesn't have a clerical collar.  Perhaps obvious from the title above, I had to say no to that too.

Don't get me wrong, it is a huge privilege and an honour to be asked to take part in these events.  I know that some of the requests I get are because people actually like me doing services, some are because of the perceived 'kudos' of having 'the Vicar', some are because I am a man (they get instant refusal) and some are because people are struggling with a changing culture - both within the Church and these rural communities - that has always believed that a Vicar is somehow 'theirs' and will do their 'religion' for them... a theme oft touched on these hallowed pages... if pages they be.  Whatever the motivation, as a Vicar, Priest, Pastor, Minister, Clerk in Holy Orders, Minister (choose your preferred nomenclature) it is nice to feel wanted, and to be affirmed by filling a need in others, in communities, in the Church.

But me feeling wanted, and others feeling that things are somehow more 'kosher' with a bloke in a dog collar, isn't enough!  I can't wear myself out trying to live up to expectations which are unrealistic and which I don't theologically subscribe to even though I sometimes buy into them unconsciously.  Or perhaps more accurately I shouldn't wear myself out, or I mustn't....

The problem we continue to struggle with in the Church of England is that we are still set up for Clerically centric ministry rather than every member ministry.  Both in the structures of the Church and the perceptions of people at large there is still the expectation that Clergy will run things.  That we will be the 'religious experts' who 'do religion' so that others don't have to!  Yet the Churches which are growing are those where everyone has a part, where the gifts of the people are offered, supported, used and celebrated.... yet in so many places this understanding of 'every member ministry' seems beyond all comprehension by the vast majority of those both within and without the Church community.

This wasn't a problem in my youth - I grew up in Churches (of different traditions and denominations to the one I inhabit now) which saw (and see) the ministry of "the church" as the ministry of the whole church, not something to be left to some people who dress up a bit and titled 'ministers'.  In the Church of England we have the weight of tradition which sometimes buries us with all its expectations and perceptions filtered through generations of history.

So I am learning to say no to things which can be done by others.  I have colleagues who are actively engaging in training and resourcing various ministries and I am enjoying the thrill of seeing people set free to serve God free of the weight of history, called to serve here and now in this time and place, not trying to work with the misconceptions of a bygone age.  Long may it continue.

Friday, December 02, 2011

To blog or not to blog, that is the question, well it's A question....

Getting fed up with myself!  I like blogging, when I've got time to do it, it has proved a helpful way of getting ideas 'out there' and has been somewhat therapeutic - though sporadic blogging, I have realised, doesn't get the kind of conversation going that I have really appreciated and my fave responders all seem to have fallen off or quit commenting...

So I've been wondering whether just to leave New Kid to gently fade, or whether to delete it from the blogosphere, or whether to find an alternative way of blogging, or even whether to commit myself to a little bit of blogging most days... though such a commitment may well find itself bringing more guilt if and when I don't end up doing it.

A twitter friend of mine suggested joining a blog community - so even when not actually blogging myself I can be a part of a group that keeps up this whole thinking out loud idea and get some feedback when I do actually blog.  Then I was followed by a blog community on Twitter called '@graceground' which offered an opportunity to blog and to enjoy the company of other Christian bloggers.  So I have signed up.  Not only have I signed up but I've even managed my first blog entry - which can be found here

As for New Kid, I am still unresolved - I would hope I can keep something going here, particularly if I feel like adding a number of posts in a flurry (don't want to swamp the Graceground community with my waffle) and you never know, a part in a different kind of blog set-up may prove to be the catalyst by which I return to this blog refreshed and renewed. 

Keep walking the path, folks, enjoy the journey and be well :-)  Catch you later, perhaps...?