Monday, March 24, 2008

Koinonia Watch

As ever, a mixture of deep seriousness and hysteria.
We ate supper together in the parish centre, then the Dufflepud was despatched to the chapel to watch while a posse of friends prepared a surprise party to celebrate one chorister birthday plus a farewell for the Dufflepud...Birthday cake and balloons, Pass the Parcel, a wildly hilarious game of stick the tail on Dostoevesky (a rabbit rather than a literary giant in this case) and a piggy pinata...Lots of laughter and warmth. Heavens, I am going to miss this group so horribly much. I hope they know how much I love them all, and what their friendship has meant.

My turn on watch was from one to and peace where it was most needed. I love the fact that those young people make it possible for St M's to watch all night long (one even slept outside the church door) where so many churches sustain it only until midnight. There's something very special about going into the church on Good Friday morning to find the altar ablaze with the lights that each person has left as a sign that they have been there, have left their prayers and their love with the Lord in the garden.
We watched the last half hour together, then at 8.00 am I led some short prayers...
"Lord, it is time to leave you now, for soon you will go where we cannot follow..."
The feeling of desolation those words evoke always surprises me with its power...then it's time to take the hammer and break the 12 hour silence with the harsh noise of metal driving into wood. Some younger girls have watched for the first time this year, and find the whole thing strange. They giggle as they hammer, but that's OK too. That's how it must have been:some embarrassed,some indifferent,some hiding discomfort beneath a mask of bravado -while outside, at a safe distance, friends flinched at the sound of every blow.

Thursday night

was amazing.
We celebrated the lovely space those builders created at St M's by putting up a platform for a small and simple forward altar. When I came up for Evening Prayer (after the splendour of the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral, with more clergy and bishops than you could ever dream of shaking a stick at [not sure why you should want to...] AND the same tabby cat who was took part in our ordination service, and who had clearly returned to renew his vows along with the rest of the college of clergy) WonderfulVicar had just finished setting it up and asked if it was "alright".
It was perfectly beautiful...a small table, a white cloth and 2 quiet candlesticks - it had a quality of stillness that made me weep inside and was one of the most real parts of an incredible evening.
The effect of being there behind that table as I presided was huge for me...There was a quality of intimacy and of vulnerability that just isn't there when you are up at the high altar with all its splendours, though they are right and proper at other times. In the morning FabBishop had preached about remembering as "bringing the past into the present" and this felt very very real as we gathered on Thursday night...I placed real bread in a wooden bowl and somehow we were there in the Upper Room.
Footwashing was particularly moving too...There were 2 benches on the platform, and some loved and beautiful feet (feet that preach the gospel of peace each and every day) to wash. As always we had trouble finding 12 volunteers (I was sad that Marcella arrived too late to be asked...her feet had worked so hard to bring good news through her walk earlier this month, I would have been honoured to wash them) so when I'd worked my way along the lines, with WonderfulVicar moving the bowl, freeing me to pour, wash and dry, he sat on the platform and I got to wash his feet...That felt so very very right and I'm grateful that I was able to do it.
Then the Communion, and a precious fragment of love given to each person...and suddenly we had to move on. This was not the evening to linger around the table and relax with was time to strip the altars, to listen to the choir singing psalm 22 in a darkened were unfolding over which we had no control...Soon the church was almost empty. I moved the big wooden cross into the chapel and laid it on the purple cloth, with hammer, nails and whip at the ready. The Watch had begun.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Some Thursday images from the trail

No foot washing, but an ivitation to dip your finger into the water and make the sign of the cross, while saying a silent prayer to ask God to help you use your hands to care for people in a special way this Easter

Jesus said "Whenever you share bread and wine together and remember me, I will be with you."
As you eat your piece of bread, remember something about Jesus...

Alone in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced his fears - of futility, of abandonment, of death - and then placed himself in God's hands. We draw comfort from his experience of fear and loneliness, knowing we have his promise that he will be with us always.

Although within us there are wounds
Lord Christ, above all there is
The miracle of your mysterious presence.
Thus made lighter or even set free
We are going with you, the Christ
From one discovery to another (Brother Roger of Taize)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Taize


Today has been so good.
Productive morning, excellent lunchtime meeting, transformative session with the world's best SpirDir, and tonight the Taize service I'd put together around the Experience Easter stations.

After a slow start, with the congregation hesitant about engaging with the activity at the first station, it settled into a comfortable rhythm of reflection, action, chant and some truly wonderful space.Sitting silently together in the chancel when we'd finished singing "Eat this bread, drink this cup" was one of the most intense experiences of God's presence I've had at St M's - something to carry with me on the onward journey.

As we clustered around the cross, the words I'd chosen only last night were suddenly a perfect expression of the course the day for me.

O Christ
You take upon yourself all our burdens
So that freed of all that weighs us down
We can constantly begin to walk anew with
lightened step,
From worry to trusting,
From the shadows towards the clear flowing water,
From our own will to wards the vision of the coming Kingdom.
And then we know
Though we had hardly dared hope it
That you offer to make every human
being a reflection of your face.
(Brother Roger of Taize)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday - hurts and healing

Last year I blogged about the visits of some of our school children to the Experience Easter trail, and since the early Easter means that the school term doesn't end till 4th April it has been possible to invite the children into church during Holy Week itself this year.

It has felt a bit frenetic at times, as we weren't completely certain which schools were sending children until the very last minute, but I've been engaged with them for all of today, and it has been very good.
This time what struck me was not so much the stations themselves, but the children's thoughts and insights as they worked round them.At the Last Supper station, entitled Remember Me, they were invited to talk about special things that they might have at home that made them remember an important time or person, the idea being of course to lead them into thinking about the way we use bread and wine in the Sacrament....But one little girl told me about a photo of "our whole family, before my mum and dad split up" and another about a Bible that belonged to her dad before he died, and the conversations that opened up from there were quite amazing.
Then, when we came to the cross, the children were invited to sit and reflect on what they saw, and what it brought to mind. Mostly, of course, their answers were those they expected me to want (long ears, fluffy tail, - you know)
"It makes me think about Jesus and Easter"
But the response that struck me came from one of my Jaffa kids, who visited at the end of the day (by which time the cross was bearing a weight of post-it prayers).
J looked at it, and said quietly
"It makes me think that there are many sad and hurt people"

Indeed there are.

There are also some wonderfully affirming ones. A Jaffa kid's mother, who worships in another church in Ch Kings, took the trouble to come in specially to say some incredibly encouraging things, - the sort of stuff it really does help to hear when you're 2 weeks away from a new job. I then got to spend time with 2 of my dearest people at St M's, whose company made all the difference as I tried to put myself together having said my final goodbyes to the school children.

Much later, I've been trying to sort out a service for tomorrow night, using music and prayers from Taize (and some of the Experience Easter stations too)...and I just discovered this prayer by Brother Roger,- worth staying up for, definitely.

Risen Christ, you take us with our hearts just as they are. Why must we wait for our hearts to be changed before we go to you? You transfigure them. With our thorns, you light a fire. The open wound in us is the place through which your love comes streaming. And within the very hurts themselves, you bring to fruition a communion with you. Your voice comes to rend our night and the gateways of praise open up within us.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bullet points of light relief

  • Life just got easier for this family on the move -Hugger Steward passed his driving test today, and has thrown his L plates away joyfully. Given the scheduling of the next few days, I am every bit as delighted as he is, even if it does mean that I never get to drive my own car again!
  • E. our youngest First Communicant, has been at it again...her mum found a list of "people I like" lurking about the place...among school friends and family lurked "Geezus". I rather think he likes E too
  • Conversation during a rather lovely party on Saturday night Random Party Goer "So, how are you" Curate "Rather manic actually...I'm moving house and moving jobs in a week's time and tomorrow the busiest week of the year begins" RPG "Oh, you must be a tax lawyer"

And so Holy Week begins

In previous years I have tried to write something thoughtful, or offer you a suitable poem or prayer for each day of Holy Week. This year, just getting through the next 7 days feels sufficiently challenging. It was always going to be an emotionally charged experience (after all, that's what Holy Week is) but the charge has been increased substantially thanks to my imminent move.
Of course, this has also introduced a counter-subject to the fugue, in the form of all the practical stuff that I could and should be getting on with...
So I may not manage much blogging as we go along (and if I do, perhaps you ought to ask me what I'm intent on displacing)...but I read this last night just before the Blessing at Evensong and thought it bore repeating. It's by Ruth Burgess, whose writing always hits the spot for me, and is publishes in the Iona Community's "Eggs and Ashes"

We tell your story
We follow in your footsteps
Lead us into Holy Week.

We walk towards the city
We wait in the garden
Lead us onto Holy Ground.

We journey towards death
We hope for resurrection
Lead us into Holy Joy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday Five: Time and Transitions

Mother Laura came up with a Friday Five on a hugely pertinent subject, so despite being out and about till well into the small hours this morning, I'm joining in - late as ever...

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time imagining myself in Tudor England...probably because I liked the big jewelery and the idea of a powerful woman ruling....and all that wonderful poetry and music about the place. However, as I do rather enjoy the benefits of modern plumbing I think I'd actually like to visit my parents as young marrieds in the early 1950s. Losing them when I was 18 means that I've no real sense of who they were as adults, as opposed to parents – and I'd love to change that, though I'm not convinced that I really want to experience the aftermath of rationing...
Hmmn. Maybe I'll just stay here - now is good.

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?
This week, as I run in ever decreasing circles, the ability to be in two places at once would be fabulous...or, better still, to stop time till I had caught up with it.

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?
I do both, and love both...I love to tell the stories of the past and to see how our own stories intermesh with them, but when I look at my wonderful children I have so many dreams for them and their futures. On the whole, though, savouring the here and now feels like a good and wise I'm working on being present to the present.

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?
I fear that Lent has been high-jacked for me by the business of preparing to depart from St M's. The spiritual reading I promised myself, the space to pray and to be, have been set aside to be replaced by concern that I should end well, that I should do what I can to notice and appreciate all that is given to me in this place by these people. This may sound very affected, but one Holy Week during ordination training we were given a powerful and painful opportunity to meditate on our own deaths...As a parent, predictably my grief and anxiety was all around leaving my children. There was lots of other stuff around, of course, but I remember asking the chaplain in some desperation how she imagined that Jesus had felt as he connected his mother with his best friend, and was comforted by her answer “Utterly torn in two, I would think”....It has made it easier to consciously focus on his presence as I work on letting go of precious people and situations here.

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?
Are you sitting comfortably?
Tomorrow, Palm Sunday, I am presiding at the early Eucharist, and then at 10.00 we have the Palm Sunday liturgy, a procession with palms from the shopping precinct into church and a Eucharist with a full dramatised Passion.
Monday features a last Assembly at the Junior School, and the setting up of the “Experience Easter” trail in church, ready to welcome one class in the afternoon....It also features a visit from FabBishop to our local secondary school, which is to become affiliated to the diocese, which is most exciting. In the evening we have Stations of the Cross..
Tuesday- another set of school visits, my final Jaffa Club and an Iona service in the evening
Wednesday – Home Communions (assuming I remember to contact those concerned) and meetings in Gloucester, followed by a Taize service at 7.30
Thursday -Chrism Mass at the Cathedral...the renewal of ordination vows, which feels specially wonderful and timely with my new job looming so largely ahead...the blessing of the oils (thanks to Marcella, I now have 3 completely undignified by completely water tight pots to collect the oils in...If I tell you that she works in the health service, I bet you can guess what they are usually intended for :-) )
Evening Eucharist of the Last Supper, with footwashing, stripping of the altars and the Watch in the garden...I'm both presiding and preaching at this service, which is for me one of the most special in the whole year...and I'm hugely grateful to WonderfulVicar for allowing me this privilege. After that I will head over to the Parish Centre where my lovely Koinonia have a sleep over and keep the Watch together...We have no huge craft programmes in mind this year, as they will all be tired from school (Easter doesn't coincide with school holidays in the UK any more thanks to the madness of the liturgical they will only have Good Friday and Easter Monday as holidays) but we will keep watch with our Lord in the chapel, and just spend time together...maybe even sleep a little.
Good Friday – liturgy of the Passion, procession of witness with our ecumenical friends, the Three Hours (led this year by the ever wonderful Director of Ministry for the diocese, whose wisdom during my diaconal ordination retreat has shaped pretty much everything ever I MUST be awake enough to hear him) and in the evening a choral concert in church.
Holy Saturday we rest in the tomb, or maybe we hang curtains at the new vicarage...till the Easter Vigil and Service of Light at 8.30......
Then there is Easter Sunday, with all its joy – enhanced by the admission of 4 children to Holy Communion for the first time. I'm presiding, and this is just the best way to say goodbye to the church family here.I am relying on the liturgy to carry me through the bits I would otherwise find impossible.
Prayers for the whole thing very very welcome.

There's a tea party in the afternoon, then I preach at Evensong – and that's it.
It is finished.

And then I get on a plane.
I can't help wishing the Big Event were a little closer to home, as the whole getting there and meeting up element feels very scary at the moment – but the prospect of a week drawing breath with some very dear people is a welcome one indeed. Too many transitions for one small curate....and not enough time, - but then, there never is!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Don't you agree

that this is the prettiest bicycle in Charlton Kings?

I took my final assembly at the Infants' School this morning and they presented me with the most beautiful basket of flowering plants...which I'll be able to introduce to the vicarage garden (which currently exists only in a state of potential) once we've settled in a little.
Some lovely warm things were said - but for me almost the best thing was the reminder that when I left Great Rissington behind me, on saying "Goodbye" to the village school I was certain that I would never feel so much part of a school community. How wrong - and that gives me huge encouragement as I contemplate the schools in my new parish, where I'm so much looking forward to making new links.

However, I have to say that my reputation for eccentricity received another boost this morn...Till you've seen a middle-aged curate cycling down the road with a basket full of flowers and a 3foot palm branch over her shoulder, you ain't seen nothing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Well, I survived

my final Little Fishes this morning, more or less...WonderfulVicar led the worship, around a Palm Sunday theme, which was happy and chaotic (he's a brave man arming assorted toddlers with palm branches, but we all escaped uninjured) then quiet and thoughtful. Then we adjourned as usual to the Parish Centre - but it wasn't "as usual" at all, as, lo and behold, there was a party! With baby sausages, chocolate buns and iced rings and balloons...a proper party!

I rapidly discovered the best way to avoid weeping through the whole proceedings ("It's my party and I'll cry if I want to") was to grab the nearest baby I ensured that I had constant camouflage and cuddles and got through it that way.
When we reached our song time at the end, F invited me to choose the almost-last song and, remembering how I'd felt before leaving for India 18 months ago, I opted for
"Wide, wide as the ocean".
It is scary to be setting sail from here, and goodbyes are never easy, but when I stop panicking for long enough to think straight I do happen to believe the words of the song...and anyway, there was so much love about the place this morning it ought to keep me afloat for a good long while.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just what I needed

I came home today from a lovely but demanding funeral, feeling not unlike a piece of chewed string...but was instantly revived when I found a wonderful arrangement of tulips on my doorstep, a gift from one of the signs of hope I mentioned last week.
Normally I'd put them in the sitting room for everyone to enjoy, but such is the dilapidation of the study I think I'm justified in having them on my desk. They are certainly very effective in cheering me onwards...and I've cleared another couple of items off the list today, deo gracias.
Hearty thanks to the donor :-)

ummmm.........surely not!

Just found this on my desk - the instruction sheet for the water feature I bought for the last alt worship event

"Warning Label for Water Fountains
This hand -made Water feature, by nature of the style and function of the product, involves water"

Well, fancy that !!

But it's worth it

to read, on the back cover of a dot-to-dot book, written in E's own fair hand
"People in my family..... Mummy
Perkins (editor's note: cat - deceased 2006)

At 5, E is the youngest member of our First Communion group but, judging from this piece of brilliance, I rather think she's got the idea.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Frenetic activity

seems set to be the order of the day for a wee while longer.

Next week, after all, is Holy Week - which typically sends clergy across the globe into a flat spin -partly, at least, in our desire to have everything as neatly tied up as possible before Palm Sunday so that there's some hope at least of actually praying our way through the experience.
Add to that the fact that in two (2!!) weeks time LongsufferingClockmaker, the offspring and animals will have moved to our new vicarage, while I'm swanning off to the Big Event...missing the move completely, but not the mountains of guilt associated therewith, which are waking me pretty reliably around 5.00 am most mornings.
Remember that I'm hoping to move the Study before I go to the States...or at least, to get my books onto those eighty feet of diocesan shelves (this means cardboard boxes piled high beside the sofa) and to purge every paper I can possibly purge from my filing cabinets (this means empty plastic wallets all over the floor, creating an ice-rink effect which is ideal when you're running late for Morning Prayer)...
What's more, this week includes the funerals of two very dear and special people and the deadlines for two different parish magazines....AND a trip to Cardiff to see Hattie Gandhi in Pirates of Penzance, and another to Bristol to celebrate my very favourite solicitor...
Some time or other, there might just be a service or two, and a sermon or two to plot as well.
So, please may I have a licence to gibber??

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Manic weekend

Apart from the curtains, this weekend has also featured
  • My final CME with the other curates - which started, alarmingly, with me presiding at a Eucharist...for 35 assorted clergy.Given that the theme of the day was leading worship, you'll appreciate that this felt rather like submitting to a liturgical version of the Eurovision Song Contest (specially given 3 delightful visitors from our link diocese in Sweden!). Incredibly hard to get myself properly into the liturgy and become un-selfconscious....but a lovely thing to have been asked to do nonetheless.
  • My final stint as on-call chaplain for the two hospitals...No sooner had FabBishop started to talk to us about leading informal worship than my mobile started vibrating...could I go to Cheltenham hospital urgently (we were on the edge of Gloucester). Of course I could, and arrived in time to pray and anoint....then back to the training day.
  • Home to start a sermon for Evensong - but called out again ( to Gloucester - naturally)...such holy ground...such a privilege to be allowed to walk there...but hard and sad too
  • My 58th (and last) baptism at St M's....I baptised J's big sister 2 years ago, and they are both Little Fishes so it was wonderful to be able to complete this bit of ministry with them

I came home from Koinonia wondering why I should feel so weary...but guess it is something to do with the extremes of emotion that are a constant at the moment. Bedtime now, I think....and tomorrow my penultimate week begins. Oh my!

One thing from the check list (STILL being shallow)

I've just bid successfully for some crewel work curtains on ebay...I should end up with 3 pairs, new, fully lined for about half the cost of the fabric I'd been about to order (and which I'd then have had to pay to have made up)
I do marginally prefer my original choice, but definitely not to the tune of an extra grand!
And I'm happy that the magnolia calm of the vicarage is going to be enlivened by a bit of India too.
If you think these are plain hideous, don't say...getting anything ticked from my to-do list seems close to saving the world right now!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Reading Challenge update

Alas and alack, my habit of reading too many volumes at once and finishing none of them has been allowed free rein of late as I hurtle through any and everything I can find that might give me some helpful insights into the next phase of life and ministry. This means that it has been almost impossible to decide what I've actually read enough to include in the challenge...but I'm sure of these two at least

The Future of the Parish System -Shaping the Church of England for the 21st century

This is a collection of essays by a wide range of writers - helpful insights and no assumption that the parish system is de facto dead on its feet, which is rather a comfort given that I find myself embedded in it for the foreseeable future. There's a chapter (by Robin Gamble) on "Doing traditional church really well" which has had me saying "Yes!"an awful lot...

The Parish - by Malcolm Torry et al
I've had this for a while (I think I actually bought it at SPCK in Durham while Hattie Gandhi was uni shopping, 3 years ago...) and dipped into it on an off. Again it's a collection of essays, some more helpful than others, but this time round I was stopped in my tracks by a piece of writing about really seeing.
Just listen to this (from a chapter by Mike Harrison entitled Spiritual Seduction and Spiritual Sustenance)
"The philosopher Brian Magee suggested that the difference between what the blind miss and what the sighted miss is almost as nothing compared to what we all miss...The day you teach a child the name of a bird, the child will never see that bird again...Initially a child sees a strange object which is feathery, alive and moving, a source of fascination and interest. If the chlld learns to label the bird as a sparrow, then the next say when they see another such object we may find that they have been educated to say
"Sparrow. I've got that. Seen that. I'm bored with sparrows."
Surely this is pertinent for Christians, whose faith challenges us to see in surprising ways.
Must we not attend to the way in which we are seeing.
For what we see is anything but a neutral, objective act..."

I was intrigued by the suggestion that giving something a name so familiarises it that it loses its wonder and indeed its unique identity (since it becomes just one of a category)...It's counter-intuitive, in that you'd imagine naming to be a process of giving identity - but I can so see how it happens. Perhaps the task of priesthood is simply to help people to see...not by doing the seeing for them (though sometimes that seems to be what they expect) by constant re-telling of the story so that they can recognise and celebrate its patterns in their own lives. Does that work for you?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hope Springs eternal

Sally's community have been through the mill this week, but she has been alert for signs of hope, things to lead us on through dark times - and her search has inspired this week's Friday Five

What have you seen/ heard this week that was a :

1. Sign of hope? There was something wonderful today, but that story belongs to another so I can't share it - except to say that my study was postively shining with hope for an hour this morning...Twenty small boys from the Beaver colony rampaging cheerfully around the church on Tuesday night...Those children from Little Fishes crowding round me, almost trembling with excitement at receiving a piece of bread "with love from God" were, as they always are, the greatest promise that all shall be well.

2. An unexpected word of light in a dark place? I'm being given lights by so many people right now, things to cherish and to take with me to hold when the road darkens...My "Kingdom Box" houses some real treasures ... and as an extra affirmation I was asked to preside at a Eucharist tomorrow for all the curates, at the last CME 1-4 session I'll be attending...

3. A sign of spring?

I have daffodils growing on my front lawn, and the trees around Charlton Kings are coming into leaf, and even into flower...Earlier this week, a sudden gust of wind blew down a mini blizzard of blossom as I made my way home from Evening Prayer.

4. Challenging/ surprising? As this letting go process continues, I was amazed to find myself achieving a handover of a situation that has demanded and received alot of love and attention , - and rightly so. But I made a last visit to pray with someone on Tuesday, talked about a future resource for her support, set it up and have managed to believe it will work. I've put it down (and there are no claw marks!) Both challenging, and in the apparent success, completely stunning.

5. Share a hope for the coming week/month/year....

Week: that I might get the curtains for the vicarage sorted (shallow? me???)

Month: that I might "go out with joy", with the thankfulness for all that I've learned, experienced and shared at St M's outweighing the sadness of Goodbyes

Year: that I might lay the foundations to become a good parish priest in my new context

Bonus play... a piece of music/ poem guaranteed to cheer you? Two contrasting possibilities - the Et Resurrexit from Bach's B Minor Mass or, alternatively, most things by Duke Special. I've never yet found myself in a place so desolate that this music wouldn't turn things round for me.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Not sure how to write about this morning, since superlatives are very trying for everyone else.
However, this was my last Little Fishes as worship leader, and I'd been given the helpful theme "Bread"so I determined to make the most of this opportunity.

We spread a cloth on the floor in the chapel and sat round it, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and carers - and those so-loved children.
We lit the altar candles, poured out the wine and talked and sang about endings and beginnings, and about the continuity of God's love no matter what.

"God's love is like a circle, a circle big and round, For when you draw a circle no ending can be found
And so the love of Jesus goes on eternally, forever and forever, God's love for you and me"
I told them the story of that Passover meal when Jesus gave his friends the most precious reminder of God's constant presence with them. We sang our thanks
"All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all his love" and then I broke the bread.
"Jesus told his friends to think of him whenever they did this, and he would be with them...That no matter what happened next, they were each of them loved and precious to God"
As I broke the roll, the children clustered around eager, so excited you would think they had never been offered bread before. I couldn't help but contrast their delighted enthusiasm with the decorous lines that form in the chancel Sunday by Sunday...I gave each of them a precious fragment
"God loves Isaac...God loves Amy...God loves Sienna....Fiona...Connie...."
The adults passed around the cup of wine, sharing it when it felt right with the children elder sister offered it with great seriousness to her younger sister...
I'd expected it to be sad, but it wasn't sad at all.
Rather it was deeply deeply joyful.
Holy Communion. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

With grateful thanks to M our verger

I am happy to report that the process of cleaning up my act has just become rather more entertaining.
Go and see for yourself!

Monday, March 03, 2008

The blogging future

is something I've been mulling over this recently.
After all, in just one month's time I'm going to be miraculously transformed into a wise, mature and organised priest-in-charge - oh no, cancel that bit - it is actually me whom they seem to have appointed....
But job, new community...what do I do about the blog?
I've been quite open with my congregation here about my blogging, and know that some read and enjoy it while others undoubtedly lurk, with perhaps varied degrees of understanding of what I'm about. It's a public medium, so that's entirely fair and I never post about anyone identifiable without checking that they are happy for me to do so, nor say anything here that I couldn't comfortably say directly to those involved.
However, I do know that people sometimes add two and two and make five - and I'm not certain that ironing out misunderstandings is likely to be the best use of my emotional energy (or my time) - which is likely to be stretched in many directions as I try to grow into my new role.
So I find myself with a dilemma. I love the process of blogging...of reflecting on life and ministry and engaging in conversation with people across the world whom I would never otherwise have met. I value my blog friends hugely (and count some of them as among my most trusted friends of any description) - and I know that my thoughts on life and ministry are far more fruitful when they are part of a potential dialogue, in a way that my personal journal could never be.
But...I don't need any extra areas where I might fall over my feet in the months ahead. Some of you have, I know, had dramas when blogs have been stumbled across and conclusions jumped to, so you'll understand my anxiety.

The solution might seem to be simple, - a new and anonymous blog - but I don't think I'm capable of that degree of reticence, and in any case I think that some of my writing needs to be clearly attached to its context to "work" at all.
Another possibility might be a new private blog, for all the interesting things...which would leave this as a vehicle for more generalised theology, sermon blogging, book reviews and photos....That might make for a rather dull space here at Good in Parts, but would at least enable me to keep on sharing all the joys and struggles without fear.

I'm simply not sure what to do and would welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Meanwhile I'm going to continue the happy process of shredding minutes from 3 years plus of parish meetings. Very therapeutic!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Of Daughters, Doctors and Daffodils

May God our maker
Our mother
Our friend
Wrap us in wholeness

Keep us in kindness

And bless us each day on our journey

Mothering Sunday here in the UK, which made for a busy busy weekend.

On Saturday Hattie Gandhi came home from uni, so that we could all go out for a family lunch together - a real treat...eating seared prawns and salad sitting outside in the sunshine... It felt like the last moments of calm before a pretty continous period of manic activity, and I savoured it to the full.
Later she treated me to a trip to the cinema to see Juno, which she'd already seen in Cardiff. Great film, though very strange to be there with an audience of girls mostly younger than the protagonist. I was interestered to note those times that they found funny which I really really didn't...Good conversation on the way home. We sent alot of hugs across the Pond to someone who might just be reading this.

Youth Group sleepover to prepare for Sunday worship...Lots of very busy and tired people...some stupid mistakes from the curate in preparing the service sheets, a bit of anxiety that the whole thing would flop, but those kids are amazing. Calm, kind, competent. I know who did the ministering, as we struggled to tie up loose ends some time after midnight - and it certain wasn't the curate.

The service, in the event, was a great success. Fervent prayers were answered. Dr Who's arrival at St Mary's was as smooth as anything that depends on a faulty widget in the space time continuum is ever likely to be. The Tardis docked successfully on top of the pulpit and together we tried to educate the Doctor in the ways of the church and the meaning of Baptism. Our learning was enhanced hugely by the three shiney children we baptized this morning - the younger sisters of one of my Koinonia stalwarts, whom it was sheer joy to bring to the waters of Baptism.
As we shared the Peace, one of the characters in our drama explained

“Everyone who belongs to God’s family needs to share his love and his peace with others…Loving and caring isn’t something limited to God…Nobody’s too old or too young to need it or to give it – and everyone deserves a posy when they manage to, because God’s love makes life beautiful.”

There was alot of that love about in the church this morning, reaching out to those whose experiences of motherhood survived or lamented as much as to those who were happy to celebrate amid the warmth of their families.
Junior Church waited to give posies of daffodils to everyone as they came back from the altar rail...and I do so hope that everyone who helps to make the Church a loving and nurturing community felt that their kindnesses were known and appreciated. There have been so many there who have mothered me as a baby priest...allowed me to learn, to get things wrong, but yet to still hold the authority of the orders amazingly entrusted to me.

Not long ago the Best Spiritual Director Ever was helping me to reflect on models of ministry that might loom large for me both in this time of letting go at St M's and in the new context that lies ahead. I said then that I was anxious to avoid falling into the role of manic mother, intent on being the major care giver and so inadvertently disabling others. Together we came up with the picture of player/conductor in a baroque orchestra...needing to be expert on her own instrument but not for a moment dreaming that she needs to play every other instrument in the ensemble...though still having a sense of how they might best work together, which parts would work best on which instruments and how the whole should sound.

At OpenHouse this afternoon, no one voice really dominated. We were just glad to be together in our Father's house. On Thursday I had a very belated "ah hah" moment, when I realised that the most important thing any parent could tell their children was summed up in the chorus
"God loves you and I love you and that's the way it should be"
I've just googled this, and the only place it appears on the net is at shipoffools hall of shame for Cringey and Cr*ppy choruses...and I'd agree that the musical merits of the piece are limited, to put it mildly. However, given a congregation of under 8s and their parents and carers it hits the spot nicely - and I'd absolutely go the stake in defence of the basic sentiment.
So...we sang that...WonderfulVicar did an excellent job of telling a story illustrated by paper tearing...we made and decorated Mothering Sunday prayer bookmarks....and suddenly it was the end...time for the Blessing. My last OpenHouse.
The traditional conclusion, a wild rampage around the church featuring assorted children, an even greater assortment of percussion instruments and "You shall go out with joy" didn't actually manage to divert me this time.
Too many lovely people saying lovely things.
I'm really not good at saying Goodbye. Beautiful card from a family whose wedding had been the first I was involved with, and whose son I baptised last year...many hugs...rather alot of determined blinking...and there's still three weeks to go before I actually leave. Bother. This hurts rather...