Friday, February 29, 2008

A WHOLE extra day

It sounds so grand, doesn't it...and I really did have plans to use this bonus day creatively (having agreed with a parishioner earlier this week that we ought by rights to be able to declare it a public holiday, since nobody's schedule ought ever to depend upon 29th February). In the event, though, I spent most of today arguing with Publisher - surely the least co-operative program on the planet - as I put together the service sheet for Sunday's Koinonia Eucharist (and Baptism).
I've been doing some other bits for Sunday too, so have reached practically bedtime in a very grumpy mood. My own fault. I know perfectly well that a whole day at the desk is a recipe for disaster...Thankfully I've some teaching tomorrow, and no sermon prep this weekend, so escape is imminent.

Meanwhile, there IS this whole extra day, and Songbird in tandem with Will Smama have a Friday Five dedicated to the gentle art of leaping.

The Friday Five...leap year edition!

It's Leap Day!! Whether you're one of the special few who have a birthday only once every four years, or simply confused by the extra day on the calendar, everyone is welcome to join in and play our Leap Year Friday Five.

Tell us about a time you:

1. Leapt before looked:
Ummm....I hate making decisions (who knows where the road not taken might lead, after all?) so this happens rarely. I don't think we looked very hard at the reality when we left London for a run down farmhouse in small Cotswold village - but I'd dreamed the rural idyll dream for so long that in one way we'd done nothing but look before the leap came. But following my heart can often look very much like leaping without thought...because the official evidence just isn't part of my decision making process.

2. Leapt to a conclusion:
ALL THE TIME! Who would ever go from A through B and C when they could instead head straight for Z - even if the actual destination is somewhere around G? A child late home? Road accident for sure. Good friend with headache? that'll be the brain tumour then...WonderfulVicar quiet after I've preached? he's trying to decide how best to tell me that I'm about to be tried for heresy....oh, and of course I know the end of LCM's sentence before he's got half way through it (Actually I generally do, but he really doesn't like my completing it for him)

3. Took a Leap of Faith: despite loving and cherishing Mike Yaconelli's work, including "Jump first, fear later" I am all too prone to the opposite approach. I dithered around in the "what ifs" for a long time before obeying the call to ministry...I opted for obedience in bite sized pieces, shifting only gradually from Reader ministry to consider the faint possibility of non stipendiary priesthood...finally landing where I needed to be only 2 years before I was actually ordained. God is incredibly patient, and indeed generous - as He continues to give me a very clear vision of where he wants me, even as I stand havering on the brink refusing point blank to trust and go. O


4. Took a literal Leap. Me? Leap? No, I come down as decorously as possible, with an eye to likely potholes and places to turn my ankle or jolt my back. I'm distressingly middle aged in this respect...falling off Hattie Gandhi's horse a couple of years ago taught me that I'm well past the stage when I could hope to bounce - so I'd rather not leap in case of coming down hard.

5. And finally, what might you be faced with leaping in the coming year?
In just a month I'll confront the reality of my first Responsibility Post - a transition which someone compared to leaving school one day as a head prefect and coming in next morning as the Head teacher. I hope that's a slight exaggeration, but I suspect not - so that will surely satisfy any leaping urges I have for the foreseeable future.
Which, of course, brings me to the psalm : with the help of my God, I SHALL leap over the wall...but please, does anyone have a trampoline?

Lots to do...

so probably lots of blogging!
I've been tagged by Revd Dr Kate for the "middle name meme", which works like this...

1. You have to post the rules before you give your answers.
2. You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name).
3. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.)

(Church) Choirs – have been a huge and formative influence on my personal faith…Eastbourne College, Trinity Cambridge, St John the Divine Kennington – so many milestones in my journey…from realising the huge truth expressed in Vaughan William’s setting of “Love bade me welcome” when I was 16, to singing my way through my first full Holy Week 8 years later,and knowing that this was the most real thing ever.

Libraries – are practically my favourite public space…When I was a child, the public library allowed you to borrow up to 6 books on a children’s ticket. The library was on the far side of town, - a fairly substantial bus ride from home…which meant that by the time I got there, I’d almost always consumed at least 2 if not 3 of my weekly book allocation…There were times when I had to turn round and head back to the library that same day. Hooray for adult tickets and more generous times!

Affirmation – is something I wish I were less dependent on. I’m deeply thankful for those friends and parishioners who recognise and meet this need.

Introvert – I’m not by any stretch of the imagination…but I now need more space and silence than I’d ever have imagined before ordination. Can you be a shy extrovert Kate? If so, that's me.

Retreat – I need one, soon. It’s 10 months since I was last at Llan and I’m beginning to notice that I’m in a shallower place than is good for me. Currently hoping to escape for silence early in July – by which stage I should be beginning to learn at least the outline of my new communities.

Excited – by too many things to list – but a selection include the prospect of admitting a daughter AND her father to Holy Communion on Easter Sunday…a wonderful gift from one of the congregation here (which I’ll tell you more about when it arrives in a few months)….the possibilities of developing alternative worship in my new parishes (which are on the edge of a town with pronounced “New Age” tendencies)…a pile of lovely books which I will get to read one day…my first trip across the Pond…and, of course, the new life and ministry that we’re hurtling towards at breakneck speed.

I'm going to tag by blog name...Cheesehead, LutheranChik, Against a Brick Wall, Inner Dorothy, Rebel without a Pew and Earthchick Erin (oh...if only i'd worked harder at my seven things project, moving house would be a little less scary).No obligation, though...I know it's a busy time, and not everyone out there is quite as good at displacement as the Curate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In all things thee to see


When Maggi invited me to preach on George Herbert in her college chapel, I kicked up an enormous fuss and went into paroxysms of inadequacy...but I have to say that the process of preparing the sermon turned out to be pure joy.
Herbert has been such a huge and influential figure in my personal landscape of faith...Herbert the poet, not Herbert the perfect priest, the one who inspired the heart felt advice (offered, I'm sure, between gritted teeth) "If you meet George Herbert on the road - kill him" ! To actually have to spend time with him once again, to immerse myself in a world view that was second nature to me when I was doing my research some 20 years ago...and to revisit poems I'd nearly forgotten in the interim.
Today the church gives thanks for Herbert, for the huge gift his writing has been to so many through the ages...so here's a poem that proves that he was never one who had it all "sewn up", whether as a man or as a priest.

THE TEMPER. (I)

HOW should I praise thee, Lord !
how should my rymes

Gladly engrave thy love in steel,

If what my soul doth feel sometimes,
My soul might ever feel !

Although there were some fourtie heav’ns, or more,

Sometimes I peere above them all ;

Sometimes I hardly reach a score,
Sometimes to hell I fall.

O rack me not to such a vast extent ;
Those distances belong to thee :
The world’s too little for thy tent,
A grave too big for me.

Wilt thou meet arms with man,
that thou dost stretch
A crumme of dust from heav’n to hell ?
Will great God measure with a wretch ?

Shall he thy stature spell ?

O let me, when thy roof my soul hath hid,
O let me roost and nestle there :

Then of a sinner thou art rid,

And I of hope and fear.


Yet take thy way ; for sure thy way is best :

Stretch or contract me thy poore debter :

This is but tuning of my breast,

To make the musick better.


Whether I flie with angels, fall with dust,
Thy hands made both, and I am there.
Thy power and love, my love and trust,
Make one place ev’ry where.


The thesis I never completed would have examined Herbert's use of musical imagery to explore our relationship with God...our need to be tuned in to Him if we are ever to sing as we ought...but it's the last verse of this poem that I love most, for its recognition of the reality of life which is never wholly spent on the heights nor in the deep and dark places of the soul...but is always and wholly God's.
In the sunshine and birdsong of a wonderful spring day, I give thanks once again for this priest and poet who encouraged generations to see God in all things, and to do everything as in His service.


Drake's prayer

which (as Hugger Steward pointed out) can helpfully be prayed by those of us in times of transition

Disturb us, Lord,
when
we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true

Because we have dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For the sake of completeness

because I've blogged all other alt worship events, here are the Living Water stations I used

WATER SUSTAINS
Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:5-10
These adverts represent some things that people aspire to, possessions and belongings that they believe will make all the difference to them….
Too often, we behave as if material security is the most important thing of all, and depend on what we own rather than depending on our unique identity as God’s beloved children. Choose an advert that might appeal to you…think about what it could represent in your life and then, if you wish, set it aside and read this prayer written by a great adventurer, Sir Francis Drake:( if you’d like, there are copies for you to take away with you).

WATER ENABLES GROWTH

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In the dry and thirsty land (Ps.63:1)

Water is essential to life…Nothing can survive without it.
In the same way, our souls, our true selves, cannot survive without God. Without God, we will never achieve our full potential as human beings…we’ll be like seeds that have never germinated. Take a mustard seed home with you…dampen the cotton wool, and ensure that it remains damp. As you wait for signs of growth, pray that you will always continue your search for God, who is the source of all life and growth.

WATER CLEANSES

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:v2,7,10)
As we continue to travel through the weeks of Lent, we can use the time before Easter to consider the things we long to change, about ourselves, our relationships, our own small corner of the world. At Easter, specially at the Vigil Service, we can recommit to our Baptismal vows, and rejoice once again that God’s forgiveness is as boundless as the oceans…it sweeps away all our failures, all our regrets, all our sins Pick up a stone…Hold it as you talk to God about those things you are sorry for. When you are ready, drop it into the font and know that God has forgiven you, completely and wholly.
"When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever….Then he puts up a sign “NO FISHING ALLOWED”
(Corrie ten Boom)

WATER HEALS
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. They were waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. (John 5 1-9)

The man whom Jesus healed had waited beside the pool for many years, because he had no friends to help him to the place of healing. We can all act as friends, supporting people in need by our prayers, offering their pain, their troubles to God for his healing. If you wish, write a name or a situation on a flower, fold the petals around it and float it in the water fountain as you ask God for whatever healing seems good to him.


WATER CAN BE FROZEN – BUT ICE THAWS
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Sometimes we choose to shut ourselves off from God, to harden our hearts, to block our ears, to freeze God out….but we are made to be in loving relationship with Him, and the warmth of his love can melt even the most frozen heart. Sit and watch the ice candle for a few moments If you like, use this meditation to help you focus…

My heart is hard, frozen solid, ice cold and hidden beneath a protective layer.
My heart is hard, solidified by constant bruising and wounding, scarred and damaged.
My heart is hard, obsessed with my own needs and desires, focussed and single minded.
My heart is hard, wary of exposing its inner weakness, my fears and insecurities.
My heart is hard, turned to stone by bitterness and argument, by anger.
My heart is hard, hardened by my own determination to live by my own strength.
My heart is hard, crusted over by years of ignoring the cry of God.

Yet you melt hearts.
You melt the hearts of the hurting
You melt the hearts of the lonely
You melt the hearts of the empty
You melt the hearts of the grieving
You melt the hearts of the weak
You melt the hearts of the insecure
You melt the hearts of the helpless
You melt the hearts of the scared
You melt the hearts of the failure

You melt the hearts of those who have had enough of human answers,
of answers that do not fit the questions,
of answers that demand a different question,
of answers that do not ring true,
of answers that belong to someone else and somewhere else,
of answers that have been tried and found wanting,
of answers that have no real meaning.

Melt my heart,
Melt our hearts,
Melt our hearts so we will be open to hear your cry, to heed your call,

Melt the hearts of those we love,
Melt the hearts of those we struggle with,
Melt the hearts of those we meet on the way,
Melt the hearts of those you lead us to,
So all may be both loved and loving.
(adapted from words by Mark Berry)



WATER OF LIFE
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
John 4 7-15
The Samaritan woman came to Jesus in the heat of the day…in the middle of a busy life.
In the middle of your busy life, pause to be with Jesus. Make yourself comfortable Take time to watch the words and images on the screen. When you’re ready, pour yourself some water and drink it, thanking God for the water of life he offers to us.

Living Water- something old, something new, something borrowed...

I'm always very aware as I prepare prayer trails and alternative Eucharists that the world of alt.worship is one where a magpie is very much at home.
Not only do you see potential worship aids in the most unlikely places (toy shops and of course Ikea spring to mind...but other people's skips have also yielded some treasures:sandpit, anyone?) but you constantly plunder shiney bits of ideas from other people too.
In this context I am hugely grateful to Fr Simon and blessed, whose agnus dei site* is the sort of gift to worship planners that Hugger Steward and I had long dreamed of...So many riches, there to be used freely. Bliss!

Last night, therefore, I was able to set up a station in the chapel using a loop of Simon's living waters video...with jugs of water and glasses to underline the message

I also borrowed from Jonny Baker (well, there's a surprise) in making our own ice candles, inspired by one of his worship tricks, and using a adaptation of a meditation by Mark Berry.

Jenny Baker was represented by the water flowers from Tune In, Chill Out
while my usual online conversations with Maggi Dawn on the traditional theme of "Help, what do I do for ...." were supplemented very helpfully by a face to face at her kitchen table last week, which not only gave me some workable ideas but helped me refine the overall vision too. It was also Maggi who first introduced me to the wonderful prayer of Sir Francis Drake that featured at one of the stations.

So - I'm not sure if Living Water counted as "creative worship", in that so much of the material was borrowed and adapted. On the other hand, if "creative" means
"Enabling people to encounter God in fresh ways", then I rather think it did...and I had such fun sewing the patchwork together.

*www.agnusdei.org.uk currently seems to be down, but a recent email from Fr Simon confirmed that this is a temporary aberration, and not cause for wholesale panic

Monday, February 25, 2008

First and last times...

Yesterday was interesting....Very full-on Sunday morning as I was both presiding and preaching at 10.00 (which will be a familiar scenario ere long, so worth a reminder), then we shot over to Gloucester as St M's choir (including the Dufflepud) were doing Choral Evensong in the Cathedral. I may be biased, but I thought they did really well, - though I realised that being very fond of and concerned for our junior choristers can make me feel disturbingly as if I am their mum! While V was making a wonderful job of Mendelssohn's Hear my Prayer I found myself singing every note in my head, breathing for her, doing all the stuff that I do when Hattie Gandhi is performing. Felt both tearful and exhausted when she reached the end...it was very beautiful.

Home to set out prayer stations reflecting the theme from the morning's gospel
"Water of Life"...WonderfulVicar and I had assumed that the absence of the choir would mean a tiny congregation for Evening Prayer, so had agreed that I would offer the prayer trail I had planned for Koinonia to this rather traditional congregation. Two years ago, even one year ago I would simply not have entertained this idea, but in the event it went really well, with almost everyone engaging with the stations and some very positive feedback at the door.
You read it first here, folks...St M's embraces alt worship at evensong!!!

Later, the youth group made their way round those same stations, in a church now lit almost exclusively by candles, and with the hypnotic sound of Philip Roderick's hang drum CD playing softly in the background. I sat at the back and drank in the whole thing, thanking God for all that I've received through these forays into multi-sensory worship here...and for the youth group whose needs gave me the courage to experiment.



There was a bit of stupidity from one quarter later in the evening - which was possibly just as well, as I'd have hated to spend the time wallowing in tearful thoughts of the "Last time here..." variety...But it was good!

One more step along the world I go...

...from the old things to the new
Keep me travelling along with you
"

A good song, if rather overworked. I'll never forget Rabbi Lionel Blue persuading an audience of the worthies of Cheltenham to sing it along with him, as a present he could take to his friend the hymn's writer, Sydney Carter, then languishing in a nursing home with dementia. Suddenly, incredibly, the Everyman Theatre was holy ground....

However, this is by the by.
The reason "One more step" gets a mention today is because it's a particular favourite of my good friend who blogs as Marcella, and, as you'll see, it's currently particularly appropriate for her.

Marcella is a superstar, you know: long-time leader of Little Fishes and befriender of many a toddler-bound mother, OpenHouse team member, periodic accomplice with the Curate in the consumption of very large gins…and now...(roll of drums) charity fundraiser.

Marcella has experience within her family of the realities of eating disorders and being a woman of strength and resourcefulness has done a massive amount to educate herself and others about this rather neglected area. Frustration at the systems which ought to help but somehow can’t, occasional moments of joy as someone says or does a simple thing to make a difference…feeling helpless in the face of misunderstanding and ignorance….this seems to be very much the stuff of life for the families of those dealing with eating disorders.

In the UK there is a support charity BEAT and this is Eating Disorders Awareness week. Combine these facts with Marcella’s lifelong desire, as a Kentish girl, to emulate Chaucer’s pilgrims and travel from Southwark to Canterbury and you have the ingredients for
The Families Tale.

Today she and 2 friends set out from Southwark to walk a modern version of the pilgrim way…
They would welcome sponsorship and prayer but above all they are trying to raise the profile of eating disorders, which make life a huge struggle for so many.
I’m sad that my departure from St M’s is too close to allow me time out to walk with them, but they are very much at the forefront of my thoughts and prayers this week. Please do visit the blog and website and send a supportive message if you’ve time. I know it would be appreciated.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Faire is the heaven...

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening
into the house and gate of heaven,
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
in the habitations of thy glory and dominion,
world without end.

after John Donne (1571-1631)


Singing Owl, in the calm before the memorial service for her beloved sister, has turned her mourning into a gift for us, with an invitation both to look forward and to celebrate the heaven in our midst....She asks

What is your idea of a heavenly (i.e. wonderful and perfect):

1. Family get-together
Because I'm an only child of two only children, family gatherings aren't something I warm to hugely. Inevitably they currently tend to be very much about LCM's extensive family, and I am slightly aware all the time of the way my own children and parents have missed out on one another. So, a heavenly family gathering would have to be just that...with my parents finally getting to hug and be hugged by the grandchildren who have never known them.
Here and now, I think it might be quite small...My children and those special friends who have become honorary family members....together somewhere with log fires and candle-light, with time to sit and talk, tell stories and make music together.

2. Song or musical piece
Bach understands the music of heaven. The slow movement of the Double Violin Concerto, or the Theme from the Goldberg Variations would work for me every time.

3. Gift
Knowing all my children were happy and secure in themselves and their worlds.

4. You choose whatever you like-food, pair of shoes, vacation, house, or something else. Just tell us what it is and what a heavenly version of it would be.
A heavenly holiday would involve time to be with people I love, and time on my own.
Time to walk by the sea, and to drift along on Polyphony.
Time to explore new wonders, and to return to familiar haunts.
Time for excitement, and time for deep calm.
Time to read, and no guilt that others were working while I did so.
Long summer evenings, drinking chilled wine and watching the sun set slowly.



5. And for a serious moment, or what would you like your entrance into the next life to be like?

What, from your vantage point now, would make Heaven "heavenly?"
The "Et Resurrexit" from the B Minor Mass playing...An open door and One whom I love saying
"Welcome home, Kathryn....There are so many people longing to see you" -and then going in, and finding (much like Greenbelt) an endless and delightful variety before me....
This poem by Stewart Henderson carries so much of the longing hope I try to articulate and share with others....

This day in paradise


this day in paradise
new feet are treading through
high halls of gold

this day in paradise
new legs are striding over jewelled fields in which
the diamond
is considered ordinary

this day in paradise
new eyes have glimpsed the deep fire ready
to flame the stale earth pure

this day in paradise
new blood, the rose red juice that gushed at golgotha
now ripples and races down the pure veins
of a recently arrived beloved

this day in paradise
a new heart pounds in praise
a new body shaped by sacrifice

this day in paradise
the daunting dart of death
has no point
no place
and no meaning

and whilst we mourn and weep
through these human hours
this day in paradise
the blazing embrace
between saviour and son goes on and on and on...

See you there.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just remember to listen.

Ok...so yesterday didn't go quite exactly as planned...but on the whole I'm glad.
The "time off" feature was highjacked by leetle bits of parish life, some allowed for, one not - but I've rarely been so thankful that I didn't play the "this is my time" card.

You see, over the past few months I've been beside a splendid lady from the congregation as she made her journey with cancer - and both she and her daughter had been anxious about how things would work out if she reached the end after I've moved on from here...She went into hospital at the weekend, and was clearly disengaging herself from life when I visited her on Monday. Yesterday, her daughter phoned to say that she'd been asked to come in, - never a good sign - so I decided it was time to throw the "oughts" out the window and go with the heart.
She was deeply asleep when I visited, but I prayed with her and anointed her and spent some time just sitting there holding her hand.
Her daughter phoned this morning to say that she has gone home.
Thank you, God....and Godspeed, E. Rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Calm descends

Having seen world's best spir dir yesterday (had a session booked to discuss something else entirely, but dealing with the other stuff was clearly the order of the day), received many and much appreciated hugs from far and wide and enjoyed a lovely snuggly evening with the Dufflepud watching "The History Boys" I'm happy to report that the world is beginning to turn on its axis at a more normal rate, and without those uncomfortable jolts that one finds so disconcerting...

So, today is mostly a day off. I have a birthday lunch for a parishioner, and a Lent talk to attend tonight, but basically I'm hoping to pootle, take the dogs for a good long walk and enjoy my son's company. I'm also hoping to reconnect with Lent...maybe actually open that book I was going to read...investigate where I ought to be with LLLL...that sort of thing.

Looking ahead, I'm trying to work out a sensible pattern of reading days and retreat time (realised last week that, extrovert though I may seem to be, I'm extrovert on my terms and sooo badly need space and silence periodically) that I can put in the diary before I even start, together with holidays.
I'm going to have to go ahead and book some slots that may not work for the family, as experience here suggests that otherwise I'll never manage to take my full allowance...I need to remember that Polyphony, the narrowboat, is part of our lives perhaps above all to ensure that I can and do take time out...and that waiting until I know I need it isn't the best way to proceed). My official letter with "Terms of appointment" arrived recently and reminds me that I am supposed to take 41 days of annual leave, at least 3 of which must be Sundays (The letter goes on to suggest that 5 Sundays would be ideal, though I can see that the negotiation of Sunday cover may be so tricky as to make that feel unwelcome rather than relaxing - but it's something to bear in mind). As a curate, there's been lee-way for last-minute holiday decisions which just won't exist once I'm priest-in-charge, even though I'm not planning a life of solitary heroism!

I'm spending Friday afternoon with my new colleague, a guy I trained with, whose approach to ministry should, I believe, complement my own happily. He has a very demanding full time secular job, so there will need to be lots of negotiation around our new relationship as colleagues, and the challenge of his handing over to me a share of the cure of souls he has held while the parishes had no vicar, as I learn what it is to be the one responsible for holding those communities under God. That feels both good and scary...but definitely not cause for panic. All shall be well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Too much stuff - an online panic attack!

Properly "home" in the parish now, with no more scheduled absences before Easter...Big scary Cambridge sermon is behind me, schools are on half term and things ought to feel pretty relaxed.

Instead, I'm chasing my tail in every possible direction.

Some of that, of course, is to do with the whole business of leaving here, of disengaging from some very dear and special people, of realising that there's no way that I will ever finish all those things I'd hoped to leave neatly packaged.
I guess that's a good lesson to learn...in life, the luxury of leaving things tidy isn't often part of the deal. It certainly isn't when we die, - and every experience of leaving, of moving on is in some ways a small preparation for death.

To compound that, there are all the "What if" questions about moving on, and becoming the one with whom the buck stops.
"What if I'm not up to it?"
"What if they wish they had chosen someone else?"
"What if the family find it really hard to settle in their new community?"
I know perfectly well that there's no point in engaging with all that. I spent the interview day back in November being as fully and honestly myself as I ever have been...The churches invited me to come and I had no qualms about accepting - so it seems reasonable to assume that at some level I am supposed to be there, and while I don't believe that God has only one route for each of us, I do believe that he honours intention and is not about to leave me to fend for myself.
I also believe that I have any number of completely wonderful friends whom I can turn to for advice, encouragement and gin when necessary.

But then there is the practical stuff. The 3 quotes from removal firms to be sumbitted to the diocese. The finding a bearable picture to send with a short biography to the diocesan communications officer. The sorting out who might want to come to the Induction, and who should be offered a "close friends and family" ticket. The checking up on visas for USA and Mexico for the Big Event...
And meanwhile, the evil Jack Russel continues to bark, Baby Car has just gone into terminal decline (inevitably just after we had spent £300 to get it through its MOT, on the basis that it was a go-er for another year at least), and HG is beset with trials in her student life.
Oh, and we ought to be thinking about curtains for the vicarage too.

It's a beautiful day - blue sky,sunshine and birdsong .... I think I need to abandon my study and go and gaze for a while.
Sorry, peoples!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Too late home and rather preoccupied yesterday, but with the prospect of a baptism for two sets of twin cousins (plus one older brother) tomorrow, how could I resist this week's Friday Five?
In this Sunday's gospel Nicodemus asks Jesus, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Poor old Nicodemus! He was so confused about the whole "water and Spirit" business of baptism.
For today's five, tell us about your baptismal experiences.

1. When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits?
I was baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Hastings on 4th October 1960 by Canon John Poole…He’d married my parents, and his daughter was my mother’s best friend (and had been one of her bridesmaids) I don’t know anything about the day ( I was all of 4 months old) – but have always been happy that St Francis is my extra patron…it means I’m officially allowed all the animals I long for!

2 What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism? The Dufflepud slept through his entire service, only opening one eye briefly when our vicar poured the first effusion over him. His siblings, I have to say, were rather different …they did not go unprotesting to the font. Not even slightly!

3Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms?
Sadly not…They still struggle with the idea that they have a responsibility for any but the children of very familiar families…so on the whole baptisms happen outside the Sunday Eucharist. We do, though, welcome baptism families at Open House with their candle, a round of applause and a special “shout”
Jesus Christ is the light of the world – a Light no darkness can quench


4.Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? Have a story to tell?
I’m blessed with a wonderful crop of godchildren…Stephanie, my very first god-daughter is now well and truly grown up….but she was followed by Charlie Miranda Francis Jo Lucy Oliver And then, most wonderfully, when all these dear people were growing up apace…Julia…who arrived in 2006 and has thus ensured that I can’t lose touch with the Early Learning Centre for the forseeable future, praise be. Lest you think that tally is far too many for one woman to care for - let me assure you that I pray for each of the under 21s on a different day of the week...and have a facebook friendship with several of them, which makes me feel wonderfully connected to their lives. And I do love each of them so much - and know it's a huge privilege to be involved with their lives like this.

5 Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn?
Oh Jesus I have promised (but only to Wolvercote) - or, more jauntily,
One more step along the world I go
We sang both at my children's baptisms...and will sing One more step tomorrow too.
And it's from the old I travel to the new

Keep me travelling along with you


What more could you pray as you embark on this particular journey?

Catching up

Here we are on Saturday afternoon...the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I've spent a day learning about ways that spiritual directors might support those with huge and difficult baggage in specific areas. Ummm.

Before that I spent 3 days learning about Messy Church - excellent stuff, though largely of the type I've been involved in almost instinctively pretty much for ever. It's frustrating to be between jobs - I came home wanting to try some of the ideas, but knowing it's too late for me to introduce anything else at St M's, and too early to know whether this might be the way forward for Cainscross (though I would love it if it were). In any case, it was good to be somewhere with time to pause and reflect on the underlying issues which make families struggle with church (and, indeed, those which make some churches struggle with the changes needful to make families welcome) - and in such a very beautiful place too. All these pictures were taken from our bedroom window. It's a wonder I managed to leave the room at all, really.

Lee Abbey is, of course, a community - and my extrovert self was stunned by just how hard I found it to spend time with several dozen others who've all come from places quite different to my own. Meal times were really testing...even with the knowledge that I'd be going home on Friday, and would probably never see anyone again. Interesting! My admiration for those who spend 18 months or more working there, serving others and learning to be community is unbounded. Perhaps I'm not as "E" as I thought...

But it was lovely to spend time with N - special friend from vicar school - and I accomplished two hitherto undreamed of miracles in that I returned home without buying so much as a Grove booklet, despite assorted well-stocked bookstalls and I also (whisper it not in Gath!) finished my sermon for Sunday evening on Thursday afternoon.

So that's it. Sermon crises sorted for ever more.
Just go away from the parish for 4 days....
Easy.
I can really see that catching on!

Monday, February 11, 2008

LLLL - interruped edition

Yesterday I should have
done a local prayer walk
but, it being Sunday, that was just not going to happen, was it? I do try and make my walk up to the church a prayer for that community, and as I was presiding it was, as always, a gathering of the life of CK , the joy and sadness and all else in between...so I guess I sort of complied, - but a prayer walk per se? No. Fraid not

Today I'm supposed to find out the names of my closest neighbours...Can't do that, because I know them already. I'd love to go visiting instead...there are 2 or 3 houses in Privet Drive where things aren't too easy right now, where a bit of support might be welcome. But I'm desperately trying to get myself sorted to leave for 4 days at Lee Abbey, learning about Messy Church....so will have to content myself with combining yesterday and today by praying for those homes I really ought to visit.
Isn't that sad? A parish priest too busy with her own agenda to go visiting...George Herbert would not be impressed. Actually, neither am I - but as G Herbert is one of the reasons that I can't leave the house right now, I'll just have to soldier on and do what I can in other ways.

Please, those who know me best, don't laugh at the idea of my needing to learn about Messy Church! I've thought of all those jokes already - but this is something different and I promise to tell all on my return.I'm taking the lap top and will blog if there's a connection...
In case of doubt, though
LLLL Tuesday - Find out about a local organisation or event you could support
Wednesday - Leave a thank you note for your postie
Thursday - Give a friend a home made gift
Friday - run an errand for someone in your locality.

I'll report on my success or failure later, all things being equal. Mind you take care while I'm gone...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My printer hates me

And I'm not paranoid!

After the nightmare situation last time I preached at Evensong, Hugger Steward took my printer to pieces, swore at it comprehensively in a variety of languages and generally showed it the error of its ways, and as a result it has behaved perfectly for a month now.
But this evening, having finished my sermon for tomorrow evening I thought I'd get ahead of the game and print it before bed - only to have the printer eat several sheets or paper, jam some more and smudge the rest.
It hates me, I tell you...and I'm going to bed.
Grrrrrr
Exorcism of printer scheduled for tomorrow.

Edit; Joy cometh in the morning - the printer has printed, and the sermon (every single page of it) is happily ensconced in my preaching folder. Now all I have to do is deliver the thing....

Please

Say a prayer for Archbishop Rowan. The UK media, who've long enjoyed misunderstanding and distorting his words, and misinforming their readers about his intentions, are engaged in a most virulent and disturbing assassination attempt.
His actual words, measured, intelligent, informed are here - (Yes you do have to think as you read - but I don't believe that should really beyond the bounds of possibility) and lots of good blogging picks up on the theme (See here or here
or here, among many others) The sickening backlash is to be found in far too many places to mention.
I love and revere ++Rowan Williams and rejoiced when he became Archbishop of Canterbury, as I was confident that his wisdom and holiness could only be a gift to the Church and to the world...Now, every time he delivers a speech there's this awful "car crash" feeling, as I wait for someone to seize a word out of context and raise the hue and cry. I don't know why the UK media seems to hate him so much, but it really seems that they do.
Watching the current circus playing out hurts - and if I feel that, then just imagine how it must be for ++Rowan and his family.
As I said before, if you're a praying person, then please do pray.

LLLL7

Do a chore for someone

Oh dear - I think I could succumb to martyred mother syndrome. Doing chores for people seems much too much like the stuff of everyday...Today, Dillon kindly made it easier for me be deciding to spend the evening eating grass and throwing up...so I had a whole extra category of chore to indulge in, but given that I'd washed up and dealt with the recycling too, I didn't really feel the need.
I guess the issue here is that though my family are pretty good at helping with household tasks, and all of them will cook quite cheerfully if asked, it still feels as if the tasks are mostly mine. So it's quite hard to feel that doing them has relieved someone else. Perhaps I can find something unexpected to do for WonderfulVicar tomorrow, to recoup the martyr points. Hope so..or today's action will actually have had a negative impact all round.

Friday, February 08, 2008

LLLL6

Irony - today's action is
TV free evening and play games instead
clearly a move intended to increase family feelings and generally make things warm and fuzzy. However, in the interests of those very concerns, Hugger Steward, the Dufflepud and I did almost exactly the opposite, since we sat down together to watch Shrek 3 (rented from Amazon - oh, what a glorious scheme that is!)
We almost never watch a film together...and none of us watch much tv...so this felt like a very family-friendly thing to do (though I was sadly disappointed in the film...Where did the humour go?).
HS had cooked a very tasty supper too - so I think on the whole the spirit of the day was preserved, if not the letter.

Allegri as it should sound

Friday Five

With 2 sermons to write, and another scary diocesan form to be completed, you can expect blog posts to proliferate in the next few hours...and so it is that I come to be writing a Friday Five on the day itself.
This week Mother Laura asks


1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?

Well - I've blogged most of this already....Shrove Tuesday always feels rather pallid when I read about some of the Mardi Gras traditions to be enjoyed in the States...What, for example, are Kingcakes? and what do Mardi Gras beads actually look like? But on Tuesday I consumed pancakes at the parish party, then consumed more pancakes at home with the kids...I also consumed them with the Youth Group on Sunday - so in theory there should be no eggs left anywhere in Charlton Kings. Somehow, this seems unlikely - but we tried! Ash Wednesday was pretty intense - but that suits me. I like to know Lent has arrived - and the sack-cloth screen that hides the reredos behind the High Altar at St M's shouts LENT loud and clear.

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?
I guess it was my first year in London, when I'd not long become part of the choir and the wider community of St John the Divine, Kennington. There they did liturgy with a passion and devotion I had never encountered before...They also partied with wild abandon, and the Shrove Tuesday pancake party plus manic entertainment saw us all crawling home through the S London streets well after "decent Christian people" should be tucked up in their beds. That would have been fine, except that I was due to sing the high solo part of the Allegri Miserere for the Ash Wednesday Eucharist. Couple a night of indulgence with a seasonal cold, and it seemed likely that there would be a whole lot of nothing emerging from my throat when I attempted those top C's. Except that a pro singer friend produced a foul tasting but miraculous elixir that I've never found since....It kind of burned the yuk out of my throat for the space of 2 or 3 hours, so that I could do the bizz with Allegri. I'll never forget standing at the back of the church, waiting to come in and wondering whether this "miracle cure" would work or not. I can't remember much about my penitence, though - it got lost in the joyful relief!

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?
It was around in the landscape of our family life, but only in a very low key way....It became more noticeable when I was in the 6th form at Eastbourne, and John Walker, the Director of Music, introduced me to all the wonderful a capella motets that belong to this season. Suddenly, Lent meant no organ for most of the choir items in worship...it felt bare, exposed but desperately important....which is, I guess, a pretty good hint as to how Lent should feel. "Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts..." SJDK built on these foundations....it was as a singer, after all, that worship first began to make sense to me
4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?
I always try to do far too much of both...Lent is another attempt at the failed resolutions of January...But I know full well that this isn't a helpful approach, so I'm trying hard to be both focussed and realistic. I've still got a long way to go with this.
5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?
Using the Love Life Live Lent materials, blogging them, and trying to read only those books which I "know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" (thanks, William Morris). The trashy detective fiction must wait till Easter now. Oh, and I'm not drinking any alcohol at home, to support LCM, who gives it up every year (but allows himself Sundays, as this makes the maths work and the days add up to 40). I'm also shunning chocolate, wherever I encounter it - and yes, Sundays are quite definitely part of that process for me, at least.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

LLLL5

Ask someone in your house about their day

not the most challenging task in itself, though I guess the hope was that this might inspire a conversation between busy people who are usually too pushed to observe these considerations.
I tend to remember to ask most days, and my own frustration is with the "maleness" of the resident Flemings, who will either tell me "OK" or alternatively take me through a detailed resume of the facts of the day
"Well, I had Physics, followed by German..." - but without any exploration of what made the day good or bad, or indeed any clue as to the feelings they've brought home.
Even with LLLL pushing me onwards, I couldn't actually manage to turn this into a conversation. Bother. That's the sort of thing that would have been really quite helpful in these parts.
Ah well. C'est la vie.

My day? (since nobody else here is following the project, I'm going to tell you)
It was pretty good really. Morning Prayer was very focussed and just a joy...I do tremble at the thought of having no-one around who is automatically going to say the Office with me in the new parishes...I'll have to appeal for praying companions very early on, as I really do so much better when I'm sharing these bookends of my day.
Little Fishes went well too. I was slightly bemused as to how to explain Lent to the under 3s...Ended up using the felt "frontal" we produced for OpenHouse which shows the Genesis story of creation, explaining how good things were when God made the world, and then tearing newspaper up and scattering the pieces so that you could no longer see the beauty for the mess. I explained that the mess was so huge that we couldn't sort it out ourselves, and God had to come and do it for us...and the children helped to pick up the paper and put it in the bin. I told them that though Jesus had done the really big tidy up for us, we still made a mess ourselves (a few bits of paper were fluttered onto the scene) and we need time to think about that and to ask God to help us tidy up again.
What worked really well was the sheer shock value of the noise of a Church Times being torn across - it made even the little babies react and the toddlers were transfixed. I doubt if they'll remember what I was talking about - but the sound of ripping newspaper...well....
After Little Fishes, there was a family outing to view a possible school for the Dufflepud's 6th form, and, as we now have a set of keys for the future vicarage, a trip to show the house to the boys and do some measuring and planning.
This is my 2nd trip to the house since it's been completed, and it really is rather a joy, - specially the kitchen/family room, which is something we've really missed at Privet Drive. We've rescued the kitchen table from purdah and LCM has given in a fresh coat of varnish so it looks like new...I bought it for my first flat, the year my mother died, and it has lived with me in Sussex, in two London addresses and then in the Cotswolds - it's rather fun to think of it moving to a new house and becoming part of life there. Not quite as much fun as having a door we can shut to protect the parish from the harsh realities of Fleming family life and so preserve the illusion that their priest-in-charge is in charge of her own home....
Evening Prayer, then a baptism prep evening - for a giant baptism on Sunday week....1 set of twins and their big brother from Little Fishes, plus their twin cousins from out of town. The parents report that there will be a large number of children among their supporters - so it could be quite a hoolie! I'll let you know.

That's about it for my day. Oh, I've heeded my own warnings against over activisim, and abandoned attempts to follow the TearFund Carbon Fast. The new vicarage is apparently very green - with low energy light fittings, under floor heating and all sorts of other environmentalists' delights, so I'm not going to beat myself up about the unlikelihood of doing a proper job of improving things here - there truly isn't time.

Oh - and while on the subject of doing - and as further incentive to avoid manic busyness, what about these words of Thomas Cullinane, OSB? They were included in the diocesan Praying through Lent material for today

"The heart of the Christian message is that the most salvific moment in the history of the world was when one man was pinned to the cross, unable to do anything for anyone about anything."

It does rather make you think...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

LLLL4 - Ash Wednesday

Say sorry to someone
the booklet suggested, with apparent absence of guile...but in the event, this turned out to be a real stinker. All through the day I hoped that I'd do or discover something characteristically dotty which needed an apology - but nothing happened.
The trouble is that I'm not very good at being bad when it comes to other people (with one huge and painful exception) and on the whole I'm so apt to take responsibility for all the ills of the universe that a day set aside to say sorry seemed faintly farcical. But what to do? It seemed to me that saying sorry for something when the injured party is blissfully oblivious that they might be injured at all (most of my nastiness is of the internal variety - of thought rather than word or deed) would actually be compounding the issue...I might feel better for having offered an apology, but my "apologee" could well feel substantially worse.
So in the end I left it....
Except, of course, that I didn't - for today has been Ash Wednesday. How better could I express my sorrow and those habits of mind and will which I most regret?
I started the day by presiding at a lovely, intimate Eucharist - with the unspeakably humbling imposition of ashes on those familiar foreheads.
"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ"
I have a friend who substitutes comforting words from Jesus for these intimations of mortality. The penitents kneeling at his altar rail will be reassured that
"You are my friend" "I am with you always"...
One of our youth told me this evening that she really struggles with Ash Wednesday, with its doom and gloom and death - and I can quite see that this might be how it appears. For me, though, there is no foreboding in the words - simply a declaration of our common humanity, of solidarity in the face of time.
Always, as I mark those foreheads, I think of the people who knelt in their place a year ago, but are now dust themselves...and today we celebrated the life of one such, and committed him to God's care. The sun shone as the coffin was lowered into the ground, and the air was redolent with resurrection hope.
At the end of this morning's Eucharist, as I consumed the remaining wafers I had the sudden thought that each of these represented someone who would have chosen to be there if they could...so I made the act of consuming them into a prayer for each person in turn...L in New Zealand, E sick at home, M working out of town. Perhaps I'd been dim in not recognising this opportunity before - but the atmosphere in the chapel this morning made prayer (like penitence) easy.
Tonight I preached, suggesting that though taking on good projects was surely valuable, we must not hide behind Lenten projects to protect us from the interior work of facing and owning our own mess, repenting of it and then rejoicing in God's forgiveness.
After all, I think I did manage to "say sorry".

A snowy day! Iceland part 2

(The picture shows the gap between the American and European tectonic plates...and the blizzard at full tilt too)

In the face of the weather, Hugger Steward is prepared to reconsider his plan of complete independence and serious cross-country trekking – so on Tuesday we opt for a guided expedition and join a small handful of hardy tourists to see the nearer wonders of this amazing island.
As we board our bus the dance of the snowflakes becomes more urgent and the world shrinks to just a few yards ahead. We’re on the one main road around the country (rather smaller than the road that I take from Cheltenham to Gloucester) where traffic is light, though nobody shows any signs of being deterred by the blizzard. Only when we turn off the ring road onto a narrow road to the world heritage site of Pingvellir does our amiable guide abandon conversation to allow him to concentrate on keeping track of just where the road has gone!
Pingvellir is the site of the world’s oldest parliament, but it’s hard to imagine any parleying going on here as we get off the bus into an almost total white-out….something completely new for HS and me. A few steps and I find myself literally up to my waist in snow, giggling hysterically.

I’m hauled out, still helpless with laughter, and follow the others a few yards to the spot where the rift between the tectonic plates of the American and European land masses are pulling slowly apart – at the same rate of growth, we are told, as human fingernails. The bowl where the parliament met has dropped 4 metres in the past century – hard to grasp for someone living where the land feels very fixed and stable.
The sky clears as we drive through the rift valley, bumping our way across the gap between the continents as I think about the time before those plates moved apart, before the Ice Ages changed the world. In Iceland, despite the huge sense of history, of ancient rocks from before time was, things feel somehow provisional – I’m aware of the earth’s fragility, of the restlessness of daily earthquakes, of hot springs that provide domestic hot water for the whole city of Reykjavik and beyond but whose spouting upwards can stop or start in obedience to the shifting of the earth. The giant sleeps but lightly here, and what would be solid foundations in England seem precarious, still evolving, mutable as the landscapes of home are not.
We move on to Gulfoss, with its incredible waterfall, flowing straight from the glacier. This is the arctic of my imagination (yes – technically we’re well outside the arctic circle, but with a landscape like this, I’m not bothered) and I’m stunned that anywhere can be quite so much like itself.
HS heads off across the snow field to investigate the lower banks…In seconds, it seems, he is just a small black dot against the overwhelming whiteness…He’s utterly content in this deserted landscape, which seems both untamed and untameable, a place where people are just an incidental accident in this land where ice and volcanoes hold sway.
On to Geysir with its steaming pools and sulphorous air. We stand and watch as waters roil and bubble, before bursting upwards in a stunning jet..Again, it is the volatility that impresses most. We listen to the gentle bubbling sound, our voices quiet as if we’re spying on some wild animal whom we could scare with a sudden movement. Perhaps the geysir is teasing us…it appears to gather momentum and then the bubbling dies away again, but if we turn our heads, surely that very instant the sleeping dragon will spring up.
Nothing is quite as it seems, after all.

video

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

LLLL3

Today's directive was to
Invite your neighbours and friends to a pancake party.
I guess that was a bit easy - as we had a parish Pancake Party arranged already...at which friends and neighbours were undeniably present.
The evening suffered a tad from competitive partner syndrome, but Marcella's husband and mine had fun outsmarting each other while M and I giggled gently, and the final glasses of wine and tastes of chocolate were enjoyed too.
Marcella remarked that, unusually, this year Lent doesn't look quite long enough - and I have to say that as I contemplate those things which I have not done, and realise that I have only the weeks before Easter in which to achieve them, I couldn't agree more. Very very scary.

Earlier in the day I'd had a more productive look at the weeks ahead, via the Bishop's Quiet Day in the (rather frozen) Cathedral. This year the addresses were given by wonderful Vivienne Faull, who rather a long time ago was an unconscious participant in one of those occasions when God grabs you by the scruff of the neck and speaks slowly and clearly, so that even Kathryns cannot fail to understand. The occasion was the 1994 ordinations of the first women priests in Gloucester Cathedral, and Vivienne (then Chaplain at the Cathedral) was distributing Communion...I moved in line to her station, and as she gave me the host she looked at me and God said, quite unmistakeably
"That's where I want you next, Kathryn".
To sit in that same Cathedral and listen to her (very helpful) words today - conscious that I'm just 8 weeks away from my first responsibility post gave the whole thing a pleasing symmetry.
"Thy firmnesse drawes my circle just
and makes me end where I begunne".

At last - Iceland report part 1


Arriving at Keflavik last week could not have presented a greater contrast to my last international arrival - in Bangalore.
There, noisy crowds had milled everywhere, so that the airport seemed to be struggling to contain the throng...and the traffic when we emerged was the most alarming I'd met anywhere.Here, the terminal was almost empty, and we walked through clean, quiet corridors, everything cool and understated,to reclaim our luggage without fuss or drama.
Outside, of course, was the snow. That's why we'd come to Iceland, after all.
(We heard later that this was the first "proper" winter for 30 years- as we arrived, we assumed that this overwhelming whiteness everywhere was the norm:it was, after all, exactly as we'd expected).

As the bus took us into Reykjavik, I reflected how hugely discouraging the landscape must have seemed to the first settlers. It would be reasonable if Icelandics were set-faced survivors, grimly determined - but in fact they were relaxe and charming, as if determined to undermine the inhospitable geography of their island.
We arrived in the tiny city, and walked the short distance from the bus terminal through streets largely empty of cars and people - much like the long Sunday afternoons of childhood.
Traces lingered of Christmas past. Evergreen wreaths on the doors, candles in many windows - as if the greater ferocity of winter here demands a sustained response.
The city is a delight...Just walking through the snow transformed us both into small children, excited by everything...by the houses painted in primary colours, and clad in corrugated iron against the chill...by the flocks of water fowl that congregate in frozen cacophany by the frozen lake...by the lake itself. I've never walked to an island before - nor stood in an impossibly rural landscape which is, incredibly, a capital city...I loved it.

Whatever happened to the...

Reading Challenge?

Well, - clearly I’m incapable of posting weekly on the theme but equally clearly, it’s not that I’ve refrained from reading throughout January. Here’s an approximate list

Worthwhile
City of Djinns – William Dalrymple :the story of his year in Delhi, and a wonderful interweaving of history and present reality which evokes India in a way this addict found entirely heart warming

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Annie Dillard : I would never have discovered Dillard were it not for my US friends and I’m so glad that I did. Oh to see with those eyes – the precious minutae entered into with such excitement

The Vicar’s Guide
–ed David Ison : does what it says on the tin…I’ve borrowed this from WonderfulVicar but suspect I will need to keep a copy to hand (though it omits any mention of how to please all of the people, all of the time. What do you mean, that’s not in the job description?)

Amiable Trash - treat with caution (so I've not given you links)
The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler (light and fun)

Digging to America - Anne Tyler (read in under an hour...which gives you an idea of the substance!)

The Damascened Blade - Barbara Cleverly (Indian Raj whodunnit - I did enjoy this one)

The Vendetta - Jenny Pitman (cheerful tripe in the vein of Dick Francis but without his skill in characterisation)

As lists go, that’s pretty pathetic, really.
I think I must be spending too long online when I could curl up on a real sofa with a cat and read. Iceland ought to have been good for book consumption, but the contrast between bitter cold outside and cosy room meant that whenever we got in each evening, Hugger Steward and I fell asleep almost immediately…thus confirming my belief that we are really designed to hibernate all winter.

I try to limit my fiction during Lent, so maybe February will look a bit healthier.