Tuesday, August 31, 2004


The fourth load of washing has completed its revolutions, the children are eating Pringles and playing their bargain CDs, and I've just made the painful decision to separate myself from my wristband.Greenbelt is over for another year.
So...how was it for me?
Very mixed, if truth be told.
The Festival was its usual exciting and loving self. To arrive on site felt, as always, like coming home...So many friends, so much passion for things that really matter, such freedom to be truly myself...bliss.
This year I was less intent on attending every seminar that might possibly be of interest or relevance, and as a result enjoyed some special time with special people.As always,though, I've returned home with regrets about those I barely caught up with...Oh Ops team, how would it be if we could maybe extend the Festival a day or two on either side, without a programme? Then there might just be time to see everyone.
I don't suppose you'd care to consider it, Liz?? ;-)

Maggi's seminar on Biblical interpretation (whet your appetite here) was both inspiring and helpful....her clarity of thinking is incredibly refreshing, and she manages to bridge the gap between the exciting world that is Greenbelt and the less dynamic realities of life in the parish...I always bring something usable home with me from her sessions. This year I got to spend time with her too, which was great...It's always a little scary when virtual friends emerge into the real world; how disappointing will I be? will they want to engage at all? But, now I come to think about it, I met most of my cherished Greenbelt friends on line,- so perhaps I should just stop angst-ing.
It's an extraordinary thing, though, how easy it is to share at the deeper levels via this wonderfully anonymous medium....sometimes I struggle to let down the barriers enough to communicate in the same way face to face....I wonder what's going on there.
Oh well, - back to Greenbelt.
Further delights were Jeffrey John on The Meaning in the Miracles (bless you, Linda, for buying me the book...I am starting it tonight, having been thoroughly inspired by his seminars);
Ched Myers,- of course;
Morna Hooker and Anne Morrisey too;
and, against all expectations, Iona worship on Monday night. I really didn't intend to go....thought, rather snootily, that I was bored with it but I did want to meet up with a friend there, and the message of the evening was exactly what I needed for that moment.
Also enjoyed discovering Esther Alexander at the Performance Cafe,- oh, and that amazing French potato food stall. Yum!

I'm trying to think through questions of inclusivity which arose for me after the panel on The Rite Stuff (have to read that too....people did give me some wonderful ordination presents.... :-) )...and how one makes the things that work in a settled community accessible to those who might not speak the same language of ritual.Surely it can be just as excluding as words, unless you share the common expectations.On the other hand, if you tell people what they ought to be thinking of and experiencing, you are clearly drastically restricting the potential of the whole.
My current parish (trad Anglo Catholic but open to progress, I think!) is so very neurotic about "getting things right"....and it can seem that worship falls victim to concern over the details which are designed to facilitate it. However, I've met people equally anxious that they might not do what was expected of them in alt. worship....how do we help people to make the ritual work for them as a route to God, and not to see it as something in which they can succeed or fail?
Time I read that book methinks...urgently needed,ways of refreshing worship in the sort of parish where you won't know everybody every week, and anyone might just appear....watch this space.
Overall, though, my perception of this year's Festival is rather more confused than normal. I spent the 9 to 5 slot back in the parish helping with an Open Day, which was startlingly successful. Might blog about it later...people came, the Old Guard survived a gentle exposure to worship outside their tried and trusted norms, and some were even caught smiling in church...maybe things might be moving there, confounding expectations yet again.
However, when I came out of Good Little Curate mode and switched on my phone,things fell apart rather badly, as they had for a dear dear friend...lots more processing to do there, as we consider the best way to show the love and care we feel in a horrible situation. Prayers hugely welcome.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Nearly there...

As I type the house resounds with excited yelps (the dogs are quite noisy too)
Torches are re-united with batteries, holey shoes jettisoned in favour of more waterproof alternatives and somebody, somewhere, must know about the tent pegs....and do we REALLY need that much loo paper?
Oddly,I was really underwhelmed at the prospect of GB this year for some reason: so much new and exciting to take on board in the parish, so I guess I felt in less need of a lift than in years past, and assorted slight technical hitches re camping, friends, dog-sitters etc threatened to obscure the sparkle. Until last night, that is, when I met up for a drink with some notable bloggers (here,here and here) who have been working away on site in the best beaver tradition....and suddenly I realised that its really HERE....GB 04 starts tomorrow...and the joy of it all has kept me fizzing away all morning. Wonder if the GB magic works on PCC meetings...I'll let you know, as such is my destiny this afternoon.
Looking forward so much to seeing friends, and making new ones.I'll be the one squealing with excitement and surrounded by teenagers muttering "Down mother...."
See you there

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Service resumed...

Blogging has been somewhat disrupted of late by the fact that those "nice" men at Tiscali and the equally "nice" men at BT have between them been unable to achieve broadband access for us....though happy to take our money for it ever since early July. ;-( Intermittent service was beginning to feel "normal", and I was prepared to be tolerant as long as I could get on line at least once a day.... but this is the first time I've been able to get on line this week...and it's now Wednesday.
I hate the fact that I feel so dependent....get all jumpy and anxious when cut off from my friends...and I even had something to talk about for once ;-)
No idea how long the current amnesty might last, but I intend to enjoy it while it does...in the knowledge that most of you will be busy packing up for GB anyway, so I can wibble away without fear or favour.
Monday I spent in Durham in the rain....Luci was attending a uni Open Day...which impressed neither of us hugely. The faculty came across as so full of its own importance that nobody who wasn't convinced they were Shakespeare, Mozart and Einstein combined would presume to apply ....
However, the Cathedral was as lovely as ever...sitting in the cloisters watching the rain streak down in that pearly grey light that I remember as more or less constant during my Durham year, I realised just how many wonderful things have happened to me since...and how very very thankful I am.Sorry if that sounds revoltingly pi....it just was a good moment to take stock and be happy.
Eating ginger bread men with Luci as we walked to the station was just fun and friendly...so Durham and I parted on good terms, even though its unlikely I'll be returning any time soon.

Friday, August 20, 2004

More rites of passage

I feel rather ancient today, if truth be told...
Yesterday I finally organised insurance cover for Luci to drive my car. I've never been a great one for white-knuckle rides, but have to say that her driving was really quite reasonable. After all, an unexpected traffic bollard after a mini- roundabout might surprise anyone,- and there is no doubt that her braking is excellent!
However, nothing had prepared me for the realisation that this is another milestone on the journey into an independent life in which I'll have minimal part.Of course I'd known all along that parenthood is the gradual process of working yourself out of a job, but yesterday I realised something of how it will feel. This morning we went in to school to collect A/S results..again there is nothing I can do to fix these if they don't work for her (thankfully she managed A's in English and Philosophy, with B's for History,Music and Gen. Studies...she's cross that History and Philos. werent reversed, but otherwise quite content)
Lunch time she boarded a train for a 4 day trawl around assorted northern universities...and there she was, gone! I know she'll be back on Tuesday (albeit briefly) but this is a foretaste at least....methinks I have some preparation to do before I'm ready for autumn 05,not least because I'm not that sure I've done all my own growing up yet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Not quite sure where this week has gone: 3 funerals in 2 days probably has alot to do with the speed at which time hurtles past...Yesterday's was special.
No. Let me rephrase that. I know they are ALL special to the families involved, and believe me we do our utmost to ensure that they feel this. I rather think God does too.Inevitably, though, you engage differently in different contexts, and some touch you personally more than others.
Yesterday's was for a lady whom I'd been privileged to spend a long afternoon with, only a few days before she died. We had taken her Communion, stayed on for a cup of tea, and then been stranded thanks to prolonged and violent thunderstorms..She and her husband were clearly devoted, and as they shared stories and memories, knowing that their time was likely to be short, I really did feel that we were on holy ground.
When we had visited to discuss the funeral, he had worried that maybe not many people would attend, though the forest of cards all over the house suggested this might be unlikely. In the event, the church was full and the little house afterwards overflowed with love and concern, under which the family blossomed. I honestly think they enjoyed the experience...realising that the wife and mother who was so precious to them was loved and valued in so many different contexts. It made me realise just how valuable those letters and cards you struggle to send in the aftermath of a death can be....and how much more so the hugs and memories.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Clouds lift

Thank you to everyone who prayed, supported and responded to yesterday's blog....It would be too much to say that things are brighter today, but the weight of misery is maybe slightly less overwhelming.
Professionally, the day is one of weddings, which makes a nice change from the recent run of funerals: I can't actually conduct the things yet, of course, but I did have a jolly time acting as unofficial creche for assorted infants and toddlers who clearly felt that all that was necessary had been said within the first two minutes of the service. So we played in the sunshine and "they" did the grown up bits inside the church....and a good time was had by all.:-)

Friday, August 13, 2004

Friday 13th

Since my beloved youngest child was born on this day 12 years ago, I've always claimed a particular fondness for 13ths in general, and Friday 13th in particular. This year I'm rather uncertain, though.
The day has featured one deeply unhappy parishioner, two funerals plus a funeral visit and most seriously the awareness of the huge pain that one of my dearest friends is going through, and which I can do nothing to alleviate. I had never seen myself as a Mrs Fixit but clearly I have these tendencies...to no avail.
All I can do is stand at the foot of the cross and weep......for which, of course, there is rather a precedent. I know I'm not alone there, though, and this has helped me to get through the day and even manage to play birthday jollities with the boy himself. Thanks to those whose companionship in the sadness made this more possible.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Words, words, words....

Maggi's blog, here, carries some interesting thoughts about the role of those passages of Scripture, liturgy et al that we actually know by heart.....which sent me off on a roundabout track to consider how much our ideas (and specificially our theological ideas) are actually created by the words with which we express them. That may sound bizarre at first, and I do know the dangers of locating God within a particular form of service of type of language.After all, I'm a curate in the sort of traditional Anglican parish where, when we introduce the Lord's prayer with the words "As our Saviour taught us, so we pray..." a high proportion of the congregation assume that this means that Jesus did indeed instruct his disciples to pray in the English of 1611 ;-).
Nonetheless, I'm sure I'm not unique in finding that certain patterns of language effect me in a way that others, carrying the same meaning, do not...The Common Worship Evening Prayer includes an updated version of one of the familiar collects, retains the meaning exactly, but totally loses the effect...Why is this? Is it purely the resonance of countless Evensongs of my chorister past...or is there something inherently special about the words selected and arranged thus...Some words, I'm sure, are themselves Sacraments...they achieve what they symbolise or describe. For me, the final stanza of John Donne's "Hymne to God the Father", Here, does just that, and has done so ever since I read it in a train between Eastbourne and St Leonards on Sea, going home from school.to confront a new world, the day my father died. Whenever I read it, as I have so many times through the years, the same tangible certainty that all shall be well surrounds me once again, and I do indeed "feare no more".
I suspect this may be a glimpse of the blindingly obvious, and something others have considered long since....but, hey, I had fun cogitating anyway, and nobody forced you to read to the bitter end, did they??
PS If anyone felt moved to teach me how to do those links that would take you direct to a specific section of Maggi's blog (and indeed anyone else's)..., I'd be one up on the superteen Giles, and seriously, if not eternally, grateful!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Something completely different

Today, my day off, I decided to redeem myself with the children by a Proper Day Out. After an entertaining visit to the orthodontist, who had moved practice to the other side of Cheltenham without warning, so that we found her only after frantic drive across town....for an appointment that must have taken a good 45 seconds..we headed south to Somerset and Kilve. Amazing beach, with huge stones, and terraced rocks which make most convincing sleeping dragons...plus handy cave for lunch in the rain. All very happy, then as rain intensified and swimming looked increasingly unlikely, we went in search of Exmoor ponies and Lorna Doone. En route through some of the most beautifully wild country I've enjoyed for a while, we saw a sign to 12th century church....Children agreed we could divert, as reward for good behaviour....but have to say I wish we hadn't. The church itself was tiny and quite appealing...on the edge of a tiny hamlet of 10 houses. It houses the smallest and least threatening pulpit I've ever encountered:not so much "6 feet above contradiction" as "a small step above uncertainty". Amazingly it claimed to have both a vicar and a curate (the former being known as The Rev and the latter as Fr....which intrigued me mildly) and was actually planning to hold a service this coming w'end, Evensong taking place every 3rd Sunday...But what reduced me to silent misery was the fact that it was stuffed...and I mean STUFFED...with dead flowers. Three arrangements in the sanctuary, one by the font....they simply shouted of despair and desolation. Here, in the middle of all the tourist routes, signposted from 3 directions, was a church saying "We are dead. We are irrelevant. Even we don't care any more....why should you?"
G remarked in some disgust that only I could find myself in the middle of Exmoor doing theological reflections about dead flowers....sadly, I fear he might not be right...and that others might also see it this way.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Can anoyone tell me.......?

why, when I am endlessly patient with all sorts of unreasonable old ladies, disaffected youths and wobbly clerics, I am totally incapable of remembering for half an hour what it felt like to be 17....
Feeling very ashamed of myself, as I had a Major Row with beloved daughter, who is, not unreasonably, feeling a bit deprived of social life, since I've dragged her 2o miles in the wake of my ordination, failed so far to insure my car for her to practice driving on, and vanished cheerfully out the door calling "Mustn't be late for Evening Prayer" just when she was about to talk to me....
I guess that blogs are not intended as alternative confessionals, and there aint alot of absolution to be had anyway, but I do hope I'm not developing into Rev Jekyll/Mummy Hyde...only worth knowing when I'm in "uniform". The thing is, it's not just professional niceness...I really do feel tremendously fond of and concerned for all these people....Of course, I feel considerably fonder and more concerned for my nearest and dearests, but showing it, that's another matter :-(

Saturday, August 07, 2004

So easy, really

This morning I visited a family who come to our "Prams and Pushchairs" toddler church...Unusually, they had ASKED for a service of Thanksgiving rather than Baptism for the younger children, and when I met their dad it all made sense. He was a really thoughtful guy, with no churchy pretensions whatsoever, who nonetheless said that he "respected church too much to make empty promises there".
Impressive, eh? Wish he could chat to some of the other families we encounter.We had a satisfying conversation, and I was just beginning to tear myself away from the delightful baby when her big brother asked me rather sheepishly if I could do a " sort of prayer thingy for if you're being adopted". It turned out that this is a second relationship for his mother, and that the father of the girls, is going to adopt J too....I was of course more than happy to agree to include prayers to reflect this in the service, and the grin that spread over J's face when he realised that not only could he be included in his sisters' special day, but that God might actually want to be involved in his new relationship, was worth almost anything and then a bit more. The family had already asked for the inevitable "Let the children come to me" reading, and it was good to be able to tell them that when Jesus placed his hands on the heads of those children he was proclaiming himself their father and protector...adopting them, in fact.
Hard to tell which of us was more thrilled, really.....And they call this sort of thing "work".
I left there with a beautiful drawing of a smiling flower in a pot and a pipecleaner heart to grace the study....and a longing for there to be more moments of revelation, when people grasp that God really does care about them, and the church manages not to put its foot in it and crush their faltering moves towards him.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Not so good

Well, it's just over a month since I dropped off the clerical production line and landed as a shiney new curate in the parish...A month of new experiences, new people by the hundred (all of whom know ALL about me, including probably where I've put the keys to the vestry) and more joy than I would ever have believed a "job" could entail.
But today is different. My boss, who is truly wonderful (gentle reader, I refer to the vicar, my more immediate boss, rather than the Boss whom you might presume to be the sole employer of even infant clergy) phoned to say that Sheila died yesterday.
She was a wonderful lady. A former PCC secretary who had huge reservations about the ministry of women, she had battled with a particularly unpleasant form of cancer for nearly 10years, suriving on liquid meal replacements ever since diagnosis. When I first went with Michael to visit her, he warned me that she might be a little cool, given her strong views on ordination. Instead she was both gracious and welcoming, and over 4 weeks we became very good friends as we explored life, death, ministry...and the mysterious attractions of Big Brother. A quick visit last Friday morning turned into nearly 2 hours, we had so much to say to each other. A return trip was in the diary for today...but it's too late. She waited until her daughter and family returned from holiday in the States on Tuesday...fell into a coma on Wednesday and moved on yesterday afternoon. She'd allowed us to come so far along the road with her, it hurts that neither of us were there at the end.
Go well, Sheila, straight into the loving arms of God. Thank you for your friendship and your inspiration. I'm so glad I knew you.