Sunday, February 25, 2007

This week on LLLL

  • Monday: Give someone an apple
  • Have a t.v. free day and do something you have meant to do for ages
  • Turn off the tap when you clean your teeth
  • Go for a walk in your neighbourhood with a friend

Thanks to the shape of the week, those are going to be pretty easy for me.
No t.v. at Llan, but I've wanted to spend time there with N for months...and we always do lots of walking there.
The only question is, to whom shall I present the apple tomorrow?
Nominations, with reasons, might make for interesting reading!

In preparation for a quiet week

I've been doing lots and lots of talking today. ("What's new?", friends and family enquire).

Presided at 8.00, preached at 10.00 (rather excitingly, assorted people said it had "made them think", which is kind of the point - but happens less often than you'd hope), spent an afternoon frantically trying to sort out India photos, and this evening gave the inevitable Illustrated Talk to the Parish.
What startled me was
a) how incredibly nervous I was, - public speaking outside the context of worship still feels like a really Big Deal

b) how many people turned out on a damp February night to listen (and, bless their hearts, donated £70 for the New Life for Girls Project too)

c) how absolutely wonderful it was to talk about India, once I'd actually got started.
They were a warm and responsive audience, which clearly helped, and I found that in sharing my stories they became real for me again, and I woke up once more to the joyful experience of my stay. Indian friends seemed very close...
No prizes for guessing who is the focus of my LLLL candle prayers this evening.

Spir Dir course tomorrow, then straight off to Llan.
I'll try to post the LLLL actions before I go, but no more blogging now till Thursday.
Have a good week, peoples :-)


Light a candle and pray for someone.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A bit of a blow

I've blogged in the past about my very favourite retreat house in the entire world, The Llan in Shropshire. I've been getting excited over the past few days, because I'm heading there for 3 nights next week with special friend from vicar-school, - and, what's more, I'd managed to book in for a slot all to myself in May so I was feeling truly smug.

Until, that is, a friend emailed me this link yesterday.
The Llan, in all its hospitable beauty, is on the market.
There's even an ad in the Church Times.
I have a horrible feeling that this may be my last visit, and I hate that.
What's more, I suddenly understand the sentiments of those who see changes looming in their beloved church and want to run away and cry. Those pews may be ugly, but if it was while sitting in one of them that you had a special hug from God, then yes, you are entitled to get rather upset if they are under threat. It doesn't mean the changes might not lead to a greater good in the end, - but grief along the way is perfectly reasonable. Trust me, I'm a curate and I know.

That's rather where I am tonight.

Oh, and I urgently need recommendations for retreat houses that give you enough space and spoiling without any sense of people breathing down your neck...Llan has been so special for me, -it' going to be a very hard act to follow.

Rather disquieting

At a recent meeting of clergy and other "service providers" we were sharing our collective sadness that not more of the people in our communities opt for a funeral service in church. The joy of being the "established church" is that we are the default denomination for anyone and everyone who might just want God specifically involved at crunch points in life.So we conduct a fair number of funerals for people whom we've never known, - and that is a great privilege and blessing. But we know there are many times when we're asked to lead a service in the crem, and for assorted reasons it feels less than satisfactory. It can work fine, for a small, simple gathering, but at the local crematorium, funerals are scheduled at half hour intervals, which means that in practice you have 20 minutes in which to actually conduct the service, give thanks for a life, offer prayers of commendation and committal.The crem chapel is neither large nor particularly beautiful. It seats about 100 and can cram in up to 250 standing, but particularly if the service is for one who died untimely, it can be a real struggle accommodating the mourners...and if, as is traditional, they follow the coffin in to the chapel, then up to 10 minutes of the precious half hour may be taken up with traffic flow.

So, we were wondering why funeral directors don't, in those circumstances, suggest the local church as a flexible alternative. We were a friendly group of clergy. Not a hard-liner among us. We all fall over ourselves to provide whatever the family wants, to give professional and sensitive care, to work with them to put together something that feels "real" for them. We avoid being over churchy, I don't think any of us has ever preached hell-fire and damnation,- and we care...goodness, how we care. (We pray for them too, of course - but that didn't seem a fruitful line to push in this context).

Despite this we were told, with only thinly veiled hostility,
"Families don't want the church involved.
They think you'll preach at them.
They don't want the vicar turning up on their doorstep for weeks afterwards"

What is disquieting is that the speaker had seen all of us "in action" several times, and was quick to add that we weren't like that, that we did a good job, were co-operative and obliging...but, once upon a time, an unknown clergyman had taken a funeral in which he had not mentioned the deceased by name at any point.
My suspicion is that this happened at least 20 years ago, - but it will take at least as long for the memory to be wiped out,- and meanwhile, from at least one influential quarter, the bereaved of the town will be discouraged from seeking the comfort of the church unless they specifically request it. And it seems that there's nothing that any of us can do about it.
Sobering, isn't it?


Today we have to
Write to someone and thank them

To my shame, I still have one such letter to write in the wake of Christmas, so I'll do that shortly (OK, yes, I've finished my sermon - but now I'm avoiding writing a talk for the parish on Faces of India - so expect lots of blog activity today). I'm very conscious that the rule that my parents inculcated "Write every thank you letter before Twelfth Night" has well and truly gone by the board - I don't always manage to open all the presents by then. And I often take the easy option of emailing rather than writing a real letter with pen and ink (partly, at least, because that way I don't have to make space on my desk to do so)...
So in a moment I shall write a real letter, on nice thick cream paper. It will probably be shorter than the email version, since I type at an alarming rate...but it will be a letter, a real, live, delivered-by-the-postman letter.
However, since I'm trying to include my blog friends in this Lenten journey, I thought I'd write to you as well. Forgive the keyboard, and the lack of personalisation. The sentiments are genuine.

Dear Friends

Just after ordination, in August 2004 I began to write this blog. Two or three good friends were blogging already, and it seemed to me that it wasn't really fair if I commented on their blogs without providing similar hospitality myself. But I had no idea that anyone I didn't know would ever arrive here, and less than no expectation that blogging would turn out to be such a life-enhancing activity.

But, of course, you've surprised me in the very best ways. You've bothered to drop in here, to stop for long enough to read and comment, to invite me to your homes...and now we're friends. You've taken me seriously as a writer, but you've also laughed at my silliness. You've sent hugs, prayers and encouragement when the going was hard. You've made the world seem a much more intimate, connected place - and thus given me courage when despatching children to far off lands, or even heading off myself. You've reminded me of buried talents and unrealised dreams, that it might just be possible to revive. You've shared your stories, your journeys, and yourselves. Some of you have even gone out of your way to meet me face to face, and make virtual friendships real. For all this, thank you seems rather inadequate...but I do thank you, all of you.

Lots of love and hugs,
Kathryn xxxx

Friday, February 23, 2007

A quick apology

I've just been informed by the LLLL people that signing up on line does not mean you get the daily actions, but rather "updates of the campaign" you either have to buy the book, subscribe to the daily sms service (which costs, of course) or visit the website daily. Not quite as instantly easy, but not too bad really.
I'll try to say more about the day's action later, but meanwhile, in case you were anxious about it,
Give up your place to someone who is in a rush, in traffic or a shop queue

Right...back to trying to make bread out of sermon stones! Too much to say, for once...

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Have a meat free day
So we did. Vegi lasagne tonight,- and very yummy it was too (even eaten an hour after it was ready, thanks to a really good Baptism prep evening).
I'm vegetarian by inclination, but living with 3 determined carnivores, and lacking the motivation to plan 2 sets of food on a regular basis, my regular practice is more like
"I don't enjoy meat, but I eat it anyway".
Actually, despite my own inertia, I find it really hard to think of a good argument in favour of meat-eating (apart, that is, from bacon sandwiches...a very compelling argument indeed). I feel physically better on a meat free diet. I hate the thought that I'm nourished at the expense of an animal's life. And that in a household where budgets remain fairly tight it's a weekly struggle to avoid buying some "bargain" meat which is only economical for me because of the horrible conditions in which it was produced.
Perhaps it's simply that I can't deal with the reality that most of the things I enjoy are purchased at some cost to another.
Something to consider, certainly.

Why I need toddlers!

A couple of weeks ago, someone emailed me about a rather exciting post that is coming up, which they thought I might want to consider. I was, to be honest, both stunned and flattered that anyone could imagine I might have the necessary gifts, and spent a bit of time dreaming about how it might feel to pursue this. It was very exciting, but after prayer and conversation with wise friends, I decided against further exploration, because it seemed to me that in that particular context there would be too little opportunity to engage with dotty old ladies and (above all) snotty toddlers.This morning, at Little Fishes, the wisdom of that decision was brought home, as I remembered again how much I learn from the experience of trying to distil the essential things of faith for those children.

Our theme, unsurprisingly, was Lent. So we looked at some newspaper cuttings about things that made people sad, and thus make God sad. Then we gathered them up, tore them or srunched them into balls and placed them in a metal bin, where (don't try this at home, children) I set fire to them.
At the first attempt, there was a brief but impressive flame, - but it blew out before it had any real effect. One of my many "new starts", entered into with immense enthusiasm, but destined to falter before the week is out, because I'm trying to sort things on my own.
So, I tried again, this time leaving the taper in the bin after the first bits of paper had caught.
In a very short time, the newspapers was reduced to blackened shreds, so that there was no trace of the sad things they represented...because I'd left the source of light and heat right there, beside the things that needed to be changed.
I won't labour the point, but it spoke loud and clear to me.
Whatever else I do this Lent, spending some time close to God is the major priority.

Once the flames had died down, assorted mums and grannies were prepared to be ashed and then, having sung "Say sorry and Smile" we set about doing something to redress the balance of the world, inspired by the smiley faces of the LLLL booklet.

Oh, and a high spot of the morning was when I used the familiar formula of introduction
"And now let's say the prayer that Jesus taught us" and M (whose third birthday, as she enjoys reminding us, is in April) piped up with great clarity "Our Father...." and carried on right to the end.
So, thank you again, Little Fishes. Without you, I suspect I'd never have heard what I needed to this morning.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Love Life Live Lent 3

After laughter and partying, today's action was to be silent...
On a day off, that's quite easy to achieve, but thanks to the after-effects of yesterday I was able to find not just silence but peace too. It's been a little elusive of late, so I really luxuriated in it.
I was walking in the hills above Ch K, and even the terriers had vanished after rabbits, so it felt wonderfully spacious, a treasure for the weeks ahead.
Do hope Lent blesses all of you, my friends.

And Lent begins

With a lovely quiet Eucharist, in a church that looks its best when stripped of ornament. There will be a big service tonight, with music and sermon, but because today is my day off, I opted for the calm of 8.00 and it was beautiful.
20 of us gathered in the chancel, a family together in our penitence.
We heard Isaiah's reminder of a true fast and thrilled together at its promise of restoration.
Then we came to the ashing, a rite that for years left me unmoved, impatient. Now, though, I find it almost too much, to share that reminder of mortality, again and again...
This year, the ash seemed particularly powdery, so that if I used enough to make a distinct cross on the forehead, dust fell elsewhere - here caught on a glittering nose-stud, there lodging in deep wrinkes around an elderly mouth.
There was no escaping it, but that was as it should be. After all, the fact of our mortality is non-negotiable.
But only minutes later that same congregation were kneeling at the altar rail once more, receiving the food of eternity.

On a cleaner in the Cathedral quire

Across the intent solemnity of clergy
Struggling to "get it right",
To start Lent "fit for purpose",
Longing to attempt
The inmost depths
Of intimacy with God -
(or maybe simply pondering
The pancake party, sermon series,
Burning palms for ash,
And all the chores
To keep the parish grinding duly on)-
But still, amid intent solemnity
She walks, set to begin her task,
With bucket and bright feather-duster poised.

She pauses for a moment, half-bemused,
Her bird-like glance connecting with the scene,
And then moves on to make plain, practical
The task that each of us needs to begin.
Who has it "right"?
Who understands
What we must do if we would be prepared?
Can I do anything but sit
Amid my heaped up ash and rubble?
Should I wait here,
Presuming Help will come,
Or can I go
And find a feather-duster,
Cheery and inappropriate
To shift the disappointments and the dreams?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cathedral Quiet Day - further glimpses

this innovation of FabBishop's is now in its third year, which means that throughout my ordained ministry I've been able to spend Shrove Tuesday away from the parish, drawing breath before the Lenten madness begins. Inevitably, some speakers work "better" for some people than others. In the first year, Stephen Cotterell was so unbelievably wonderful that very few people could fail to disappoint, but I've not yet regretted going.

Today's speaker, in his first address, posited the delightful suggestion that the Primates might have fared differently (better?) if they had had to paint their conclusions, instead of issuing a comminque...He offered us some thoughts on sight and insight, on the need to be open to discover both the pattern that we see and that which is yet to be revealed. We were given permission to wander and look, to allow what we saw to speak for itself without the presuppositions of our own frame of reference that so often colour what we see, and how we interpret it.
I settled down in the quire, looking up first at the amazing roof, where intricate vaulting sung of the aspirations of medieval masons who risked their lives to express their vision of God's glory. Over the high altar, carved angels hang, unnoticed almost every day, but always present, captured in their song of praise. Below them is the huge east window, where stained glass saints in their splendour shed the light of dreams and prayers offered intently though countless seasons, so many Lents begun, so many Easters celebrated.
But as you enter the quire, your eye is held by the gilded richness of the reredos- our best attempt to here enshrine what cannot be caught, to tie God down forever in the represenation of the life of Christ - babe and manger, corpse and tomb, risen Lord in glory.
And beneath that, on this last "green" day for many weeks, the frontal was a wonderful piece of silk painting, a naive child's eye view, full of courage and joy.

And of course, as I reflected on so many different attempts to portray the glory of God, I knew that they were all alike wrong, all equally inadequate, though each had glimpsed something of the reality - and the great thing was, and is, that it doesn't matter at all. So many attempts, so many failures, but God remains gloriously God-self and our views, feelings, deliberations do nothing to alter that glorious truth.

Faire is the heaven,
Where happy soules have place,
In full enjoyment of felicitie,
Whence they doe still behold
The glorious face of the
Divine Eternall Majestie.

Yet Farre more faire be those bright
Cherubins, which all with golden wings
Are over dight,
And those eternall burning Seraphins,
Which from their faces dart out fiery light:
Yet fairer than they both, and much more
bright be th' Angels and Archangels,
Which attend on God's owne person,
without rest or end.

These then in faire each other farre excelling,
As to the highest they approach more neare,
Yet is that highest farre beyond all telling,
Fairer than all the rest which there appear,
Though all their beauties joynd together were;
How then can mortall tongue hope to expresse
The image of such endlesse perfectionesse?

Edmund Spenser

Monday, February 19, 2007

Primates notwithstanding

there were some splendid moments yesterday, - mostly grouped around this

We've gone for it in a big way at St M's, and I had such fun handing out smiley booklets to some of the older members of the congregation, who clearly thought that I'd finally lost it, but took one anyway to humour me. Now all they need to do is open it!
It was a success, too, at the Youth Group...with even the cool footballing fringe taking their booklets away cheerfully, and sparked some great conversation around spreading kindness.
The idea is "to inspire you to perform acts of generosity that encourage kindness to ourselves, our neighbours and our planet" via a series of actions, one for each day of Lent. Some will demand very little of us, but one or two may push us beyond our comfort zones,- I certainly hope so, anyway.

Right now, though, I'm quite simply excited at the idea of Ch Kings becoming (even for 6 weeks) the sort of place where people intentionally do positive things for their community. The inside front cover of the booklet shows both of our C of E Archbishops in happier times, endorsing the project
"These actions could seriously affect you and the world you live in"
Wouldn't that be lovely!
You can sign up to have the actions emailed to you, or texted to your mobile too.
Actually, you can't. I got that completely wrong...but if you visit the website, the day's action is there. Apologies for confusion.

I did wonder if it might work for a blogging community, but suspect not - but it would be good to know who else is doing it (if only so I know which of my friends will understand if I turn up on their doorstep with an apple one day next week!),- so do post in the comments if you are going to join in.

Now...what do I have to do today? Ah...make someone laugh . Just had lunch with special friend - lots of laughter there...and another friend is coming over to watch "Life of Brian" tonight, so things are getting off to a good start, and it's not even Shrove Tuesday yet!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

This morning I presided at the Eucharist at St M's.
Nothing unusual in that, though I'm thankful that the sense of wonder that I should be standing in that place, speaking those words shows no sign of abating, 18 months after my priesting.

But this morning had a particular feel to it, combining as it did the readings on the Transfiguration (which we will keep as a high Feast in August, too) with a heightened sense of what is happening to the Anglican Communion as, far away, the Primates continue to talk.
Before I left for church, I'd read these words (quoted on Rick's blog, which has,as so often, a wise perspective on the current dramas) from Jim Naughton, Canon for Communications at the Episcopal diocese of Washington D.C. (the words first appeared on the Associated Press site)

"Imagine if every believer, everywhere insisted on knowing the views of every other worshipper in a church on all the hot-button issues of our time before they would agree to go to Eucharist,'' Naughton said. ``When you don't attend a Eucharist because you disagree with the views of the people who are attending with you, you make it seem that the Eucharist is about you. It is not about you. It is about God.''

These words really hit home for me, on this Transfiguration Sunday, when we reflect on what it might mean for God to transfigure us, so that when people look they "See nothing, but only Jesus". As a priest and as a President, I'm always conscious of the tension between offering myself as I am, since this is all that I have to bring to the Eucharistic table, and at the same time getting myself out of the way, so that those who gather can encounter God, without any obtrusive mediation from the priest.
Today this felt even more essential.

And then I took the consecrated host and deliberately broke it, as I have to do, whenever I preside at the Eucharist.
Sometimes this feels like part of God's generous action, something that is pure joy to do, since by breaking I make the Sacrament available to all.
At others, particularly at the Midnight Mass, it feels like a violation, as I become the representative of all the human sins that wound Christ again and again.
Today I wanted to avoid the fraction altogether, but of course this was not an option.
So I broke the wafer as I knew I must- praying that this action of breaking the Body of Christ was not being mirrored in the actions of the Primates in Dar es Salam.
But the reality is that if those Archbishops have absented themselves from the Eucharist, then Communion is already broken.

We know, each one of us, that the whole Church is Christ's broken body here on earth...but perhaps we need to remember too that where there are cracks and brokenness, the light can shine through. To be part of a Church that seems in some ways bent on self-destruction is horribly painful, but perhaps in brokeness we'll ultimately be more able to get ourselves out of the way. Unable to present even a facade of unity and strength, we'll be forced to acknowledge our utter dependence on the God who welcomes us in all our frailty, and allow that same God to transform and transfigure the Church.

View mee, Lord, a worke of thine :
Shall I then lye drown'd in night?
Might thy grace in mee but shine,
I should seeme made all of light.

(Thomas Campion: First Booke of Aires)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Tory Party at Prayer

A long and strange day, in which I drove with LCM and M-i-L to a memorial service some 100 miles away . We went in tribute to one of the dearest men, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. Like my late FiL, he was endlessly kind, courteous and delightfully self-deprecating, one of the most fully-human men I've known - but he had also had a distinguished career as a soldier and was much decorated as a result. I've always struggled to square the circle of enthusiastic soldiering with deep faith and shining humanity, and today's service only added to my confusion. He had planned it down to the last detail, and it was utterly in keeping with the setting and the congregation. The chapel was filled to overflowing with rank on rank of pink and prosperous men in covert coats, with matching wives in smart tweeds,- as clearly a uniform as anything worn on the parade ground. A regimental chaplain prayed in bracing style, we sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" with huge gusto ( a measure of my affection for G is that I was prepared to sing it at all) , heard readings from St John (Authorised Version, of course) Bunyan and "Watership Down" and listened to two accounts of G's life and times. It was all perfectly fitting,- but so far away from the man whose gentle humour was one of the first pleasures of meeting LCM's family and friends when we got engaged.

For his sake, and that of his widow (whom I also love dearly) I curbed my impulse to leap onto a chair and start singing "The Red Flag". Politics, religion, sport,- we were fine on two-thirds of them. G and his wife were hugely supportive of my ordination, .and equally understanding when our children regaled them with horsey triumphs and disasters. Thankfully, we never approached the issue of politics,- though he was such a dear, I'm sure he'd have extricated himself from the situation before we had a chance to disagree. I'm so glad to have known him, - and grateful for the reminder that it's never good to judge by appearances.
Go well, G.

Friday, February 16, 2007

No improvement

in the situation in Dar es Salam, where 7 Primates absented themselves from today's Eucharist.
I heard Titus 3, the second reading at Evening Prayer today, as a very telling commentary on the way things are.

"I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone. Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over genealogies and fine print in the law code. That gets you nowhere. Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It's obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off."
Clearly, how you read this will depend on your viewpoint, but the pertinence is undeniable.

So...I should now be sunk in gloom.

However, thanks to Mary's take on my own mis-typing, and Dave's usual brilliance, I'm giggling gently.
I wish there was some way of sending a really good laugh to those beleagured leaders. It's amazing how much better it has made me feel.

Is this shipwreck?

I’ve spent this morning trying to do some reading and thinking, with scant success.
One reason for this is that the Evil Dillon has decided that simply barking whenever somebody passes by is no longer sufficient. Now he is barking whenever somebody breathes. What’s more, he’s barking at Mufti if she refuses to join in and bark with him. It’s becoming distinctly unrestful...
Murder is more likely by the second.

Another, more serious reason for my distraction is that I’m horribly aware that things may be coming to a head at the Primates’ meeting in Tanzania. It appears that Archbishop Akinola is currently in conversation with the conservatives of the Global South, while the official discussions continue in another room. To me, that doesn’t sound good. While the Primates are all talking together, there remains hope that they may actually listen to one another, and to God,- surely the point of the whole exercise.
There are people of all persuasions blogging directly from White Sands, (Inclusive Church here, Changing Attitudes here) and I’m checking Thinking Anglicans and my bloglines subs at regular intervals. Clearly there is nothing whatever I can do, or contribute…but it feels very much the same as waiting for news from a distant hospital where someone you love is struggling for life.
It’s hard to settle to anything, so instead will you pray with me?

Heavenly Father, in your Son Jesus Christ
You reconicle* the world to yourself.
Forgive us when our own hurt and anger drowns out your voice.
Forgive us when our divisions distort your image
and hinder the proclamation of your Gospel of freedom for all.
Give us that love that drives out fear
So that we may journey on together
In the unity which is your gift and your will
Through that same Jesus Christ, our Lord

*This should, of course, read "Reconcile" but to correct it now would be to deprive Mary's comment of its raison d' instead of praying, you're probably giggling weakly - but that's fine. We need a few laughs amid all this

PostScript to the Driving Course

Base metal

Waiting for the kettle to boil for my post Eucharist coffee this morning, I was half listening to Today on R4 when a feature about a new magazine stopped me in my tracks. Eat your heart out, alchemists - though the philosopher's stone may still be elusive, the elixir of life is apparently available courtesy of a new magazine.
“The world’s first consumer glossy dedicated to everything anti-ageing” , 'Elixir' appears today and it’s editor only just stopped short of promising that to read it regularly could fend off death.
She did, interestingly, correct herself when she began to say
It’s about living life in all its fulness…” changing to “to the max” so that I wondered if she’d once had another view about what makes life worthwhile.
Today she was resolutely materialist, preaching her message of well being through the best of scientific (and pseudo scientific?)innovations. When challenged as to why everyone should want to appear somewhere between 14 and 30 forever, she said something along the lines of
“Surely we all prefer to look at someone who looks pleasant…
Clearly the concept of beauty in old age isn’t worth entertaining for a moment.

I wonder what she’d have made of E, radiant for that moment in her hospital bed yesterday.
I’m willing to bet that she’s got a better route to life in all its fulness than all the staff at 'Elixir' put together.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thank you, Lord, that I'm still a curate...

As you’re doubtless all aware, with varying degrees of clarity, Lent begins next Wednesday.
For most parish clergy, this means a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as they put the finishing touches to the plans for the raft of study groups and courses, "hunger lunches" and special services that will carry the faithful through the 40 days of fasting and deposit them, hopefully in a suitable state of spiritual readiness, on the threshold of Easter. For a season of penitence and reflection, Lent sometimes seems devised specially to ensure that most people have no time to reflect at all,- though I'm hoping that I've learned the lessons of last year's manic activity, and will refrain from trying to do it all in the weeks ahead.
At the moment, WonderfulVicar is up to his ears in it,- working far more hours than is sensible, and putting on hold anything that isn’t hugely immediate. I hope the worst is behind him, but I’m not at all sure.
Meanwhile, one or two of the "moderately immediates" have fallen to my lot – but mostly, I’m able to just carry on doing the bits of ministry that actually feel like ministry,- the sort of things that might just get crowded out when I've a parish of my own to take care of. So, I'm savouring days like today.
This morning I took Communion to the care home, played with the Little Fishes and chatted to their mums, and networked wildly in the parish office. After lunch, I did some writing and then visited assorted ladies in assorted hospitals. The highlight of the day occurred during my last visit, which I'd almost cut out as I was worried that I'd be late for the Office.
E has been slightly confused for quite some time. As it happens, she’s a resident at the home I visited this morning, and a regular at our monthly Communion. She knows every word of the liturgy by heart but is always completely floored when actually presented with the Sacrament.
Thank you, my dear, - what do I do with it?” is her accustomed formula in response to the words of administration….

Today, though she is quite poorly, she knew exactly who I was, and what my business should be.
“You pray, don’t you? So…what are you waiting for? Pray.”
So I took her hands, which had been frantically plucking the sheet, and did just that. Straight away those anxious, fidgetting hands became still, as she relaxed into the familiar words. Her voice lost its nervous quaver and became steady and brave as she joined me in a psalm and the Lord’s Prayer.
After I had blessed her, she gave me a smile of pure joy and said
Wasn't that nice!”
Yes, E, it certainly was.
It might even carry me through tonight’s PCC meeting, though given the number of papers I’ve just downloaded and printed, it could be touch and go.
Perhaps this is a new Lenten discipline – the meeting that lasts 40 days.
Please, God, no……….

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sorry guys

You should have gone before we left home!

Glimpse of the blindingly obvious?

(Click on the image to enlarge)

The sign reads "Keep Clear". Hadn't planned on doing much else, if I'm honest.

After a shaky start

the day was rescued in style by young Dufflepud (on his half-term break), with whom the dogs and I enjoyed a splendid expedition to discover the Severn flood-plane in and around Deerhurst.
It was a beautiful spring-like day which made it very hard to believe that the last walk we'd taken together had been through a blizzard, though the flooded meadows told another story, and we frequently found the road ahead under water.
I'd actually forgotten how beautiful this part of the world can be,- we had a wonderful time, but only travelled 50 miles round trip from home, (just a few miles more than the normal school run) . Really good to relax together.Somehow, that just doesn't happen enough.


The amazing Dave does it again...(sometimes I wish he wouldn't)

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Oh my friends, and readers, thank you all for showing love and friendship, care and support to the person I am.
Hugs all round, and may your Valentine's day be full of love wherever you look for it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ms Average confronts reality

Just home from the "Speed Awareness" course I was offered as an alternative to nasty points on my licence...and very interesting, if sobering, it was too.

I was absolutely "average" in every area of the tests we were given, which pretty much supports my view that I drive safely but unimaginatively,-.and tend to have "better things" to think about along the way. I was appalled by how intensely I concentrated on video "hazard perception" tests (after 3o minutes I emerged with knuckles white and blood pressure raised) in contrast to the way I concentrate when I'm driving for real.I've thought of driving time, with some pleasure, as my space to consider God, life, everything...but maybe not the road.

Even more appalled by the demonstrations of the damage wrought at assorted speeds. At the 33mph for which I was booked, the poor dummy was carried for several metres on the bonnet of the car...Once speeds exceeded 40, it was so unfunny that I'm not going to write about it - but if you were behind me on the A40 this evening as I came home, I'm sorry if you were bored, but truly, that was the fastest I could morally manage.

Every now and then (or possibly more often than that) its good to remember how dangerous cars really are.
Please, oh lovely people about whom I care, drive carefully.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Humph revisited

What alot of lovely people seem to read this blog! Thank you for your supportive messages.

I've been considering last night's experience a bit more, - and I think that actually the family were within their rights as observant RCs, even though it hurt.
For them, it mattered hugely that the Last Rites were conducted by an RC priest.
For them, the sacramental process would not have been complete if it had been conducted by someone who, in their terms, was not a priest at all.
As we all know, a sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" - in this case, the grace of God at work forgiving and welcoming the departed soul.

That will, I'd say, happen regardless of who offers what prayers at the time of death.

So, my role as a priest is to make that process explicit ...naming God, if you like, claiming the ground, reminding everyone of what is actually going on.
And the family, in this case, is already aware of God's involvement, my ministry becomes important mainly as a signifier...but if for them it doesn't carry that significance, then there's no point in thinking wistfully that it ought to. It won't.

Sacraments are effective signs of God's grace at work, they lose their impact if they dont actually point to that for the recipient.

As to the disruptive influence of vibrating phones, unfortunately the relief chaplain only gets called out "out of hours" if there is a huge immediate response is part of the deal. We have to agree to be there within the hour, so need to pick up as soon as the call comes in. If it's less urgent, then it waits till the full-time chaplains are on again.
This means we only get the life or death issues - huge responsibility, huge sense of frustration when you cannot meet the need.
But not being able to meet needs is a painful but pressing reality...
I did say I was learning on the job, didn't I?

Sunday, February 11, 2007


This weekend, I've been on call as "Duty Chaplain" for the 3 local hospitals, a ministry I really enjoy. It's the first time my cover has included a Sunday, so I was a bit nervous that a call might come during the 8.00 Eucharist, when I'm the only person present who can actually preside,- but with that hurdle cleared, I was pretty relaxed about the rest of the day.

Still, it was with a little disquiet that I felt my cassock pocket vibrate gently just as the choir began the Magnificat during Evensong. I was preaching, and it seemed a bit tough to just dump my script on WonderfulVicar and bolt. Instead, I made a reasonably discreet exit to the vestry and picked up the call. Someone had just died and the family were requesting a priest.
Would they be alright to hang on 40 minutes, to allow me to finish Evensong and get to the hospital?
No I went back into the service, though a little distracted, and trying to offer prayers for the lady, E, and her family. Sermon time arrived, and I mounted the pulpit steps...only that wretched pocket was buzzing again(thank heaven for the "silent" setting). Nothing to be done at this point but continue, though concentration was a real struggle. I'm told that I no less coherent than normal, but inside I was wondering if this was a follow-up to the first call, or another call out..and if so to which hospital. I hated the fact that I couldn't answer instantly, be the kind of "flying squad" chaplain that all my instincts prompted me to be...And I hated too the fact that I was less than present to my congregation at St M's.
As soon as the sermon was over, WonderfulVicar mouthed that I should just go,- so, pausing only to pick up the oil stock, I prepared to do just that. Only the second call turned out to relate to the same case. No need for me to turn out after all. The family are RC and if they can't have an RC priest then at the very least they want a man.
It's not unreasonable, really,- but I am, once again, surprised at how much I mind when gender gets in the way of ministry.
Those phonecalls prevented me from being properly "there" for my own congregation, and now my gender has prevented me from offering ministry at the hospital too.
And it's not a good feeling.
Not in any way.

I'm very much afraid it's true!

Found this while looking for a picture for the previous post, and am presenting my rating in only slightly flippant mode. It didn't take long yesterday for me to realise that Sloth is indeed the besetting sin of this particular ENFP. Procrastination and a dislike of closure? Mmmnnn...that's the one.
David explained that it typically features a refusal to grapple with the situation that confronts us, becuase it is too difficult, too we move on, appearing restless, even energetic, but always refusing to engage, to acknowledge that it is in this situation, here and now, that we will find God. surprise at my scores!



Wrath:Very Low



Lust:Very Low


Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

In which the Curate learns all about sin!

Predictably wonderful CME yesterday from super-hero Canon David Hoyle whose excellence I've celebrated before. When he preached at St M’s last autumn I made him cringe during my welcome by saying that I’d never yet heard him utter a disappointing word,- but I only said it because it’s true!

So, yesterday we had to do some serious thinking about an area that tends to be skirted round by the inclusive, liberal church in which I’d place myself at home.
We were alerted to the contemporary tendency to see sin as just a species of psychological malaise. In pastoral encounters, I know I tend to speak about “brokenness” and “failure” rather than “sin”. Is this just because of a culture that equates sin with either the sex scandals of the tabloid press or an over-indulgence in chocolate (a la Slimming World, which apparently allows you up to 10 “sins”, - calorific, high point foods,- per day)? Or is it because I’m so embroiled by the outlook that celebrates self “Because I’m worth it”.
It’s a culture founded, in the final analysis, on the sin that inverts the proper order of creation, to make human beings the measure of all things, the centre of the universe.
If worship is an expression of the right order of things, then sin is its antithesis. Instead of God on the throne, there’s self…

Even as I try to speak of an alternative route, I’m held captive by the prevailing mind-set. I want to emphasise the overwhelming love of God, particularly in a context in which fear might seem to have been the foundation of worship for too long…but perhaps I do this at the expense of confronting the reality of my own sin.

Sin, we learned, is a mismatch, a disappointment of expectation, a negation of the selves that we should be in Christ.
It is a behavioural choice,- to select a lesser good above a greater, which will in its turn lead to a distortion of other relationships, so that everything becomes disordered, inappropriate. We are satisfied with a secondary treasure , and are gradually shaped by that choice, travelling ever further from the true selves we are called to be in Christ.

DH was terribly clear in his demonstration that sin is parasitic upon a corresponding virtue. Too often, this is what makes it seem attractive. Thus pride presents itself as humility. As we say “Lord, I am not worthy…” we are bidding for attention, placing ourselves centre-stage “ Look at me, being humble. Don’t I do it nicely?!”

“Once in a saintly passion
I cried with desperate grief
“O Lord, my heart is black with guilt
Of sinners I am chief.
Then stopped my guardian angel
And whispered from behind
“Vanity, my little man
You’re nothing of the kind” (from E.G.Rupp "Luther's Progress")

Avarice and gluttony both arise from a failure to trust in God’s provision…instead, we set about providing for ourselves, asserting our self-dependence rather than accepting that God will give us all we need and more than we can imagine
“It is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom, but all we pray for is a holiday or a new car
What’s more, we set out to acquire them, pursuing our goals relentlessly, till we are consumed by the process, the appetite, and lose ourselves utterly. DH quoted one example from The Great Divorce, of a woman who has grumbled for so long that she has become nothing but a grumble…but I came home thinking of another scene from the same book,- the process by which the dwarf (the true self) is swallowed gradually by the posturing Tragedian …

I wondered, as I drove home, whether in fact all sins are derivatives of pride, since they seem ultimately to involve putting our own kingdom, our own fulfillment in the place of God. David ended the afternoon by pointing out that when we are called to life in all its fulness, that is not to the apotheosis of Kathryn-ness, but to a Kathryn who is fully human in Christ.

(Michael at feig-city has also posted about the day...David is so good at making us think)


One adequate, if not inspired Evensong sermon on our responsibility for creation.
In the course of preparing it, I found an article by susperstar Walter ("The Powers") Wink . There was so much good stuff, I ended up wanting to write an essay myself...
I'll spare you that, but in a week in which I've been specially conscious of the natural world and the extremes of climate, I loved these words.

We unite to struggle together for ecojustice. But we are motivated to do so, not just because we are terrified of the consequences of ecodisaster, though that does indeed terrify and motivate us. Nor are we motivated solely by the demand of the gospel, with its challenge to all domination. Nor are we motivated simply by a hunger and thirst after justice for all God's creatures, though all these are factors.

More deeply, we are motivated by our hunger for God. For as Thomas Berry puts it, when we destroy the living forms of this planet, the first consequence is that we destroy modes of Divine presence. "If we have a wonderful sense of the divine, it is because we live amid such awesome magnificence. If we have refinement of emotion and sensitivity, it is because of the delicacy, the fragrance, and the indescribable beauty of soul and music and rhythmic movement in the world about us."28 Our very gusto for living, the joy that satisfies us and blesses our days, are largely a function of the sheer beauty and abundance of nature. We are already beginning to feel the loss as fewer songbirds greet us with the dawn. When we degrade the environment, we deprive ourselves of the most powerful and constant revelation of the Divine itself. When we diminish nature, we diminish the ecstasy and sheer happiness of dwelling on this solitary and incomparable earth. When we damage this intricate and vulnerable creation, we must reckon with a consequent loss in the thrill of being a creature.

It appears that God is not a remote deity external to the universe, but is present in every energy-event of spirit-matter. In the final analysis, then, we struggle for ecojustice because we are deliriously in love with God's body, this greening and vivid earth.

And indeed, it was very good.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Is this evasion or avoidance?

There are far too many things going on in my life that I'm anxious not to confront right now,- chief among them, of course, being the perennial problem of a sermon for Evensong on Sunday.
I really do struggle with this....the lectionary is often harsh to "Second Service" preachers, and even when the readings are good, I'm often defeated by the dynamics of preaching to a handful of people scattered across the church, while a far larger contingent sits behind me in the choir. This Sunday, actually, the readings are quite attractive if I can only apply myself to them,- but that feels like quite a substantial "if only" at this moment.

So, for the first time for ages I'm going to indulge in the Revgals Friday Five...something very close to bloggers' junk-food, quick and undemanding, which I've resisted successfully so far this year.
Not today, though.
Anything rather than concentrate on the job in hand!
For a once-upon-a-time semi-pro singer, a chance to revisit old dreams was really fun...but there's no obligation on anyone to read the results.

1) If I could sing like anyone, it would be lovely, lovely Emma Kirkby. Once upon a time in Cambridge, I got the chance to sub for her at the final rehearsal before we premiered a new edition of the Mozart Requiem...I love her absolute purity of tone - and she sings the sort of music I love most, and which my own voice, in its heyday, suited best. She's just heaven!

2) I would love to sing the song Dove sono, or come to that Porgi Amor - with a good orchestra. Well, let's be honest, I'd really enjoy the chance to sing the whole of the Contessa role from Marriage of Figaro. It's not going to happen,-and it would not be a musically pleasing event if it did, these days. However, dreams are free!
irl, the stuff I like, I sing all the time,- with more or less success. Public performances are a very different matter.

3) It would be really cool to sing at one of the lovely Wren churches in London. I'm specially fond of St James's Piccadilly, - where I depped as a chorister once or twice in my youth. I was also working just along the road, at Hatchards bookshop at the time, so St James's felt like my weekday parish church...There was a lovely early Eucharist that I could catch before work,- and I think it was then that I began to revolve my life around that particular sacramental pole. Definitely a Good Place (and I've just discovered, while Googling it for this post, that a friend's partner is on the staff there - lucky man!)

4) If I could sing a dream duet it would be with Ian Bostridge. Though I'm not sure I'd be able to make any sound at all, were he in the vicinity.

5) If I could sing on a TV or radio show, it would be...I honestly don't know the answer to this. There isn't an obvious show-case for the sort of singing I'd be likely to be doing...Perhaps I'll settle for one day precenting somewhere whose choir broadcasts on R3's Choral Evensong - assuming that this actually survives.

OK...having indulged in this cheerfully pointless activity, it's back to Genesis 1 and an ecology sermon. Unless, of course, I paint the dog's toe-nails...or rearrange the sock drawer...or...

Oddly uninviting

For some reason I feel rather less than enthusiastic about my customary mode of transport today. On normal days, my bike is blue with a black saddle, and the basket has space for the eclectic essentials of a morning out and about in Ch Kings. Today, it is as you see white all over, and the basket is full to the brim with snow. Perhaps I'll just stay in, till I postively have to go somewhere. I do need to get to Oxford in a couple of hours (no problem once I've got out of Privet Drive, I'm sure, though there's more snow falling as I type) and, more seriously, Hugger Steward is due to leave Burford at 4.00 am tomorrow for a flight from Heathrow to Berlin. (A level History trip to places of WW2 significance, including Krakow, lucky boy)
I fear that the roads will be really good fun by then if this weather continues...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not all suburbia

School was cancelled for my boys today, so before Morning Prayer the Dufflepud the dogs and I went on a wonderful walk up through the woods that overlook Ch Kings. We were the first people about and it was quite breathtaking...though poor Mufti, the Australian terrier, is honestly too low-slung to cope very well with deep snow, and was soon shackled by huge snow-balls round all 4 paws and hanging from her tummy as well. She kept going manfully for a long while, until she couldn't actually move at all - at which point she lay down, almost disappearing completely in the drifts.

All in all, it was a wonderful way to begin the day. It's not often that I actually see the beauty right on the doorstep. Having the outlines of trees and hedges muffled by snow somehow makes them more real. Now, though, the morning's gleaming whiteness has been reduced to grubby slush in most places, and a normal life of hospital visits, synod meetings and overdue sermon prep beckons again.

Keeping up with the Joneses in Privet Drive

I am with difficulty refraining from singing "There's no business like snow-business" as I go upon my merry way!

Not alot on

at St Mary's this week... Must be because of the weather!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

School Run

-6 degrees when the boys and I got into the car this morning...The drive over to Burford was utterly stunning in its deep-frozen beauty. Can't believe that once upon a time my "school run" would have involved the stop-start nightmare of London's South Circular.
It took me a while to get home this morning, as I had to keep stopping to take photos. A few more on flickr.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dreams and realities

I’ve just received a slightly scary package through the post…the assorted paperwork I need to complete (and ask others to complete about me) before my first ever official Ministerial Review.
As I’ve only been ordained 3 years, the first question or two are relatively easy
The most significant experiences in my ministry over the past 3 years?
That would be my ordination and first Eucharist, for sure!
Have I managed to achieve the objectives identified in my last ministerial review? What review??
Then I remembered that, during our very last residential at vicar-school, we were told to settle down and dream dreams about where our ministry might be in 3 years time...The exercise was labelled "The Miracle Question".
Atypically, I knew where to find my thoughts…and was really interested in what I’d written. I’m not in any way saying “Wow, look at me…super-priest has met her personal goals” but I was struck by the similarities between what I’d dared to hope for and where I feel ministry really is right now. I suspect this says more about my self-knowledge in terms of what I might reasonably expect to do/be than about any real or imagined success criteria…Still quite interesting, though. Overall, there is a pretty good match of "achievements" (to my amazement, I’d actually thought I might do a spiritual direction course- had totally forgotten about that) – with, of course, one or two heroic failures.
For example, whatever happened to the alt worship that I was hoping to see as a regular part of my ministry?
And the regular writing?? Maybe this blog is it,- but perhaps I should try and do something more focussed....or revisit the question of an M Phil (Help! I need a topic…aaarghhh)
Church re-ordering isn’t really something I have any control over. No surprises that it hasn’t been achieved yet – for somewhere like St M’s, this is HUGE.

But the things that I really envisgaged mattering most…Presiding at the Eucharist, work with pre-school and school-aged children, funerals…those truly are the places that I feel most at home.
I’m intrigued that I thought I’d need to “learn to relate to those on the fringes of the community”. Here in CK, the fringes are often where I feel most comfortable…

I had no idea about the real pressure points for me….Time management when there is no fixed timetable…Boundaries of all sorts…those are the things that bring me up short again and again.

Perhaps, after all, this ministerial review won't be too daunting at least in the preparation. Always assuming, of course, that I actually get the paperwork done! If I manage that in good time for the deadline, I think I'll have to award myself the Curate's Medal of Extraordinary'll be a first.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Theology by love-heart

Marcella has already remarked on the broad range of theology to be found in a packet of love-hearts...and having just returned home from Open House I can only agree with her.
Our theme for this afternoon, following the Lectionary, was "Catch!" - so we had a fair bit of happy mayhem involving acting out the miraculous catch, and entangling as many children as possible in a net before sending them off to share the message they'd been given with everyone else in church.
Later on, they were given a tangible reminder of the message in the form of love-hearts...Yes, it's tacky. Yes, eating more than a couple can definitely make you feel rather sick...but nonetheless, there's great scope here for a station in the next St Mary's labyrinth.
Messages from God included
"Be Mine""All Mine" "I Love You" "Real Love" "Forever" and , delightfully, "Let's dance"....while one response at least echoed this morning's reading from Isaiah "Send me".
So next time I'm stuck for a sermon, I might just pull a random collection of love hearts out of a packet and see where they take me. Meanwhile, there are several people I need to communicate with...choose a sweet, go on,- there's
"Best Mate" "Bless You" "Hug Me" "You Angel" "Love you"...

Explanatory Note

Since my older son seems confused, it's possible one or two others are equally at a here goes. For the foreseeable future, these are the essential facts about the GoodinParts family.
We live at Privet Drive, in a house provided by the diocese of Gloucester, because I, Mummy GoodinParts, am more commonly known as The Curate.
I'm married to Longsuffering Clockmaker, and we have 3 children
  1. Hattie Gandhi, in her first year of reading English at Cardiff University,
  2. Hugger Steward, who currently has more hair than I've had hot dinners, and is in his A level year at school, and
  3. the Dufflepud, his younger brother.
We share Privet Drive with 2 terriers and 3 cats and provide a nature reserve for the house-dust mite to boot. Truffle the horse is glad to report that he lives elsewhere, - though there's currently so little grazing amid the mud, he might actually be better off in our miniscule garden.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A dufflepud is born!

Youngest son has long had an ambition to try his hand at coracling,- inspired in part by early identification with Reepicheep the mouse. and by a happy chance one of my very favourite people on the planet has in her possession a coracle. Add to this mixture two clergy without sermons to preach tomorrow, a dry Saturday and a duck-weed covered stretch of canal and a very happy morning is the result. Amazingly, the change of clothes we'd brought with us went home untouched...This child is far more balanced in every respect than his mother!

As a means of travel, coracling makes even narrow-boating seem speedy,- so we marched up and down the towpath a bit in an effort to keep warm,while he paddled along. Lots to see ...I'm almost regretting not joining in the Project 365 as I find outings with Biggles the camera oddly addictive. I've never been a visual person, but knowing that mistakes cost nothing, I'm getting bolder by the minute.
Mind you, as J and the coracle drifted away from the shore, he looked not so much like Reepicheep as some other characters from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader...the newly visible monopod dwarves, the Dufflepuds. In fact, from henceforth I propose to give no 2 son a new nom- de-blog...the Dufflepud.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Lovely Assembly this morning at the infants' school.
We talked about how the star that had been on the church tower since Christmas no longer shone there today, and carefully packed away my Asian crib.
I told them the story of the Presentation, letting them work out for themselves why candles are the symbol for today, and what we might really mean by describing Jesus as a light for people everywhere.
Then we turned the hall lights off, lighting one large "Jesus candle" and prepared to put it away as well, leaving the hall in darkness.
We stopped just in time, to allow a member of each class to light a tea light from the big flame first, and the children stood, holding their lights for a moment of intense silence before we prayed.

Very simple.
Very obvious.
But holy, for all that.

Starmaker God,
Lightener of the world;
bless us and warm us
into life and loving.
Bring us to the light of Jesus
all the length and breadth
of our nights and days.

Ruth Burgess: A Book of Blessings and how to write your own
Wild Goose Publications, The Iona Community.