Category Archives: Church

A moment

I’m hosting a meeting at home this evening.

Rusk and I made cakes this afternoon (he is good at stirring) and they are sitting in the kitchen by the kettle.

Mr F is upstairs, out of the way of the meeting.

People will arrive soon.

The living room is tidy.

Everything is peaceful.

The cat is asleep on a chair (this won’t last long once people get here)

After a very busy day combining work with toddler-minding this is a welcome oasis of calm.

I’m making the most of it.

Blessed are the meek

So, it appears that yesterday I only thought about posting, but didn’t actually write. Serves me right for owning up to trying NaBloPoMo.

Today I have been into the local school to lead collective worship. We plan these a term at a time, so whichever member of the team are leading it should make sense and not end up with the same story three weeks running.

We are doing the beatitudes this half term and I volunteered for ‘blessed are the meek’. Sounds easy? Not so much, especially when I found that there don’t seem to be any assemblies online for 5-11 year olds based on blessed are the meek. Now I know why.

I really wanted to go into the link between blessed are the meek and turn the other cheek. With both of them, despite seeming to advocate being a total pushover, there is a sense of protest. Meekness in this context doesn’t mean being totally acquiescent to any unreasonable oppression. Rather, it is a measured response. You can still state how much the oppression is hurting you, and try to avoid it happening. The meekness comes in not getting angry or responding violently

Turning the other cheek is similar. The natural way for a right-handed person to slap someone is on the left cheek. Turning the other cheek requires them to either use their left hand (which in non-enlightened times was very much not done) or to hit back-handed. Hitting back-handed signified the total insignificance and humiliation of the person you are hitting. Volunteering to be humiliated in this way is meant to be a way of pointing out to the person hitting you the damage they are inflicting.

All very well and nicely intellectualised. Problems? For a start, there is little meaning to these codes of right-handed superiority and correct fighting any more. Then there is all the bullying of left-handers or putting into practice of hitting each other that might arise from an assembly on this subject.

I ended up using a box of duplo bricks tipped all over the floor to help illustrate this. Any guesses how?

Greenbelt musings

This year, my Greenbelt was mostly about the people. My weekend centred on meeting up with lots of different people from across the country. Hot beverages were drunk, cake was eaten and the world was set to rights for another year. I also took some time out to go and see a few items from the programme – seemed only polite since the organisers work so hard to make it interesting.

I discovered Jude Simpson and spent the rest of the weekend trying (unsuccessfully) to get the Mango song out of my head. Possibly the most bizarre 90 minutes of the weekend were spent watching Zic Zazou – a troupe of french engineers making music from everything. Apart from being a little repetitive, it was amazing. I’m sure there will be some clips on YouTube. At one point one of them drilled some holes in a metal pipe, then picked it up and played it like a flute!

John Bell was there, of course, leading the Big Sing and doing some talks. Turns out he isn’t a big fan of the internet, Facebook, mobile phones or television – he pointed out a lot of the bad effects they have on people who become dependent on them, but was kind enough to suggest that we should use our own judgement about whether it is a problem for us. Francis Spufford was interesting, on the subject of British people doing Antarctic exploration (Scott etc.). My sister went to his other talk, on his book “The Child that books built” – turns out he grew up in the house 3 doors down from my childhood home, but moved out the year before I was born. One talk I was not planning to see, but went along to with some college friends, was a talk by Padraig O’Tuama about hell, particularly the effect on children of teaching them about hell. Very interesting. I did go to some other talks, but I forget which ones. My list of ‘to be downloaded later’ talks is quite long.

Beer and Hymns was a highlight, but we didn’t get anywhere near the frontĀ  of the queue for the beer tent, so we went to And Hymns instead. We (my sister and I) had Pie and Mash and Hymns – almost as good, but not as easy to wave in time to the choruses. A useful reminder was given to those wanting to start Beer and Hymns sessions in their home towns: Beer and Hymns is not just about introducing beer to people who like hymns, but about introducing hymns to people who like beer.

The thing that made me smile most over the weekend were two people dressed as angels, complete with wings and a Hallelujah soundtrack, on Segues gliding up and down outside the Tiny Tea Tent. Just watching the reactions of people was lovely.

Segue Angel

There was quite a significant knitting component to Greenbelt. I went along to one of the Greenbelt Angel knitting circle sessions. There was also a learn to knit session that I helped with where we all knitted beards or moustaches (inspired by Life of Brian) – I understand that there will be pictures somewhere.

One of the things I realised at Greenbelt is that I have a good memory for faces (and sometimes the names that go with them). I recognised a lot of people over the weekend who showed no sign whatsoever of knowing who I was. There were people from churches I was on placement at several years ago, people I sat in lectures with at college. There were random people (like some of your good selves) from the internet. I think there was someone I went to school with half my lifetime ago (she was coming out of a loo cubicle as I was going in and I didn’t have the presence of mind to greet her – I was wearing a hat, so she probably didn’t notice me). There was one woman who looked really familiar and I saw her a few times before I figured it out: Clare Short. Good thing I didn’t go over to find out how I knew her. Then as I was sheltering from the rain in the Church Times tent (marvellous cartoons by the way) I saw another real famous person…

Yes, it is Tom Hollander from Rev. My only camera was the one in my phone, so it is a little bit blurry. I liked how he had two minders, presumably to protect him from potential hordes of angry/over-exuberant clerical types.

All this, of course, now fades into the distance as I am back at work. My two essays were not completed before I went away in July, so I had a frantic couple of days typing – all done now. I also came home to find Mr F addicted to the Definitely Last Ever mini-series of Big Brother. Very disappointing, but a horribly easy thing to happen.

In other news… A knitting competition started yesterday that I am taking part in. It is a race to knit 6 pairs of socks, but before each pattern is released you have to solve some puzzles. Very good fun. I am in a lovely team for the puzzle solving, but the knitting is all individual. I don’t expect to progress much beyond round 2. I really would like to finish round 1 – I have until 17th September or until 90% of the participants have completed it.

Miscellany

  1. My Greenbelt ticket has arrived!
  2. I’m going to Taize in a couple of weeks
  3. By which time I will have written 6000 words on essays for the MA module I am doing as part of my work training
  4. The second sock is past the heel and only the leg left to do – 55 rounds and counting
  5. Deanery chapter is this afternoon
  6. I can wander around the village chatting to people and it is part of work
  7. I’m preaching on Mary and Martha this Sunday (a triple bill – hopefully by the third time I’ll have got it nailed!)

Got to go. My lift will be here soon.

Post-ordination thoughts

First time at my desk since the ordination. Thank you all very much for your good wishes and prayers. It was a lovely day and we’ve had a bit of a holiday in the south since then.

Legoland in half-term on a very hot day = quite an ordeal, but worth it for Rusk’s face when he met Lego Bob the Builder (bigger than he is).

Our tour of the M25 took in visits to some very lovely people, including a good friend’s wedding. Fantastic day all round. Rusk spent his time charming everyone, even playing football with the mother of the bride for half an hour. The next group of people we saw had a lovely garden, complete with climbing frame and slide. Mr F’s face when he saw Rusk had climbed to the top of the climbing frame by himself was a picture.

We were also introduced to the game of Bananagrams. Anyone else play? There is a Facebook app, but it doesn’t do the game justice. Marvellous fun.

Sunday morning was my first normal Sunday since the priesting. The vicar took the opportunity to have the day off so I was left to my own devices, ably assisted by the usual team. I was totally astounded when a lovely couple who had been very unsure about women priests came up to the rail and received communion. They have been very kind to me and we’ve had some good discussions about it over the year, but I really wasn’t expecting it. So lovely. Still brings tears to the eyes to think about it.

In other news: inauspicious, abnegate, writerly, efficacious, honorific, ostentation, sedulous, fallible, vinification, desuetude, pilose, ideate, arriviste, gimcrack, muliebrity and revile. Quite a collection of words to take in from my word a day calendar since I last looked at it.

Pre-ordination thoughts

I’m getting ready in the next few days to go on retreat before my ordination to the priesthood. There is a certain familiarity about the whole thing since the administrative side is very similar to last year when I was ordained deacon. My parishioners are getting a coach to come and watch me be made into ‘a proper vicar’, presumably as opposed to the improper vicar they see now!

The question everyone seems to be asking is whether I’m excited. Am I? There is not nearly as much change to come as a result of this ordination as there was last year. In the last month I haven’t had to move house, or start a new job, or get to know hundreds of new people all at once. I won’t have a whole new uniform for work on Monday – the dog collar took quite some time to get used to. The service will be much as last year, but this time I will know many more of the people there. Colleagues I had just met last year have become friends this year. It will definitely be a special time, but excitement isn’t the word. Maybe anticipation.

The only really new thing is presiding at Eucharist. Excitement definitely isn’t the word there. Nervousness is, not fear, but definite nervousness. So many things to remember, so many movements to coordinate with words, so much potential for clumsiness. And I’ll be wearing a chasuble… a big, thick poncho-type thing over a cassock-alb, over normal clothes, in the middle of summer! If I get to the end without collapsing from heat exhaustion that will be a miracle. I’m dealing with this in my usual way – assuming that I will forget everything that isn’t written down, and so making very sure that it is written down. My print-out of the Eucharistic prayer has stick-figures drawn all over it. I had a run-through of the logistics with the head server yesterday. It was scary enough standing behind the altar and looking down at an empty building. Can’t imagine how it is going to be with a packed (I hope) Church. Thank God none of us do things like this alone.

One very strange thing is realising that the ordination is the fulfilment of a calling I heard five years ago. If God said then, “you are going to be a priest”, I wonder what he’ll say next.

I’m off to one of the local schools now to talk about Pentecost. This time last year that would have had me in a flat panic. Bodes well…

Long day

Rusk woke me up (a rare happening in itself – it usually takes a mighty stramash to pierce the depths of sleep) at 5am today, well at 4.59 to be precise. Waking when there is a 4 in the hour seems so much more extreme than a minute later would have been. After taking ages to get back to sleep, the snooze button on my alarm was well and truly abused until I looked at the clock and there was only 5 minutes before morning prayer, at Church, 2 minutes walk away. Not a great start to the day. I am leading prayers this week – who knows what or who I prayed for during the intercessions, but my incumbent didn’t raise eyebrows too much, so it can’t have been too random.

The meeting with the local Methodist minister followed on straight afterwards. My incumbent is getting used to my first thing in the morning, after a disturbed night, bleariness, so fed me toast and decaff until I looked more human. Lovely man!

General admin until lunchtime followed this, then the final week of the Lent courses, with a bread and cheese (really good cheese – brie, wensleydale and stilton) lunch. The conclusion to the course was to try and persuade people to view PCC (parochial church council = church meeting) meetings as a time to integrate the gifts of the Spirit, that we see in those around us, with the opportunites in the community. i.e. start by recognising gifts and only then plan strategy, avoid starting projects when you don’t have the people to run it effectively. We looked at the beginning of Luke 10 and an interesting question was raised: why do we (i.e. the CofE) persevere with ministry to every community when there must be some where there is no welcome there? Why don’t we do as Jesus taught the seventy and shake the dust from our feet and walk away?

Evening prayer was just me, so after praying the office, I spent some time reading Thomas Merton – The Seven Storey Mountain. I like autobiography, but he comes across as so arrogant and rude, particularly towards the Anglican Church (although the passage I read today had a rather scathing account of the Quakers). I’m persevering with it a bit at a time, mostly because of the picture of him on the front cover. He is such a smiley person – it will be interesting to see the influences on him becoming a monk. I’ve only got to the beginning of his time at university at the moment – some way to go.

Now I’ve just got some hymns to pick for Monday’s Tenebrae service and then I might have a bit of a go at the next Settlers level.