Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Advent Calendar Conspiracy

If anyone visiting this blog hasn't yet come into contact with the Advent Calendar Conspiracy, it's something I was asked to get involved with by Changing Worship, a friend in both the real word and the t'interworld.  Inspired by the Advent Conspiracy - a bid to get some real meaning back into Advent and Christmas by asking simple questions and taking simple but effective action - it's an Advent Calendar.  Each day there's a 30 second video clip which juxtaposes traditional images and sounds of Christmas as we know it in modern Britain and the western world, with images, sounds and ideas about the reality of our world, the changes we might like to see, and the truth sent from above.

You can get your daily dose of questioning by following the group on face book here - just like the page. Or you can follow them on Changing Worship's blog - follow the link above. We've really enjoyed putting these together - and I've found when I've revisited the clips I put together myself that new thoughts have been inspired.

In his article for the Christmas Radio Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams talks about what we mean when we bandy around the slogan 'What Would Jesus Do?' - he suggests it's all about asking awkward questions - and I hope that's what our little project has done this Advent.

Ethics and Gift Aid

I appreciate this is a slightly random topic but I have been thinking recently about the ethics of Gift Aid. Gift Aid seems to be a wonderful scheme which has benefited many charities, not least the church. It is available to all UK tax payers and means that by making a simple declaration you are able to add £0.25 to every pound you give to a charity.  This £0.25 is claimed by the charity from the government - and each £0.25 comes from the tax you have already paid.  So it is a way of re-allocating the tax you have paid to a charity of your choice.

So far so good.  But unless I have missed the point (and will be happy for someone to put me out of my ignorance) this means that every time I Gift Aid a donation, I am in fact taking money out of the tax I have paid to support essential services, and putting it somewhere else.  I know this seems churlish, but I'm not entirely sure that this is OK.  If my tax pounds are needed to support the NHS, schools etc. is it really ethical for me to choose to opt out of part of that essential payment by re-allocating it to my chosen charity?

I suppose for those who understand this area better than I there are many mitigating factors. I would be happy to be enlightened.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Advent Songs

My song: Doris Corti

I sing my God
   in blue of skies and seas -
I sing my God in green and brown
And the magnificence of fields.

I sing my thanks for the orb of sun
and quiet of each moon,

I sing my God in what we sow,
   seeds scattered
and the hope of what is to come.

I sing about the brilliance
   that underscored each day,
the bread rolls, warm upon the plate
the milk poured from a jug

shafts of sunlight that hit the river deep,
and rain that splinters on a path;

I sing my God in his excellence,
his unknown ways - the life he gives,

     I sing my song.

Friday, 18 November 2011

New Post - New Post....

Well here I am - an incumbent -a vicar in the C of E. I've been a bit blog quiet lately because it's very tempting amid all this change to pour it all out to the listening ear of the bloggosphere. I've been very aware though of allowing my first impressions of my parish to sink in and settle down before rushing to praise or criticism - and I sincerely hope my new parishoners are allowing me the same lattitude.
I'm also aware of the change in 'voice' too. I am what I am (and all that) but being the cheeky curate blogging impressions and ideas was one thing, and blogging as myself the vicar (licensee's name over the door now y'know) is subtly something else. There are those who seem (judging by content) to tweet and blog with the assumption that  none of their actual parishoners will be reading it. This is not the case for me, and I'm adjusting to myself as an incumbent in cyberspace as well as an incumbent in the flesh.
More to follow.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Big Day

This is it then - today I will become a Vicar. I will finally formally have the title I have used so often during my curacy so I didn't have to explain to people the difference between one kind of priest and another.  I can't wait to get my church keys and start having a really good root around, finding out where things are and what things do.

From what I've read elsewhere in recent blogs from others in similar situations (thinking particularly of Vernacular Vicar's) the biggest struggle might be pacing myself. The working day/week is as long as a piece of string. It's a great and lively parish which already has a lot going on and loads of pro-active members of the congregation. What will God's vision be for us here?  I take on board concern shared by a colleague this week who said "It's reached that point when I need to know it's our vision, a shared vision - not just mine."

Watch this space!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Weird Gaps in Time

Not a reference to an exciting new episode of Dr Who I hasten to add.  I haven't posted here for some time as I have been in the middle of a move. Moving from my curacy to my first parish as vicar. (note if you follow the link - that fella in the collar on the homepage isn't me ;-)

I am to be vicar (as of the day after tomorrow) - though of course not 'incumbent' - as we are all now licensed under Common Tenure. As we are all now supposedly on the same terms and conditions I am unsure why some posts are still advertised as 'priest-in-charge' and others as 'vicar' - this used to be seen as differentiating between a 'vicar' who was an incumbent with freehold, and someone for whom the bishop was not extending that privilege.

Anyway - we have moved house, said a fond farewell to a parish and colleagues who have given me a brilliant curacy, and have been dealing with new nurseries, a new school, a big fight with BT over broadband service and vicarage phone number and all the other joys of change.  It has been a limbo-like few weeks - suspended between one place and another.

I'm excited about the challenges the new parish will bring, giddy to think about what God might have in store for this place and these people.  I feel both well prepared (nearly 10 years now since all this vocation stuff started - and that was without a hitch or a hiccup), and also completely clueless.  I'm trying to embrace this too in a "Hey, God, look at my blank canvas - come and make art!" kind of a way.

I think the blog may get a bit busier the next few weeks.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

One moment in time....

There is so much going on - and at the same time this is the quietest time of the year. Things are moving slowly it seems but the things that are moving are massive - like monumental icebergs.  I am approaching the big curacy/incumbency move. All preparations are going incredibly well really, but this does not dissipate the tension.  The depression - of leaving a wonderful curacy, and I think most importantly a wonderful colleague in my training incumbent who has given me more than I think I will ever be able to quantify - is beginning to ebb. The excitement of all the challenges and 'getting to know you's' that lie ahead is starting to build.
In the meantime I wait for my mum to get a 'suspected anneurism' checked out which apparently needed blue light hospital dashes on Friday night but now just needs to wait for an appointment, and my wonderful, funny, strong, generous, loving godfather lies in hospital not knowing himself or anyone else anymore, waiting for only God knows what to let go of this life.
So it seems strange to have only just realised (reading the worship programme info for Greenbelt and bursting into tears) that going to Greenbelt for the first time this year, at a moment that couldn't really be more pivotal if it tried, is probably going to be emotional (understatement).  For those who have encouraged me to go and who I will be seeing there - I kind of apologise in advance.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A trip off and a biblical journey

Just back from a wonderful 4 days in Paris.  I say this not in the self-satisfied tone of someone who pops off passport in hand in a regular basis. This was my first trip out of the country in 9 years. It was the first time me and Mr Vicarage have been abroad together - in 15 years together.  We were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and it was absolutely blooming brilliant.  Paris was everything you'd expect - totally wonderful. Some of the greatest joy came from successful navigation, working out which metro line to get on and where to stick the ticket!  Have returned tired but happy to be greeted by an Amazon delivery - AJ Jacobs The Year of Living Biblically which is already shaping up to be funny, challenging and inspiring.  He's spending a year living by the rules of the Bible, trying to work out what he can do, to whom, when and where.  Like arriving in a strange city, without reference points - looking at what other people do and trying to work out what you need to do yourself. I'm looking forward to finding the bit in the book where he gets the feeling I got when I worked out which Metro to get on!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Your Kingdom Come - Your will be done

Attended two fascinating things this week which have come together in my mind to bring inspiration.  The first I've already mentioned on here - study day about prayer with Dr Paula Gooder.  We focused on the Lord's Prayer, looking at where it appears in the Gospels, how it's been tweaked in liturgy, what the tweakings do to the meaning of the prayer and trying to get to the bottom of what Jesus was on about.

The thing which has stuck most in my mind is the sense that this is not a simple or easy prayer, it speaks of end times, of the coming of the Kingdom, and one of Paula's conclusions was that we should have thought very hard about all that, what we think it means and what we believe, before we casually rattle through this so familiar prayer.

Then  last night I had the pleasure of welcoming Stephen Sizer to speak at the Minster where I work. At the invitation of the Friends of Sabeel (Sabeel being the Ecumenical Centre for Liberation Theology in Jerusalem) Stephen had come to speak to us about Christian Zionism.  It was stimulating to hear Stephen very clearly make his points about different strands of Christian Zionism, their political impact, and their impact on the ground. We're talking about unsound theology and flawed biblical interpretation perpetuating conflict in the Holy Land and standing in the way of any peace process.  It was fascinating and having heard him speak I would recommend any of Stephen's books on the subject - find them on Amazon.

It took me back to Paula's words earlier in the week because the apocalyptic strand of Christian Zionism has a very clear vision of what praying for and working for the coming of the Kingdom means.  I was left with the sense, as I so often am, that those of us with more moderate views are making ourselves complicit in oppression and injustice because we don't speak up enough.  Stephen quoted Desmond Tutu's words about the apartheid in Israel/Palestine - the suggestion being that we need to take the kind of action against the Israeli state that we took against  South Africa to change things there.

Overall I was left with the sense that we're not very eschatologically switched on in mainstream Anglicanism.  When we pray for the Kingdom to come as Paula suggested we really need to have thought through what that means, because it could and should affect everything we do. Otherwise we are hijacked in public perception and private inaction by those whose vision of Kingdom involves death and war, oppression, injustice and hate.  I will keep voting and praying for the Kingdom of peace, love, justice and reconciliation.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Pop is prayer - or more essays I will probably never write

As mentioned in the last post I had a brilliant day today learning more about prayer.  One of the very last questions that came up was about the 'modern world' and how the language of prayer which the early church was steeped in is a world away from our secular culture which has no prayer language.  I was impressed (as we always are when people say stuff we were thinking ourselves) when the speaker said that there is modern prayer language, it's just often not knowingly directed at God. She mentioned specifically the love song as the vehicle for God language.

This is such a fascinating area for study, conversation and exploration.  Just think about it for a bit - how many songs have you heard, loved, sung long to, songs of love fulfilled and love twarted - that say things like 'I would die without you' 'I am incomplete without you' 'there is a hole inside me because I am not with you' 'I would change everything I am for you'. Now, I'm not being funny, but on what date with a partner are these pearls dropped in? I say this because as the lecturer today suggested, much of this language is the kind of thing you would in reality run a mile if someone said to you. It is too big, it is too much, it is too far. Much of the love song language does not speak of healthy mutual loving relationships between two equals.  I don't underestimate the depth of human loving here, but I think if you're reading this you may already have a song in your head that you think "yes, that makes much more sense if you think about it as a cry to God."

I'd also take this into other areas of popular music - I could go on about this at great length but for now I just suggest you have a look at a this as a very simple example - it's a psalm isn't it???? Gleekerama.

Prayer for Today

Just been to a wonderful day seminar at the Mirfield Centre with Dr Paula Gooder. Below is one of the many things (including half a dozen sermons at least) I have come away from the day with - a creative and poetic translation of the Lord's Prayer from the Aramaic taken from by Neil Douglas-Klotz 'Prayers of the Cosmos'. It's one of several such translations - there are a couple of others here.

O Silent Sound,
whose shimmering music pulsated
at the heart of each and all,
Clear a space in us where thy melody
may be perceived in its purity.
Let the rhythm of thy counsel reverberate through our lives,
so that we move to the beat of justice, love and peace.
The, our whole being at one with thy song,
grant that the earth may be filled 
with the beauty of thy voice.
Endow us with the wisdom to produce and share
what each being needs to grow and flourish,
And give us courage to embrace our shadow with emptiness,
as we embrace others in their darkness.
But let us not be captive to uncertainty,
nor cling to fruitless pursuits.
For from thee springs forth
the rhythm, the melody, and the harmony,
which restores all to balance, again and again. Amen.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Work of the People

As someone who ventures occasionally to call themselves a liturgist I have repeatedly used the term 'work of the people' in countless essays and conversations over the last few years.  This afternoon I led a funeral for a lovely family whose mum had died aged 52.  Funeral liturgy in the modern world is a minefield, balancing between being clear and intelligible and culturally apt and maintaining the theological meaning and integrity of the event.  On more than one occasion I have taken funerals which felt more like the work of the clergy and the spectating of the family and friends.  Some of that is my own fault, I'm still learning, but some of it has to do with a lack of confidence amongst the populace at large to express themselves in a faith context. I'm not going into that now - I just wanted to say this afternoon that I've just been part of a funeral that was the work of the people in every sense. Beautiful and dignified, but honest and modern in the church, then boots on and shovels out at the graveside with spontaneous stories, prayers and singing, before grave all filled we shared the final blessing.  I love it when real people teach me how liturgy works.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Fear and Loathing in ......

I am afraid.  As well as being afraid of a large group of people and what they might do when they descend on my home town next Saturday, I am also more than a bit ashamed of my own fear.

Next Saturday, July 9th, there is a planned 'demonstration' by the English Defense League in Halifax.  The EDL often feel the need to exercise their right to publicly protest about their racist beliefs, particularly in areas with highly multi-cultural populations.  They are coming here, apparently in their thousands, and the consensus of opinion seems to be that they're just looking for a fight.  I am upset that there is apparently a reasonable level of local support for this activity too.

My gut instinct is that such action should be met with peaceful protest, with the celebration of the friendships and strength which exists in the town.  However I am also logically convinced by the idea of managing such a protest as a 'non-event' - not drawing attention to it, not giving it the energy it needs to feed on, essentially making it not worth the bother with the crushing power of disinterest.  Some folks in the area are going with the former course of action - and there will be a meeting of celebration in the People's Park.  I hope many more than will go to the celebration will take the latter option.

I am glad the celebration is happening, but I am afraid to go. I fear the drunken violence which these people are looking for, I fear the reaction they hope to and may provoke in others.  I'm afraid to take a risk because I'm a mum and a wife and want me and mine to be safe.  I'm ashamed of this too.

I will offer my weakness to God and spend this week praying and asking everyone I meet to pray for Halifax on Saturday July 9th. Pray for those who are afraid, for those who want a fight, for the police force who will put themselves between one and the other, for the diverse faith and cultural communities of this town who have a great willingness to show love, hospitality and generosity in the way they live alongside one another.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Motivational Talk

.... by which I mean some of my very nice real world and tweet world friends telling me to make my blog more visible on t'interweb and, oh yeah, write some more stuff on it.  So that would be motivational in the gentle thump with boot sense.

I've been struggling recently to decide what to write here on the blog because I like to have clear, concise, well formed (if not always well informed) ideas that I feel make a bit of sense, before I write. However in the light of getting my first appointment (will be vicar of St Stephen's Lindley from September 21st), trying to get my oldest boy into a new school, trying to redecorate a vicarage, make wills, prepare for my first trip abroad in 9 years, plan a trip to Greenbelt and carrying on being a curate (why is there no Carry On Curate???) - I have relapsed into unfeasibly long sentences or long periods of silence!

@changingworship has had a point tho - I should be blogging about all this. I hope it will help me make sense of it all, and how despite all the above being good positive things for me and my family, I am currently wavering between grumpiness and ambivalence.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Brilliant BBC

Much blogging in church circles mentions frequently the poor reporting of the church, Christianity in general, and recently the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Some journalists have richly deserved the criticism which has come their way.  I thought Victoria Coren's blog hit the nail on the head about this - do have a look.

So having worked with the BBC in the last week on the live Pentecost broadcast and on Songs of Praise I just wanted to say very quickly - they have been an absolute joy to work with. Good people, working hard, with high standards.  I have always believed that the BBC is of immeasurable value, and the integrity and vision of the people who have come to the Minster have only strengthened this belief.

As with our Bishops, so with our media. If we want to tear a strip of them when they get it wrong, we have to remember to praise them when they get it right - otherwise we no longer have a relationship of mutual respect.

Huge respect from me today for all those who have been with us for the last week from the BBC - and go ++ Rowan.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Over simplification

After a week of reading blogs from angry people,  hurt people, disgusted people etc etc (with the possible exception of some balanced writing from The Church Mouse) following the revelations concerning Colin Slee and the selection of the Bishop of Southwark I just wanted to say a couple of things.

Firstly - just to make this clear - I do not support prejudice of any kind - and the lovely Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John should most certainly be a bishop by now. That withstanding....

We cannot pretend that the whole world is OK about gay just because nice middle class Brits have decided they are.  Many many people may rightly support equality and justice for all regardless of sexuality, but that does not change the fact that we live in a world where many many people cannot and do not accept this.  I believe that this gives context to the situation that the Church of England is in. We are not just an anachronistic institution doing something horrible in a lovely world where everyone else has moved on.  The internal struggles of our church truly reflect the struggles of our world with this issue, I believe. Ignoring this reality and simply berating our Archbishops for not living in a perfect Guardian reading "all right thinking people think like us" bubble is not fair and I'm not sure how it moves the debate in the right direction either.

People seem to have been devastated that in the meeting which is described by Colin Slee in the memo reported in The Guardian several people ended up in tears, that people were angry, frustrated, emotional.  As though our Archbishops, and Rowan in particular, should be behaving with detached professionalism?  I find this particularly worrying as a member of the clergy who is repeatedly told "but we're just human, you should let your vulnerability show." The proof of that pudding seems to be in the stringing up of our Archbishop for showing just such weak humanity.  Of course people were upset, so they should be.  These people were fighting with issues of conscience, issues which cut to the very heart of our faith in the nature of God and humanity, no doubt desperate to discern balance between short term evil and long term good - if in fact such a thing is possible.

I truly believe that our Archbishop is constantly seeking to discern God's truth while he balances precariously in an almost untenable position. I often feel too that those of us who see justice and equity as God's desire for all people regardless of gender, sexuality or any other categorisation might prove more successful in moving things in the right direction if we actually offered our Archbishop more support instead of waiting for him to mess up and giving him a good kick while he's down.

I live in hope of a much better day.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Giddy Kipper

I am excited! As if life wasn't fun packed enough as it is the BBC are coming to my church.  For some reason which still hasn't been explained, instead of broadcasting the Pentecost Eucharist from a big flash cathedral (apparently it's one of their obligations under charter - Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) - they are coming to my church.  For 59 minutes we will be live on BBC 1 on Sunday June 12th. We've known about this for about 3 weeks but now the planning meetings are starting it's sinking in, slowly but surely.  And my head is easily turned - when one of the technical crew started talking about how they rigged the Abbey for the Royal Wedding I was impressed. When he went on to talk about his lovely weekend working in Carlisle and how good Lady Gaga was - well that really got me!

I am staggered to find myself in the position of being a curate who is writing a sermon which will be broadcast live on national telly. I am trying not to be a dithering nitwit. I am failing.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

.... here I go again

Though not exactly an up to the minute cultural reference I am inspired to write a little about Mamma Mia.  I recorded the film of this musical extravaganza on Saturday night, since when my 2 and 4 year old boys have asked to watch it 6 times.  Now I like the film (and I know a lot of folks out there who will be apoplectic with disapproval just on that basis ;) - but 6 times is quite a lot in less than a week.  I have ended up asking myself questions about said film musical which far out-weight the actual weight of the material. Questions about feminism, women's self-image, modern models of family and assumptions about marriage (not to mention the idea that an apparently C of E priest can turn up on a Greek island, wave his hands in the air and people are miraculously married!) 

I will say two things here - the first is that it needles me that an apparently competent and capable woman seems to have been waiting 20 years for some bloke to come back and validate her existence.  It's very Mills & Boon.  I appreciate the idea is that they are in love - and it's the love of their lives - and I'm OK with this.  I'm not so OK with the idea that he's gone off and done stuff and she has waited on a Greek island like a girl-myth for him to bring her back to life. (Yes, she has brought up her daughter, but other than the 3 flings on which the plot is based there is no intimation that she has had any kind of romantic life or adult relationships during that 20 year interlude.)

The second thing I will say is that every time I see Dancing Queen - sung and danced by women of all ages, shapes and sizes - lifting their faces to the sun and letting the joy flow - it simply makes me want to weep (in a good way).  It's a spontaneous moment (I know I know - highly choreographed spontaneity!) - it's inclusive, it's purely celebratory - and it's hugely powerful.  I think this may only be for women, and perhaps even women of a certain age, which I have obviously reached.

I told you 6 times in a week was too many times!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Let us pray.....

I had an inspiring meeting this morning with some friends from the Calderdale Interfaith Council's "Women's Group".  They have kindly agreed to help me with a children's workshop on Good Friday exploring how we look for God - how we seek contact with that which is beyond us through prayer.  The conversation moved round to the physicality of prayer - and how rubbish and English we can be about this in the Western Christian tradition.

I assume that the rubric suggesting we 'sit or kneel to pray' which is so often used was introduced out of a desire to be inclusive of those who found it physically difficult or painful to kneel.  It seems though that what it has done is tied people to their seats.  I've notice this with some of the children in our congregation recently.  We have some members of the congregation who sit throughout the services because of back problems and such like - but this seems to have suggested to others that gluing bottom to seat at 10.29am and leaving it there (save perhaps a desultory slope to the communion rail) - whether praying, listening to the Gospel, singing the Gloria - until biscuit time, is a good idea.

I appreciate this tells you quite a lot about my own tradition - but talking to my friends this morning - a fellow Christian, a Bahai and a Moslem - we all felt we weren't talking about rules in worship, we were talking about entering into prayer, into worship, with our whole selves.

I'd been looking at some physical prayer in Sue Wallace's Multi-Sensory Prayer (which I was amused to discover you can buy online from Asda Entertainment! - and why not :) thinking it might be a good idea for the workshop.  I now have a clear vision of how we can physically and visually represent the commonalities in our faiths using movement and prayer positions. Thank you ladies!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

If God is a DJ

OK - perhaps a shallow chat this evening - but bear with me.  I am a big fan of liturgical structure.  My sending incumbent indoctrinated me with the belief that you can do anything as long as it has intergrity within the liturgical structure.  He used to put together great "charismatic liturgical" evening services - if I remember rightly mainly because the diocese needed to take people on the local ministry course to experience some charismatic worship and there wasn't anyone else doing it in a 'safe' C of E context at the time. Back then I used to get to be the one who stood by the piano warbling - happy days.

This evening though talking to my bass player (sic. husband) we came across Morrissey's Angel, Angel Down We Go Together and thought it would make a good addition to Changing Worship's Alternative Hymnal.  Then as I thought this through I started to think about liturgical structure and the way a DJ structures music on a dance floor - creating atmosphere, inviting people onto the floor with the fmailiar and the comfortable (but fun), building the tempo to that part of the night when it seems only the strange and disconnected are not moving and dancing as one - swept away by the rhythm and joy.

I am torn as to how I feel about this  - I've been to some terribly manipulative worship where they obviously really got the DJ thing.  But are we learning enough from those who can fill a dance floor?

Or if the strange and disconnected are marginalised by such experiences - how can it express the gospel anyway?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Thou shalt not..... some new commandments?

Recently a friend of mine posted on fb about how language works with children - namely that using negatives doesn't work, because the 'don't' or the 'not' isn't heard.  So for example when your child is hanging from a tree branch you shouldn't scream "Don't fall" because all said child hears is "Fall" - you should couch your advice in positive terms  - so it's "Hang on tight to the branch!".

With this in mind I have twice in the last week faltered as I have read the Ten Commandments as part of the Penitential Rite at the start of our Lenten liturgy. (I should note that the use of this particular material was at the request of lay members of our worship vision group!)  The first bit is OK, but then we get to the "Thou shalt not"s.  Each time I read I picture myself and half of humanity falling out of a tree.  So I began to wonder what some of those thou shalt nots might look like creatively and positively re-framed.  I imagine there are creative liturgists and pastoral practitioners up and down the land who've done this already - but here's my first two - and feel free to comment with some of your own ideas below.

Thou shalt not commit adultery - Live and love in trust and faithfulness

Thou shalt not murder - Honour and cherish human life

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Can we get on with it now??

Decided to blog about the on-going Deanery 'debates' about the legislation to finally get on with consecrating women bishops.  Only briefly - because essentially everything I want to say is stated or implied in that first sentence.  What I mean by this is that I was heartily pleased to hear colleagues admit that while we may never be able to achieve an ideal situation for all sides, we have essentially got as close as we're going to to a workable compromise, and we just need to get on with it now.  Not just get on with introducing the change to legislation and the Code of Practice - but get back to getting on with all the stuff we're really supposed to be getting on with.

So a one clause measure would have been great - but a Code of Practice perhaps gives us an opportunity to act like a church - like people who care about each other, can trust one another, and can show a little bit of the enormity of God's love in the way we treat one another.  I'm getting all management motivational - aren't all challenges just opportunities?  I appreciate that some of the fear on the traditionalist side is coming from the fact that they don't feel that they have been much loved, honored or cared for in recent years - but I genuinely see the Code of Practice as the opportunity to put some of that back - to reconnect with the tolerance and respect which the insistence on legal 'safeguards' has banished.

I ask that we're all able to put the focus back on the loving God we all believe in - bring reconciliation and trust back into the situation - and show a world full of conflict that it is possible to love those who you disagree with.  So the challenge of being church with 'the other side' becomes the opportunity for everyone to be truly Christ-like and see where that exciting possibility takes us??

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Down - but not Out

Having launched myself into blogging with great enthusiasm in January I found myself suddenly lost for words at the beginning of February.  Two of my parishioners died 10 days ago, on the same day. Both were wonderful men, much loved, who had lead full and interesting lives, who had loved the church and worked hard for it for many years.  One lived a good long life, and the other one not long enough. That is all I will say of that - but the grief and shock which has struck our community has been heavy indeed.

I have always known that at times of great emotional stress that my voice is lost to me.  I am a singer - and a talker - my voice is a precious gift to me which brings me great joy of itself and in service of others. However at times when things are really good - or really bad - and at the indefinable times when I have felt closest to God's presence - it is gone.  My blogging voice has been gone too this last 10 days - it seemed there was no reasonable or respectful way to use the typed word.

Both kinds of silence - the vocal kind and posting kind - seem in some way to be a gift rather than an absence.  It is like an insistence that I just be in the place, be it thorny and uncomfortable or otherwise, without the pressure of mediation or self-narrative.

"The grace of God comes close, to those whose grace is spent,
When hearts are tired or sore and hope is bruised or bent."

The voice is back - and by the grace of God life now goes on.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Free Coke and a Bag of Popcorn

Right - if I want to rent a DVD in the greater Halifax environs I am required, according to the rules laid down for such things, to take at least two forms or ID - one with my picture on, and both with my current home address on, as evidence that I am who I say I am, I belong where I say I belong, and can be chased down like a dog if I fail to return Pretty Woman on the agreed day.

Now imagine if you will that I want to get married in a church.  There are various rules about how I qualify to do this.  Perhaps this is the church where I am resident, or where I worship, I am part of the community, I am known - I therefore meet all the rules necessary to get married there.  However this scenario, in my current parish, is very rarely the case, and more often than not we are meeting and welcoming people who are getting married under the churches new rules about marriage by connection.

I now come to my grumble for the day - there is no expectation that I will confirm who people are as part of the legal processes of marriage in a church - yet there is the expectation that I will discern (by my magical priesty powers??) if they are involved in something shonky - like a marriage scam.  In this day and age Banns are a nonsense in 99% of cases, they are not an effective way of giving legal notice - who in the pew would know???

I ended up asking someone about their legal right to marry in this country the other day - essentially because they had a funny accent - and was wildly angry with myself and the church afterwards for putting me in a position where there is not a level playing field and I felt like I was being discriminatory.  I cannot be expected to discern whether or not someone is a UK citizen on the basis of how they look or sound - but there seems to be no expectation that anyone who comes to me requesting a marriage in my church should prove whether they do or don't meet the most basic legal criteria to marry in this country.  I believe that introducing simple proof of ID to the legal process for marriage in church could save a lot of clergy a lot of heartache and would cut down on those targeting us to exploit a lax administrative process.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Have been to a Churches Together meeting this evening - which was lovely - they always are round here.  Genuine and smashing bunch of people who are involved in all sorts of amazing and dynamic projects like Street Angels, CICs, our local food bank and many many more.  Came away feeling a bit wrong footed though somehow.

The majority of churches involved, though of many denominations, are of the evangelical tradition, and I always end up feeling like a bit of a trad old stick in the mud.  I got really excited when we talked about some kind of flash mob last supper event - some friends and I had been looking at some kind of flash mob nativity but didn't get our act together so this really tuned me in.  Problem came when everyone insisted it should happen on Good Friday.  I know this makes sense in some ways but I thought some of them might, like me, be busy with stuff like the Good Friday Liturgy? Frustrated because I want to join in and do more with this group but feel like the rhythms and practices of the more middle of the road Anglican amongst us are ignored or viewed with gentle scorn.

I want to sing beautiful music at the foot of the cross, to me moved by the sound and the silence of the Good Friday liturgy as I always am - but I also want to go out onto the streets and share something of the Passion with people who may never consider darkening our door.  Why would anyone imagine that I and plenty of others wouldn't like the opportunity to do both?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sharing It Forward

Been to a good conference today over in Manchester at the GMCVO about the faith sector, the voluntary sector and Big Society.  Not really much in the way of contextualising on the Big Society stuff but lots of nice stuff about how valuable faith volunteers are and the massive number of hours people put in to volunteering as they try and live out God's mission in the world.  I think sometimes clergy judge their congregations harshly because we don't see or hear about all this volunteering - so it's hard to work out how our congregations are linking words in church to works in the world.  It's great to hear such positive affirmation from people working outside the church and a reminder not to make assumptions just because people don't crow about the ways they support their communities. It was interesting that I was the only person there who was officially there to represent a church - although one or two others in my workshops fessed up to being there both in a professional capacity as those managing volunteers at work and in a personal capacity as people who volunteered through their churches.
Dr Phil Henry, the centre director of the Multi-faith Centre at the Univesity of Derby also said some interesting stuff about Sharing It Forward - which he traced back as a concept to 4th century Greece but I think most of us would recognise it more clearly as paying it forward - as in the 2000 film of the same name.  This essentially seems to be a way of encouraging people in the voluntary sector and faith sector to be communicative, to share skills, knowledge and expertise with others, to enable focus of skills and resources by preventing duplication and hours spent re-learning something that the project which just ran out of money already knew.  It involves legacy planning, networking, sharing best practice - all that kind of stuff.  All seems very common sense stuff.

Did find myself halfway through the second workshop thinking that everything they were saying was Good News - it was about sharing, letting go, not building up personal power and security at the expense of people really in need - it was about taking the risk and not worrying about the occasional slap down.  It also made me wonder about my institution, where there seems to be a sense that some of these things are either unattainable or undesirable - hand overs? Legacy planning?  It takes years to get to know a parish, and every priest is different, yes, but couldn't we save a lot of time and effort on the practical/organisational side of church life by thinking about such things?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Man I feel like a woman... Part 2

I have a feeling that the reason this subject is whizzing round in my mind at the moment is not just the reminder in Lesley's blog - but what I've been reading in the ABC's recommended Lent book - Barefoot Disciple: Walking the Way of Passionate Humility by Stephen Cherry which I highly recommend to all.

Stephen talks about "honest and informed self-awareness" which is "an attempt to open ourselves more fully both to God's will and to reality."  I think much of my angst about strength and weakness, being professional and being vulnerable, comes from an unhealthy place - all that education about being a strong woman and what that might mean (please feel free to get out of that box, love - oh, and just get into that other one over there would you?).  I think I need to pray for the strength to let go a bit, yes - but I also would like others to stop making assumptions.

People it would seem have a habit of grouping together certain personal attributes - and this is unhelpful.  Being chatty doesn't mean you don't listen. Being shy doesn't make you sensitive. Being confident doesn't mean you are unaware of your own vulnerability and that of others - in fact often confidence and calm come from accepting weakness and acknowledging that you're not in control - and that you couldn't and shouldn't be.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Man, I feel like a woman... Part 1

Reading Lesley's Blog reminded me of something that has raised it's head a few times since ordination and which I still don't feel quite settled about in my own mind - the whole issue of vulnerability - how we show it, how we should have the confidence in faith to show it - to share with the world the blindingly obvious realisation that it's OK to be human - and how it still feels to me like it's different for girls.

At my priesting I was exhorted by the Archdeacon as we prepared to process in -  "But how do you feel??  You're not showing anything!" - little did he know that I was keeping a very tight lid on the wild jumble of emotion within because I knew that once it got away from me there would be no getting it back - and I didn't want to howl like a crazy all the way through.  As it was I managed right up to the laying on of hands, and then as predicted there was no stopping the tears, for about half an hour actually (bet he wished he'd never asked).

Some of this may well have to do with pride - the kind I had educated into me at grammar school which is mostly about self-respect but can sometimes be misplaced and sometimes tip over the edge into arrogance.  The crux of the matter is though that on more than one occasion since I was ordained I have been advised to let my vulnerability show more - usually by letting go and having a good cry when someone has really upset me.  Yes, I agree that when someone has done or said something horrible it is good to be able to see that that has real consequences - that people get hurt. I also worry that the fact that this is in the back of my mind, even as the event occurs, somehow makes the tears manipulative.

To me there is essentially a difference in our current culture between your male vicar shedding a tear - like one of those God-like chaps on the 80s Athena posters, showing how truly male they are by having the confidence to be vulnerable - and a woman having a cry. People judge you as weak, and actually as somehow less professional too (I would have been mortified to have cried in my workplace before ordination too).  I still have much to learn from this...more to follow.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Actually has an idea

Shock horror - an idea.  Currently studying for my MA in Liturgical Studies. I have a 6000 word essay due in on Valentine's Day and a dissertation to dream up and complete before I finish my curacy (because I just wont do it otherwise). I've been flailing wildly because I'm one of those people who wants inspiration to strike if I'm going to spend hours researching something and writing about it.  I suddenly thought that doing some stuff on men's ways of worship might be really interesting.

I have a lot of books on my shelf about women's ways of worshipping, and the dynamics of departing from patriarchy and whether or not the liturgical tradition is so saturated in misogyny that you can't get away from it.  But then I thought about the article I read recently about the Oxford Diocese focusing on evangelism to men due to low numbers in church etc and wondered if anyone had come at the research from a liturgical angle - has anyone asked the questions we ask with a feminist head on about how men want or need to worship God?

When we take time to de-construct what is essentially female in an approach, a style, an engagement, have we also taken time to de-construct what is essentially male, not in the stereotyped millennia of patriarchy sense - in the nurturing whole and decent human beings who are not slaves to their gender or its stereotypes sense.  Could the evangelism of the Oxford Diocese be resourced by an approach to liturgy which recognises the harm done to  men by patriarchal structures, and takes into account gender in a more holistic way?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Home and Away

Been home today - well kind of home - feels like I'm all the way back where I came from, to quote Randy Newman.  Back to the church that sent me - and more than that the place I was baptised, grew up, was confirmed. The first place an ordained minister turned to the person next to him and said "she looks like she belongs up there" as I led a youth event - and the place I went back to to marry my husband, to join the choir, to baptise my first born, and to find out that people like me do do jobs like this.  I didn't have much to do as the very efficient curate was deaconing like fun  - and I got to soak up the atmosphere, indulge in a little nostalgia. I wondered briefly if my grandfather who was vicar there before I was born and who I never knew could have every prophesied or dreamed that his granddaughter would preside there one day.

Friday, 14 January 2011

One more woman...

On the basis of recent conversations on Twitter about the low profile women in the Christian bloggosphere - I have resurrected the blog that I never used when I first set it up 4 years ago. I used to feel like blogging was screaming into the abyss - or at the very best attributing an interest in your opinion to others which seemed highly unlikely. Strangely I feel more comfortable about doing this now - and I think it may be because since ordination I've got used to preaching - something I'd never done before. Now I regularly stand up in a public place and share my opinions about God's word, I feel more comfortable trying to inhabit this public space to share ideas and throw a few things around. I may still be attributing an unlikely interest in my opinion to others, but hey - now I partly do that for a living I'm living with the guilt.