Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

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.