Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Still quite cross.....

Lots of very good blogging been going on all over the place about what happened at the Church of England's Synod on Tuesday of this week.  I'm going to make the terrible assumption that if you're reading this you know about all that.  That you know how angry and sad it has made many people.

It made me feel angry and sad too. I was shocked by the impact as it happens.

However I continue to be cross - not just because of what happened, but because of many people's ill considered reaction to it.  You know how if you repeat something often enough is like you can make it true? Well the things I am hearing repeated are that this is a crushing blow for women, a tragedy, proof our skills and talents are undervalued by the Church, young women are turning from vocation to ordained ministry in droves because they don't want to be part of a church that doesn't value them.

OK - here goes.
1) Exactly the same number of people (of the same traditions) in the church are opposed to women's ministry today as were on Monday. The vote does not represent a sea change in theology. The Church has not turned on 'us'.
2) the vast majority of the C of E both in Diocesan Synods and at General Synod voted in favour - they appreciate and affirm the priestly ministry of all God's people and that of generations to come.
3) What has been highlighted is both the apathy of those who assumed this would go through without them having to stand for Synod to ensure that, and the flaws of a voting system which allows a vocal minority to carry the day.
4) What was rejected was a piece of legislation - not an individual or a group of people. Many of us were unsure about the legislation if we're honest, we were just sick of going on about it and wanted it sorted sooner rather than later. Perhaps there was insufficient of the discernment of God's will in that position!

This is not a tragedy - there was tragedy for the generations of women who felt God's call and were told they were mad or bad because of it. For my generation there is perhaps 7 years more patience required.  The priestly ministry of women has been affirmed overwhelmingly during this process - and if you look back at where we started, before the Diocesan votes, you may remember we didn't really expect to have come this far this fast. 42 out of 44 was a joyous surprise and still a great place to be working from as we try to listen and work harder.

If you know young women who are challenged by this to turn away from the Church - please don't say "Yes you're right, the Church is terrible" - because that's not true.  It's flawed, but it's trying - that's the Church I value and that I committed myself to at ordination.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Just can't get it out of my head....

Some of you may be familiar with the brilliant resources produced by Fr Simon Rundell, he who has brought the ministry of Blessed to Greenbelt for the last two years.  Simon is both high as high (further up the candle than me anyway) and fresh as fresh (expressions that is), leading to a wonderful synergy of digital media and ancient ritual.  One of the useful things I found in his book Creative Ideas for Sacramental Worship with Children is a nursery rhyme mass setting.  Inspired by this I ended up trying to write a sung creed today to use at one of my services. It wasn't easy - but this is the result. I know it has holes in, but most shortened creeds do. Still thought it was worth sharing - sung to the tune of Frere Jaques.


God our Father, God our Mother
We believe, we believe
who created all things, who created all things
Earth and sea, stars and me.

Christ our Saviour, Christ our Saviour
We believe, we believe
Lived and died and risen, lived and died and risen
You and me, set us free.

Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit
We believe, we believe
Moving here among us, moving here among us
God right here, near as near.

Three in one, three in one
One in three, one in three
God revealing all things, God revealing all things
Dancing free, trinity.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Must stop talking to that bloke

Been chatting to Rev Changing Worship again - about a) much modern worship music being thematically monochrome (Oh God, you are so great and amazing) b) there being a particular lack of recent songs with a social justice theme or the space to lament c) there being a need for clearer theology (we'd kind of like N.T.Wright to revisit each of his books and re-edit them as poetic song lyrics).

With this lurking in the recesses of my mind I sat down on the end of my kitchen table, lit a candle and started to read Morning Prayer for today.  Got as far as the Jeremiah reading (9.23,24) then had to go get a pen and paper.  I don't claim brilliance - or wisdom as the words say - and it certainly doesn't meet all the challenging criteria mentioned above - but if anyone wants to use it to write a nice worship song - you're welcome to.


Tho I'm not strong or mighty
I invoke God's strength in me
So i can break the chains that bind
set captive pris'ners free.
Tho I can't boast of wisdom
I've a longing to be wise
a desire that the scales will fall
show jaded human eyes


Love, justice, righteousness
so I can act and move
to know and grow and show delight
God's living presence prove.


Our riches are of this world.
Weak, we covet, judge and lust.
With words we sing of loving
tho our actions breed distrust.
God help us work for common good
our selfish thoughts replace
with one heart, one soul, one common goal
your Kingdom we embrace


Love, justice, righteousness
so we can act and move
to know and grow and show delight
Your living presence prove.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Response to prayer.

At my church's Taize service last night we were reflecting on Celtic Saints. The service is a combination of traditional Taize music, silence and prayer, along with a series of multi-sensory prayer stations.  Last night's mini-pilgrimage round prayer stations of the saints included a reflection on Caedmon's inspiration - gifts of song inspired by God's Word which the tale tells came to him in dreams.
The prayer station asked people to think about their own creative response to the Word - to seek out a passage of scripture and if inspiration struck to record their response with pen and paper. I was worried that this might be a bit too think-y and time consuming for a prayer station - but it seemed to work. I found myself looking at John 20.15 in the Jerusalem translation of the Bible - "Woman, why are you weeping? I'm here." - this is what spewed onto the page.

"Woman - why are you weeping? I'm here - I love you."


I weep for my weakness.
I weep for my confusion and blankness.
I weep for pain and disappointment, anger and bitterness.


I weep for you, for what you mean to me.
For my selfishness that my need is always first in heart and mind.


I weep with suppressed joy
praise, adoration, desire.


I am weeping.  I am here -  I love you.



Baptismal Grace

I had the privilege of baptizing two young girls on Sunday morning. Baptism is always a joyful celebration but I was reminded by the comments of a lady attending the service of the strange attitude some congregations and clergy take to baptism.  She spoke of other services she had been to that were at best perfunctory, the sense of being barely tolerated by regular church goers, and coming away no wiser as to what was supposed to have happened and why.
I have myself on occasion been known to whinge about how many baptisms we have in my parish and the need to schedule extra services to deal with the demand (I know - what an idiot - only because I'm tired!) But I think we're in one of those situations where what was alleged to have happened in the rose-tinted imaginary golden days of church has been turned on it's head - and given us an amazing opportunity to share God's grace.
Church communities will comment that there is not enough Christianity in schools - that Christianity is no longer sufficiently part of the ingrained culture of the nation - that we need more Christianity - like we used to have (allegedly). Then almost in the same breath we complain about the number of people we don't know and have little contact with who come to our door expecting to be welcomed for baptism.
When my grandfather was a priest and nearly every child in the community was baptised and baptism service on a Sunday afternoon might have involved a couple of dozen babies - there was no opportunity to have baptisms in the main service as there were so many. I'm sure they were done with love and care, but the image that comes to mind is a bit of a cattle market - lots of people, lots of babies being passed back and forth. (As an aside I'm absolutely certain these kind of services could not have been quiet and calmly ordered - people are people and anyone who tells me old-fashioned babies didn't cry, throw up and generally act like babies is telling big fat fibs).
Now I work in a world were not everyone automatically brings their child for baptism. Bad times? Not a bit of it.  I have the luxury of getting to know the families who come to us for baptism. We have the time to talk together about who we all are and what it means - about God. I have the chance to make sure the language I use in liturgy is language which will communicate meaning to those involved. As a church community we have the regular opportunity to welcome and share in baptism in our main Eucharistic service.
I think my granddad would have given his right arm for these luxuries - and I think rather than whinging about less people being baptized than before we should recognize God's grace giving us the opportunity to explore the divine mystery of this sacrament.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Holding the tension

Have been thinking a lot recently about all the things we 'hold in tension' (popular phrase in preisty training) when our occupation is vicaring. When I was looking for my first post after my curacy I was repeatedly (and perhaps wisely), counseled that it was all about 'God's Time' and not my time, that everything would work itself out and I needed to stop pushing. What I think really happened is that I pushed and God pulled and I have found myself in the place intended as a result.

Having found myself on the verge of giving the same platitude to a colleague in the same position I was in 12 months ago I'm still irritated by the implication that 'God's Time' could conceivably require me to do absolutely nothing to discern the way forward.  My understanding of God's Kingdom is that we're all working together in the process of discernment. If I'm being fobbed off with a pat on the head and 'wait on God's time, deary' - it is too often an excuse to opt out of God's calling on each of our lives to get on a do something. If I trust that God's strength will uphold me, whether the outcome is success or failure in the eyes of this world, I am set free to act.  

I find myself now on the verge of my first APCM (annual church council meeting legally required in the Church of England for the election and appointment of roles within a church's life), with question marks over some of those roles as volunteers retire after years of dedicated service.  Half of me is stressed that the answer isn't neat and the roles haven't been filled by willing and forthcoming volunteers - the other half of me is contemplating 'God's time' again. I have acted, I have discussed, I have preached about vocation and discernment - I have even read the Church Representation Rules (extreme times call for extreme measures!) I now need to watch and pray, trusting God to do what is needed.  Maybe what is needed is a gap, a problem, a crisis, for the right people to hear and accept their particular calling.  I hold these things in tension, and pray the Vicar's prayer "Please God, help me not to snap."

Friday, 20 January 2012

Domestic Violence - Refuge

Patrick Stewart was on the Chris Evans Show this morning.  He always seems like a lovely chap and a pleasure to listen to. I am slightly biased as I grew up in his home town, his brother sang in the church choir with my dad for years and I went to school with his nephew. I have inspiring memories of him coming to my home church of St Mary's Mirfield to perform his one man show of A Christmas Carol - which must have been round about 1987 - pre-Star Trek.

I noticed this morning that he was trending on Twitter (unsurprisingly) and that people were re-posting an article he wrote in 2009 about domestic violence in the Guardian. Patrick is a patron of Refuge who provide help and assistance for women and children who are experiencing domestic violence.  It's a really good article, highly recommended.

What struck me most though this morning (considering my 'top tenuous' links to Mr Stewart as Chris Evans' show would put it) is that when he talks about the people who knew about the violence in his household as he grew up, the people who knew but said nothing, he's actually talking about some people who I know.  Much of my family lived within streets of his at that time.  Some of the knowing but not acting was by people who I grew up around and had great respect for.

As Mr Stewart points out in the article, there are still a lot of situations where people know and do nothing. Things need to change.