Skipping Church

DSCN9503c(web)This blackbird looks a bit like I’ve been feeling… totally flaked out, gasping for breath – mentally at least – being in the midst of an awful lot too much to do!

Yesterday Graham and I skipped church. The youngster was off at 8.15am in the tender care of the Scouts and the British Canoe Union somewhere near Gosport doing his Paddlepower qualification, so having dropped him with them at the Scout Hut, instead of going home for church, we just kept walking.

DSCN9529c(web)We were only out for just over an hour, but it was a good walk with the dog before the heat of the day. It was a chance to just ‘be’ together, talk about totally random stuff, and yes, worship God among the wonders of his creation. Wandering round our favourite field there were clouds of butterflies: the Ringlet’s (see previous post) are probably at their peak of numbers, and there are plenty of Meadow Brown’s, and then there were these little folk: much smaller and they hold their wings at angle when settled; when we got home we discovered they were Little Skippers.

Graham also got a fantastic shot of a Black Tailed Skimmer dragonfly eating a green bottle which he’s put up on his Flickr site; Ramograph

We spent the rest of the morning just chilling out and ‘being’ before starting the new week in the afternoon  (he packed for his field trip to the IOW which started this morning, I went and found out a bit more about the ‘Growing Leaders’ course I will probably do next year, part of the leadership development in our EDGY group of parishes…Eversley, Derby Green and Yateley.)

Saturday had been a Reader Training study day at Old Alresford Place, where I’d delivered the last assessed presentation/sermon before Licensing. I’d spent the latter part of the week working really hard on it (after several attempts on bits of it) among many other family commitments and after delivering the Mid-Week Service (with sermon) on Wednesday.

We’re doing a module called Faith and Daily Life which looks at the how the world of ‘work’ (whatever we fill our day with) links with our faith, and we’d had to draw one particular idea out that had come from something we’d experienced, or the experiences of a member of our ‘Monday Matters’ group. The latter is an series of homegroups we have to lead as part of the module (assessed by theological reflection and participant feedback). I took as my theme ‘Redefining Ability’ and looked at some ideas about how daily life and church/worship can be related to aspects of our Trinitarian God (as the module requested). I’m not sure how it went, and don’t think my title really worked in relation to what I delivered, but hey ho, something to put in the reflection I need to complete this week to hand in.

However I did get the results of my assignments about my placement at All Saints Basingstoke (sermon 60% and theological reflection 75%) and was really hugely encouraged by them, especially the latter. It does make all the hard work feel a little more worthwhile, but it never ceases to surprise me that I seem to be able to do these things reasonably well… thank you God! However, what I’m really in this for is helping people experience God themselves, and develop their own faith, and I’m not sure the current module is going to tell me whether I’m any good at that… just whether I can reflect on what other people do in their lives, and how I relate to them.

So now I face another week with still too much to do… but I feel a little more calm about it, and a bit more encouraged.

Ringlets at Midsummer – a wonderful Dream


We’ve been watching what we know as ‘tussock field’ for the Ringlets to re-appear. last year this chocolate coloured butterfly was a new one for us, and we tried hard to capture it on camera, but failed. There were clouds of them fluttering around and they we’re a great delight.

This year we’ve been waiting expectantly for them, and yesterday we found our first few, and today there were several more. Both days we had success with the camera too, so there’s one here to show you what I’m on about! They don’t seem to settle with wings open often, but I’m quite pleased with the result of being patient and very careful when they do. It was also great to sit in this favourite field just lapping up the view this afternoon, and the wind creating waves across the long grass… could have stayed for ages but I had a church meeting!

This morning after church we also saw a Red Kite… rather an easy viewing: the boy and I were sat in the car at Waitrose waiting for the man to get some milk!

Oberon and Puck
Oberon and Puck

Last night we went out with friends to see ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ done in the open-air at a big house (privately owned) near Hartley Wintney as a fund raiser for their church extension. The evening started with a picnic accompanied by live Jazz which lovely, then we moved over to the theatre area, sat on a lawn in front of a slightly raised staging area for the production by the Chapterhouse Theatre Company

I’ve never seen Dream, though it’s the husband’s favourite play (not just Shakespeare) and he’s seen it several times, which was the main reason for going – we thought it would be good introduction to Shakespeare for the lad, and could finally find out what hubby’s been raving about all these years!

Bottom with fairies Peasblossom, Cobweb and Mustardseed
Bottom with fairies Peasblossom, Cobweb and Mustardseed

They were fantastic! It was professional, clear, hilariously funny, well lit (and not just “by moonlight”), great visually (you had to watch what the non-speaking characters were doing as well as the speaking ones to get all the visual jokes) in short an absolute joy. Some of the language had been tweaked just slightly to make it more understandable (“bum” for the word “prat” which few would have understood) but this was a positive change, especially for the kids. The play within a play at the end was extremely bawdy and we felt this was totally authentic to how it would have been originally done. Our lad and his friend possibly learnt a thing or two, and we laughed till we cried… literally.

Graham took the piccies, not me. This is thoroughly to be recommended, and their tour dates are here:

The smell of elderflowers

A window at the Church of St. Cross which I visited on 5th June for it's flower festival
A window at the chapel of St. Cross, Winchester which I visited on 5th June for it's flower festival

A rather rambling update… it must have been the scent that went to my head!

Today was the first time all week I’ve had chance to give the dog a good walk. It was lovely to be up on the airport in the breeze, and as I came out onto the tarac at the top the scent from the elderflowers was really quite intense. They seem to have lingered well into June this year, as I normally associate them with late May.

A simple dog walk but a lot to see: Kestrel, Stonechat (m), Meadow Pippit, hawking dragonfly zoomed past in the breeze but so fast I couldn’t see what it was, Small Heath and Meadow Brown butterflies, and best of all a little brown bird which had a piercing two-tone note and a pale coloured chin… with no binoculars with me I couldn’t see an eye-stripe but I think it was probably a Chiff-Chaff. There was a Skylark singing as well, but like often, I couldn’t actually see it against the sun.

Life has been frenetically busy because last week and early this week, was full of conversations: those important things that build relationships and help us understand where people are and what their needs are… even if they don’t quite tell us what they really mean. There was a special chance to catch up with my placement vicar who gave me much to think about, and a few ideas for some of the issues floating round my patch at present. I’m looking forward to more opportunities to work with them in Basingstoke, at some point in the not to distant future.

But all that valuable talking meant I got behind with other things. I’ve spent the rest of the week battling with a bumper issue of ‘Archway’ for Mothers’ Union Diocese of Winchester, 28 pages of inspiring and useful stuff. I’ve just posted off the proof copies to be read by those with more eagle-eyes than mine.

Next up: a service and sermon for Mid-Week Morning Prayer next Wednesday, and far more worrying an assessed presentation for Sat 27th June which is the next Reader Training assignment. I need to think about the theology of ‘redefining ability’… why we should, and how, we make what we do in church life more accessible (and I don’t mean physically) for those with ‘labels’ remembering that we don’t always know what those labels are, as some people will try and hide their difficulties. It’s the thinking about why we do this, and how God (in full trinitarian guise, according to our assessment criteria) can take an active role in it, that needs to form the main part of my presentation, as it’s being marked for theological reflection rather than presentation skills.

Currently I’m very short of source material… oh, and time!

Eucharistic ponderings

Following some previous thoughts about the Eucharist stemming from my placement, and now dwelling on some thoughts appropo of stuff being discussed around St. Peter’s, I read, as prompted by Rosalind, from Timothy Radcliffe’s “Why Go To Church – the Drama of the Eucharist” pp196-8 some notes:

He identifies the end of the Eucharist as not so much it’s conclusion “as it’s consummation”.

As we come to Eucharist we come as individuals “with our own private dramas, our hopes and hurts, but we are sent out as a community, members of the Body of Christ… we are sent so as to come back.”

“This rhythm of gathering the community around the altar and then sending it away belongs to the oxygen of the Church’s life-blood.”

There is no ‘Amen’ after the Eucharist, because it s part of the church breathing.

My thoughts:
If the Eucharist IS part of the way the church breathes, how often does it need to inhale? Some churches I know maintain a weekly eucharist for each congregation. Some, like St. Peter’s have communion available each week, but for most congregations twice a month (roughly). Do we suffer as a result? What form does our suffering take?

And what about the practicalities: if we need to breath more often, and perhaps more often corporately across the whole church (of 2-300), how do we manage this if we have only one priest diving himself among 5 congregations (miniumum) and no space big enough to hold us all?

Too many questions and not enough answers: story of my life at present!

I’ve also discovered a contact is writing a thesis on “Fresh Expressions in Eucharist” and am deeply intrigued as to what he has to say… but apparently I shall have to be patient.

Death and Resurrection

Whilst sorting out some papers today I found some scrappy notes about “Death and Resurrection”, which I eventually realised were the original notes I wrote before writing my Doctrine Module project of that title two years ago! In an effort not to lose the original scribble, for what it’s worth I shall type them out here, and also the reflection I wrote as part of the module, which I seem to remember was commended by my tutor. The images are of  ‘flower arrangements’ I produced as part of the project (which I created in the form of a labyrinth).

My notes read:P7310166c(web)

What do we know of death?
Something we can not experience and reflect on first hand.
Our only understanding is through the experiences of others and our own encounters with the death of loved ones, which are coloured by emotions of love, loss, etc.
Those who encounter death for the first time can’t visualise things which would help them come to terms with what is/has happened.
What do we know of human death?
What do we know of Jesus’ death?

We need to take account of peoples’ different views (literal or otherwise) of Jesus’ death.
Resurrection is something we can not experience, or can we?
Many see resurrection in creation/spring time.
For others there is a resurrection of spirit after bereavement and grief – or new life after the death of a loved one (a personal reference to our chosing to start a family after we were over the initial period of mourning for my mother).
Resurrection of Jesus brought ‘New Life’.

What came between death and resurrection for Jesus?
What is there for us?P7300100(cweb)

The Resurrection is the vindication of Jesus
– it proved he was who he said he was!

(My own reflection – if you find it helpful, feel free to use it)

You were one budding messiah among many
– what made you different?
You were bloodied, and buried
– dead like so many failures before you.
Hope torn to shreds with the temple curtain.

But those who you’d healed, the forgiven ones,
walking, and leaping,
and celebrating their new lives
in the streets of Jerusalem,
Had they lost what you’d given them?

The terrified faithful of your life,
wallowing in their mistakes and despair,
hidden from the possibility of future,
deaf to your words from the past,
blind to the new creation, your Kingdom come.

And yet, when they crept out in the dawn,
the stone was rolled away;
when they journeyed home in despair,
you walked the dusty road beside them;
when a confusion of stories dared them to hope –
your powerful presence broke the thickness of walls,
the misunderstanding,
brought sight to the blind, sound to the deaf,
and revealed yourself,

In those few days of your resurrected body,
You were more real than ever before;
more totally ‘Jesus’.
God in victory over death, and sin, and prejudice;
Jesus, the Son, the brother, the friend.
Proving the cross forgives,
Offering hope for all humanity,
For you, for me, for ever – until he comes again.

What does God regard as work?

I’m currently leading a small group in a course called ‘Monday Matters’ as part of my Faith and Daily Life module of Reader Training. Each session involves some discussion pre- and post-Bible reading discussion and prayer. At the end of the 6 week course, the participants will be required to feed back on how I have led the material.

I won’t go into detail as to those sharing in my group (for obvious reasons), but suffice to say that I regard the source material as poorly presented by the diocese and inappropriate in it’s language for any mixed group of people – it assumes that everyone can read close typed text and understand complicated words. Neither does it reflect different learning styles… very little seems to be accessible to the majority of the population who are kinesthetic – learn by touch/doing. I am taking the course at it’s word, and adapting the material each week to make it more accessible, though as at Week 2 I’ve not found a way of putting questions and ideas over without words.

I am at the moment therefore interested in the idea of ‘work’ which the course suggests is the daily activity with which we fill our day. But neither the first two sessions seem to have considered what God created as work, but rather encouraging us to create outcomes through our ‘work’ that proclaim God’s kingdom in some sort of transforming way.

What got me thinking was reading Howard Jameson‘s blog today, about a book “God at Work” by Ken Costa:
“Costa’s definition of work is … part of God’s pattern in creation – something which therefore pre-dates the Fall and presumably awaits us in the New Heaven on the New Earth.”

This sent me scurrying back to Genesis, and I am reminded that (Gen 2:15) “The Lord god took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This appears to me as needing to be a core thought in how we think about what we do during our normal day – it is (or is it?) something that is God ordained as part of how God made us to interact with the rest of his creation.

I am now wondering if this will form part of the later sessions of ‘Monday Matters’ and why it hasn’t appeared as a starting point? I hope that it does, as this point seems to me key to drawing the two strands of “Faith” and “Daily Life” together.

I shall be watching Howard’s blog more than usually closely in the coming weeks.

Pentecost – Mystery Worshipper in Open Air

DSC_5425(web)This week has been a bit busy, so this is the first chance to reflect on the Pentecost service we had at St. Peter’s last Sunday… outside St. Peter’s to be more accurate!

This isn’t a first, but it’s been a few years since we did this. Paul (our vicar) had met with the five Readers-in-training a few weeks back and together we’d decided on theme (“Fill us up and send us out”) and divided up the bits that needed doing… In a daft moment I offered to co-ordinate things since I realised it was a fairly big task that Paul hadn’t time for and someone needed to. I’d been reading about what Jonny Baker calls curation which is what made me recognise the need.

Originally I was going to help Peter MC it… but in the end I sat back – too many people at the front would have spoilt it. It was strange to put so much prayer and thought into something and then not be at the front to deliver it, but strange mostly in a liberating way. It also meant that I could run round in the background and try and make sure that some of what I knew was meant to happen, did happen.

I am glad that I had been to the early service, as worship was something I found impossible – I was to busy watching and worrying, especially after Peter pointed out I’d got the Service Sheet in a (slightly) different order to the Order of Service I’d given the leaders! Something to double check if I do this again. Watching people though I sensed that many of the nearly 200 there had been able to worship, and we were certainly visible to the local community.

Peter’s Puppets were fantastic working out of the windows of Chaddisbrook House, and Ernie’s prayers for the community (with impromptu use of one of Rachel’s wonderful worship flags) were particularly good. It was lovely to commission our Pastoral Team and some folk recently authorised to preach, and moving to send a much loved friend into God’s care in pastures new. But for me the most significant part of the service was when Paul was talking about the Holy Spirit being a healer as the sound of a siren came down the road; without explanation he simply stopped and led us in prayer for the situation to which the ambulance was rushing.

A few of us had gathered to pray for the service the day before, and among those prayers we had asked God to change the mind of those who’d decided not to be at the service. During the picnic that followed the service one of our regular congregation who sometimes finds economics forces her to work on a Sunday stopped to talk to Paul and I about how much she’d felt “topped up” by the Holy Spirit as a result of being at the service – at the last minute she had cancelled a business appointment as she just felt she really needed to be at the service that morning! Thank you God for the witness of answered prayer (which was also seen the gorgeous sunshine we had.)

Male Stag Beetle
Male Stag Beetle

My husband reeled off a couple of hundred photo’s during the morning, including those that appear here and at this Facebook link. He was also delighted to catch our mystery worshipper on camera… a stag beetle waving it’s mandibles in praise to it’s creator God!