Social networking in pastoral situations

I received a prize from my vicar today! He called it this month’s “keeping an ear to the ground” prize.CakeCutting

The story goes like this. A local lad is currently training in New Zealand for his commercial pilots license. In years past he has played guitar in our worship group, and we’ve kept in touch a bit… via Facebook.

He’s engaged to a local girl who also grew up attending our church and recently updated his Facebook profile with a wedding date in November.

Now at St. Ps we have a system (not fool proof but beginning to work) that we do banns of marriage starting the first Sunday of the month, 2 months before the wedding. This allows for one of our multiplicity of lay service leaders to forget and still have the banns complete well in advance.

Whilst doing the August banns in the book I realised that I’d not got a form on file yet for this much anticipated wedding, and that logically I should be getting them set up in September. Thinking I’d missed something somewhere I left a post-it in the vicars office tray querying the absence of said forms. The prize was my reward!

And to top off the technology, he’s filled out the form on the couple’s behalf courtesy of Skype and email, as said groom-to-be is not due back in the country till mid-September.

So today, I’m thanking God for Facebook, and wondering if other people have found that use of a social networking site has helped spot a possible pastoral glitch or need?

(Cassock arrived yesterday, altered, comfortable and now paid for. Finished last assignment of the academic year tonight – nothing further to hand in until after Licensing, though a little light reading for residential in September!)

Altar – ations?!

The following is a short talk/sermon I will be giving at our mid-week service on Wednesday morning. Based on Genesis 12:1-9 it uses as it’s illustration the current activities in our household as we prepare for 5 months of building work! I have therefore illustrated it appropriately:

With imagination, you can see a utility area and dowstairs loo in this picture!
With imagination, you can see a utility area and dowstairs loo in this picture!

I’ve been packing up our belongings in boxes this week.
Asking myself tough questions like “do we really need it?”… “When did we last use that?” Worse still, I’ve had to ask G and C the same questions! Car loads have gone to the tip. There’s things on sale in Discoveries that are very familiar! [Discoveries is our church charity shop.]

I’m just glad we’re not actually moving, we’ve just got builders starting work next Monday! We believe God wants us to stay put in Yateley, so rather than move house, we’re extending the one we’ve got. We’re trusting what we believe God has said to us,
that he continues to have work for us here.

But my heart goes out to Abram and Sarai, and at this precise moment, to Sarai especially!! They were told to go! They’d already travelled as a family a huge distance,
all the way round the desert from Ur as far as Haran, but then they’d settled down for a bit,  and Terah, Abram’s father, who had originally received God’s call to travel to Canaan, had died.

But now they were back on the move. Packing up, keeping moving on.
Because God had told them to “go”. This time the call was to Abram himself.

“So Abram went.”
Apparently that little phrase is just one word in Hebrew. But when you’ve got flocks and herds, and camels and servants, not to mention a nephew called Lot with his own grumbling servants,that one word probably covers an awful … lot! (Sorry!)

But they did have their tents, and tents were important, they gave you safe place to sleep at night;an image of their safety, under God’s blessing. God’s big blessing;a blessing that would give them a home, a land,a family, and a future, with God.
Those tents represented Abram’s utter reliance on God. It’s an image that I could do well to remember in the next few weeks, even though I don’t possess one! I guess for us, our extension is a bit like us pitching a family tent.

Our lives as Christians are a pilgrimage, based on our trust in God, our faith,our obedience (whatever our doubts and worries) that God is guiding our journey through life, that he will show us when we get to where he wants us to be, show us where we can pitch our tent to do his work. Because for Abram, God stopped him on his journey and said “This is where I want you, as a people, to be.” And for us, God does the same.

Now, God isn’t in the habit of getting people to do things for no reason at all. My past experiences have shown me that when I’ve got where God wants me, he tends to confirm that I’ve done the right thing, that I’ve listened with obedience to his voice. Usually, I admit, he does this by getting me to do something once I’ve got where he wants me! That was certainly true when G and I moved to Yateley. I’m praying that God will give us the same reassurance over my families sense that we’re meant to stay here! That the extension will help us be where he wants us to do.

Here you can of course see our new front hall, front room and a little bit extra on the top!
Here you can of course see our new front hall, front room and a little bit extra on the top!

Now when Abram got where God wanted him to be, where God let him rest in the places to which, despite his traditional nomadic lifestyle,he would keep returning,
Abram builds an altar to God. A place that represents his fellowship with God,his relationship with the Lord who blesses him and whom he has obeyed.

You see it’s quite interesting;if you read right through the stories about Abram and Sarai,the places of their obedience to God, are marked by altars. When they have moral lapses, like in Egypt, Abram doesn’t build altars to God. But he does build them at Shechem, and between Bethel and Ai, and later at Hebron. Places where God speaks to him, where God shows him something important,where he is in tune with God’s will.

It’s like part of the act of obedience to God, that Abram does something that will last, makes something that will show people that God blesses those who follow his commands. He makes a place where he can pray, where he calls on the presence of the Lord, and acknowledges God’s importance in his life.

So, if we have a place where we’ve pitched our tent in obedience to God, what are we going to do, or make,that will be a symbol of our relationship with God that others’ can see? Where do we make our prayers, acknowledge God’s importance in our lives?

What and where, if you like, is our altar to God?

Moon Communion

Greatful to Maggi, as I was unware of this… though I expect my husband did, being both science teacher and Christian.

maggi dawn: Moon Communion

The anniversary of the moon landings match those of my husband and I in age (at least to the year) which has always been significant, especially for him – he even has a moon landing tie somewhere!

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Divine Cricket

A fantastic day at Lord’s on Saturday for the Test Match, felt even better yesterday when the guys won the game! We can actually say we were there for at least part of the match that finally broke the Aussie grip on Lord’s tests.

We took delivery of the ‘Duckworth Lewis’ just before we drove to London on Friday, and several of the tracks are fantastic… my favourite being Jiggery Pockery… the wicket described is actually pictured in the Programme for the Lord’s Test!

I am delighted with the link to this video clip (HT to Alec)

BBC SPORT | Cricket | Hannon’s Divine love of cricket leads to album

and I shall be off the find ‘Pedelo’ on the i-tunes download later! Given Freddie’s 5-er has perfomed they definitely must write him a(nother) song.

Would highly recommend listening to this too (heard live during the ‘Welsh’ Test) Max Boyce on TMS at Cardiff

When I can download my mobile phone pics from Saturday, I’ll try and pop one up.

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The importance of robes?

Whilst writing about the recent formation of yet another select group of Anglican’s who want to prop up their own viewpoint, theologian Maggi Dawn wrote this week:

“believe me, there is nothing, nothing, nothing remotely feminine about clerical dress. It may have a skirt attached, but of all the things I have ever worn it is the least feminine thing I have ever encountered.”

Which reminded me of something that has been excercising my mind: what is the importance of robes?DSC_4822c(web)

When I was on placement at All Saints Basingstoke earlier this year, I preached in robes for the first time (cassock and surplice) and also robed in alb for Easter morning (pictured). Though it felt a little odd, it was expected, and something which helped the members of that church relate to me as a minister. It is actually part of the ‘feel’ of worship that some people really need.

Somehow I also felt the authority of the cassock and surplice went with the authority that apparently comes over when I speak (sometimes)… part of the ‘other’ me that some close friends find difficult to cope with. If you like, it felt like a visible symbol of the part of me that is becoming a ‘minister’.

Yet, as my vicar recently reminded me when the subject came up, robes were originally a sign of humility, designed to imitate the smocks of the ordinary folk so that the priest blended in with them. Now they are seen as a sign of authority, and by some as a symbol of status – with the negativity that that can cause.

Here in St. Peter’s we have congregations that sit on both or neither side of the ‘robing’ fence. Since I am reasonably comfortable in robes (unlike some of my collegues) I am most likely to make use of them in the times and places appropriate in this parish.

But are there ideas I’ve not already captured about this issue… and, remember I will only be a Lay Minister, not a deacon or priest!?

Should we tell the parrot to “get stuffed”?

I was privileged to be “out of diocese” on Saturday at the Ordination to the Priesthood of a collegue of my husbands’ at Guildford Cathedral. The sermon was given by the Revd Canon David Eaton, formerly Vicar of Leatherhead and Mickleham and was of note (literally, scribbled on the service sheet) for two reasons:

The first was references to L’Arche communities which are specifically inclusive of those with learning difficulties. This has direct relevance to the things I’ve been faced with during the current Reader Training module, and may have some use when I start my write-up (sorry, ‘theological reflection’) next week. Revd Eaton also quoted (I think) Jung, in reference to the Biblical imperative to “welcome the stranger”, who wrote something along the lines of ‘welcome someone who is strange, not just others, but welcome the strange inside you’ (or words to that effect – remember I was taking sporadic notes!) I liked this, and could do with trying to find it.

DSCN9983c(web)Revd Eaton was talking I think, about inclusivity of our churches, though from what he said later in the widest possible sense, not just of those with learning difficulties. Because… he also talked about the “how many” parrot that seems to sit on the shoulders of many parish priests these day. His point I think was that clergy are getting too hung up on the numbers game, of worrying about how many people are attending their church. Specifically he said, “it is time to tell the parrot to get stuffed!”

I would love to have the full text of the sermon.

Then on reading Bishop Alan’s blog “Why ordination? Why today?” I detected that this wasn’t the only ordination in which this theme was taken. He quotes Eugene Peterson:

The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners…The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. (Please read the whole post, link above.)

This has real resonances of contrast for me with stuff that is being discussed here in St. Peter’s… and also in the pressures exerted by diocese, to which church leaders are all too alert. Yet numbers (like giving per head of electoral roll) do have something to tells us, or danger signals that need to be read for the future of the church, and surely we are (all – not just priests) called to increase the numbers of those who believe in and worship our living God?

Increasingly I feel and see the spiritual tugs between the evangelical outlook (note small ‘e’) demanding hearts won for God, and the more catholic (also note small ‘c’) pastoral needs of our ‘communities of sinners’. And yes, I know that is probably a sweeping generalisation.

There is a middle way of doing both, and I am sure it is that which Jesus’ would wish us to take, but I fear that the CofE at least, is fast losing sight of it, and I’d love to see it presented. For those of us starting out in authorised ministry (lay in my case, but does it matter) I believe life is being made very difficult, and I’m sure it is achieving neither of those goals!

Evolution in Liturgy

A 'Forest Station' from Lincoln Cathedral

The way I understand it “liturgy” is a collective noun for the prayers, actions, songs etc that make up an act of worship. But it also seems to be used as a noun in the singular, with people referring to a specific prayer as a piece of liturgy.

‘Common Worship’ has been developed for the CofE as a breadth of material that gives those that lead worship flexibility to respond to themes in the lectionary, the directed topics chosen by church leaders, or the need of specific day or congregation. It has given ‘permission’ to be creative within a set of losely defined boundaries (which depend on the type of service).

But for me, liturgy (both collective and singular) is also an organic thing, with a piece of liturgy being able to evolve from use in one situation, to another and another. This seems to be rather an Iona-ish thing to do, and perhaps I have gained something from my forays into their styles of worship.

Here’s an example of what I mean, from stuff I’ve found, used, adapted, and finally re-created. Whether any of it is any good is for you to decide.

This piece of liturgy started life (with me) as a Creed – Costa Rica (click the title to download), that was handed out by Fleur Dorrell (Head of Mothers’ Union’s Faith and Policy Unit) at a meeting I attended several years ago. I liked it and filed it, its obvious roots in liberation theology speaking into services I might one day create on the theme of justice. That was before I thought of training as a Reader/Lay Minister, but I think it was the year of MakePovertyHistory and Micah 6:8 was becoming the most used verse in the Old Testament.

Then in my first training module I chose an assignment that was an order of service for Christian Aid Week. Out came the file, and used it was. Next I seem to remember it struck me that it could be adapted and used to create responsive intercessions, and so it was used in the format below.

Finally, for a family service one day I wanted to create a creed-like sequence of slides that all-ages could understand, and so was became this Simple Visual Affirmation of Faith (.ppt 5629KB). At the time it was criticised for not including a reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection, so that has been added in since it was last used.

Over these iterations I believe it has lost something – the original asks more questions of us than does the visual – but both were no doubt created with a specific purpose in mind, and hopefully met the need.

Responsive Intercessions adapted from Costa Rican Creed:
(insert your own intercessions at *)

We believe in God the Father, who created the world for us.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s own son, sent into our world to mend relationships and to proclaim peace.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, who works in and through everyone who accepts God as part of their lives.

We believe that as part of one church among many worldwide, we are called by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit, to serve all people whatever their need.*

We believe war, terrorism, racism and the slavery of one group of people by another through fear and the misuse of money, laws and privileges is wrong.

We believe that Jesus taught us to respect human rights, comfort and help those who suffer and confront what is evil and wrong in the world without using violence.*

We believe that the whole world is our home, and that what we do and how we live here has an impact not only in our community but around the world.

We believe that we can set an example in our own community by seeking to stop injustice, to help our neighbour and to share our faith.*

We believe that we should show the love og God who brings healing and comfort and who in Jesus, opened his arms on the cross to embrace everyone.

We believe that death is not the end, but that God will draw those who die in faith to be with him for ever.*

We believe that whatever our circumstances we can take steps to change our actions so that we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God each day.


A blog isn’t a website?!

Got some interesting feedback today from the marketing dept at Mothers’ Union today on the website this was originally a trial for

I’d been asking for some feedback from them at head office, and finally got it, but I’m not sure it was overly helpful, although in a funny sort of way it was quite encouraging:

I think the phrase used was something along the lines of “well it’s not a website is it”, so I explained that I was using WordPress (blogging software) for content management.

The lady who runs the central MU website was very complimentary about the content I was showing being up-to-date and comprehensive. However, apparently there is far too much writing on the ‘home page’ for it to be a website, and you can’t navigate down from a front page to find information. I pointed out the categories and tag cloud for navigation, which she was fine with, but this didn’t seem to satisfy.

I explained that the problem many of our (not very web literate) users found with the central website was that they couldn’t find things, and that the idea of designing a website with blog based management was to make it simpler to find things and keep an up to-date-face on the ‘home page’. Still, having all those words on the scroll down ‘home page’ is apparently not a good thing!

My feeling – that possibly I’m more open minded than people who are only used to ‘traditional websites’ because of the people I mix with?! The proof will be in the use of it, after about 12 months, but it is gradually increasing though not as much as I would like. Need to get a lot more stuff on it, and get people checking it regularly, which should happen after the summer Diocesan Meeting hopefully.

Anyway, apparently I don’t need to help with any workshops at Marketing Conference at in September, because they’ve got enough other folk doing stuff. If there is a website workshop I shall be most interested to attend – and I may well still go armed with some useful, pre-prepared information for interested parties !

Proud parents, humble child

DSC_5955(web)I know pride is meant to be a sin, and it can seriously trip you up if it’s misplaced, like it says in the proverb “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10)

But there are several references in Psalms that encourage us to take pride in our children, especially (given the society of the time) one’s sons. I must remember to look up why having “sons… like olive shoots around your table” was thought to be such a good thing (Psalm 128:3).

Now I’m hardly counted as fruitful (see the same Psalm and verse!) but I’m definitely proud of our lad at the moment. In the last week he has played in two concerts, the second of which was the result of entering himself in his lower school arts competition and being one of the winners. Seeing him dressed ‘cool’ in a yellow bowler hat playing ‘Yellow Submarine’ with the girls cheering and clapping along in the drama studio was a bit of a wake up call for this ‘mum’ – the lads world is moving on, and up.

That was Friday, the day after he had his block brace fitted. We dawdled home from Alton in the sunshine with Grandpa (via handing my latest assignment in at Old Alresford Place) and he idly mentioned he’d been told that morning by Mrs P that he’d passed his Grade 4 Oboe exam two marks shy of a distinction!

We were thrilled, and I think he was too but it really didn’t show – he doesn’t tend to remember things like exam results; last piano exam it took him three days to mention he’d got distinction and show us the certificate! This time we were pleased the news leaked out in just a few hours – resulting in a stop in Odiham as Grandpa treated us all to Ice-cream Sundae’s (not a bad food as a first try at eating with a brace.) Humility has it’s benefits.

Then Sunday, he manages to complete his British Canoe Union PaddlePower Passport Course (equivalent to BCU 1*), including paddling up the weir on the incoming tide at Stoke Lake, near Gosport.

So, we’re incredibly proud of all he’s achieved recently, and love him to bits. That’s the sort of pride to be … proud of?!