Here I am

The crucifix in the grounds at Furzey
The crucifix in the grounds at Furzey

It is now only 3 days till my licensing as a Lay Minister (Reader). I am very grateful to Father A who led our Quiet Day at Furzey House on Saturday for continuing your good work at getting my head round this ministry thing, and I’m now feeling much more positive about my walk with God and for God.
Furzey was a childhood playground of mine, in the village I grew up in, and in many ways it brought my story round in a Godly loop that just felt ‘right’. The weather was wonderful, plenty of warm sunshine in which to sit and pray as the honey bees buzzed – though in the end I discovered my favourite spot to pray was down the bottom of the gardens, leaning on a five barred gate, looking at sheep.

Father A took the theme ‘Here I am’ which started with a journey from the question “Who am I?” to which we would get many different answers from family, friends, congregation members. But essentially we are created by God. When God revealed himself in creation, he named things (birds, fish etc) and named us into being to.

To be reminded that I am part of what God wanted as the wonders of his creation because he wants me as his own, is awesome and humbling at the same time. My calling is therefore not to a specific task but to be God’s. (This had some great resonances with what Revd L said at MU Conference Eucharist last week about the fact that we are called to “be” not “do”.) Vocation is therefore a recognition of that calling by God to “be”.

For me, 2-3 weeks ago I was an Eli character – “the word of the Lord was rare” (1 Sam 3:1) – perhaps like him I had grown week, through distance from God, or just ‘overload’ of work. The recognition that I was not in the right place at least meant that I noticed the “lamp of God had not yet gone out.” In 1 Sam 3:11, God says to Samuel

I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.

That was Samuel’s original calling, and it sent me back to mine… ‘God on the phone’ was the moment when my ears definitely tingled, my heart lept with excitement that this was God calling me to a doing of something for him. There was a natural willingness to proclaim that here was my adventure with God.

I fell into Reader Training from there, but despite the lack of discernment (not an ear tingle in sight) there was a sense of rightness. However, I know I’ve not lived up to Samuel’s achievements as I have grown through training, as I’m sure I have let many “words fall to the ground” and I have a very real sense that I am only just starting the ‘real’ training!

I think it would be good to review my original thoughts from the start of Reader Training and see if my sense of calling is the same or different. I will try and go dig them out as they were pre-blog… but not tonight…

Actually I’m also looking forward to getting down to the mission essay when all the fuss is over, and perhaps sharing some more useful thoughts with you, but not this week I’m afraid.

Things have started to get busy for the weeend already, though the biggest problems seem to be with the service I’m leading on Sunday at which our Archdeacon is preaching – but that is another story. Tomorrow I am at Mothers’ Union Trustee Meeting, and they’ve had four pages by email of bright ideas that came out of last weeks Marketing Conference, though the one I really, really want them to take up is the ‘Messy Eucharist’ for the 2011 Festival. Friday I shall spend time with my spiritual director.

On the family front:

C managed 8 miles in a kayake in 2 hours 4 mins last Sunday on the Basingstoke Canal Challenge, coming 3rd out of the 6 Scouts in the county who did the distance. This meant he achieved a bronze medal. Tonight he started climbing at Craggy Island in Guildford, also with Scouts! What with all this and his sailing, he’s going to have serious arm muscles. We’re so proud of him and his willingness to try things, and he seems to love these personal challenges.

Keep seeing a Clouded Yellow Butterfly up on the heath at the back of the airport, but have I got the camera with me when I see it…? Er, no.

Spiritual Squirrels making me smile

Spotted this on my Google reader as I shut down after a late evening writing a report about last weeks Mothers’ Union marketing conference. I was already smiling with bright ideas for the next three years I want to put into practice – but this nearly made me cry laughing, especially the last bit

We have a squirrel in the roof » The Cartoon Blog by Dave Walker

Want to attend Dave Walkers’s lent group next year – we have a squirrel story from last year at St. Peter’s!

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Mission, Ministry and Marketing

Given that I should be concentrating on the mission of my local church and my own ministry for this terms module, this posting from Bishop Alan struck me as interesting and something to look at more closely.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Good news in Gerrards Cross

Point 2 especially seems to be similar to how we seek to operate at St. Peter’s – but we’ve not broken the 400 barrier! I wonder if it is worth a visit?

Blogged now to return to as tomorrow morning I’m off to Swanwick for the Mothers’ Union Marketing Conference. I am hoping that if the technology lets me I shall be blogging from there either here, or at I shall also be posting the discussion paper I’ve written about websites to share my enthusiasm for blog based content management.

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Roof beams and scaffolding

It is now seven weeks since the builders arrived and we continue to be well impressed by progress. DSCN0629cw

During the course of the last couple of weeks the whole of the ground floor walls and roof timbers have been completed as can be seen from the photographs. We even have some UPVC put in, but you can’t see it properly from the front.

This week the guys are intent on putting the beams onto the extension to the upstairs room, and they hope to have us tiled, windowed and watertight by 1st October when they take a break for a 10 day holiday in Egypt with their Mum who is recovering from chemo.

DSCN0633wThe timing of their break is good, as it will leave us fairly clear of clutter for parking on the weekend of the 3rd (when something appears to be drawing a large group of friends and family to visit). Presumably at some point after that we will need to move the lad out of the front room so they can break through and start the work on dismantling and creating internal walls. It looks like the shed will be watertight to help with this!

Other news? Well our favourite tussocky field has been mowed but G found a Devil’s Coachman on today’s walk – unfortunately it moved too fast to photograph. Mind you the Greenwoodpeckers seem to be enjoying the easier access for ants and other insects! I also noted today there are still Housemartins flying to and from the eaves of some of the houses on the estate, presumably encouraged to remain here a little longer by the high pressure and good weather – long may it continue if there’s going to be a hole in the roof this week!!

Two things that made me smile today

The first relates to recent posts, and was sent by a well-wisher. I hadn’t given this poem a thought let alone considered it’s appropriateness, but it and I were well aquainted. 16 years ago at my brother-in-laws wedding, I sang it solo (accompanied by the now famous Joby Talbot, I believe) to a tune composed by my brother-in-law. Reading it without the music and in this context is completely different:

Love   George Herbert

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

I am feeling a little more positive – at least able to pray, walk the dog and read the Bible, without getting emotional. However last night we had a church meeting for preachers (24 people preach at St. Peter’s!) where I went back to feeling completely out of my depth…

The second thing that made me smile was ordering some Moo mini-cards with my own photographs on the back – lovely trip down memory lane to Uganda and South Africa in 2006 and to favourite places like Aberystwyth, RHS Rosemoor, my tussocky field (mowed today) and of course the New Forest.

When you get the order confirmation email, you get this wonderful message that just made me smile and smile:


I’m Little MOO – the bit of software that will be managing your order with us. It will shortly be sent to Big MOO, our print machine who will print it for you in the next few days. I’ll let you know when it’s done and on its way to you…

How much of a pioneer am I?

HT to Maggi Dawn for this link…

sustain:if:able kiwi » pioneers and pastors? poles apart or creative tensions

Though point 9 is irrelevant there are several things here that link with some of our Mission and Ministry Module stuff that I suspect I could do with reflecting upon and in some cases actioning, and certainly 3 is something that’s been rattling around my head as I find myself reflecting on ‘failures’ to respond appropriately (in a way that will be an example of, or develop faith) during baptism prep visits.

It also asks me the question, how much of a pioneer am I? Given that I tend to be someone who ‘does things for the first time’ (that is in a community like church or Mothers’ Union) part of me thinks I am. Yet here I am setting out on something new to me, which each Lay Minister (Reader) can make of what God wills that individual, and feeling incredibly un-pioneer-like (still… but getting there.) This assumes of course that a pioneer doen’t have to be creating fresh-expressions or emerging church, just doing something ‘new’ for that community, or even something ‘old’, better.

Then there’s the whole handing on to others so you can do the next thing – I can see that looming in my Mothers’ Union commitments already, and I have a totally blank canvas to work with… there’s no one helping me doing the marketing and comms work at present (except our wonderful Diocesan Secretary who is doing so much else as well). If I’m not going to get stuck in a rut, I need to be working on the ‘succession’ from day one… that will be January’s job to start then.

I particularly like Steve Taylor’s point 8 for it’s simple, practical and workable solution that hopefully won’t upset folk… readers who know me, can be the judges of whether I ever manage to put it into action.

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Turning corners

Talking about things helps, especially when there’s such an encouraging bunch of you reading this drivel I churn out.

I’m not totally sure if it was meant for me, but this felt like it, for starters. As you’ve said Andy, there is a ministry in blogging, and you’ve just exercised it!

The process of responding to your messages off-blog has actually been really helpful – considering the validity of your points against what I’m thinking, has helped start to put things in perspective a bit, a bit like turning corners on a road and revealing new views, among the same scenery.

One of my real senses I mentioned yesterday is that I don’t love enough to minister – I’ve been reading various things for the Mission Module, and two of them (Bosch and also Singlehursts ‘Sowing, Reaping, Keeping’) have talked about mission and ministry being an overflowing of love towards people. I don’t think I do, at least not enough.

Added to this is a sense that my conversation with God is very God orientated, I’ve never had a big thing about Jesus, which might sound daft, when I know what he did, and why he did it was for me, and for everyone. My conversation however is with God, through the Holy Spirit, and Jesus doesn’t necessarily feature in that though he is the supreme example of that love stuff I was just talking about. This is however making all the stuff about Mission that we’re doing, which in my mind at least is very Jesus centred, a bit tricky.

Then there’s the whole ministry thing being about ‘taking up your cross’ – very Jesus-centric. I suppose yes that’s what I’m doing, though I’m not sure exactly what that cross is at present – just the shear doing of ministry stuff I suppose, especially when with big L-plates, I don’t feel that comfortable doing any of it. If ministry is to bring me Life with God in Jesus in a new way, I know it won’t be dull. Usually I don’t want a dull life – even if it seems attractive right now, but that’s probably just the physical tiredness talking.

Lay ministry does feel right, at least in the sense I know that I’m just not ready for the other step that others have suggested to me over the years. If I can get this hung up over Licensing, perhaps God knew that was all I could cope with at this stage in my life, and even if it feels a bit tough at present it means he’s actually being quite gentle with me.

One person contacted me off-comment and suggested that
a) God had helped her through my online ramblings in the past which was quite startling (interesting since although we have a mutual real friend who isn’t a Christian, she is, but we’ve never met)
b) that this could well be the devil trying to stop God’s work: “The devil really won’t want someone like you to be put into ministry – it really won’t be good news for him. He knows that God has got a tight hold on you so the only way he can try to influence you is via doubt.”

This rings true with various things that have happened in the past – G spent a week in hospital when he shouldn’t have needed to, just after we’d agreed to start an All Age ministry here at St Ps 10 years ago, but before we actually got it going. So perhaps time to kick the devil’s work out then?

I’ve been asked for an image or quality that I would like to be prayed for… and yes, LOVE would be a big thing, love of Jesus, and love of others, real love for people especially if they’re ‘not my type’, not just the social justice sort of love that means Micah 6:8 drops off the tongue easily. From that I guess the joy and enthusiasm, as well as the insight might all come as side benefits, along with some I don’t anticipate if God acts true to his usual self!

A 36 hour days would help as well, but perhaps praying for the ability to balance life better might be more realistic – so a 12 hour day then!

Tonights baptism-prep visit went a little better I think, but then they seemed a little interested in starting a journey of faith with the little step of a child’s baptism. Please God they are authentic to their words.

Crisis of confidence

I know this is partly bred of being overtired, and partly natural (according to our Warden of Readers who dismissed my mutterings as flippancy) but I’ve been having an acute attack of “What me God? You have to be joking!”

I have been totally convinced consistently that I have a calling to the ministry of preaching and teaching all the way through Reader Training. I have got depressed by the workload and some issues with the course at various points, but have been consistently encouraged by others who have heard me preach, or with whom I have worked (like my placement vicar), as well as marks I’ve received for assignments. I know I have problems in ‘technical recall’ of theological points, but I’ve been encouraged to think it will come with time, and anyway, normal people don’t want to hear technical terms, they want to know God’s love.

So why, when the forms are signed by me and the vicar, licensing is looming, and I’m starting to be more aware of being ‘a minister’, am I suddenly so scared and think that God’s got it wrong. Twice in the last week my thoughts and emotions have brought me to a standstill of questions, doubts and fears.

Even the lectionary has been trying to encourage me over our last residential weekend of training:
Sunday –
Psalm 116 v7-9  “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you… that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”
Isaiah 50 v4-5 “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary…[and] opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.”
Today –
Psalm 22 v25 “From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfil my vows.”

There’s a thought, not only will I make vows of obedience to God in ministry at my Licensing, but I will fulfil them… he will work through me for others. And yet, how much of this is me and how much is God I ask myself? When I can’t even find the right conversation to excite a couple enquiring about baptism to take a more serious interest in the faith that is so important to me, what do I think I’m playing at?!

And then, falling out my Bible a slip of paper noting the words of Timothy Radcliffe in this years Lent book –

Why are we so reluctant to be sent? Because it means dying to whom we have been. Preaching the Gospel is not a matter of turning other people into Christians just like ourselves. We are sent on mission to discover who we are in and for other people.

I’ve spent three years of training dying to who I was, and I’m totally shattered. I don’t want to turn people into boring Christians like me, but I don’t seem to have enough love of God inside me for it to overflow to them and offer them the vibrant and exciting life with God I see in others.

I won’t duck out now, I’d be too embarrassed and let too many people down (not good reasons I know), and the logical bit of my brain knows this is the bottom of the roller coaster ride we heard preached about yesterday, but please God can I have the love and enthusiasm for you that will enable to me enjoy my Licensing and delight in sharing you with others?

Don’t bother commenting on this rather selfish posting – just pray for me, and for any others entering authorised ministry who might be feeling anything like I am at present. And may God Bless you with a certainty I don’t currently have.

Is blogging a ministry?

There’s been a bit of talk going round about female bibliobloggers and theobloggers (doesn’t the internet invent new words fast for the English language) – see here and here at Maggi Dawn’s blog. All of which got me thinking about this blog…

I have never set out to be a female, blogging, Christian and my theological content is thin, but hey…it started back on Jan 22nd, as an experiment for a website, but has become at times the following

  • good practice for theological reflection (at least my placement vicar told me what I was blogging at the time was what my placement report should involve);
  • a way to file useful snippets on things that interest me;
  • then I found a fellow traveller on route towards ministry who responds to mine as I do to his, all thanks to reading links and blog rolls occasionally;
  • a way to communicate with some techie folk I know (mostly atheists), and relate their skills to what I’m trying to do (and hopefully they might read some of the God stuff along the way);
  • to use the ideas of the techie crew to check back how we Christians communicate – which has involved some cross reference to what other Christians have blogged, most recently Bishop Alan (see blogroll – he’s laid low at present);
  • and currently a means of showing family and friends how the house-extension is going!

Whether this any of these reasons are particularly valid or interesting to others, I don’t really know, but I do hope that at some point in time I might help someone else. And I will admit I do become slightly fascinated by blog stats, and then feel suitably guilty for it… absolution required 🙂

Here’s a question that arises from these thoughts: since the internet can be regarded as a mission field, is blogging a ministry?

Doing something interactive

Fascinated to read Bishop Alan’s post today about socialnomics. What he’s saying I take as encouragement that what I’ve been trying to do with has been trying to use wisely (even if at a small scale), the things that are available to us to communicate our love of God and actions taken in his strength.

It particularly made me think that Jesus used the contemporary media of his day – people told stories to illustrate what they wanted to say, something he used to great affect I seem to remember in his parables!