A dogged focus on values

I’m looking forward to the next session of the St Peter’s group that is working on identifying values that we discern are important to us as a church for the future. This is the work we’ve been developing with Laurence Gamlen of CPAS since a ‘brainstorming’ session across the church leadership during the ‘great snow’ earlier in the year. Personally, I am finding it an awe-inspiring and humbling experience to be part of the small group that has been charged with the task of discerning God-given values that are specific to us, and will need to taught, shared and lived by a whole church community in the coming years.

I therefore found this post from Bishop Alan a real encouragement and inspiration today. It first grabbed my attention because it talks about the NHS Trust in which I gave birth to our son in ’97 – at Heatherwood in Ascot (on a sunny race day in February). But I kept reading because of the evident enthusiasm for values driven leadership – and his clarity that these people who were living out values were

interested in the unvarnished truth… [showing] just workmanlike pragmatism, and a dogged focus on values… [Bishop Alan goes on to say…] if you stick with your values and resist cutting corners, in the end, you will do a better job. That takes real courage and, dare I say it, faith. I wish some churches felt freer to be honest about what’s not working, more rigorous in not cutting corners and tolerating crapada.

These are thoughts I think we will need to share and hang on to (if necessary by our fingernails, but preferably with a firm grip) if St Peter’s is going to become a values driven church.

Last time we met, our little group at St Ps reminded ourselves that we should be praying/expecting the values we discern will challenge behaviours and cause structural as well as personal transformation of St. Peter’s – obviously something that Bishop Alan saw being lived out at Wexham Park. That’s going to be the really tough bit – our work is only just beginning. Laurence keeps reminding us that it will mean that we will constantly have to measure what we plan against the values we decided upon. He uses the word ‘intentional’ a lot – living out our values as a community will mean a lot of concentration on the content of all our words and actions, before we say/do them.

FWIW so far we’ve looked at our

  • Outward focus (how we want our relationships with those outside the church to be) and come up with the word ALONGSIDEDNESS (lousy English but it seemed to sum up a load of words like: Welcoming, Accepting, Unconditional love, Non-judging, Openness, Honesty, Attentive, Supportive)
  • Upward focus (how we want our relationship with God to be) and came up with the phrases like TIME FOR GOD AND OTHERS and ENCOUNTER THAT TRANSFORMS
  • Inward focus (how we want to develop a more intimate fellowship) and are working around characteristics like
    Loving, Welcomed, Cared for, Listened to, Encouraged, Time (again!), Generosity, Trusted, Friendly, and Support – the idea of SANCTUARY also seems important. What we need to find is a word or phrase that encompasses these… I’m praying and thinking about the phrase GRACE-FULL?
Crucifix on the Screen at All Saints Basingstoke

My thoughts around my recent sermon on forgiving are that we are all frail humans who have a tendancy to fail, and that learning to forgive each other for the lash-ups we make along the way (in part because we are all individuals with different personalities) is going to be a key tool to progress – part of that “unvarnished truth” that Bishop Alan talks about. I wonder how FORGIVING becomes part of the living out of a set of values, or whether it is indeed a value in itself?

Me thinks that possibly looking at the cross gives us the answer.

Wanting to turn cartwheels

Yateley Green
First Oak leaves of spring - Yateley Green

These were taken this morning as I walked back from taking the car to have its bumper re-sprayed… the result of a minor scrape at the garage when it went for MOT last month, and all done free of charge. They are my record of two things – a gin clear blue sky without a con-trail in sight (my thanks to the relevant volcano and apologies to suffering friends in Australia, Spain, USA and elsewhere), and the first Oak leaves of spring. As a Forest girl, this is always for me one of the momentous moments of the year – somehow it seemed extra appropriate today.

I never learnt to turn cartwheels but tonight I wish I could. Early this evening I handed in that final (much delayed) essay on the theology in marriage preparation that completes my FdA in Christian Theology and Ministry. No more essays, just the patient wait to see if its good enough, though I admit to being quietly hopeful. I’m hoping too that folk will find it useful, and will probably post it up here… but think it best wait until I’ve had it marked; somehow it seems rude to do otherwise. I don’t intend taking those brackets out the sub-heading of this blog till the result either!

So, my training as a Lay Minister is sort of complete, and yet I know it isn’t… on Thursday I’m back at OAP to do the funerals training that constitutes part of my IME 4, though that I think is it for this academic year! The rest of ministry will also be training, as I know I have much practical stuff to learn, and need to build a little confidence in certain areas – but for tonight I’m not going to worry about them.

I am sincerely grateful to all my family and friends, those that read this blog, others on Facebook, those I’ve almost ignored for years, and the various clergy who I’ve pestered to distraction of recent months, especially my own vicar. Without all of you folk  I wouldn’t have got to today.

Saturday will see me in London, at Mary Sumner House for Mothers’ Union Trustee Training. I need to start to get to grips with being a Unit Co-Ordinator and it seems likely that the next few months will involve playing catch up on a lot of outstanding ‘things to do’ parochially, MU, and domestically. But that actually feels a really exciting prospect right now as I sit beside a Gin and Bitter Lemon. I have also promised myself a gradual return to gardening, sewing, silk painting and fly-fishing in the coming months, but I think it will all take time to happen – though G and I did clear the greenhouse on Sunday and Dad arrives tomorrow bearing tomato plants (and some more boxes of our belongings to sort and house!)

Thank you God for the journey thus far – and here’s a glass raised to the rest of the adventure 🙂

Wild flowers and other wildlife wonders

Wild Violets
Wood Sorrell

Been meaning to load these off the phone since Easter week but typically life has been busy. C spent that week sailing and has now passed his Stage 4 and his Seamanship module. G and I worked really hard (marking and sermons) but took these on our daily dog walk.

Last week we brought back more belongings and did lots of unpacking sorting and tidying. However the trips included various wildlife highlights including a pair of Roe Deer, Wood Anemonies and a male Orange Tip butterfly at Bushey Leaze near Beech, Medstead, Alton.

Gs best photo of the Orange Tip

I found a 5.7m girthed Beech tree for Dad at Ances Wood near Cadman’s Pool. He had been asked to check it by the folk at Ancient Tree Hunt. Dad is actually featured in the current free National Park/Forestry Commission ‘paper’ circulating the New Forest – with a staged photo and an article he had to correct heavily to make it bearable!

At Eyeworth Pond, Fritham we found our first Swallows and Martins of the year, plus Mandarin and Wood Duck. There were also Mallard Ducklings fresh off the nest like fluffy whirlygig beetles. Dad and I also watched what may be odd Chaffinch behaviour – they were buzzing the water surface for either Reed Mace seeds or insects, couldn’t tell which.

Since then we’ve seen a Swallow closer to home – just the one at Hawley Lake on Sunday as Chris was sailing.

Male Mandarin Duck at Eyeworth

Forgiving is harder than being forgiven – John 20:19-23

Here’s my sermon from last Sunday – Easter 2 (using both the John 20:19-23 reading and the Epistle reading Acts 5:27-32)

It seems like what the Bible tells us is that if we don’t forgive, we can not expect to be forgiven. In effect that if we are not willing to forgive people then we are limiting the impact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we do not open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and allow God to help us to forgive, we lock Christ back in the tomb denying the world its freedom and chain ourselves to the cross because he has wasted his efforts to free us from our sins. The hope of this message is the boundless grace of God that enables us to do this through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It was a tough message to put together and I tussled with it all week, but it was also one that whatever I thought and prayed I couldn’t seem to avoid. Perhaps it was therefore one that needed to be heard.

If you want to read the full text it is here: Sermon John20v19-23 and Acts5v27-32 Forgiving

Leaving Thomas in favour of the grace to forgive

The cross in the entrance of Old Alresford PlaceEaster 2 and the lectionary Gospel is John 20:19 – 31 and the Epistle is Acts 5:27-32.

For some reason I feel compelled to set Thomas aside, and favour of forgiveness – a theme which appears in both readings. We usually only have one reading at the two services I’m preaching at on Sunday, so I’m actually leaving out John 20:24-31 in favour of having the first part of the Gospel and the passage from Acts, read separately but in chronological order.

We have received forgiveness at Easter, the barrier between us and God is broken, and now it seems he has a task for us… we are commanded to be the means by which God forgives others, which means that we need to be open to receiving the grace to forgive – if we withhold that forgiveness then we are disabling Jesus, stopping him from being able to achieve the work in others for which he died, and showing how his work in us is.

Lovely quote from Right Revd Tom Wright (actually given in ref to Mat 18:21-25 but hey it fits well for this week): “forgiveness is like the air in your lungs. There is only room to inhale the next lungful when you’ve breathed out the previous one. If you insist on withholding it – you will suffocate very quickly.”

Also from Gordon Wilson who lost his daughter in the Enniskillen Bomb on ’87:
The forgiveness he spoke of in the hours after the tragedy was an instantaneous decision “from the depth of his heart” which he then “struggled to live up to” but without making that offer he could “not have found the freedom to move on” from those events.

Therefore if we do not open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and allow God to help us to forgive, we lock Christ back in the tomb denying the world its freedom and chain ourselves to cross where he wasted his efforts to free us from our sins…

The battle continues

The battle with the final essay for the FdA at the University is still going I’m afraid. Making a commitment to home re-organationand family meant I missed the pre-Easter deadline for the final essay (for the Uni – it’s on marriage prep) though with last minute permission… I saw my tutor this morning (a saint) and though my first version is ‘good’ it needs to re-organised to fit the Uni requirements more appropriately. I have till 23rd April.

Having taken much time out to get the first version written at the end of March, I now am preaching or leading from here till mid-May I think… no I have one Sunday off before Pentecost. Our vicar is off sick recovering well from an op, so I need to do my share.

G and I have agreed this afternoon that we will prioritise family next week, reclaiming some more boxes and working out where to keep their contents, plus catching up with the parent/aunt types (fortunately we can do both at the same time). Then I shall dedicate 19-21 April to shaking down a final go at the essay, I have Funeral Training is on the 22nd as part of my IME4 then its hand-in…
Then I guess a slow catch-up of the past (things outstanding, many MU), and set-up for the future… (marriage prep w/e in October among other things).
C is just completing a week’s Stage 4 Junior sailing course (with Seamanship skills module) which means he’ll be able to race and sail to his hearts content – though as an under 14 one of us will need to stay shore-based with him when he’s at the club… fortunately the sailing club have power I can run the laptop from…
G is just finishing the most difficult U6th practical marking ever – the scheme devised by the exam board is labyrinthine. He’s talking to himself a lot which tells me he’s really, really tired…
Tuesday G and I were very briefly delighted by the site of a male Sparrowhawk chasing a Blackbird through the willow scrub near the top of Silver Fox lane… and today with the much greater warmth we saw Peacock and Brimstone Butterflies. There is the occasional Skylark singing over the airport heath as well, though frequently on the mid-day dog walk we can’t actually see them, just hear them… the Wood Sorrel is also showing bud today for the first time in the copse, with the strappy Bluebell leaves growing fast, though I guess after the winter we’ve had it will be May before they flower… I wonder if the canopy will be too closed over by then for them to flower well, or if the trees are very late as well…
So that’s about all at present… just a sermon or two for Sunday to find now! I’ve made things difficult for myself again… and I’m focusing on Jesus’ command to forgive (rather than the more usual ‘Thomas’ theme)… more of which later…

I’ve gotta go

We were a tight team. We’d been working for about three years or so, going round, place to place, you know? Josh had this idea about making life better – mad altruism we thought. But it caught on and people started to buy it.

I’m jumping ahead of myself.

Josh head hunted me. I was working for my Dad in the chippy, and he walks in. I thought he wanted something special, the way he looked at me, so I was just about to ask Jim to batter a pineapple ring, when he just shakes his head, and says something. Can’t remember what it was, but Jim must have heard it too, because he gives Dad the nod, puts down his apron and follows me out the door. Never looked back, not once.

We ended up being thirteen with Josh…

That is the beginning of a story my husband has written this week – different, but familiar. I really like it, but I’m a little biased! And it’s not finished yet but you can read as far as he’s got here: Ive gotta go 20100401 (1)

Would love to know what you think?