I’ve posted about sloe gin making a couple of years running (here and here), which probably makes it a tradition that I must now do so annually.
A brief twitter conversation today has suggested this years post needs to have some photo’s of the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) bush, the plant from which we get sloe’s with which to make the increasingly popular liqueur drink that slides down so easily on a cold evening, or after a long day of work.
On a good year, the Blackthorn which flowered in early spring will be loaded with dark purple fruit by late September, though after such a late spring in 2013 I think there’ll be good picking well into October. It has small green oval leaves, and large thorns, so when heading out on picking expedition, it is advisable to wear a decent coat!
To summarise the recipe and tips gleaned from previous years experiments
Once washed and sorted for unwanted protein, freezing sloes for a few days/weeks/years avoids the tedious requirement to repeatedly prick the skin of each sloe berry;
Very approximately the recipe is 1lb sloes to 4oz castor sugar in 75cl of gin (though if you like it sweeter add a little more sugar) – you can drop the previously frozen berries straight into containers of gin, but remember the level will rise as you do so; collecting oversized sweet or ‘kilner’ size jars can be useful for the part of the process;
Place the jam jars in a cupboard/shed for 3 months, but every few weeks go and turn the jar gently, making sure it doesn’t leak the precious contents but the sloe juice mixes well into the gin/sugar mix;
After the three months is up, sieve the sloes from the gin, bottle carefully, and enjoy!
Since doing sloe gin, as a family we’ve branched out, with raspberry gin possibly being the favourite version of liqueur gin, and what is currently ‘laid down’ in our shed – this batch shows the recipe and is named ‘A’ level gin as we picked the raspberries the day the A-level results came out (my teacher husband having spent the morning in school handing results out)!
When I set out to our Diocesan Conference, stuck as I am in a funny place half-way through ordination training, my sense of calling dry, and confused as to how and where God is shaping my future, my personal prayer was that witnessing the development of Bishop Tim’s vision for the Diocese of Winchester would lead to a revitalising of my sense of purpose in ministry and my passion to serve God.
God did do some business with me, but there was an overwhelming sense was that he did a whole load of business with the diocese. Through the inspirational Biblical teaching of Prof. Tom Wright, through Bishop Tim’s modelling of a passionate and prophetic focus, and through the the work of the Holy Spirit work in the 200 Synod and ministerial representatives present, a corporate re-imaging of church took shape. On Thursday, the priorities were set that require us to become a pioneering ‘mixed-economy’ of culturally relevant Christian communities, living sacrificially as agents of social transformation. If you live, worship or minister in the Diocese of Winchester I do recommend you watch (start at the bottom & work up, slides here) or read the presentations in detail – they will be changing our lives!
Bishop Tim’s use of a video clip where people build an aeroplane whilst in flight was, frankly, terrifying. It was also honest and realistic.We can’t stop being church whilst we re-imagine how we function, not just as a diocesan structure but at every level of our mission and ministry. Witnessing the pain being caused to the ministries of friends and supervisors wasn’t comfortable either, as the speed and direction of progress for some functions of the diocese were subjected to what might be termed a hand-brake turn. The letter of due synodical process may not always have been completely adhered to and some unheard questions may need close examination in the near future, but then I’m not a synodical specialist. Importantly, there was a sense that the Spirit of God visibly moving through the event was of greater importance, if only the pastoral and personal implications can be handled swiftly and effectively.
There were several specific words of challenge for the ordinands present. I silently wept for myself and others as Tom Wright quoted his own words to others “Don’t be surprised if you go through fire & water, it is the norm. Ministry & mission is cruciform.” Yet, I was consoled to know that even our spiritual leaders have at times spent years surrounded by a sense of darkness whilst in ministry, and I was challenged by interview questions Tom Wright and Bishop Tim have heard of being placed before candidates in their pre-ordination interviews:
How would I lead someone to Christ? (My answer would I am afraid, vary hugely depending on the circumstances and experiences of the person concerned – no one size fits all, I would suggest.)
What are my two favourite Biblical passages and why?
We were reminded we have to carve the stone, or stones, that are our contribution to God’s Kingdom here on earth, in the context of the groaning and sorrow of this world, so that the master mason can draw them together with all the others his followers have produced to build something incredibly special. My private conversations may have suggested this isn’t necessarily possible, but I just hope and pray I have a small stone to carve in this diocese as the journey continues.
At the other end of the emotional scale, there was strong affirmation that though “‘the parish’ is an invented, not a God given structure”, God (and our Diocesan leadership) take a real delight in the variety of ministries we can offer and the desire to change not just our missional focus, but the structures that support it, so that both parishes and pioneer ministries, and particularly pioneering parish mission initiatives, can be resourced, encouraged, affirmed and celebrated.
There was no witnessing the development of our corporate vision; the whole event was participatory even for non-Synod members like me. However, Bishop Tim and the other participants who facilitated our deliberations, made it clear that we’re on a long-haul flight – the changes that have started, including the desire for a Diocesan ‘Rule of Life’ to re-found our mission in keeping with our Benedictine roots, are designed to make the Christian life of this region engage “deep into the mission of Jesus” as our participation in the coming of his Kingdom and his glory, but it can’t happen over-night.
As individuals, as parishes, as departments and deaneries, we might not always sense it, but God really is building God’s kingdom in God’s way… through us!
It’s great to be told half way through ordination training, that “theological colleges are training people for the wrong things!”
I heard that gem, among others, from Steve Chalke at Greenbelt over the Bank Holiday weekend. After my issues with camping that curtailed my experience of Greenbelt 2011, this time I stayed with a dear friend in Stroud (real bed & bathroom in peaceful surroundings) and had the company of my sixteen year old son, and was thus encouraged to focus on music and poetry, rather than talks.
Steve Chalke’s point about theological training was that we’re being trained as theologians to run churches, rather than what he thinks we need, which is to be trained as entrepreneurs or ‘pioneers’ (to use one of Bishop Tim’s favourite “p’s”) in social infrastructure and community building.
Making the link between the original social functions of the Jewish synagogues and the need for local Christian communities (as opposed to out-of-town mega churches) Steve said something like this:
Church groups need to become/create/found infrastructure organisations – something they can do, together with businesses, local council’s and other community organisations. We have to be in the mix so that stuff isn’t done for profit, and pragmatically to stop stuff in our post-welfare state society from not being done at all! Being are core/key part of the debate gives churches/Christians a voice in the debate and protest – because we will have “skin in the game”.
My impression is, that this is exactly the sort of collaborative partnership that we may be directed towards at conference, and which as a Anglican Diocese with hopefully still a building (or similar resource to sell or redesign) and a fellowship of Christians in every parish, we are hopefully well placed to use.
I will admit a failure here: I haven’t yet read most of Tom Wrights “How God became King” which was the ordinand’s Christmas present from +Tim last year. (To be honest, I’ve had other things to read in the meantime.) But, I think what he’s trying to say in that, and I have a hunch he will emphasise similar at conference, is that many Christian’s have become too focused on Pauline and salvation theology, forgetting that this needs to be partnered with the Kingdom theology of Christ’s mission in his lifetime, i.e. the things he did between his birth and death as told in the Gospel accounts. These are the bits that tell us God is already doing his Kingdom work, as Steve Chalke put it, and all we have to do is join in! From some reasoning like this, I’m guessing Bishop Tim get’s his vision statement for the Diocese of Winchester that we should be “living the mission of Jesus”.
To me Steve Chalke, Tom Wright and Bishop Tim seem to stating similar things, that come close to the category of “blindingly obvious”. What concerns me is whether there is really not just the aching/longing prayer, the resources (financial and human), and the will-power to do such community Kingdom building, but whether the structure and constraints of an Anglican Diocese is really enabled to make it happen? I’m hoping that I will receive and encouraging answer to this, because I need to be enthused for the year ahead, and hear some substance to the purpose of my possible future ministry.
Going back to my original Steve Chalke quotation about theological training, in my view at the end of the talk he actually partly refuted his own statement. He clearly said that as Christian’s we need both theology (articulated in clear, common language) and the business skills in our church leaders. So when, in the Diocese of Winchester we think about re-structuring our training patterns to enable this long-term living of the mission of Jesus, are we also going to encourage and enable the tools of community enterprise alongside the theological training ordinands like me are already receiving?
So those are my starting thoughts for the week – not much, but where I’m coming from.