Christmas Intercessions

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The Chapel at St. Mary’s Eversley at Christmas

It amused me this year when one of the churchwardens in one of my current parishes commented that he’d found some intercessions for Christmas Morning on the internet, and that they turned out to be mine! I’d completely forgotten I posted them in 2013, or noticed how popular that post was at Christmas!!

So, to continue the ministry of sharing resources, here’s a set of Christmas Intercessions I wrote and used for Lessons and Carols this year at Darby Green.

Christmas Intercessions – 2018

God, born as a baby,
we pray for children who cry and are not comforted,
for parents who fear for their children’s future,
and for the lonely who are scared to let people into their lives.
Infant Jesus, help us to have compassion on each other,
to overcome our own fears, and to find ways to shine your love
into the lives of those we meet each day.

Loving God, we look to you.
Receive our prayer.

God, for whom there was no room at the inn,
We pray for those denied shelter or asylum,
Those who are trafficked for profit,
And those for whom a safe haven suddenly becomes dangerous.
Jesus, through whom God risked all to reach us,
help us who have a voice to speak wisely,
to encourage justice, and offer hope and hospitality.

Loving God, we look to you.
Receive our prayer.

God, whose coming was announced with words of peace and joy,
We pray for a world where conflict dominates news headlines,
where the indecision of a few leads to hardship for many,
and where the gulf between wealth and poverty widens.
Jesus, in the humility of your birth,
help us to recognise where we risk adding to the world’s strife,
and inspire us to seek ways of bringing people together,
for the benefit of this community and to the glory of your name.

Loving God, we look to you.
Receive our prayer.

God, who came to bring salvation to the world,
we pray for those who do not recognise or know you,
whose hearts have become hardened to your message,
through a loss of trust and the pain of past hurts.
Jesus, who brought forgiveness of sin and the hope of the resurrection,
help us to acknowledge our mistakes,
to make room in our hearts for the apologies that others offer,
and to receive the gift of your Son as a living witness,
to the new life that you bring.

Loving God, we look to you.
Receive our prayer.

Merciful Father, Accept these prayers for the sake your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

What does the Lord require Micah 6:1-8 #givingitup 8th March #Lent2014

I can’t quite believe I’m blogging so late at night, so this will need to be brief.

Micah 6:8 is a favourite bit of the Bible, one of the very few I have even vaguely memorised (we’ll talk about my memory issues another day). Maggi suggests from it that the practice of justice, kindness and humility, is a community activity, such as Lent used to be.

Her book that we’re using is 5 years old now, and I think came out before things like the Big Read 2014 and it’s predecessors. Similarly the very act of blogging our ramblings through Lent is in part designed to make this a community activity, not just for us as a couple, but for whoever comes along and looks.

Reviewing our stewardship of finances and other things is also what I think Maggi is getting at here. Our review has so far consisted of actually stopping certain parts of our giving, to facilitate some level of transfer to new places once I’m settled into my curacy. Deliberately we don’t just give to the church, and support a couple of other charities to, that we have personal links to for different reasons, but which hopefully make a difference to the basic existence of some people’s lives.

Giving of my time has for a several years now been one of the key ways we’ve given to God through community, enabled by just managing to live off a single income. It’s tough at times, but it’s something we’ve found important. That’s not to say however, that it will be like this forever, it stays under review during each set of circumstance changes, and it’s likely for us the biggest decisions and possibly changes will come at the end of curacy.

There’s something key here about awareness; keeping decisions about our community life, stewardship and related issues, constantly on the agenda, listening for what God might be saying in the situations we encounter or the circumstances of life. Though Lent is a good time for this, the danger of restricting the process to Lent is that we’ll miss God’s specific answer to the question: what does the Lord require?

To post, or not to post, a sermon? #cnmac11

One of the challenges I received through the Christian New Media Conference last month was from Bishop Alan.

Bishop Alan suggested it wasn’t necessarily wise or useful to post sermons online.

He also said that if we do, we should shrink the general point of the sermon to an abstract of 150 words or less, and remember that sermons are a live encounter with God – what people remember when they hear it preached it is what is important.

I can see his points, definitely preach to a specific community or congregation, and who am I to argue with a Bishop!… Except that a few thoughts have been niggling at me over the weeks since:

  • I can post a sermon on the blog faster than our techie team can edit the recording and post it on the church website, where there is no current way of having a discussion about it among members of the church;
  • By blogging it, I can then post the link on Facebook where a large group of my friends are church members. In the past there have been a few occasions where this has provoked further discussion of the an idea. It also opens up the sermon to those who may not have been able attend that particular service but are following say, a sermon series.
  • Similarly in the past I’ve had absent colleagues preaching in a sermon series checking up on me to see where I got a ‘story’ or idea to, either to debate a point or before taking it on the next week themselves!
  • If anyone else finds a sermon I’ve posted useful, either for their own walk with God, or to inspire them in their own preaching, then that is as it were, a grace-full bonus and up to them, and God. That’s how The Text This Week has built up a following (a resource promoted by our Reader Training/DDO tutor).

So I think I’ve decided that posting sermons is not a complete waste of time. All I need to learn to do is take that little bit of extra time that is required to write an abstract of it – which is probably not an unhealthy exercise for any preacher who wants to check their message is clear!

Oh, and having created original illustration for this post – another of Bishop Alan’s great key points – I better go and photograph the bottle of champagne I used as a sermon illustration for the sermon (see photo) I preached yesterday! 






Blogging in the ghetto after #cnmac11

Dr Dixon speaking at Christian New Media Conference 2011 (taken from my rather low spec android phone)

There were many great things about the Christian New Media Conference last weekend.

It will take me weeks to sift through the various things that challenged me, or got me asking questions about my use of social media. I could start with the delight of meeting ‘in the flesh’ various social media illuminaries, but others (like the Vernacular Vicar, Revd Claire and the award winning Lay Anglicana) have already made that point.

The thing that’s been nagging at me most since Saturday means I’m starting my reflections at the end, with some thoughts on Dr Patrick Dixon’s concluding presentation.

Dr Dixon challenged us to ask afresh what our calling is, reminding us that Jesus came to transform the world. How much of what we tweet and blog, he asked, is “ghetto traffic”? How much is relevant to the wider world? If we use the language of our ghetto, he warned, we need to be careful who will see it, as we can be badly mis-understood.

Now, I don’t reckon myself a world changer like Dr Dixon. I don’t want to be – at least not on a global scale. If there is to be any butterfly effect from what I do, it will most likely be from simple acts of encouragement, sharing, being there for people, and hopefully by enabling them to be touched in some small way by God. Those things are most likely to happen through face to face conversations of one form or another.

But for me to be effective in those face to face conversations, sermons, services and other ministerial happenings, I need to be equipped with all the tools and inspiration that God has placed at my disposal. These include (among other things) the Biblical reflections of others (as recommended to us in Reader Training by our DDO), and their thoughts on and experiences of different areas of ministry.

Obviously, there are books, and personal conversations with those more experienced than I to contribute to the sea of wisdom at my disposal, as well as the inspiration of God through the Holy Spirit in quiet moments of reflection; but as the links above suggest, the world of website and blog (accessed increasingly via Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader for convenience) are of increasing value for being easily searchable.

Of course, if I am going to count myself a practitioner in these fields, I too may have thoughts of my own to share, that others at various points in their own faith journey or ministry, may wish to dip into. Making my own sermons and service ideas available is therefore part of a reciprocal relationship (the open-sourcing were were encouraged to elsewhere in the conference) – not so much holding them up as virtuous but holding them out before God’s people for critique. It may, and has, led me to be open to mis-understanding, but it would seem selfish to do otherwise.

So, I guess that means I am operating in and expanding the ghetto of Christian bloggers and tweeters, that I took Dr Dixon to be criticising. Yes, I do want to be ‘salt and light’ as the Bible tells us (Matthew 5:13-15) . Yes I do want to show people that God is relevant and can change their world. but for me, at present, that means I need the colegiality of the “ghetto” of blogging Christians to feed the individual face-to-face encounters that fill my ministry in this little corner of the world that Jesus wants my help transforming.

Is that really such a bad thing?

Wanting to trust the local press – a question to take to #cnmac11

I’m being followed.

For someone who seems to spend rather a lot of time on Twitter, and is a member of the Twurch of England (who have a cool new website), this obviously shouldn’t bother me. It doesn’t. Well, normally it doesn’t. So, why should my most recent follower on Twitter be worrying me, everso slightly?

You see, it’s not so much who he is, or what he does, but what he did. That is what has just niggled at my normally quite open social media conscience.

OK, so he’s a local journalist, a gentleman (I hope in all senses) who until this week I’d never heard of, and who I have never knowingly met. I follow the Twitter feed of the religious correspondents of three major daily papers so it’s not like I’m allergic to the press or anything. In my ‘marketing and communications’ capacity for Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Winchester, I’m actually more inclined to be chasing the press for coverage of something, than being worried about them chasing me.

But, you see three days before following me on Twitter this chap had phoned me up (presumably having got my number off the church office answering machine) wanting details of a funeral that he’d heard was taking place at St. Peter’s this week.

Now, as a Christian, I want to trust people. I want to be open about my faith, and I hope by being open about some of the details of my ministry may help in a small way to improve the public image of Christian ministers. In fact, I’m a fairly trusting sort of girl generally – until experience tells me to be careful.

In this case my experience of what he asked me, led me to question whether I could trust him. ‘Funeral chasers’ horrify me. For me, that counts as intrusion by the local press.

Any ministry to the bereaved is normally totally personal and private unless with their permission they want something about their loved one publicised, or a very public funeral or memorial service is appropriate. (I’ve had one of each of these in the last 18 months, so I know about them too!) Why should the press wish to invade someone’s grief just because they might be ‘different’ or ‘interesting’ in some way?

Twitter, like a blog (which is presumably how this chap found my Twitter feed) is a public conversation. My Twitter conversation often revolves round my ministry, sometimes the funny side of church life, and often I (like many of the Twurch) will refer to the generality of the pressures of ministry, with references like “Three funerals this week… prayers for strength and sensitivity welcome!” (I made that one up btw.) Especially during our recent vacancy when I was responsible for many things to do with funerals and other ‘occasional offices’ I was tweeting about such things because there is a collegiality to the Twurch community that was incredibly supportive when operating slightly ‘solo’ and needing instant, supportive/helpful answers to sometimes daft ministry questions or statements.

It’s just I don’t want to jeopardise my ministry, nor compromise the Twitter community that contributes to how I learn and share as a minister. I also want to have integrity in both my faith and in my pastoral dealings.

Now, it’s taken me 24 hours to consider this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to trust this chap, and I’ve ‘followed’ him back. You see, I actually believe we’re sort of in related businesses – I hope we’re both trying to build community in my home town. That involves sharing news. I’m just hoping that he has the good sense to realise that ‘news’ doesn’t include the spectacle of someone’s private grief, and that he’ll trust me (and others – after all, I’m not the vicar) to share the details of those things that will help us as a community, rather than hurt it.

But it’s left me with a question which I’m going to take to the Christian New Media Conference in 10 days time is this: How much do we risk compromising our ministry by taking it into the public sphere of social media?

Making Connections at #gb11 and beyond

Mothers' Union staff and members at Sunday Eucharist Greenbelt 2011

Well I’ve come to the final post reflecting on what I gained from attending half of Greenbelt 2011. Basically it was all down to making connections.

Some of those connections involved styles of worship, ideas for community, and fresh theological reflections. It was also good to link up with fellow Mothers’ Union members and friends who gave me particular joy by taking in this waif at the Sunday Morning Eucharist. There were also good times shared with one or two people I already knew a bit, for which I was incredibly grateful.

But on top of them, and the Twitter friends I met for the first time, perhaps one of the best things about Greenbelt was… blogging about! Blogging my rambling reflections has started conversations with people I met, and also with some I didn’t manage to link up with in person. It has produced suggestions for future reading, and ministry, that I possibly won’t be able to use immediately, but that I can return to in future, and which may inform other areas of discussion I’m involved with.

A rainbow of connections at Eucharist Greenbelt 2011

Not long before Greenbelt I had considered stopping the blogging thing, fearing that what I shared wasn’t worth much, and that it was soaking up time that I could use more valuably in other ways – either in ministry or directed towards my family.

Instead, I’m going to keep going, and now I’m looking forward to my next new adventure in connectedness: learning how to do this social networking stuff so much better at the Christian New Media Awards and Conference in October! Roll on #cnmac11 posts!

Motherhood and media coverage – surely not all negative?

I’ve just posted this advert on the website of Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Winchester. Obviously my involvement as a Trustee means I’ve known it’s been coming up for some while, and yes, I’m expecting to be there.

But, reading the advert provided by Dr Oluyinka Esan, the conference organiser, I’m wondering if the dialogue could get swamped in negativity?

As I’ve raised before, and as the Bailey Report highlights, there are considerable problems experienced by parents (not just mothers) because of the pressure exerted via the media (and particularly advertising) on children.

But, there must surely be plenty of good or useful things that “media coverage” (which I suspect is different from purely adverts, web access and such like) does for parents. The question is can we identify clearly what they are?

I’m going to throw out a few positive bullet points here, uncertain as to whether they fit the conference criteria or not, but would appreciate your thoughts (and also your company at the conference!)

  • The tools of online websites and ordering for so many daily consumables, children’s clothes etc, has made the more thankless tasks of parenting less time consuming – used wisely it can mean more time with children and as family;
  • I think media coverage of women, via things like news stories (whether they write them, or are the story) shows them increasingly able to multi-task productively for the benefit of work (income), family, and society – I’m thinking of someone like Ruth Gledhill active as journalist, and reflecting on Motherhood;
  • For children there are positive (or at least interesting) ways in which forms of media are being used to aid their education: this week my son’s GCSE English teacher is getting the kids to hand in their poems anonymously via a blog, to encourage peer discussion of their work without ‘personality issues’ coming into play. Once it’s working properly, it sounds like a useful development in the use of blogs.

Surely there must be more than that?

Twitter and Facebook – how I value both! #fb

There was me catching up on 130+ posts by other bloggers via my Google Reader, trying to skim through what everyone else wrote about Greenbelt, and life since. I was minding my only business… well other peoples really…

… only to find that my own business puts me No 5 on a list of Twittering Readers/LLMs of the Twurch of England, as compiled by the illustrious Revd Lesley! My flabber has been well and truly ghasted!

Now, for those of you who are my Facebook friends, please don’t get upset, and don’t whatever you do go away. You are the people I really know, who’ve been there through the thickest and thinnest points in my life, who’ve made me tea when I needed it, helped me cry, or stopped me crying, or cleared up the mess after my failures at parenting etc. etc. You are the community to which I feel most emotionally attached, the ones who will ring me up when I post something daft or dozy! Facebook is great for conversation’s where the back-plot of who I am and where I’ve come from is important because it’s the place that links all my pasts to my present.

And yet, I post far more on Twitter than I do on Facebook these days; well, most days anyway. That’s because Twitter is where I have been able to share the moments of joy and struggle in ministry to a community of people who I know will empathise, share, help and pray, as relevant to the moment. Some of my Facebook friends could do that too, and in some circumstances I ask them to, but they don’t want, or need to hear my latest angst about a baptism or funeral visit, and aren’t always there on Facebook the same way a lot of Twittering ministers are. This has been a huge help during our vacancy. Thank you so much.

From Twitter (as well as the blogs I follow) I also learn about new ideas for worship, liturgy, the legal issues that lie behind church weddings, and a massive amount of other things. Ask a question of the Twurch, and someone will pop up an answer it after an hour or two! This starts conversations that are beginning to lead to meeting new people and take me to new places – of which Greenbelt was just one!

Twitter is also the place I get my news feed these days. More so than either terrestrial or BBCNews24 TV. It’s where I heard about the massacre in Norway. It’s how I discovered who our new Bishop is to be (before I’d read my email from Diocese!), which I was then able to share with my many friends from the Diocese who are on Facebook via a round-up of links. Twitter also feeds me the cricket and rugby scores – so I can keep not just myself, but my family regularly updated!

So there – Twitter and Facebook I love you both! And one day I’ll get round to working out how to put your little logo’s somewhere on this blog!!


Lord,… keep me out of your way!

When I first started blogging I ‘met’ someone known as ‘A Man Breathing’ who was an ordinand on the south coast, blogging his journey to ordination. Sadly, after his ordination he stopped blogging, but that was after many months of receiving his encouragement on my road to licensing as a Reader.

‘A Man Breathing’ was also a fireman. Via his blog header, he introduced me to the prayer I’ve now posted on the right hand side of this blog because it continues to hold much meaning for me, and also for the work I’m currently involved in my parish of St. Peter’s Yateley (I may well use it at the end of this weeks sermon.)

It was written by Revd Mychal Judge OFM – Chaplain to the New York Fire Service, and the first recognised victim of 9/11. Having rushed to the scene on hearing of the devastation, he prayed with and helped people in the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. When the South Tower collapsed it shot debris through the lobby of the North Tower killing him and others. There is now considerable information about Fr Mychal on the web.

I suspect his memory lives on in the US for many reasons, not all connected with 9/11. But for me, this prayer means a lot, and says it very simply.

Trying to live it, is much more complicated!

Unpacking this silent woman

Feeling a little like this overloaded sugar cane lorry (Uganda 2006) whose axils were going

I’ve got 40 minutes before I go to prepare for the 3rd funeral I will have taken since New Year. For the stipendiary minister that might not seem like a lot, but since Gran’s was my first completely solo effort and marked by my last post exactly a month ago, it feels like an awful lot.

As I try and return to bloggin’ I shall reflect on that, but first I thought I’d try and unpack my silence, especially given other’s posts over the last month about the dirth of women bloggers (especially in the faith sphere).

I’m flattered that Revd Lesley followed up my tiny tweet, and I’m interested in where my reasons for barely admitting that I blog fit with the theories listed by her as to why more women don’t blog.

1. Women don’t do technology and don’t know how to get on Wikio: well I do ‘do’ technology a bit, but largely due to the technical help and support of many male friends and now fellow members of the Twurch of England. What I have found (e.g. when a female staff member at Mothers’ Union head office phoned me for advice this week on setting up a blog) is that some women find the ‘technical language’ used by men a block to their understanding of how they can achieve things in social media. I’m afraid my technique is to keep asking, and explaining it back to them in my own language until I have a faint idea what to do, or get them to show me 1 to 1. Having said this, I was aware of the Wikio ratings because The Churchmouse, but had never realised I could, or even should consider registering (I haven’t yet, but thanks to Lesley I now know how!)

2. Women aren’t competative and wouldn’t put themselves on Wikio: Thing is I am; competative that is. I admit the sin of watching my blog stats, and the amusement value of discovering that my most popular post ever was last month when I posted the ‘First Time Ever’… I guess most people didn’t expect to see a middle-aged woman sledging! There’s probably a sermon illustration in that somewhere 🙂  However I know my limitations, and I wouldn’t expect to succeed in the way that Lesley Fellows or Maggi Dawn has. My world feels intellectually narrower than theirs but I’m happy to be on the edge of theirs via their blogs.

Ten minutes left…

3. Women are only blogging for themselves: these are the main desires for the blog, if I am to keep it going:

  • to share what there is that I do, that might have some use to others (sermons, reflections, the occasional idea of specific interest)
  • to include people in the journey of faith and ministry I’m taking (current pastoral circumstances are however making this difficult… and I can’t share the details, yet)
  • to ask questions, usually about the practicalities of how to do something – whether that be something technical, something spiritual, or something in a ministerial context
  • to share my news with people who know me, but whom because of my other commitments, or the distance between us, I can’t share it with face to face
  • to have a filing system for ideas and links that I probably don’t note down anywhere else – and this I could do better.
  • Is this blogging for myself? Some of it is.

4. Women are too busy to blog everyday: Yes! But so are most men, and definitely most Christian ministers I know (of either sex). I guess that’s why Twitter and the Twurch appeals it’s a more quick fire share of ideas! I have felt guilty for not blogging in the last month, and doubted the sanity of keeping the blog going at all. But, there have been plenty of things that I wanted to blog, if I’d had the time. If I get back into a rhythm of blogging you may discover what other things have caused me to be silent for a month.

I ran five minutes over. Now off to get the thermals and robes for the latest funeral and burial!