Donating your Flesh and Blood as part of Christian giving – just FAB!

Flesh and Blood - logoI currently have the privilege of undertaking a community placement with the chaplaincy team at my local hospital as part of my ordination training. One session of that placement was sitting in on a meeting about organ and tissue donation.

Until then I didn’t know

  • the families of all suitable patients who are in cardiac or brain death are approached and asked to consider if they would be willing to allow organ or tissue donation from their relative, or if their relative has already registered for donation are informed of that fact if they didn’t know already;
  • people up to the age of 80 may be suitable for organ donation (e.g. heart, lungs, liver, kidneys etc.);
  • people up to the age of 85 may be suitable for tissue donation (e.g. cornea, ligaments, bone, skin etc.).

Further research since the meeting suggests that all five major religions in the UK support organ donation despite stories I’ve heard to the contrary, and though I am aware that some sects within these religions would hold alternative views.

A few days after this meeting, I had my awareness raised of a new campaign launched 28th January 2013, to encourage Christians to register, donate or promote organ and tissue donation as part of their Christian giving. This is the first time NHS Blood and Transplant have worked with churches on such a national campaign. It actually seems quite obvious to me now I come to think about it that donating our flesh and blood be part of our Christian giving, since we believe in a Christ who died that we might live a closer relationship with God, the author of life (Acts 3). Perhaps we shouldn’t need our own website through which to do so, but surely any campaign that raises the profile of both the need and opportunity can be welcomed.

The campaign is called Flesh and Blood, and provides a whole variety of resources including an easy way to register for organ, tissue and blood donation; stories of those who have donated or received organs, tissue or blood; resources to help raise awareness (including a 90 second video that can be downloaded and played during notices at your church) and make churches available as a venue for blood donor clinics; and understanding for those who are unable to donate but who can become advocates to encourage other who can to do so.

So, have I ever donated blood? Nope, not to date. Until well after I was married I was under weight and therefore not allowed to give blood, and since then just haven’t really considered it – that needs changing! However, hearing the stories of both medical staff and transplant patients at first hand last week, and reading the information at Flesh and Blood has encouraged me to more proactive action, and I am now registered for organ and tissue donation should the worst happen.

If you’re not a Christian and still want to make an altruistic donation of your flesh and blood for the benefit of others, then it’s just as easy for you to register for organ, blood, bone marrow and platelet donation. We could all have used that website for sometime now, or you may have already!

For my teaching friends, there is also a link to NHS teaching resources for KS4 children on blood, body parts and donation: Give and Let Live (which says it all in my view!)

Brings a whole new meaning to the word FAB, doesn’t it?

Of mice and an MA

Three Long-Tailed Tits on birdfeeder
Three Long-Tailed Tits on my bird feeder. 6th February 2013

Today I achieved two things that I’ve been trying to accomplish all winter.

The first, was that I managed to photograph the Long-Tailed Titmice that occasionally dash through our garden. I have always loved these birds, and longed to photograph them, but this is the first time I’ve succeeded so I feel really chuffed with myself.

The second thing I achieved today, was completing the first portfolio of my MA. The whole process has been tortuous, proved the fact that I read, retain and reflect on material really slowly, and struggle to make connections that when I’m talking to someone informally come so much more easily. The thing is my poor memory means I can’t remember what I’ve thought, read or said. Yet, except for my issues with apostrophes,  I have no problems actually writing it just takes a long time – especially when I’m trying to achieve a standard that I’ve never worked at before.

Anyway, my reflection on obedience, community and hospitality in Benedictine spirituality will get it’s own special trip to college tomorrow, to be handed in. Then I can start proper work on the next two: one about land in the Old Testament, and one that may well be about spirituality and hope connected to my current hospital placement.

The little mouse that visits our patio. 29th January 2013

Oh, and more mice? Well we’ve had a little visitor under the bird-feeder on the patio recently – often first thing in the morning, so photographing it can prove rather difficult. Anyway, I rather like him, even if he’s bit small and scared to cuddle, and I’d really rather not have him in the house!

The wildlife is keeping me sane – ish.

The joy of… ordinand?! How being an ordinand is like being pregnant – Luke1:39-45

Nativity detail from altar window, All Saints Church, Cuddesdon
Nativity detail from altar window, All Saints Church, Cuddesdon

I mentioned yesterday that amid the grief (and other Christmas aggravations like the alternator going on the car) there have only been will-o’-the-wisp moments when I have connected with the Christ-child this Christmas.

As I prepare to write a 5000 word essay this week, and re-start my hospital placement (grotty cough permitting) I wanted to reflect briefly on what those glimpses have said been, and what I’ve allowed the Christ-child to give me. They are what I have been given to build-up my sense of Christ’s presence with me as I return to my Benedictine studies.

I didn’t make church on 23rd December (Advent 4) because I was simply feeling too rough. Instead I sought out the sermons of clergy friends on Twitter, to feed what little brain I had. I lit upon this sermon from Reverend Ally. She reminds us of the questions Mary asked of Gabriel at the annunciation, which reflect quite closely those that many ordinands ask themselves, including “Why me!?”.  She goes on to talk about what happens after Mary declares her obedience to God’s will, and specifically about the joy of Mary’s meeting with Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45). “Mary realises that God has not just asked a great thing of her, he has also given her a great thing” and that part of this gift is her common calling with Elizabeth, to which their miraculous pregnancies testify.

Being an ordinand isn’t so very different to being pregnant. You’re carrying something precious (your calling to serve Christ as a priest), can at times be very uncomfortable (there’s stuff asked of you that makes life painful), can feel incredibly lonely (not even a long-suffering spouse can really share the load, and they’re probably as worried as you), and you must be obedient to a detailed process you may not completely understand (portfolios require all sorts of detailed analysis that is almost beyond understanding, and then someone else arranges a curacy for you)!

For me this last term, it’s been a lonely journey. Cut off from parish life by the request that I focus on my studies, I’ve felt isolated at college by being the ‘odd one out’ (as the only one currently attempting a ‘mixed-mode MA’) and a strange unwillingness to take part in the regular and extra-curricular activities that would draw me into relationship with fellow ordinands. It’s like I’ve got too good at saying ‘no’ I’ve forgotten to say ‘yes’ occasionally, and the cost has been a painful isolation from those I’m journeying with.

Revd Ally goes on to say

One of the greatest gifts that God gives to us is each other. And it is so often the case that we can only truly find joy, or at least, fulfillment, in our responsibilities when we share those burdens that weigh heavily on us.

She’s right, I’ve been missing out on the joy of being an ordinand, focusing purely on ‘obeying the call’ and the sense I can’t possibly do the really scary bits of what is expected of me, and this is something I need to rectify in 2013.  Just as Christ was incarnate through Mary’s pregnancy, so I need to hold Christ incarnate within me, ’embracing and enjoying’ with others what Jesus is doing within my life and obedience to his call, so that that it might live joyfully now (like a squirming foetus eager for the world), and be incarnate in my future ministry seeking to recognise Christ in others, and make him recognisable to others.

Is there such a thing as a distinctive Benedictine spirituality?

Carving of St. Benedict in Alton Abbey
Carving of St. Benedict in Alton Abbey

Those who know of my regular visits to Alton Abbey won’t be overly surprised to discover my first portfolio, which has to be about prayer and ministerial formation, has a Benedictine focus.

The title of the main essay is:

How does Benedictine spirituality connect and contrast with my past practice, speak into my current prayer life, and inform my engagement in God’s mission?

In particular I’m going to be focusing on the ideas of community and hospitality expressed in the way the Rule of St Benedict can be applied, and also at the idea of obedience with is one of the vows that Benedictines make. If I was writing my dissertation I could have added more to the list, but I had to be selective… I ‘only’ have 5000 words to play with 😉

I am very aware that I am just dipping my toe in the deep water that is the Benedictine tradition, and am realising more what I don’t know, rather than what I do. Among the many questions I’ve got buzzing round my head at present, not all of which are directly related to the essay, are the following. You may have thoughts and wisdom in response to these that will contribute to my current ‘mind soup’, and if you’re prepared to share them, that would be wonderful.

  1. Is there actually such a thing as a distinctively Benedictine spirituality?
    I am reading a little about Ignatian spirituality (largely in its conversation with positive psychology), and believe there is a distinctly Franciscan spirituality, but I have heard it said at college that there isn’t anything distinctive about Benedictine spirituality, possibly because of its pragmatism. However, reading Joan Chittister’s preface to Thomas Merton‘s commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict I’m not convinced, but wondered what others think? If you think there is, how would you describe it?
  2. In what ways is the hospitality of Benedictine communities distinctive from that of other monastic communities, like e.g. the Franciscans’? Geography has dictated my association with Alton Abbey, but I suspect God’s got a plan in that, and I don’t currently have the time and finances to tour the monasteries of England, so I’m interested in what others think, either from their studies or involvement with Benedictine communities, or from simply having visited contrasting monastic communities.
  3. Why, when the Rule of St. Benedict includes something known as the ‘Ladder of Humility’ which includes the idea that one shouldn’t be “given to ready laughter” (RB7.59-60), are the Benedictines I know some of the funniest people I ever meet? I rarely leave their company without having shared a laugh and always have a bigger smile on my face than the one I arrived with! (That goes for the cloistered brethren, not just the oblates I know.)

So that’s where I am, at least on the surface. Underneath in the warren of MA-land, it’s rather more complicated than that, but perhaps I’ll leave the lumpy bits in the ‘mind soup’ for another day.

Any ideas, thoughts or reflections, gratefully received. If I ever refer them in writing they will be suitably referenced I assure you!

Will Diocesan Bishops meet their clergy before #HofB meet? #synod

What to me is now a rather poignant carving, in the choir of All Saints Church, Cuddesdon

At approximately 5.50pm last Tuesday night (27th Nov 2012), the Right Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, climbed into the pulpit at All Saints, Cuddesdon to preach to the massed ranks of ordinands and their newly resident community of nuns. He looked at his watch, and commented that it was a week, almost to the hour, since General Synod had made a big mistake.

Then, with Rt Revd Michael Perham the Bishop of Gloucester (who was presiding at Eucharist) looking on, Bishop John apologised. He apologised on behalf of the General Synod for making a mess of things over the issue of female bishops, and specifically for making our lives as ordinands, and our ministries in curacy, even more difficult than it is already.

He went on to explain that in the days immediately after the General Synod vote, he had met with 50+ of the 250ish female clergy of his diocese, to try to share their pain and hear their immediate responses.

With the news yesterday that the Archbishop’s Council have this week

recommended that the House of Bishops, during its meeting in a fortnight’s time, put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year with a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in July

I was set wondering as to whether all the Diocesan Bishop’s will be holding such meetings with their clergy before the House of Bishop gather to consider the next synodical steps in this painful journey.

So last night, with the help of Twitter, I discovered the details I list below.

You may well be able to add to this, and if so, I would invite you to please ‘comment’ the details below, so that those who might not have such meetings planned in the near future, and/or whose Diocesan synods meet this weekend, can have a clear picture of where they fit into the pattern of communication and care provided by the Bishops of their Diocese, to those affected by and concerned about last weeks vote.

  • Durham, St. Albans, Oxford, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Southwark have met with clergy already, in some cases only with the female clergy, though in the case of St Albans all clergy/readers/laity have been asked to write with feedback
  • Bishops in Sheffield were meeting their clergy last night
  • Dover/Canterbury is holding a Eucharist and discussion on Saturday 1st Dec, which is open to all, not just clergy
  • Ely Bishops are hosting Eucharist, coffee and discussion on Saturday 1st Dec
  • Exeter are meeting Monday 3rd December
  • St Edmundsbury and Ipswich meet on 5th December
  • Southwell and Nottingham on 6th December
  • Liverpool meet (with only the female clergy) on 6th December
  • Chelmsford is hosting a Champagne breakfast (not sure when)
  • Gloucester is meeting all clergy next week for Eucharist, with lunch provided for discussions with female clergy aftewards
  • Coventry has planned a gathering for early December

Among the additional comments I received on Twitter last night were the following:

  • disappointment that not all these meetings are open to all clergy, some are just for the female ones
  • in those diocese that have already had meetings, the ‘diary clearing’ by Bishops that enabled them has been much appreciated.

Rising to the bait of double standards? #feminism #ABC #Remembrance

I’ve spent the evening catching up on various blog posts and in doing so I’ve realised that I been mentally arguing both for, and against, being seen to stand up for what I think, though the subject matter has varied.

First up, I was reading up on what exactly is understood by Christian Feminism in a post by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes. I found her explanation really helpful, but wondered about the need to constantly rise to the bait of people who either (a) don’t think through what they’re saying, or (b) are being deliberately provocative to get a rise out of ‘the opposition’.

In the midst of this there’s a conversation going on via Twitter about the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Apparently the Daily Telegraph’s word is good enough to count as an announcement of reality for many. Really, shouldn’t we wait until Lambeth Palace, Number 10, or Buckingham Palace make an announcement before passing comment and second-guessing a judgement on the brave man who will clasp what some might regard as a poison chalice? Aren’t we rising to the media’s bait if we don’t?

And then I read my friend Claire’s post on Remembrance and wearing badges – wearing as I did so:

  • 2 Twibbons on my gravitar (one for women bishops, one for the Royal British Legion),
  • 2 wristbands on my arm (one RBL, one in memory of the Royal Marine whose funeral I helped lead two years ago),
  • and a RBL poppy lapel pin that can be seen on my collar when my coat is on!

And so I realised that perhaps I was suffering a severe case of double standards! I want to be seen to be supporting certain things, yet I am unwilling to speak out against what I do regard as the misplaced understandings of others, whilst also griping about those who wish to close as soon as possible, an uncomfortable chapter of uncertainty in the church.

Or am I? I wonder if it’s a personal thing.

You see, I’ve never been particularly aware of the remarks or assumptions that people make about things I believe are important. Perhaps it’s because I don’t think very quickly, or I share with them a certain shallowness of thought. Usually it’s others who get upset on my behalf about things that might be said about me, or about the Christian faith I share, or how I am called to live that out. I prefer to ‘be’ and ‘do’, rather than speak – unless of course I’m in a pulpit or on this blog!

And though the next Archbishop of Canterbury will I guess be my Managing Director in the long term, or perhaps because of that, I’m not too keen to speak before being spoken to on that subject.

But over the last couple of years, the marking of Remembrance Day and the issue of women bishops, have become more deeply personal. Adam’s funeral turned out to be a huge turning point in my ministry, as I’ve talked about before. And as a woman now training for the priesthood who is finally coming to terms with the inheritance my mother left me, it seems right to care about the future nature of leadership in the church I am called to be a priest in.

Because these things are personal, I want to be recognised for caring about them, so I wear the appropriate badges, and hope they have integrity with who I am and what I care about.

So I go to bed wondering at the badges that Jesus might have worn, and realise that by speaking up, and standing out for what he knew to be right, he gave us possibly the most recognised badge of all, the cross.

I wear one of those as well, but it’s unlikely to cost me my vocation as it has others their career!

Inter-faith puddle-jumping

I feel like I’ve become a little child again, in her first pair of wellington boots, jumping into puddles, wanting to splash about a bit, but not really wanting to get my nice boots dirty!

At least that is the image I’m left with as I reflect on the last five weeks of inter-faith encounters on the OMC course at Ripon College Cuddesdon, whilst exploring the very edges of Christian theologies of engagement those of other faiths. We’ve dipped our ‘ordinand’ boots in the water of other faiths, but I guess we won’t get them really dirty till we’re in ministry and faced with opportunities to really engage with them ourselves.

What follows is a digest of who we have met and heard, and interesting links that will act as a filing system for me, but may also be of interest to others, particularly those involved in education. There are a few rambling reflections along the way, which you are welcome to comment on and critique.

The first thing I want to do is to celebrate the deep and generous hospitality that we received from all those who hosted our little band of sometimes hesitant pilgrims:

I was particularly struck by the differences with which our Abrahamic brothers and sisters understand and experience the forgiveness of God. If I understand correctly, Jews can only seek forgiveness from God for those things that they have done which have specifically wronged God. Where they have wronged people, they are required only, but personally, to seek the forgiveness of those concerned.

As the Imam we met at Oxford Central Mosque explained it, Muslims must seek forgiveness from those they have wronged BEFORE they seek God’s forgiveness, after which the matter rests with him at his final judgement of us all. Sins are ‘scored’ and  weighed against a Muslim’s adherence to the five pillars of Islam, with the Hajj scoring the most number of positive points.

The contrast with our Christian understanding of forgiveness, paid fro through Christ, stood out for me, yet as a matter for concern as to our response to it. Does the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord as our ‘mediator and advocate’ before God, make us lax in the practice of seeking the forgiveness of those we wrong? As I wondered this out loud, I was sent off to read Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship” to reflect on the alternative to accepting “cheap grace” as normative. A subject I am sure I shall return to.

In all the faiths we’ve glimpsed, the importance of symbolic action for not simply the faith leaders/ministers, but also for their lay adherents, was noticable. It emphasised for me what my recent experiences of college worship, and past encounters with my high Anglican placement parish, and leading services like ‘An hour at the cross’ have suggested: that people often engage with their faith more, or their experience of God working in them is deepened, through the symbolic action of more sacramental forms of worship.

In the churches I have attended regularly over the last 25 years, outside of Holy Communion services (where we hopefully make ‘Peace’ as well as share it, before receiving the symbols of bread and wine) and perhaps All Age and the occasional special service during Holy Week, it has been unusual to see any form of symbolic action, or response to God, accepting those who raise their hands in worship. Prayer for example, is rarely marked by more than a bowed head these days; rarely do we kneel in the presence of our God and King.

I am pretty sure that there are many additional ways in which God wants to actively work in all our lives, if would could only be brave enough to engage in a rather more whole body approach to worship, as do those of the other faiths I’ve seen at worship recently.

The interfaith module also enabled us to practice the hospitality of listening to others who visited us:

Dr Hugh Boulter is Secretary to the Oxford Diocesan Committee for Inter-faith Concerns and helped introduce the module to us. Their recent work includes involvement with Dr Eleanor Nesbitt, Prof of Religions and Education at Warwick University, and Slough Grammer School students, in the production of two DVDs, of which we saw a clip, and which will be presented at November’s meeting of Oxford Diocesan Synod.

Apparently one DVD looks at eight discussion topics including, ‘Dress as Identity’ and ‘Caste, Class and the Influence of School’. This resource, which I guess could be sourced through the Diocese of Oxford, (who also have a useful looking guide to relations with people of other faiths) seemed to me to emphasise, among other things:

  • the sort of things that motivate young people to believe, rather than the specific traditions of their faith;
  • the importance of home and family in both the questioning and growth of faith;
  • the assumption portrayed in the media, that younger generations are dangerously possessive about their faith.

Our Hindu visitor Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, surprised us, and not simply for his Irish Catholic upbringing! Using an explanation of five words important in the Hindu faith as a gateway to engagement with Abrahamic faiths, he managed to simultaneously make Hinduism attractive (through is emphasis on the spiritual desire to love in acts of service), confusing (because of it’s division of the material and spiritual self) and frightening (for what seemed a denial of what we see as the Hindu caste system).

Our last visitor was Imam Monaware Hussain founder and director of The Oxford Foundation, set up to work with young Muslims to offer them arguments against extremism. This work is developing into a more widely available provision of educational materials for teaching Religious Studies. He is the Muslim Chaplain at Eton School, and involved with the national Three Faiths Forum which brings together the ‘people of scripture’ for the purpose of scriptural reasoning using portions of text from each tradition.

Monawar emphasised that the outworking of the idiological label ‘Islam’ is very different in the UK to that which we might find in other countries; e.g. here Muslims of many different ‘flavours’ will pray together. He gave us a useful outline of the historical context of different schools of theology in Islam, and the rise of (among other things) reform movements in Islam in response to the western colonialism of 19th and 20th centuries, and suggested that in the UK, Sufism was in fact the most common form of Islamic spirituality practised.

Lastly, he spoke about the work of ‘A Common Word’ which five years ago formed a landmark new beginning in Muslim – Christian co-operation which now boasts several hundred international signatories. Based on the overwhelming scriptural authority in Muslim and Christian Scriptures for these faiths to be united in their love of God and love of Neighbour, in a world where the media likes to dominate our thinking with the consequences of fundamentalism in both these faiths, this was the idea from which I drew the most encouragement for our future world at the end of this module.

Prayer for a passionate life

As I enter life as an ordinand, what am I seeking in prayer?

I am seeking to be filled with more passion.

  • A passion for Jesus – an understanding of his saving grace that animates me and engages my emotions in a way that exceeds all that has gone before in my life;

Early in the selection process I was told I was “strong of creation, strong on incarnation, and weak on salvation” which has bothered me ever since – especially given the last 25 years in churches on the evangelical wing of the church. Since I don’t ‘feel’ it and obviously couldn’t articulate something my Examining Chaplain wanted to see, am I missing something? I was encouraged though by Monday’s Canticle which was from Isaiah 12:

‘For the Lord God is my strength and my song and has become my salvation.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

  • A passion for God’s people – a well of love and grace that will fill me with the desire and strength to reach out in simple acts of humanity to those who I may, or may not, want to make space in my life for each day;
  • A passion to read, hear and use words wisely – in writing and in the spoken word, in real life, in academia and in cyberspace, in such that a way that walls of mistrust are broken down, not built; I’m aware of the pitfalls Muriel Sowden highlights in this Big Bible post, and don’t want to fall into them.
  • A passion for the presence of God that drives me to fight the hustle of the world, for the rhythms and space that enable me to hear his voice; I reckon I’m pretty passionate about this already, but don’t want that passion to be lost in academic books and word counts, or later on in parish life!
  • A passion to leave and give enough space in my life to love myself and my family, such that we might be able to strengthen each other’s love and faith, with enough left over to offer simple acts of kindness to others; how does one fit everything God asks of us into one life?

That’s rather a lot of passion! And it’s not like I’m not already really passionate about my faith, else I wouldn’t be embarking on this adventure, but I just think the ‘well’ needs to be deeper!

A fortnight ago, at the same parish service in which my future studies and ministry were prayed for, I was vaguely prepared to try and articulate these thoughts.

God used a better spokesperson though, as we were treated to a great sermon on John 2:13-24 by Mano Emmanuel the Dean of Colombo Theological Seminary (who happens to be the sister of a member of our congregation).

Mano focused our attention on Jesus as a passionate person, one ‘consumed by zeal for God’s house’ (John 2:17). She reminded us that we are called us to imitate him, in our passion to be always engaged with the world, and our willingness to give up our small ambitions so that we can seek to change the world in his name.

I’m not sure therefore if my prayers for passion really go far enough, but for the moment they help me to overcome the nerves on this journey with God, trusting in this call he has on my life. Because I know these are among my areas of personal weakness, or easily endangered by ministry, and I will need this passion to be effective through my future ministry.

In the meantime, do you feel you have a passionate spiritual life that sustains you in whatever you do? If you don’t think you’re passionate enough, feel free to add your prayers to mine 🙂

Father God,
faithful to what is your call on my life,
and in all I am about to embark upon,
make me a passionate disciple of Jesus Christ.
Create within me the will to serve you unstintingly,
a better understanding of your salvation,
a deep well of love and grace for those who I encounter,
the wisdom to listen, hear and use words wisely,
a rhythm of life that enables me to hear your word,
and enough space to love those who you gave me to cherish.
Through the power of your Holy Spirit,
and for the glory of your kingdom.

Changes – Because God Calls

The village of Cuddesdon in Oxfordshire, where Ripon College Cuddesdon sits on it’s “Holy Hill”.

Today formally marked the significant changes that are happening in my life.

During a particularly God-filled Family Communion service this morning,  I was prayed for, (commissioned if you like), by trusted colleagues, friends and fellow members of St Peter’s, from my previous role here as a Reader, towards my formation through training for ordination at Ripon College Cuddesdon. That training starts in three weeks time, though I meet my ‘academic tutor’ for the first time this coming week!

It was incredibly moving to stand with my family as folk prayed for us, and each of those who came forward (along with many others) had played a significant part in the story of my recognising and testing my calling to ordination.

Although my Reader License isn’t being rescinded immediately, with the help of various folk, I have now laid down almost all of my commitments within the parish and Mothers’ Union. That process in itself has been hard work, emotionally as much as anything – something I may write about more another day.

At the same time I have been very aware that the title and subtitle of this blog (‘A Reader in Writing – The Ramblings of a Lay Minister’) wouldn’t really be accurate from today, and that it too must change. I have thought long and hard, come up with several ideas, including a pun “Pulled by a Dog Collar” which appealed to my sense of humour, but didn’t seem to express what this blog is about.

This continues to be a place to ramble and reflect on stuff I see around me (often on my regular dog walks), but since 2009 when I started blogging, it has mainly tracked my journey through ministry, sought answers to questions, and offered my thoughts on what the Bible teaches us (often expressed through sermons). This journey is an ongoing process which I guess will never really come to an end; it will simply change, because God always calls us onward into a deeper relationship with him, to new challenges and new ways of facilitating his mission in the world.

I decided therefore, that I needed to take the advice Fibre Fairy’s offered me on Twitter, and find a blog title that would last; something that would see me through life as an ordinand, into ministry in curacy as a deacon and priest, to whatever lies beyond. And suddenly this evening, it came to me that I should title the blog by the very reason I am here: because God calls.


On being challenged by my new Bishop

I spent time recently finding and replaying two videos of our new Bishop of Winchester, Right Revd Tim Dakin. Nominally this was for the benefit of my father, but it led me to some reflections of various sorts.

The first video focuses on the challenges Bishop Tim offered at his enthronement in April (which sadly I missed due to a prior wedding invitation): 

The second video is something that it has been suggested be played in parishes so that they can get to know their Bishop: 

My first thought was surprise that these videos are no longer easily searched for and available through our Diocesan website from where they were initially circulated last month. I know one of them should exist in my parish as a DVD, but I’ve not seen it yet. However I felt that for people who might wish to refer to it, to show others or as source material for their own reflections, either personal or parochial, not keeping it accessible through the Diocesan website seemed a little short-sighted. (Or perhaps my search abilities are distinctly lacking!)

Rt Revd Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, photographed by my father at a recent Mothers’ Union Festival Service

Rather more important, was the challenge I heard the Bishop give me personally, which I listened  to through the ears of someone recently selected for training for ordination!

1. How passionate am I in my personal spirituality?

2. Do I have what it takes to be a priest in a faith community that shows pioneering qualities?

3. What might be the prophetic nature of my ministry in both a local and global context?

I can’t answer any of those questions clearly here, but here are a few far flung thoughts, that step beyond my initial reaction of ‘I am not worthy to enter ministry under this man.’

1. I am a lot more aware of how important my personal spirituality is to my survival in life, and particularly in ministry, following the changes I’ve made in my prayer life during my journey through a vacancy and towards selection over the last couple of years. Aware enough to have already made this a priority in my work with spiritual directors over my two years as an ordinand. I know that unless I have a deep, well grounded and stable prayer and pattern of life, I will not be equipped to survive parochial ministry at any level. There will be brief mention of where I’m at with this in my mid-week sermon tomorrow, but I believe that our Bishops’ current call to prayer (we’re on the third day of a Winchester Novena) is a pre-cursor of the mission community concept I understand Bishop Tim started at CMS, and has suggested for this diocese.

2. How many parishes (clergy and laity combined) are truly open and willing to be pioneering? I’ve had several thoughts in recent months about ways it might be possible for some rural churches to be pioneering in the way they use their buildings (probably all done before), or enable ‘unseen’ sectors of their community to worship in a way that responds to their own historic context. I won’t expand here, but I will soon post my BAP presentation which touches on one such idea, already well-tried in communities where it was appropriate.

3. I guess that, as with question 2, the prophetic nature of mission depends on context, existing links, and new opportunities. I do think that where these are international, the time is coming where these need to evolve beyond Christians travelling between countries to share practical and spiritual expertise. Mothers’ Union has spent the last century setting examples like their current Family Life Programme (that I’ve visited myself), but will environmental and economic considerations require that we do such things differently?

At least I’ve stepped beyond my initial feelings of inadequacy when I heard his enthronement sermon, but I guess the adventure of responding to my calling has only just begun. Working it all out with this man setting the example at the helm of the diocese in which I serve, is just going to make it a bit more challenging and exciting than it was already!