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…

Technical problems and questions

I’ve been a bit off-line for the last week.

Firstly it wasn’t helped by the laptop developing corrupted Windows. Was it a virus – even the shop it came from wasn’t sure, but a complete overwrite was necessary, so woops there goes everything on the hard-drive! Fortunately hero husband had managed to back everything up onto our PC as it died, so no loss, just lots of hastle time re-loading stuff when we got it back, though it has helped to concentrate the mind about what to put back on it!

Here’s the first question then: We run Norton antivirus currently, have done for several years, and this is the first possible virus we’ve encountered. The shop we got it (and the laptop) from, now reckon that Mcafee is far better and cheaper per machine. For those blog readers who dare to use Windows… what is your current experience of either Mcafee or Norton (or anything else) for anti-virus software?

(And yes, I know if we ran a sensible operating system we wouldn’t have the problem… but needs must… )

So on the PC I managed to complete my final Reader Training essay, and submitted it yesterday. All I have to do is complete 6000 words of extended essay by Easter, but I discovered today my ‘tutor’ for it is a man I’ve got to trust and like during training, so I at least know I’ll get good guidance.

The other technical issue that’s exercising the brain is this. We’ve started using Google Calandar as a family to keep track of what each of us is doing and be able to see each others commitments. BUT it means that my old PDA Palm Tungston E which I’ve used with great joy for several years, isn’t getting updated regularly, thus my portable diary is er… out of date. Not helpful – and I don’t carry my brick of laptop around in my handbag whilst I do carry round my Palm.

Family budget constraints (see ‘extension’ tag!) mean that buying an ‘all singing, all dancing’ phone isn’t an option for the foreseeable future (and I’m quite happy with Nokia clamshell with the internet disabled so I still ‘pay and go’). So, (how) can I get GoogleCal to talk to a format that talks to Palm? (I don’t think Palm talks to Outlook, least it didn’t last time we looked.)

Or am I just too big a dinosaur?

In the meantime, today  I started on Chris’s room… sanded all the new plaster on the walls, and filled the odd discrepancy that resulted, plus the crack between the skirting board and the walls, with builders caulk. All dress in a very old flying suit I was given for decorating in, many years ago. I was impressed it still fitted.

Will try and catch up on some less boring, less technical thoughts over the next few days, but have plenty else to do – ’tis the season to be busy… 3 services in the next week to fit in the planning for round decorating.

Will Winchester cut £1m of ministry?

The cross in the entrance of Old Alresford PlaceI feel as someone who lives and ‘ministers’ in the Diocese of Winchester that I need to make some record that, thanks to the Church Times blog (subscribers only I think) I am now aware what form of response my Diocese is making to the fact that it couldn’t meet its budget.

I’m not particularly well informed about this as I’m not on any relevant committee, but I knew we were more than a £1m in the red, and was aware from a collegue in training that there were significant reductions to facilities at our Diocesan centre at Old Alresford Place. From somewhere, and I really can’t remember where, I believe that the cuts came about because the Deaneries were permitted not to meet their parish share this year if they couldn’t afford to, or something like that.

The Church Times Blog reads:

The Diocese of Winchester is proposing huge budget cuts for 2010, which would include cutting their university chaplains, Diocesan newspaper, Comms Officer, Canon Missioner, a Schools Advisor, the number of clergy, and much more besides.

The cuts, which are to be voted on on 28 November, amount to a total £1million saving from an original budget presented in May.

There has been a strong reaction from students at the University of Southampton to the news that they could be losing their chaplain [details include a website petition, facebook group, and protest at Winchester Cathedral]…

Cribbing from the rest of the CT article:

Full details of the cuts can found… posted online here by Winchester Deanery with an explanatory note of the report here by their Deanery Chair of Finance Committee.

The proposed cuts are variously listed but include (and this is I admit a rather personal list reflecting my own training and interests)

  • The Communications Officer and the Diocesan Newsletter ‘The Vine’
  • The chaplains threatened include the chaplain to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (currently an excellent chap who I had the privilege of learning from during Reader Training)
  • All residential courses at Old Alresford Place (presumably that means my CMD on ‘storytelling’ booked for spring 2010 is about to vanish) where the staff have already been made redundant (which confirms the story of a collegue training the year behind me who discovered at her last residential that Ministry Dept staff had to try and work the heating, and do the catering for the w/e)
  • Mission grants to parishes (presumably these support bright ideas in ordinary parishes who want to extend the Kingdom of God!)

Some people I know may lose their jobs, others I know have to make the decisions that will cut those jobs and ministries they have encouraged and facilitated. And, all because it would appear from what I know that Deaneries were quite fairly asked to only contribute to the Diocese what they could afford (I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong).

I can’t help wondering, if perhaps those of us ordinary folk in pews who contribute to the active ministry of the church, with and without formal training, without financial remuneration, may become just a little more valuable (in a non-financial sense) in the months and years to come, even though we must take our share of the results of budget cuts and try and understand the necessity for them along with everyone else.

I shall be praying for what I assume is our Diocesan Synod meeting on Saturday.

Chaos in the house

Honey on holiday in the River Barle
Honey on holiday in the River Barle

Currently I am feel more surrounded by chaos than I have for at least 11 years – that will be when we moved house to Yateley in 1998!

The builders are working hard, all the walls are prepared for plastering, and the plasterers themselves appear to have nearly finished in Cs extended bedroom, and we’ve started working out how the landscaping at the front of the house will work (for which read, which bits will be paved, which gravel!)

Dog and I are confined to the kitchen dining room during the day. Sunday’s All Age talk drafts litter the table (the Church as Bride of Christ: Revelation 21:1-5) along with the tiles catalogue etc. Everytime a workman moves through the lounge to go upstairs (on the otherside of the glass door) the doors bang in the draft from the open front door, and the dog goes berserk. Even our favourite field is in chaos: men have torn out the old barbed wire and left it lieing around while they re-fence – will there be stock let out there afterwards? Honey, with all this going on, is therefore going away next Monday for a few days break in the New Forest with Dad.

The front door is the biggest nuiscance – firstly it didn’t come with the rest of the windows, then it came – with a crack, but no letterbox. Neither builder, nor double-glazing supplier are best impressed with the manufacturer who was meant to make to order! Otherwise everything is great – I look forward to all the new plumbing, tiles and electrics being fully fitted.

I have had to postpone the last assignment of Reader Training – I am grateful to our tutor for today agreeing extra time for me: there is simply no space, physical or mental to put together a reflection on the formation of my ministry over the last three years. The new hand-in date is 18th December.

Hopefully next week there will be enough space in life to blog something a little more useful and reflective.

Extension – the action moves inside

DSCN0665cwThe building work has definitely turned a significant corner today. The roof is complete and structurally we’re all there as you can see. The only reason the scaffolding isn’t down is because the firm it belongs to, can’t come till Monday.

The plumber came today, and started to re-route gas supply ready for the new boiler, as well as discussing the finer points of the new cloakroom fixture and fittings. Cs old radiator is already on the spoil heap so the lads can start taking his old front wall out.

I also went out and bought the external light fittings, as the sparky is due next week to start all the new wiring and move the consumer unit (the thing I always call a fuse box!) We’ll have a nice shiny modern one soon.

So next week is noisy and messy: they want to take all the walls we don’t need out, and get the new floor level laid – some concrete with fibre in it laid over polystarene insulation blocks I think – time tabled for next Thursday or Friday (so we’ll be using the back door then!)

What was the back of the garage - starting to be 'plumbed'
What was the back of the garage - starting to be 'plumbed'

Currently all is quiet and we’re looking forward to some family time over this coming half-term week, with some good days out while the lads make a noise. I handed in the latest assignment today (well, I gave to the friend whose handing it in on Monday) so I can afford to chill out for a bit which feels good. If I have time tonight I’ll try and offer a few thoughts that might be of interest, certainly to locals.

Shan’t probably do much reading though – I need to put all Cs Scout badges onto his new shirt, as he’s grown out the old one. He got promoted to Patrol Leader on Wednesday which really pleased him.

Autumn bounty
Autumn bounty

Autumn is definitely here: there are lots of chestnuts on one favourite tree (or there were, many have been utilized in various stews over the last couple of weeks) and hazel nuts, beech mast and acorns galore. This means that there are lots of squirrels around, and to dog has just been going mad, so she’s having to spend more time on the lead… she fails to notice the rusty barbed wire fences when chasing squirrels!

Saw a Sparrowhawk in the field NW of the Red Cross Centre today. Second time in the last week, plus there has been a significant increase in the number of piles of pigeon feathers on that field recently! Hopefully this week will mean we get to see a bit more wildlife.

Little things please…

DSCN0607cwThe little thing that pleased this week was a drain. We’ve had drainage issues down the side of our house since we moved here, but the advent of a path that slopes correctly downhill, with a properly constructed drain under the outside tap appears to have cured all that!

The chaps only managed a 3 day week this week, partly because of the Bank Holiday and partly because the RSJs failed to show up as expected. However the paving at the side of the house is complete except for what I call ‘grouting’ and they call… something else which I can’t remember.

They also made some very large but neat holes in the garage floor where the loo, shower and washing machine outlet are to be – they need to put the new fixings in before the insulation and final floor stuff goes down. The vibrations as they drilled the existing concrete were stupendous especially experienced while sat in the armchair trying to work.

This week is going to be frenetically busy partly in prep for the final residential study weekend, but we’re also looking forward to welcoming our friends Tony and Cath from AIM International. They are on furlough from Morogoro in Tanzania and their little stay with us (about 17 hours) will give us the chance to catch up having not seen them for nearly 10 years, and St. Peter’s the chance to hear about their work at our mid-month 2:42 meeting (think Acts 2:42-7). Tony leads a theological training programme, and Cath works with disabled children and is about to take up new work with those suffering HIV/AIDS.

I think I shall be using part of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-14) as our Biblical inspiration for the evening: it struck me whilst doing some reading for my Mission module, how much I need an upwelling of love for all people if I am to minister effectively. Love is such a little word, which we need such a big lot of – the sort of totally unconditional stuff that makes a real difference to peoples lives.

Then I thought this also has something to say to St.Ps if we are to fund-raise for and then use effectively our new community centre which recently gained planning permission (anyone with a cool £3m in the bank please contact me, as we could use it..!) Now my memories of Tony and Cath is that they understand and exhibit the reality of God’s ‘living water’ both by their characters and their chosen ministry. Hopefully, with almost no communication, God is control and the ideas will all tie up on the night – why not come and find out!

Small wildlife note: today’s dog walk produced a new butterfly in our favourite tussocky field – but we didn’t have the camera with us, so no photo of a Small Copper. There is still the odd dragonfly floating around too, despite the cool early September days.

Little things…

Forget Jericho – our walls go up!

Gone - the garage roof went Thursday
Gone - the garage roof went Thursday

Another week of huge accomplishments on the building front.

We now have all our ground floor external walls and window spaces, the utility boxes have been moved to their new positions without a hitch, the roof has been taken off the garage, the scaffolding went up this morning, and this afternoon the paving started to go down round the shed to the back door – all with the slope going in the correct directions!

DSCN0592wIn other aspects of life, the family work rate has definitely recovered from partial holiday mode and is back at almost full tilt, even though school doesn’t re-start till next week.

G has completed a third of the upper-sixth scheme of work for next academic, and I received the pack for my last Reader Training module: ‘The Mission of the Church in Contemporary Society’. So I’ve been finishing off some of the summer’s to-do list including Mothers’ Union website updates, to make space for a period of frantic work – what you might call a wall of work going up. I have the module reading, half an assignment and ‘Archway’ to fit in round the start of term and friends on furlough from Tanzania visiting to share the duties at an evening service. All that in the space of 2 weeks before our last residential – a pleasant surprise though to find it is to be at Park Place Pastoral Centre so I can stock up on the nuns lovely Aubergine Chutney!

Social networking in pastoral situations

I received a prize from my vicar today! He called it this month’s “keeping an ear to the ground” prize.CakeCutting

The story goes like this. A local lad is currently training in New Zealand for his commercial pilots license. In years past he has played guitar in our worship group, and we’ve kept in touch a bit… via Facebook.

He’s engaged to a local girl who also grew up attending our church and recently updated his Facebook profile with a wedding date in November.

Now at St. Ps we have a system (not fool proof but beginning to work) that we do banns of marriage starting the first Sunday of the month, 2 months before the wedding. This allows for one of our multiplicity of lay service leaders to forget and still have the banns complete well in advance.

Whilst doing the August banns in the book I realised that I’d not got a form on file yet for this much anticipated wedding, and that logically I should be getting them set up in September. Thinking I’d missed something somewhere I left a post-it in the vicars office tray querying the absence of said forms. The prize was my reward!

And to top off the technology, he’s filled out the form on the couple’s behalf courtesy of Skype and email, as said groom-to-be is not due back in the country till mid-September.

So today, I’m thanking God for Facebook, and wondering if other people have found that use of a social networking site has helped spot a possible pastoral glitch or need?

(Cassock arrived yesterday, altered, comfortable and now paid for. Finished last assignment of the academic year tonight – nothing further to hand in until after Licensing, though a little light reading for residential in September!)

Should we tell the parrot to “get stuffed”?

I was privileged to be “out of diocese” on Saturday at the Ordination to the Priesthood of a collegue of my husbands’ at Guildford Cathedral. The sermon was given by the Revd Canon David Eaton, formerly Vicar of Leatherhead and Mickleham and was of note (literally, scribbled on the service sheet) for two reasons:

The first was references to L’Arche communities which are specifically inclusive of those with learning difficulties. This has direct relevance to the things I’ve been faced with during the current Reader Training module, and may have some use when I start my write-up (sorry, ‘theological reflection’) next week. Revd Eaton also quoted (I think) Jung, in reference to the Biblical imperative to “welcome the stranger”, who wrote something along the lines of ‘welcome someone who is strange, not just others, but welcome the strange inside you’ (or words to that effect – remember I was taking sporadic notes!) I liked this, and could do with trying to find it.

DSCN9983c(web)Revd Eaton was talking I think, about inclusivity of our churches, though from what he said later in the widest possible sense, not just of those with learning difficulties. Because… he also talked about the “how many” parrot that seems to sit on the shoulders of many parish priests these day. His point I think was that clergy are getting too hung up on the numbers game, of worrying about how many people are attending their church. Specifically he said, “it is time to tell the parrot to get stuffed!”

I would love to have the full text of the sermon.

Then on reading Bishop Alan’s blog “Why ordination? Why today?” I detected that this wasn’t the only ordination in which this theme was taken. He quotes Eugene Peterson:

The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners…The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. (Please read the whole post, link above.)

This has real resonances of contrast for me with stuff that is being discussed here in St. Peter’s… and also in the pressures exerted by diocese, to which church leaders are all too alert. Yet numbers (like giving per head of electoral roll) do have something to tells us, or danger signals that need to be read for the future of the church, and surely we are (all – not just priests) called to increase the numbers of those who believe in and worship our living God?

Increasingly I feel and see the spiritual tugs between the evangelical outlook (note small ‘e’) demanding hearts won for God, and the more catholic (also note small ‘c’) pastoral needs of our ‘communities of sinners’. And yes, I know that is probably a sweeping generalisation.

There is a middle way of doing both, and I am sure it is that which Jesus’ would wish us to take, but I fear that the CofE at least, is fast losing sight of it, and I’d love to see it presented. For those of us starting out in authorised ministry (lay in my case, but does it matter) I believe life is being made very difficult, and I’m sure it is achieving neither of those goals!

Evolution in Liturgy

A 'Forest Station' from Lincoln Cathedral

The way I understand it “liturgy” is a collective noun for the prayers, actions, songs etc that make up an act of worship. But it also seems to be used as a noun in the singular, with people referring to a specific prayer as a piece of liturgy.

‘Common Worship’ has been developed for the CofE as a breadth of material that gives those that lead worship flexibility to respond to themes in the lectionary, the directed topics chosen by church leaders, or the need of specific day or congregation. It has given ‘permission’ to be creative within a set of losely defined boundaries (which depend on the type of service).

But for me, liturgy (both collective and singular) is also an organic thing, with a piece of liturgy being able to evolve from use in one situation, to another and another. This seems to be rather an Iona-ish thing to do, and perhaps I have gained something from my forays into their styles of worship.

Here’s an example of what I mean, from stuff I’ve found, used, adapted, and finally re-created. Whether any of it is any good is for you to decide.

This piece of liturgy started life (with me) as a Creed – Costa Rica (click the title to download), that was handed out by Fleur Dorrell (Head of Mothers’ Union’s Faith and Policy Unit) at a meeting I attended several years ago. I liked it and filed it, its obvious roots in liberation theology speaking into services I might one day create on the theme of justice. That was before I thought of training as a Reader/Lay Minister, but I think it was the year of MakePovertyHistory and Micah 6:8 was becoming the most used verse in the Old Testament.

Then in my first training module I chose an assignment that was an order of service for Christian Aid Week. Out came the file, and used it was. Next I seem to remember it struck me that it could be adapted and used to create responsive intercessions, and so it was used in the format below.

Finally, for a family service one day I wanted to create a creed-like sequence of slides that all-ages could understand, and so was became this Simple Visual Affirmation of Faith (.ppt 5629KB). At the time it was criticised for not including a reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection, so that has been added in since it was last used.

Over these iterations I believe it has lost something – the original asks more questions of us than does the visual – but both were no doubt created with a specific purpose in mind, and hopefully met the need.

Responsive Intercessions adapted from Costa Rican Creed:
(insert your own intercessions at *)

We believe in God the Father, who created the world for us.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s own son, sent into our world to mend relationships and to proclaim peace.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, who works in and through everyone who accepts God as part of their lives.

We believe that as part of one church among many worldwide, we are called by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit, to serve all people whatever their need.*

We believe war, terrorism, racism and the slavery of one group of people by another through fear and the misuse of money, laws and privileges is wrong.

We believe that Jesus taught us to respect human rights, comfort and help those who suffer and confront what is evil and wrong in the world without using violence.*

We believe that the whole world is our home, and that what we do and how we live here has an impact not only in our community but around the world.

We believe that we can set an example in our own community by seeking to stop injustice, to help our neighbour and to share our faith.*

We believe that we should show the love og God who brings healing and comfort and who in Jesus, opened his arms on the cross to embrace everyone.

We believe that death is not the end, but that God will draw those who die in faith to be with him for ever.*

We believe that whatever our circumstances we can take steps to change our actions so that we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God each day.