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  • Ready Either Way

    Yesterday I went to see Elsie (not her real name) in hospital where she had been an emergency admission the day before.  Elsie is 96, registered blind, can walk only very short distances with a zimmer but lives a fulfilled independent life in one of the sheltered complexes of Dibley.  Yesterday she was frightened and upset - but still delighted to be visited 'I hoped you'd come' she said as I greeted her.

    Elsie is good fun, she calls a spade a spade and delights in the status that being the oldest Church Member at Dibley BC gives her (our oldest attender is actually a year older).  I always enjoy time spent with her.

    Yesterday she was keen to ensure that I had not forgotten her instructions for her funeral - which church we are to borrow and the route that the courtege must take to her final resting place in Dibley cemetry.  Elsie loves a 'ride round' and is determined to have one last ride round before she is laid to rest.  Good on her!

    The conversation continued.  I'm not intending to go just yet, she said (she has plans to 'see' the 2012 olympics) but 'I'm ready either way.'  What a fantastic state of mind - to have a reason to live and a confidence to die.  Elsie is not an educated woman and few would see her as especially spiritual - local superstitions blend strongly with her Christian faith and I doubt she's ever had a 'quiet time' in her life.  Yet in an intuitive way she 'gets it' and she has a kind of phronesis (practical wisdom) that once gained old women either respect or fear.

    I really hope Elsie does get to 2012 - she will turn 100 the day after I turn 50 as she regularly reminds me (when I came to preach with view, Elsie's two questions were 'how old are you' and 'when's your birthday'!).

    God bless you Elsie, and may we all attain the confidence you have of being 'ready either way.'

  • Minister as Stuffer of Envelopes

    This morning I have to stuff 150 envelopes with letters asking churches to contribute to the cost of our association ministers' conference.  Mindless but necessary.  Another useful module for pastoral training maybe?!

  • 'I'm Going to Baptist Assembly and in my suitcase is...'

    Do you recall those endless games your parents made you play (or you have made your children play) to while away long journeys?  Well I'm now playing one as I decide what are the essentials for Friday's train ride to Bournemouth.

    I'm Going to Baptist Assembly and in my suitcase is...

    • a delegate's badge or they won't let me in!
    • a pair of flip-flops so that I am properly dressed for attending Prism
    • a Bible for the Prism Bible study - because when Simon says (no, that's not another game) "the clue is in the title" and people look sheepish, I don't wish to be one of them.  Trouble is the main arena Bible study isn't, its a sermon, so you don't really need a Bible...
    • A 'silent cheer' or two for the reception of ministers who have completed their NAM period
    • Some flat shoes I can run in (or the nearest I ever come to running) to get between venues for seminars etc.
    • A mobile phone so I can find the people I want to find in the main arena
    • Some plastic money for all the stuff I'll end up buying - BMS harvest, Operation Agri harvest, new BUGB directory, bits of tat for church
    • A nice squishable cotton bag for carrying said items
    • A thick jumper, a thin tee-shirt, a waterproof and some sunscreen -cos you never know if it'll be hot/cold/wet/dry

    There are various things I'm looking forward to for various reasons including

    • The reception of ministers (and the subversive act of silent cheering)
    • The In Memoriam - always poignant when I know people listed there, and this year are names of two linked with Dibley one of whom was a wonderful RM and friend of my folk.  (Thinks... better add tissues to suitcase!)
    • The NBC reunion and a chance to catch up with peers and friends
    • Prism
    • Still Centre, Open Space
    • Seeing friends from more Baptist churches than I can count, drinking tea/coffee, walking on the beach

    Admitting to loving Assembly is not 'cool' but then 'cool' was never my thing.  Aspects of it may grate, irritate or frustrate but I do love this diverse and crazy world that is Baptist life and it is a privilege to be called to serve within it.

  • Deconstruction...

    The former Dibley Baptist Church building begins its demolition process today.  It is a slightly weird sensation watching the physical deconstruction of a place where I worshipped and worked (if only for 12 months).  Good, because the land will be serving local needs and hence the Kingdom, strange, because we no longer own it and I have no 'right' to know what is happening yet people still ask me what's happening.  Hopefully I can capture some of it on camera for church archives - and try to work out how to help my folk reflect effectively on what it all means.

  • The Power of Small Pieces of Paper

    This morning I discovered I had mislaid my diary - a small (A6) black book about 5mm thick and of no commercial value whatsoever.  But without it I was lost - I knew I had no meetings today but, good disicple that I am, not a clue what lay in store tomorrow or beyond without checking this little treasure.  I wouldn't say panic ensued, but much parable-like (parabolic?!) high and low searching went on before deducing that it wasn't in my house but had been left behind last night at GB after I'd been temporarily distracted during my clearing up.  Thankfully after an unscheduled drive to and from that church, my diary and I are reunited and I know what is happening in my little world.

    What did people do before diaries?  Did they have good memories, less meetings or both?  Did they mark notches on sticks to tell them when it was Sunday and time to ring the bells for services (presumably the lack of bells in non-conformist traditions, even after they become tolerated and legal so didn't need to hide, reflects to some extent the point in history at which they emerged?).

    It is a tad disconcerting to think that my life is, in some senses,  in the 'hands' of a little black book - and not the type that ministers are meant to have surgically attached!