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  • Ministry is...

    This morning has been quite curious one way and another.

    I picked up emails, including a request to complete a questionnaire for somone's research on women in leadership in BUGB churches.  Whilst I was in the process of completing it, I was interrupted twice, once by one of our 'building users' and once by the local council delivery man with a consignment of refuse sacks for us.  Neither of these 'real life' events would have fitted anywhere in the student's research, because, as I understood it, it was 'spiritual' matters she was interested in.  But each of them is ministry, as I understand it... being here, to handle the questions/concerns of a user group, sharing in the dull routine of property matters... these are a vital part of servant leadership.

    I remember way back, in my training days, being surprised that the RC priest I worked with had to be consulted over the purchase of loo rolls.  Whilst I still think it is nuts that the cleaning team could not just buy/order them and then claim the cost back, as a symbol of servant ministry, not above the buying of loo rolls, it remains quite profound.

    So, mid-morning and not one item on my 'to do' list started.  But that's the point - as so many others have said before, the ministry is the interruptions.

  • Count Your Blessings: Day 16


    Food price rises hit the poorest hardest. Between 2011 and 2012, maize prices rose by 174% in Malawi.

    Give 10p for each tin of food in your home.

    Well today I think I can, with reasonable impunity, get off cheaply as I don't keep many tins at home!  In fact, I think I have as many, if not more, tins of cheap tuna (2) for the cat and cat food (3) as I have 'people food'.  Sainbury's long ago started selling chopped tomatoes in cartons, which was the thing I always used to have tins of.  I am at church, so can't do an accurate count, but if I have five tins of people food, that will be a geenrous estimate.  Just as well they don't ask how many packets of pasta or bags of flour...  

    My pledge:

    Today  £1 (50p for me, 50p for the cat)

    Total £20.25, three prayers and 'use your vote people!'

  • Song for Marion - Three Handkerchief Weepy!



    Yesterday afternoon I took myself off to watch the film 'Song for Marion' the latest in the growing genre of feel good movies about ordinary people in their latter years.  The critics have been quite scathing, calling it predictable (do they not understand 'feel good'?) but I found it moving, tender and actually quite honest in its portrayal of a dying woman, her crusty husband and dysfunctional family.

    At the start of the film, Marion is told her cancer has returned and is now terminal; the oncologist tells her to go home and eat "chips and ice cream, as much as you want".  Her life line is the OAPz, the community choir she sings with.  The first half (or so it felt) of the film deals with her final weeks and her death.  Having walked alongside a few dying people, I felt this was authentically and beautifully portrayed.  A moment of pure poetry and beauty is just after she has died and the son is seen showing out the certifying doctor.  The camera focuses on the bedroom door and a long, low howl of despair is heard as Arthur's reserve crumbles.  We do not see him - this is a private, implied moment - and the more powerful for it.

    Yes, theareafter the plot is predictable, Arthur gives in and joins the choir, who, after some comedic exploits, win third prize in a choir competition, and by the final credits the family has been reconciled.  Yet there is something important here - something that we all need, even if we cannot articulate it... the desire, the hope, that, in the end, all will be well.


    I'm a tough old cookie, crying is not something I do very often, and then not very much, but I shed quite a few tears watching this film - enough for them to drip off my chin!  Perhaps a film where one of the characters dies of secondary cancer is a funny thing to watch on a day you told you are still NED; and perhaps it's a very appropriate one, since there 'but of the grace of God' go any of us.

    Professionally, I have conducted funerals for too many families where unresolved tensions have been self evident... it would be good to think that this little film just might prompt one or two people to mend a few fences whilst there is yet time.


    And in the end...all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. 

    I guess the critics probably wouldn't rate Teresa of Avila (or T S Elliott) either?

  • Count Your Blessings: Day 15


    In the UK, less than 15% of average household expenditure goes on food and non-alcoholic drinks. In developing countries, people spend 60-80% of their incomes on food.

    Give 60p if you spend less than 60% of your income on food.


    Well now.  Today is Coffee Club day, when somewhere between 8 and 20 of us will gather in a local hostelry to sup tea/coffee/hot chocolate/whatever.  The retail cost of a cuppa there is, if I recall correctly £1.09, but the majority of us put £2 in the 'kitty' and the excess subsidises outings and treats as well as paying for cards and small gifts for folk who are unwell or have special life events.  A number of us also will usually stay on and buy lunch, which probably averages out at a fiver a head most weeks, for a 'lite bite' and another cuppa.  So let's say, on average I spend £7 a week at Coffee Club... set against that a 'fine' of 60p for the fact that even with this weekly 'dining out', almost daily coffee for the independent coffee shop etc. I spend way less than 60% of my income on food (though I'd say a good deal more than the 15% suggested, as ethical and health factors impact expenditure) and it feels awfully little.  What to do?  In the end I'll settle for £2, the same as my Coffee Club 'subs' as that feels a reasonable compromise...  Food week is definitely making me think!


    My Pledge

    Today - £2

    Total - £19.25, three prayers and a rant!

  • Count Your Blessings: Day 14

    How's your Lent going?  Is it preparing you at all for Easter or is it just passing by?  Today we a third of the way there - already.


    Almost 1 billion people don’t have enough to eat and go to bed hungry every night, even though the planet produces enough food to feed everyone.

    Give £1 if you threw food away last week.


    In Guatemala, a country in Central America, half of all children under 5 are malnourished. This means they haven’t always had enough to eat, or the right foods to keep them healthy. This doesn’t just mean that they feel hungry, but also that their bodies won’t grow as well, or as healthily as they should. This might affect them for the rest of their lives.

    Give 10p for every different vegetable you’ve eaten today.


    I hate wasting food, but I do.  Often I buy more than I need, simply because things come prepacked in sizes that are, realistically, too large for one person. The truth is that almost every week I throw away food.  £1 seems quite a low price to pay, given the average per UK household in the UK is nearer £13 a week (here).  Hmm.  If the average UK household is about four people, then £3 feels more realistic by way of a 'fine' so I think I'll go with that.


    My Pledge

    Today - £3

    Total - £17.25, three prayers and a little strop!