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  • And breathe!

    Yesterday morning I completed the first draft of my wedding sermon for Saturday, so this afternoon, I'll just need to read it over and make a few tweaks (it felt a tad heavy yesterday).

    After another ludicrously long day in another crazy week, I allowed myself a bit of a lie in again this morning, despite young Sasha cat walking up and mewing in my ear every few minutes!  This meant I got a nice clear three hour run to do some tidying up of the vestry, update my diary and calendar and even do do a tiny bit of longer term planning!

    A little bit of breathing space.  Some time to be rather than do.  Not especially holy and not especially mindful, though bits of each have arisen.

    It's been a long run through since my last break in terms of weeks elapsed, and a demanding run in terms of what's been entailed.  So the thought of an early finish this afternoon (albeit partly to iron a vicar shirt for Saturday!) is very appealing.

    I actually feel quite enthused and excited by what is in the diary for the next few months... busy for sure, challenging for certain but after a brief breather, I think I'll be ready to go once more.

  • "I'm not sure what I'm consoling you for..."

    So said someone, at least partially tongue in cheek, as he shook my hand on the way out of the crematorium.  Such are the local variances in funerary custom and the potential for confusion and misunderstanding...

    I was, momentarily, thrown - to me it is utterly normal that the minister (or other celebrant) stands at the exit to shake hands with everyone as they leave, an expression of condolence to them and appreciation of their presence.  But that, it seems, is terribly, terribly English!  Ah well.  I'm not about to stop doing it!

    The local tradition is for the family to line up at the exit and for everyone to file past, expressing their condolences in what has been referred to on occasion as "the penguin parade".  Hand shakes, expression of regret, hugs... and crematorium staff shoving the final few folk out of the door to get it closed in time for the next service...  It's a lovely custom, if not ideally suited to crematoria, and I certainly wouldn't want to change it.

    Reflecting on the experience, I realised that my sample of Scottish crematoria (four) demonstrates a design difference from my sample of English crematoria (around a dozen I think at a quick count), in so far as most English ones (unless they are very old) have areas set aside for mingling after the service, with dedicated places where flowers may be laid out and viewed by all who have attended before they leave.  In a slightly less formalised way, the handshakes, hugs and expressions of condolecne take place.

    Regional variation in funeral customs is huge - the use of biers (trolleys) or shouldering a coffin; the ettiquette for entering a crematorium chapel; whether the minister/celebrant leads in the coffin or waits to welcome it... and so many, many more.  it's not "right" or "wrong" it's just different.

    The potential for misunderstanding is still huge, and what seems 'normal' or 'right' in one fairly localised area may seem 'strange' or even 'wrong' in another.

    The key thing, I think, is that yesterday's services fulfilled the purpose for which they were intended, and if we ended up with some strange anglo-scottish or caledonian-english blend well, so be it.  I don't somehow think it matters in the scheme of things :-)

  • The Week in Prospect...

    This week will be very much blog light as I am busy doing minstery type stuff and then have a weekend "off", well kind of!

    Off soon to the residential Board of Ministry (cross between Min Rec and RSC for BUGB readers) for the first time - very aware of the responsbilities it carries, and taking a moment to pray for the four candidates.

    Then it's Wednesday and the funeral of one of our much loved Gatherers.  This January seems to be filled with goodbyes... friends, friends of family members, friends of friends.  So sparing a moment too, to pray for all who are mournign a lost loved one.

    Thereafter one so-called 'normal' day in which I have to prepare a wedding 'sermon' and start planning my next set of preaching before heading south on Friday for my Godson's wedding on Saturday.  Scary to think the little baby who I prayed for from the moment I knew he had been conceived is now about to marry in the parish church where he was baptised back in 1989!

    Life in all its fulness then, and plenty more I could/should be doing.  As I juggle the priorities and try to balance appropriate vulnerability with healthy resilience, I smile to myself and wonder how much of this the candidates I'm about to meet can even imagine... certianly i couldn't have done at their stage.

    Back soon!  Take care and keep safe.

  • Helwys, Niemoller and Green

    Yesterday BUGB published short letters, signed by General Secretary, Lynn Green, that it has sent to leaders of Muslim and Jewish communities in the UK.  You can read more here.  It was for me, and for many, a moment that made us glad to be Baptists... Sadly for others it was not, and some serious proof text trading has been seen on social media which I find deeply disappointing.  When Christians start proof-texting from the Quran, in English translation, to support what sound to me islamophobic perspectives, that is deeply worrying.

    I withdrew from social media debate - I dislike conflict, I hate proof-texting and I felt that a few dominant voices were drowning out others.

    I so nearly added, and then didn't these two famous quotes, from Thomas Helwys and Martin Niemoller.  Yes, both are taken out of context, and yes, both men were flawed, but it seem their words deserve another hearing...



    Let them be heretics, let them by jews, turks or whatsoever.... (see it in context here)



    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.


    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.


    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


  • Refreshed... well a little bit, anyway

    So, this morning I had a long lie in (that's a composite anglo-scottish term for two hours extra in bed!) and spent some time sunggling with my two kitties who can purr very loudly!  Then on the basis that I use my own laptop for PowerPoint for church, I opted to stay at home to get that done.  After that I thought, well, why not give the sermon a go... and I did, and it's OK, not everso wildly exciting but it's competent.  And now it is roughly lunchtime and I feel gently chuffed at what I've achieved and a bit more refreshed than I have done this week.

    Still some prayers to consider and a heap of admin type stuff to organise, but it's getting there.


    Kitties in their "bunk beds"... Sasha has spent half the morning hurtling round and playing with a toy mouse, whilst Sophie took herself off to the kitchen where it was more peaceful and slept on a dining chair.

    As a rule I prefer to work at church, helps with boundaries and is where all my books are, but just sometimes I can get more done at home.