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  • Exhausted in all senses of the word!

    Cambridge was interesting!  Made me glad I'm working with Manchester as the thought of having to express my literature review in 7k words is too horendous for words.  It was interesting to hear about people's work and in some ways it gave me a little more confidence in mine.  Tiring but helpful, I think, even if the room (in Wesley House) was like an icebox, but that's another story.

    I stayed over with a friend (in a place called Over) and it was good to catch upon their church news (even if their church did not want me four years ago...) and to relax for a bit in what is proving an ever-increasingly stressful phase of life.

    On the way home the exhaust on the Saxo blew - big time, deafeningly - so I was glad I only had about 20 miles to go and that the traffic police had other fish to fry.  Now it is in the garage having a new catalytic converter and a new backbox.  This will make a large hole in £400.  Ouch.

    I ought to be tapping away at my essay but I am so utterly exhausted that catching upon emails, reading blogs (and trying to support people in ever more convoluted muddles who keep phoning) is about all I'm fit for.  This evening I am leading the Ascension service and I am hoping that somewhere in that I will find a point of divine contact and rest.

  • Study? Week? Hmm.

    This is my designated annual study week.  That is of itself something of a joke since I already have a service to lead on Thursday (Ascension for anyone who is ignorant of these things, like most of my Deacons, despite it being in the church notices countless times) have yet another mega-pastoral crisis emerging and yesterday had to attend two urgent meetings at very short notice - one with our architect and another with school governors.  In a moment of total insanity I agreed to attend the Cambridge DPT presentation of literature reviews -partly because I thought it would be interesting and partly because I thought I might learn something - I now have three 8k papers to read before tomorrow!  The only consolation is that having glanced through them, the standard of writing seems no better than mine!

    I am meant to be writing a 12k essay (Manchester requirements are different) on my literature review.  Yesterday I wrote about 4k words and then, reading over them and marking up changes, virutally rewrote the whole lot.  It reminded me of my early and late days in industry.  In the early days I'd write a report and my supervisor would virtually rewrite it, towards the end other people would write reports and I'd do the same for them.  Now I find I am in both places at once - the novice writing the essays and the experienced reoprt writer editing the clumsy prose.

    Today I need to get an advert to the local press for our Pentecost events, deliver batches leaflets to be delivered house to house, write another 8k words (no chance) and all before I leave for GB at 5:30.  Hmm.  Working for a living was so much easier.  Blogging as a displacement technique perhaps...



    Then my computer ate my essay, I mean really ate it, gone, phut, one moment I was saving it (something I tend to do every couple of paragraphs!), next it did not exist.  So much for perseverence of the saints, or some such computer equivalent.  After messing about I managed to descend into the hell of files with weird names and find a temporary fastsave version (phew) only five minutes older than the work I'd done, and now I have about three versions on different storage media - and a new hard copy.  Oh yes, and for half a day's work I now have a tidied up 4k words and nothing new added.  Grr!  Moral of the story - bring back pens and paper.

  • I need a rant!

    Being a good, reasonably well behaved kind of minister person, I try to allow my Deacons to have a say in the themes I use for preaching, though most of the time no one says anything.  My request to respond to the recent local elections has elicited thrice the usual response rate (three!) of which one in particular elevated my blood pressure with its claim that church services should never be used as 'political platforms.'  No?  It's a funny old gospel we preach then!

    I was miffed, more than a little, by the inference that I might take a party political stance or that I might say something that would contravene the incitement laws (not quite sure what they are called, but I'm sure any Imam could tell you).  But more, I was troubled by the implication that church should be a nicey nicey place where we talk about nice gentle Jesus who is preparing a lovely buffet in heaven for nice people like us.  Sorry, I'm being stroppy, not fair when the person cannot defend themself.

    The key 'text' of my sermon next Sunday is "all that is needed for evil to triumph is for decent people to do nothing" and I will use as examples the Confessing Church in Germany, good old overworked William Wilberforce and the Mandela/Tutu work in South Africa as examples of Christians who did see the Gospel as powerful and church as a very political platform.

    The famous misquote of Martin Neimoller's poem (the version that includes Jews) seems to epitomise the consequences of doing nothing, of being apolitical. 

    Next Sunday I will ask people to do something political - on 'Not for Sale Sunday' I will ask them to fill in a BMS postcard lobbying the Albanian Embassy on the issue of human trafficking.  I hope that people will see how gospel and action - political action - can go hand in hand, and that church is anything but a nice place to escape the realities of a broken world.  I will also invite them to heed the words of Jesus and Paul to pray for (not about or against) those in authority.

    And maybe I won't feel quite so much like ranting afterwards!

  • What's it all About?

    Various Baptist bloggers have been expressing our thoughts on this year's Assembly and leaving comments on each other's posts (I have been as guilty as any).  Some of this has left me wondering about (a) our priorities and (b) how much we think about what we're doing anyway.


    • We heard about migrant workers being exploited in this country and bonded workers overseas
    • We were challenged to think about issues such as sex trafficking
    • We learned about Street Pastors in our cities and towns
    • and so on and so on, so why worry about why one person expresses a preference for quiet over cheering?

    What are we doing anyway?

    • What are we doing when we receive minsters who've finished their probationary period?
    • Do we understand the liturgical/symbolic aspects?
    • Do we even care?  Or are our likes the be all and end all?

    So, this is my take on what I think happened for me last Sunday, liturgically, spiritually or whateverly.

    We were led, in a long line, into the room where PRISM was taking place.  As our arrival was announced the congregation/audience began to clap, cheer and whoop, something that continued unabated until we were all in and the doors closed.  There was a real sense of welcome and embrace as the folk were, basically, either side and around us.  Words of commission were said to us, we were sung to and then people came a little closer as they prayed - corporately - for us.  Having been blessed, we were released to go "to the other place."

    It was good to go to PRISM, because it is part of Assembly.  This was very much a corporate act of welcome and blessing which somehow prepared me for what was ahead, by making me smile and my heart sing.

    Walking onto the stage to the strains of 'These are the days of Elijah' was interesting - it probably qualifies as one of my least favourite songs of all time (I think it's theological drivel; there's controversial for you) but it was truly inspiring to see all the people in the auditorium and I felt really uplifted by the experience.

    The liturgy that was used felt very meaningful and touched the places it needed to touch.  Not that I can remember it now, but at the time it was great.  The affirmation of so many people praying for us was a very special moment.

    I actually happen to like the change in the last couple of years whereby when names are read out ministers leave the stage and go out among the people - to me this symbolises exactly what we are doing.  We are not a gathered elite, rather we are commissioned disciples.

    There are as many views (plus 1) as Baptists on whether or not cheering is good at this point.  I have mixed feelings (I so like the fence and have specially designed underwear so I don't get splinters!).  For those who have no one there, it can be a painful reminder of lack of support to hear other people being cheered.  On the other hand, knowing the struggles that many of my friends and colleagues face, that moment of support was equally special.  As the first person to be cheered, I guess in some way I bear some of the responsiblity for the controversy it has managed to evoke in blogland!

    The Central and EMBA ministers all stood up when we were to be prayed for among the people and were hastily sat down again!  For me, this bit was less 'real' than the liturgy when we were on the stage, but it was stillgood to know I was being prayed for by friends and strangers alike.

    There was for me a truly solemn sense to what was done when we are affirmed and there was also a sense of celebration.  I don't envy the people who create the liturgies (actions and words) as they try to get the balance right.  I suspect God is not overly fussed whether we cheer, whoop or stand in sober silence, so long as we are doing it for good reasons.

    Maybe we ought to stop giving each other metaphorical earache over our preferences over style, accepting that difference and diversity are good, Baptist things and start putting our energies into the gospel.

    Just a footnote... since I got back I and my church have had a rough week, the few moments on Sunday, solemn and celebratory have strengthened me to face what life/God/whoever has thrown at me.  I don't expect perfection in our liturgies, nor doI expect tolike everything, I don't think the others who comment do either; what matters is that it enables us in some small way to glimpse God - for me, Sunday did that.

  • Commenting on Comments

    Blogland is a strange place, almost as strange as the flesh and blood world I inhabit the rest of the time.

    I am always fascinated, if not slightly bemused, by the things that provoke comment on my, and other, blogs.  Every now and then I post a kind of 'can you help me out' message, such as funeral resources or preaching ideas and can be fairly confident there will be no reply.  Then I'll post something I think is flippant, trivial or even rhetorical and it prompts a flurry of comments.

    The same is true of the blogs I visit, and I have to confess to having left some daft and even balatantly banal comments on other people's work.  Rarely do I find myself commenting on things of any import or seriousness.  Partly this is because some of the folk I know, and if I want a more serious conversation with them I'll do it by email, phone or even, just occasionally, in the flesh.  Partly it's because some of the 'serious' posts are too worthy for my simple little brain to repsond to.  Partly it's because I don't have anything useful to contribute.  Partly it's because blogging, for me anyway, is meant to be fun: a way of keeping in touch with come of my widely spread friends, a place to play with ideas around my research and ministry, sometimes even a place to escape from reality for a while

    I always like reading the comments, they are often fun, and lend a suitable flippancy (silly sofa) slant that I find helpful in thinking about things.  I guess, though, I just feel a bit sorry for those folk who post good quality stuff and just get my off-beam humour in return.

    A few of my most loyal readers tell me they are embarassed to leave their comments as they (the comments, not the people) aren't suitably academic or whatever - actually, 'Catriona I don't understand a word of this' is as useful to me as 'Have you read Professor Splidgey Splodge on such and such.'

    Please feel free to leave your comments on any or all of my posts, I do read them, only rarely delete them (because they are of iffy origin or offensive), and often find they further my thinking, laughing and living.