Next week I'm off to North Wales to spend a week reading and writing - hurrah! It will be good to be away from phones and even from the internet (the church laptop, which I'll be taking with me to type on, is configured so I can't access the internet on it). I am hoping that the essay will happen!
This morning all sorts of random thoughts are running through my mind, perhaps because a few things have happened this week that have given me pause for thought.
Yesterday I was learning how to be a NAM mentor - I think I'm allowed to say this now I've done the training. It was a good day, but in some ways a scary one. My colleague and I, both mid forties, were by far the youngest people there, which troubles me a bit. Not because there is anything wrong with wise, retired ministers mentoring inexperienced, younger ones, but because it suggests we are a pretty silver-haired denomination. Who will mentor the young ministers (i.e. 20's and 30's) who is not old enough to be their grannie? (Lucy, if you are reading this come and settle near me and you can rejuvenate me!) I was also troubled that for so many ministers, never mind churches, minister = married man. I wish I had half the grace of the Didcot folk who so gently handled all the 'he' and 'his wife' references; I'd have been removing heads after the first ten or so! It's a good scheme, and it is a real privilege to be invited to be part of it, so thank you EMBA/BU for doing so.
For some reason this morning I woke up thinking of the old joke about pigs and chickens in relation to commitment. I'm sure you all know it, and many tell it better than I do. When you consider the 'full British breakfast,' you discover the difference between pigs and chickens - whilst the chicken has an investment in the process, the pig is totally committed. I think this emerged from my subconscious because I'd been pondering both the Luke 9 'follow me' implications, especially 'let the dead bury their own dead, you must proclaim the Kingdom of God,' and the John 'unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies.' In a couple of weeks we have Vision Day Part II at church, and somewhere in all the thinking and discerning these things will fit. Tomorrow the estate agent comes to see me about selling our defunct building, a chapter is drawing to a close and my largely elderly congregation do need to get their heads around some big issues. But whether we are pigs or chickens...
Later on today I have to go to the optician for the annual regime of weird and wonderful tests to show whether the genetic glaucoma has hit me yet (it won't for at least 20 years based on the forbears who have/had it). I don't enjoy these tests one bit, they leave my eyes sore and tired, but they are necessary to maintain my vision. And I guess there is something similar about the process of church or minister self-examination: it isn't very pleasant, but it is necessary for health. "Where there is no vision the people perish." I recall a particularly poor sermon that used this text and got all muddled up with reference to spectacles and contact lenses, but it did have one useful message, namely that 'vision' is more than 'dream', it is actually about the ability to see clearly and accurately what the situation is.
Writing this random stuff, I find an old prayer, that was used in primary school assemblies, returning to my mind. The recollection may not be perfect - it is more than 35 years since I last recited it - but it seems appropriate...
Oh Holy Jesus, most merciful redeemer, friend and brother
May we see Thee more clearly
Love Thee more dearly
And follow Thee more nearly
Day by day
The Prayer of St Richard (?)