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  • Out of the mouths of babes...

    Tonight at GB we began a local knowledge project, led by someone who is a history teacher so it has a good slant towards local history.  As part of the warm up exercise I asked the girls where we live.  One six year old immediately put her hand up - unusual, she usually is a bit reluctant to answer - 'in God's hands' she exclaimed.  That was unexpected!  So, having got the theological answer we then worked our way down via earth/world (they reckoned there was a distinction, earth being bigger than world) to UK, to England, to 'Carbonton', to the exact locale of the church.

    We had a good time thinking about the raison d'etre of 'Carbonton' and who was the Mr Stephenson who is responsible for its rocket-like growth, as well as identifying the things in the town including a toy shop, police cars, trees, dogs, people and lamp posts!

    This is why I love working with my girlies - and if nought else they are beginning to think theologically!!

    PS When we explored the linguistic origins of the word 'ville', which is the non-fiction ending of the town's name, at least three girls were adamant it was Scottish and one that it was Australian!

  • Mid Term Blues?

    Last 'weekend' was a university residential for my doctoral work.  I came away feeling demoralised and frustrated and am trying to work out whether this is just normal 'mid term blues' (I am now technically half way through) or something more significant.  I have thought hard before 'going live' with these thoughts because it feels very disloyal to others involved but part of me wants it to be a 'normal' phase and someone to tell me not to dare consider giving up!  I'm pretty unlikely to give up - it's not my style - but I'm currently not wildly enthusiastic about the enterprise.

    Part of the difficulty is that this is a new style doctoral programme that doesn't fit any neat boxes.  It gets looked down on by people doing traditional PhD/DPhil as 'not quite a proper doctorate' and by those doing DMin degrees as 'not quite the thing' either.  Having to defend what you are embarked upon is tiring, especially when you have questions about it anyway!  The 'professional doctorate' is meant to bridge the gap between the academy and the professions and ends up being kicked by both!

    Another part of the difficulty is that it is a new programme - the university is making it up as it goes along.  It has grown more quickly than anticipated and there aren't enough staff to care for it as well as anyone would wish.  The pioneering 'third year' cohort are not just guinea pigs but now guinea pigs left to get on with it by 'owners' with new cohorts to consider.  It often feels as if no one knows quite what to do with us and there is little new input in what is ostensibly a "taught doctorate."

    One of my struggles is that my work is essentially theoretical whilst most people's is empirical interview-based stuff; hence what limited input there is inevitably reflects their needs.  At the same time, I do feel that practical theology (the field I'm involved in) needs some deep theoretical thinking/grounding otherwise it becomes glorified social analysis (as others more qualified than I have observed).  So I get annoyed to find lots of what feels like undergrad levels of reflection being affirmed.  Which is also another of my beefs - there are people who don't really seem to be operating at post grad level at all, and there are people who wouldn't know theology if it bit them.  I'm all for accessibility, but on my bad days actually wonder if this thing is worth the paper it is potentially written on.

    Add to all of this the usual (evidently usual) post grad sense of 'I'm stupid and know nothing' and it would be very easy just to give up.

    However!  However, I do believe in what I'm doing and I do enjoy it when I get the time to do it.  So maybe this is just a normal bad patch to be endured?  One day, hopefully, I will look back and think it was all worth it.  I will cease to worry if the qualification came out of a cornflake box and know that I have actually done something worthwhile.  In the meantime I'll just have to live with the annoying bits and by my usual stubborn self!

    If all else fails English Heritage already put Rev Dr on my membership card (cos they can't cope with Revd as an abbreviation) and I can simply fool myself and some of the people...

  • To give and give and give again

    Way back when, there was a hymn we sang at church (Awake, awake to love and work) that had the line with which I have titled this post.  It seems today I have seen something of what this means and elicits.

    This afternoon we had our quarterly songs of praise service at the local sheltered complex followed by tea.  As usual we took no collection and tea was free.  As usual we gave people left over cake to take home.  But slowly things are changing in a good way.  Someone offered to make a dozen book marks for our charity coffee morning (on Wednesday) and someone else offered ten hand made cards.  Someone asked if they could come to our normal service next week.  We took tea to three people who hadn't been well enough to come down to the service and someone complained that she wanted to give to give some money!

    When we began doing stuff for free, and no collection, people looked at me as if I was mad, thought I'd lost the plot and that we'd be taken advantage of.  Now we simply give and give and give again - and it rubs off, a tray of cakes arrives, a pound coin is slipped to the organiser to buy the milk or bread, the spare sandwiches are sent to a homeless project rather than being greedily grabbed by someone for tomorrow's packed lunch.  Freely you have received, freely give.  I almost skipped home in the sunshine, I was so delighted with the change these years have wrought.

  • "Singing Spinsters" and other insults

    Someone in church told me about the woman on 'Britain's Got Talent' with the stunning voice.  Several people have posted links to You Tube copies of the performance and commented on the tension of human obsession with the body beautiful and disparagement of those who don't fit our preconceived notions.  I admire Susan Boyle's courage in entering the competition, enduring the insults and patronising comments and I also admire what seems to me to be some sense of admission by two of three judges that they had been guilty of  dismissing her based on appearance and nervous gaucheness (though some commentators say even these comments were patronising).  Today I was really annoyed to hear a news report refer to her as 'the singing spinster' in a way that suggested something odd and pitiable.  Maybe it just pressed my own buttons - Susan is a 47 year old single woman and I'm a 46 year old single woman - but I don't why someone should be defined by those details (this information was, in any case, elicited from questions the judges asked her).  So, for the record, anyone who dares to refer to me as a preaching spinster may discover the entire set of Barth's Church Dogmatics engaging with their cranium from great height!  (Granted I'd have to purchase it first!)

    Why can't we just say 'newly discovered singer Susan Boyle' and value her for who she is rather than insult her (and all the other single woman past an undefined 'certain age') by making her marital status in to a veiled insult?  I can't quite work out why to be young, stereotypically gorgeous and single is good but to be middle aged, average looking and single is to be pitied, but such comments make me more than a little bit mad (in case you had failed to notice).

    As I type away I find myself recalling a some words of Isaiah about the LORD's servant who was not much to look at (no stately form, no majesty, marred appearance, etc).  Which is interesting to ponder.  Would Jesus have been equally patronised in a society obsessed by the body beautiful and the apparent necessity of a significant other?.  Hmm.


  • Tetelestai!

    Finally the sale of our church building  has been accomplished.  As it actually happened on Maundy Thursday (though the solicitor told us yesterday!) I think I can be permitted my Johannine acclamation.  Worth interrupting my break to tell the world I think.

    Had a pleasant three day walk across the midlands despite some abysmal way marking (or lack thereof) and faulty directions in the guidebook (on entering the field, walk straight ahead for 100m then bear slightly left to the stile...er no; on entering the field turn hard right to walk to the far (diagonal) corner and at the last moment slightly left to find the stile hidden in the bushes...)  Still, that was all accomplished too and justified some rather large meals on the way.