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  • 'Give Us Something Lighthearted and Nice'

    Thus spake the secretary of D+1's women's meeting when I rang her to confirm the hymns for tomorrow's meeting where I am covering for the scheduled speaker who broke her ankle (a bit desperate as a means of avoidance really...).  Not really what I wanted to hear when I had decided to recycle my prodigal son narrative from a few weeks back, have two services still to write this week and am frantically rewriting and editting for word count (my nemesis/bete noir/something or other) a paper which I have to post on Friday.

    So, I think I'm going to ask them what their favourite Bible stories are and take it from there.  Maybe I'll ask them which character they most relate to and why and how they'd tell the story from that perspective.  Maybe I could then tell the prodigal son from the perspective of the fatted calf...?!

  • Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

    No, honestly I'm not trying to show off my rusty language skills by titling two posts in one day in non-English.  Truth is I never did learn any Latin other than odd phrases in even odder contexts.

    Yesterday one of my musicians commented to me that when I depart, along with my data-projector, they probably won't sing anything out of Mission Praise or Songs of Fellowship anymore (let alone Common Ground which they've resolutely not bought but have odd photocopies from!).  I looked into the cost of buying them a set of word books for any of the above, and decided it was too dear, so am currently collating "Dibley Praise" a collection of diverse hymns and songs we have sung over the six years I've known this church (it is roughly six years now since I first met them) along with some they sang long before they'd heard of me and had on a collection of tatty sheets of paper.  Of the roughly 200 on the list about a third are in BPW (no, I don't know why they put them on sheets either) about a quarter are drivel and the rest are slowly being transcribed - via Hymn Quest, via SOF discs and in a few cases by typing.  The supplement will end up, I anticipate at around 100 items including a few in Khosa, Spanish and Latin and from Iona, Hillsong, Vineyard, Kingsway and Pratt Green Trust.  What this say about us/me is debateable -  though I think it reflects a healthy openness and flexibility.  Not every song that is included would be my choice, and there are lines in some of them that make me squirm, but I am big enough, old enough and ugly enough (as my Dad would have said) to distinguish between what I sing and what I believe, and whilst my theology is inevitably shaped by the things I sing, it is't determined by it.

    Lex orandi, lex credendi? Well, I've never been convinced that I do, but as others may be less discerning/questioning it pays to think what is a healthy balance in our supplementary song collection.

  • Ecoutez et repetez?

    Anyone else do Longman Audio-Visual French back in the 1970s/1980s?  I am currently doing 'Teach yourself Glasgwegian' with my copy of 'The Complete Patter' and rediscovering phrases my mother used to use, before almost half a century in England replaced many of them with southern equivalents.  At the same time, there are many phrases listed that my Dad, born and brought up in the west midlands used, and not a few that were common parlance in Northampton (where I spent most of my childhood) and the north west of England (most of my adulthood so far).  Given that my mother's parents hailed from east London and and Plymouth, and theirs from as far afield as France, Holland and Spain, it is perhaps no wonder that the idiom I use is rather polyglot.  Maybe I need to write the Wandering Aramean's Phrase Book?

    In the meantime, I am back to my daily round of learning to pronounce 'loch' correctly!

  • Mixed Blessings

    Been a busy few days - good on the whole - and illustrative of this crazy world of being a minister.

    Wednesday afternoon was one of those privilege moments when the hard work pays off, as the funeral for baby R went off smoothly, with a sense of peace and completion, release and hope.  There were a few smiles amidst the tears, and a sense that this young couple would be 'OK' despite all they'd experienced.  And one of those 'Holy Spirit' moments when I walked across the grass to meet them (they were too timid to approach the great wooden doors of the chapel) and the mother asked if I could read a poem they'd found on the internet... which was one I'd found in one of my numerous books and then discarded as I didn't have their permission up front to use it.  'Born too soon' is not too mawkish and reflects the mixed feelings such an occasion brings.

    Thursday and the discovery of what first class train travel means these days - and that it is no guarantee of them having the food listed on the menu!  Endless cups of free tea and time to read made for a pleasant journey.  The Smoke was mobbed, and I abandoned a visit to the National Gallery as it resembled Blackpool Prom.  Even so, I had a great and useful meeting with R & C whose wedding I will conducting later this year.  It was great to discuss the service with someone who understands about 'mood' and 'movement' through an act of worship, and a couple so obviously at ease with each other.

    After a day of sorting and shredding, it was good to have our songs of praise service today.  Church folk were rather thin on the ground, though those who did come brought lots of cake, and I was very glad of around a dozen lunch club people who had come to sing the things they'd chosen.  With the three-fold theme of creation, the cross and God-in-the-everyday the songs formed the basis for a lovely act of worship.  After a couple of cuppas and at least three cakes each (plus a doggy bag) everyone wended their way home.

    A very mixed few days then.  Three people I encountered shared the same forename, and the diversity of their circumstances was striking.  The week saw joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, hellos and goodbyes, planning and delivering, God-moments and earthy-moments.  Somewhere in the mix was blessing - given, received, shared.  A week when I know why this is what I am, and why I can do no other...

  • Ordination, Induction and Ministry

    This week I have been following Lucy's reflections as she prepares for her ordination on Saturday.  With maturity and thoughtfulness she has explored what the promises mean for her at this time.  I have enjoyed reading her thoughts and been challenged to reflect on my own ordination promises, those made at my induction (and which will be made at the next one in October) and of the realities of ministry.

    This much I think - have I kept the promises I made?  Well, yes and no.  I have tried, and with God's help, to an extent succeeded, but have not always been able to fulfil them, at least to my satisfaction.  Partly because real life gets in the way!  And yet, maybe, mysteriously, it is in the  failing that we succeed?  This week is maybe a case in point, not a typical week, because actually there are no typical weeks, but a week in which I have struggled to find the time to those things I feel I should do because I've done the things I had to do... and yet in these have found fulfilment and blessing and in some way have done what I'm meant to do.

    Among my strengths/weaknesses is what I might euphemistically term a protestant spirituality (or I'm a bit of a workaholic, in plain English) which means winding down at the end of this pastorate is just not happening.  Yesterday I spent most of the day taking someone to hospital, then fitted in a funeral visit for today's service and wrote the service.  This morning I have been preparing Sunday's 'songs of praise' service and doing some admin before I head to the crematorium. Tomorrow is kind of a treat though, a train ride to London to do a wedding preparation visit.  Of these, only the London trip was in my diary, and the week was meant to be spent doing some studying and reflecting as I prepare to move on.  And yet, all the busyness is what, for me, ministry here has been about, is the reality of me doing my best to keep my promises.

    Moving on gives me the chance to re-evaluate what those promises mean for a new season.  And maybe that's the point - at one level keeping those promises is impossible but at another it is in the struggles and pressure of real life ministry that they are kept.  I wish I didn't fall asleep saying my prayers, I wish I felt more overtly spiritual... but God, knowing who and what I am called me and equipped me for real ministry knowing how those promises would, with the help of the Spirit, be worked out.

    I pray God's blessing on Lucy and others starting to live out their ordination promises and on those who have spent a life time trying so to do.