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- Page 9

  • Where You Do Not Want To Go.

    Last Sunday's evening worship used this phrase, from the end of John's gospel, as its title.  The guts of the input was a summary of the story of one German pastor who was imprisoned by the Russians at the end of World War II and forced to go 'where he did not want to go.'  It was an interesting account of a steadfast, simple faith, that survived despite incredible hardship.

    Someone will take you by the hand and lead you where you do not want to go... these words, spoken to Peter on the lakeside by Jesus formed part of a reading I used in Sunday morning worship last September.  At the time I was very struck by them, as I was about to go where I did not want to go, at least in a metaphorical sense.

    I can honestly say I have never questioned why I had to have cancer, or even why it happened when it did (though I did feel the timing was naff) and I was never angry with God or questioned God's love or existence.  I had to go where I did not want to go, so I might as well get on with it.

    Looking back, and beginning to reflect, this unchosen, unwanted, journey has brought me and others to a new place, and given us opportunity to gain insights we might not otherwise have discovered.

    I have learned to let other people help me - not an easy lesson for someone who has spent her entire life being independent and self-sufficient.  Sometimes to retain our independence we need to be a little bit dependent.

    I think my church has gained confidence in its ability to support a minister during a time of trial.  Churches can easily have their corporate confidence knocked, and sometimes adversity, handled well, enables them to gain new, or renewed, confidence.

    I think I have learned a whole heap of empathy - with those who look different, with those who have no hair, with those who are forbidden to eat certain things, with those who are forbidden to do certain things, with those who face an uncertain future.  I don't think I really needed quite so many lessons in empathy all at once but now I've had them, I think I am a better equipped pastor.  (That doesn't mean I think anyone else ought to experience any of them)

    I think I have learned to be kinder to myself.  I have always been a worrier, have always tended to beat myself up over the things I failed to do, or messed up, or whatever.  That hasn't changed, but I think I let it get to me a little less than before... Well, I hope so, anyway.  I hope I might have learned to say 'no' a bit more, and to make more time for myself.

    I have found I am less tolerant of bigotry, of grudge-bearing, of finger-pointing, of bitterness, of scape-goating and so on.  I don't think I've been guilty of them to any extent myself, but I have tended to let it go in others... Now I think I'm more likely to speak my mind (be warned!) 

    In a few areas of life, and on a few issues, I've stopped wrestling the head and heart and, atypcially, let my heart decide.

    I have met many amazing people who have inspired me... kangaroo girl,  J and Mrs J, and relatives of terminally ill people, to name but a few.  Without this unchosen, unwanted journey, I wouldn't have known them.

    I have had many wonderful conversations with people - about theodicy, about healing, about euthanasia, about my call to ministry - conversations I would never have had in the cosy confines of Christian leadership.

    When you are old(er) someone will take you by the hand and lead you where you do not want to go...

    I am technically (medically) young and that has its own significance in terms of the journey taken and its likely future direction, but I have been dragged onto a path I did not wish to follow.  Of course I'd rather it hadn't happened, I'm not Pollyanna, but given that it did, I have no regrets.  By accepting that I had to go this way, and by making the most of the opportunities it gave me, I feel I am now a more whole person, if a more broken and vulnerable person, than before.

    In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.... even on the unchosen path that takes you where you don't want to go.... and I AM is with us always, to the end of the age (Romans, John, Matthew).

  • Submitted... Posted... Sent On...

    Whoo, an email to say my thesis hardcopies have been received in Manchester and are now winging their way to the examiners.... Better start revising then, as that means the final examination by viva looms large!

  • Weeping With Those Who Weep

    Occasionally my friends in Dibley refer to themselves as the Midlands branch of the Gathering Place as the two churches share the same initials.  Whether that makes us Dibley Caledonian Thistle or them Gathering Place Albion Rose I'm not sure.  What I do know is that having served there, they are indelibly part of me.

    The last couple of years have been hard for them, and today came news that one of them, my nearest neighbour when I lived there, had died in the night.  I had been in regular contact with this couple and over the weekend had the privilege to speak briefly to him on the phone, a memory I will treasure.

    For now I weep with those who weep... and then being a good minister person pull myself together to care for those God has given me to love here.

    If one part suffers the whole body suffers...

    RIP D, may God uphold you B.

  • On Renewing My Baptist Times Subscription

    Now there's a blog title guaranteed to turn off half the readers before they even look at it!  But having just sent of my cheque for £53 to receive this denominational newspaper for another twelve months, it seemed apposite to ponder why it is that, so far, each year for around a dozen, I have made the choice to send such a payment.

    Way back in 1998, and in the early stages of exploring my call to ordained ministry, I was advised by my then minister to take the BT as a way of learning more about how the denomination feels.  He was honest that he did not think it was that great a read, but it was useful to keep up to date with people and places.  Back then I think the BT had the feel of a church magazine writ large, lots of stories from local churches, a predictable letters page, twee poems or songs and, the dread of all ministers, a weekly column where randomly selected ministers were phoned to be asked their view on some current topic (so glad I wasn't a minister then!).

    Since then the BT has steadily transformed itself to be a more interesting, more wide-ranging and more provoking read.  The predictable letters still appear from time to time from the predictable writers (do some people write in every week I wonder?) and some of the same old topics recur (like women in leadership or ministry, yawn) but overall I think the BT has improved dramatically.

    A couple of things have proved especially helpful for me as a minister this year in responding to queries from church folk.

    The first was last autumn, when the assisted suicide bill was being debated and some of my folk wondered where they could find resources to help them think it through.  The BT article and subsequent long-running correspondence provided a creative way of approaching the topic (supported by some Christian books for and against).

    More recently, the proposals to allow places of worship in England to conduct same sex ceremonies provoked questions among some of my folk, and the BT articles and letters again proved useful in helping them think about this complex topic.

    It is inevitable, but a shame, that the BT is essentially an 'England plus a bit of Wales' newspaper, reflecting the fact that it is an output of BUGB (sometimes referred to, affectionately, up here as the Baptist Union of England!).  A shame because my church (like two others up here) belongs to BUGB as well as BUS; a shame because I think BUS and BUW have voices worth hearing and ears capable of hearing with.

    That the BT has changed, become a little more radical, a little more edgy, a little more broad in the last decade is, I believe a great thing.  I still like reading stories from local churches (and have submitted plenty of my own), seeing who has moved or been ordained or died; I still like the letters page, even if it sometimes drives me nuts; I like the Association based pull outs (how about one for the un-Associated churches sometimes?) and even if the Alpha One Paper doesn't do it for me it's good that it's there for those it serves.

    For £53, just over a pound a week, I reckon the BT is worth buying - I mean where else could I get all the useful goss, I mean prayer pointers, at that price?!