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  • Examen - Not Self-flagellation

    The last few weeks have proved quite challenging in various ways, some which perhaps might have been avoided had I acted or reacted differently, and some totally beyond my control. 

    My tendency to over-reflect, accompanied by a tendency to assume everyone else is correct and I'm not, is not always a healthy combination.  Sometimes I beat myself up for reasons that are unjustified.  Sometimes I internalise and personalise critique, mistaking it for criticism.  Sometimes I fail to engage my own critical faculties in weighing things up and dismissing that which is unfounded or untrue.

    And then it is a downward spiral, all my shadow side traits emerging unhelpfully and ultimately undermining me...

    So I need to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to this inner storm of negativity and saying, "Stop it! Stop it, I called you as you are, I equipped you as I needed, that has not changed, and will not change.  be still, and know that." 


    From what I can gather, we minister types fall into two main groups, those who think they are always right and those who think they are always wrong... there must be a middle ground somewhere, where healthy self-esteem and good growth can occur, but it seems quite rare.

    Anyway, for the time being I am going to choose to focus on positives, to record and celebrate any tiny moment of affirmation or encouragement, any hint that just maybe God's Spirit is at work within me.

    I post this not in search of lovely replies from my 'fans', but because I know that I am far from alone - in every church there are people, ministers orotherwise, who need to be given permission to stop focussing on their limitations or shortcomings and instead to delight in the good bits, the pleasurable moments, the little sucesses.  I'm going to try - will you?

  • Examen - Evaluating an Experiment

    Last night was the final midweek reflection of our six month experiment.  The last of our Ignatian style series, I used the short 'review of the day' (examen) from Pray As You Go.

    The examen is a guided process in which the participant is invited to think back over thier day, identifying highs and lows, joys and regrets, struggles and achievements, all without judgement.  They are then invited to see how God has been present in all of that, and offer it all back to God.

    There are oodles of similar techniques, some overtly faith-based others not.  It's a good practice and one I know I need to cultivate better.

    Sitting alone, since no-one else was able to be there, and looking back over what was mainly a "good day" after a couple of weeks that have been quite challenging, I found myself pondering the whole six month experiment.

    There were four phases, each of five to six weeks duration, with a gap for Holy Week and Easter.

    The Introduction to Mindfulness was well attended and people stuck at it even if they found it challenging or even if they concluded it was 'not for them'.  Whether anyone has now explored it further I don't know - I should probably have asked - but it seemed to be well appreciated.

    The Lent Study attracted the largest numbers, and we enjoyed some stimulating conversations around the  themes raised by the film Les Miserables.  At the end of the series, partiicpants felt that they'd like a bit of a change next year, moving away from a film-based study to something more along the lines of a study guide.

    Compline saw us move to a later slot, at 9 p.m., on the basis that the lighter nights made it feasible to be out later.  Numbers were always small, and for many poeple the timing was a problem.  One night I sat alone saying the office, which I found surprisingly upsetting... I did reflect on it at the time, and I know that, theologically/spiritually it didn't matter that it was only me, but personally it did.

    The Ignatian series, downloaded from Pray As You Go was really valued by the one person, other than me, who came along each week.  I, too, found the reflections  valuable, even though it's not really my preferred style.  And then last night the other person was unable to come and I sat alone to undertake the examen.

    I'm glad we tried the experiment, because at the start there did seem to be a significant appetite for it, and lots of apparent enthusiasm.  Maybe I didn't ask the right questions, or maybe people were too polite to express opinions, but it does seem, on reflection, to have 'missed the mark'.  That's not a bad thing, not the sign of a failed experiment - any true experiment has to be open to whatever its outcome.

    And this post is not aimed at anyone other than myself - these are my reflections on my involvement with the experiment.  I feel that I have learned a lot, about myself if nothing else.

    Last week the Deacons and I discussed the way forward following this experiment.  It was a good and helpful conversation, honest and engaged.  I feel confident, then, that the next steps we make will be good ones.

  • Feeling Crafty

    I have just spent a very pleasurable quarter of an hour ordering craft materials to use in worhsip over the summer... some specifically for the children to enjoy and others to be employed more widely.

    Creative worship is not everyone's 'cup of tea' and so it can be challenging when planning to avoid excluding or alienating those who don't enjoy it.  On the other hand, most of the time when it is straight word-based stuff there are folk quietly suppressing their inner creative, myself included.

    So, I won't make anyone do any of the activities, but I hope that most will feel able to engage with some of them.  I am excited by the potential for a summer that is less formal and a little free-er (how do you spell that word?!) in spirit.  There are some deep ideas to explore and much to think about - just need to remain alert to the tension between style and content and do my best to make it a "creative tension".

  • A Light Bulb Moment

    On Sunday evening I was mulling over this and that, trying to work out best to plan for the summer series of morning services, balancing diverse needs and preferences, aware that there are likely to be visitors and people away, that there could be zero children and there could be a dozen, that some like quiet and some like activity, and so on and so forth.

    Then came the lightbulb moment... or at least the moment when I felt things fall into place.

    Just to be really annoying, I'm not going to divulge any details yet, not least as there is still a lot of planning to finalise, but I feel energised and excited by what is planned.

    Now it's just my evening series to ponder!!

  • Nothing much changes...

    Today I went to the David Livingstone Centre, a place I last visited around forty years ago.  This display board made me smile and it made me sad... almost a century on how little has changed.

    It was a grand day out - lots of nostalgia.