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  • ...but Emily loved him

    Bagpuss - a 'watch with mother' programme that aired at a point in my life when I was 'too old and too young' to appreciate it.  Emily was a girl who lived in a curio shop where various ornamental and toy animals would come to life and repair random things she brought to the shop.  Central to this was Bagpuss, who was "just an old, saggy, cloth cat,  baggy, and a bit loose at the seams... but Emily loved him."

    This morning, arriving at church, I paused and snapped a few photos of the building as the darkness gave way to morning light.  I realised in that moment that, whilst I have almost no sense of place attachment (as well, since almost every signficant building in my life has been demolished over the years) that I love this place, this old, tatty, Victorian barn, shabby and decidedly frayed around the edges.

    In a few short weeks, we will have cleared and packed, given thanks for the past and expressed hope for the future, as we enter a period of 'tabernacling' whislt our building is transformed inside and out to become a beautiful, state of the art, centre for worship and witness ... maybe Professor Yaffle and the mice from the mouse organ are embodied in developers and trades who will achieve this for us.

    Still not quite at the point of signing on the dotted line, and definitely not counting any chickens, but it is now just about possible to glimpse the future for which this congregation has been waiting for at twice as long as I've been here.

  • Truth from Fiction

    One evening last week, I watched a short BBC2 documentary about a project to encourage teenagers to read.  The book they were invited to read (and some of them did, eventually) was 'One' by Sarah Crossan, a teen fiction story told from the viewpoint of a conjoined twin.  I was intrigued, downloaded it onto my Kindle and started to read whilst watching the programme.  I was soon hooked! 

    It's an easy read, from a mechanical point of view, and I found it to be engaging, powerful and moving, even if, ultimately predictable (and the documentary includes a huge spoiler!).

    So as a 'day off' treat this morning, I lay in bed and read the reast of the book - in total it took me a couple of hours I think.

    Rather than chapters, the book is set out as a series of titled 'reflections', and this one struck me as especially meaningful and powerful (and has an implicit spoiler)


    No Run-throughs

    In English class we were encouraged to write

    drafts and make edits

    until our words were as clear

    as filtered water.

    In math we were warned to

    review our workings,

    ensure the figure at the end

    was correct.

    And in music we rehearsed

    songs a hundred times,

    trying out a glut of harmonies

    before Mr Hunt was satisfied.


    Yet when it matters

    when it's a life-and-death decision,

    like whether to slice ourselves

    apart or not

    we have no way to perfect the path we're taking

    and only have

    one choice


    one chance

    to get it right.


    Sounds like an astute reflection on the stark reality that life is not 'a dress rehearsal', that 'you only live once' (YOLO) and that you have 'one life, live it' (OLLI).

    A novel worth reading, exploring some ideas around identity and prejudice and the challenge of choices between a rock and a hard place.  Worth a read - though you may need a few tissues.

  • Bookcases and counting!

    Yesterday afternoon I took a bus out to our local Swedish furniture (etc.) store in order to select and order new bookcases for my home-office ready for when my books are shifted from church in (eek!) less than two weeks' time.

    It's been a strange thing, identifying what I need, what I would like, what will fit, and what my budget will permit.  I have been very humbled by a generous financial gift from another minister that allowed me to have "what I would like" (because it matches my desk!) rather than what I could afford (which doesn't).

    It has also involved me in counting - or at least estimating - the number of books I have, which, it has to be admitted, comes to a rather scary total.  Somewhere in the region to 2000 - 2500 I think.  At some stage there will need to be a book cull - weed out the duplicates, pass on or sell those I'll never open again (or even open for the first time), review why I keep those that are purely sentimental (whether that's a Hayne's manual for an Austin metro, Enid Blyton school stories, or a book of Bible quizzes from yester year).  But for now, it's more a matter of getting the room ready to receive the bookcases (hopefully freecycling some furniture I no longer need) and counting my many blessings...

    • The blessing of books
    • The blessing of the ability to read
    • The blessing of choice
    • The blessing of a safe, warm, dry place to work
    • The blessing of generous friends
    • The blessing of education
    • The blessing of counting

    Surely, I can count myself richly blessed.

  • Endlessly Varied...

    The life of a minister is never dull, and mine is certainly very full at the moment.  It's also endlessly varied.  Today I have exchanged emails on such diverse topics as disposal of chairs, and getting married in Scotland if you live in England!  I have hunted out resources for an 'All Souls' service and been interviewed on the rationale underlying the way I conduct Communion.  I've been at a small meeting about practical matters and had a telephone conversation about an upcoming visit, in an official capacity, to hear someone preach.  I've half pondered a few ideas for next Sunday's sermon and I've had a conversation about archive materials.

    In the days when my time had to be allocated to 'charging numbers' I'd have struggled today - some of it just didn't fit under any neat heading.  But that's the nature of ministry - endlessly varied, often unexpected and sometimes delightfully surprising.

    Not sure I have any 'normal' days this week, but I do have lots of interesting things lined up.

  • The Ministry of Counting and Collating!

    The last couple of weeks, and the next few, see us in an interesting phase of church life as we sort, pack, store, share, sell, recycle or send to the tip, the contents of our premises in readiness for a period of 'tabernacling'.  At such times as this, I find a lot of reassurance in such books of the Bible as Numbers, where we find the ancients undertaking similar tasks, and Nehemiah, where there are equally long lists of who did what.

    Strange though it may seem, I actually derive some genuine satisfaction from the systematic sorting and counting, allocating and sending of assorted 'stuff'.  I don't like house moves, and I'm not overly enamoured at the thought of moving my office a mile and a half down the road, but at the same time, there is something good about getting the whole enterprise underway.

    Whatever you think of Myers Brigg Personality Type thingies, it seems that mine is suited to the 'bean counting' nature of this task, something that is the way God made me and the reason God called/sent me to this place at this time.

    I am enjoying researching organisations that might benefit from those items that we no longer require, and even finding a good challenge in balancing charity law requirements with a desire to be generous.

    They don't teach you this stuff at vicar school, but for those of us with the appropriate gifts and skills, there really is a ministry of counting and collating!