Monday, 19 March 2012

A Chaos scale

I've been thinking about defining a chaos scale. Kind of like the Richter scale for earthquakes or the Beaufort scale for wind.

Last week in particular was very busy. With my training incumbent away, the phone calls to the vicarage come through to me, and last week it was very busy on the phone. It seems that now spring is here, thoughts of many people around here are turning to Baptisms, and it was my smart idea to suggest that clergy visit soon after an initial Baptism enquiry is made (along the lines of the Weddings Project suggestion for weddings) Previously, the office took the booking but we may not visit the family for many months depending on how far in advance the Baptism was booked.
This week, I've done five visits.
That registers highly on the chaos scale as it eats into other time I may have available for preparation for other things. But it's all about building good relationships and I really enjoy it.

Some fruits of this approach were evident at yesterday's family service. We had over 60 people in church - around two dozen children, and there were three families there who have recently started coming regularly following the Baptism of their children.
The service itself registered quite high on the chaos scale - with all those children around, there's a certainly inevitablility to that. But they were mostly engaged and had plenty to do in the service which seemed to help. The giving of Communion was less ordered than usual but no-one seemed to mind, and I was really pleased that a Banns family came to the altar for a blessing as they prepare for their wedding in a few weeks. There was a lovely atmosphere and we are blessed with having the kind of old(er) ladies who really like having a lively service for families and not the kind I have met elsewhere who might otherwise complain.....

So if my scale of chaos is to reflect anything, it will probably reflect when I have time to blog. Infrequently just now, but I hope to redress that this week, which, at the moment has (deliberately) fewer appointments and (fortuitously) no sermon to preach on Sunday.

I'll keep thinking about how I'd like to express my chaos scale, but feel free to make suggestions!

Although it has been busy, I did want to share some moments where I felt the chaos was particularly hallowed. For God is there to be found anywhere anyone chooses to look.

A fantastic concert by my son's school...... a lovely Communion in a sheltered housing complex...... a very moving hospital visit with a man with dementia - as he struggled to remember his wife's death, and wept for her, he paused and uttered a prayer from his heart, "Lord, help me!".......... some laughs with the Cubs as they talked about objects in the church...... praying with a dying man..... the peace of the 8 o'clock Communion service on Sunday.

So, tired but blessed, I continue to embrace such hallowed chaos.

Image of Richter scale via

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Noise from the shallow end

I came across a quote today that I rather like. Attributed to Canon Bill Vanstone,  the Church (of England) is likened to a swimming pool where all the noise comes from the shallow end.
Others may have heard this already but it's new to me, and I can't help thinking how apt it remains. There's lots of noise at the moment surrounding the church on issues of gay marriage, wearing of crosses, and our response to the economic situation. But is there any depth to our thinking on the subject?
This challenges me about the depth (or lack of depth) of my own spirituality - especially in Lent when I've been trying, through the chaos, to do some proper reading. I feel that often I merely paddle in the shallow end of the pool instead of plunging into the depths of God. And as a consequence, I can find myself feeling ill-equipped to comment or think about the issues that face the church and the world today.
No particular conclusions about this at the moment, except that I need to be doing more praying, thinking and meditating on God's Word so that I can take a few more steps towards the deep end of the pool.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Forgiven at the cross

A wordle of last Sunday's sermon which was very well received. At least half the congregation (of 20!) told me how powerful it was. For Lent we're focussing on aspects of the cross, rather than preaching from the readings, so this week I preached on the cross as forgiveness. That's a big thing for me as my MA dissertation was about forgiveness in the Criminal Justice system. This was as a result of a placement in a prison when the Chaplaincy was running a restorative justice course. Seeing prisoners face up to their offences, some for the first time in more than 10 years inside was incredibly moving, and convinced me of the power of asking for and receiving forgiveness. It is forgiveness that allows us to move on from past hurts. Ann Lewin, poet and liturgist talks about forgiveness - not as forgetting but as remembering differently. The sting is removed from the memory.
In Jesus' death our sins are forgiven, and we are made whole. It is part of our Christian discipleship to learn to forgive others - and I don;t want to under-state how hard that is -to the point of seeming impossibility. But forgiving another frees us from hurts which might otherwise dominate our present and shape our future. Someone described failing to forgive as being like allowing someone to live rent-free in your head. Forgiveness also offers a new opportunity for the forgiven offender to imagine a new life which is not dictated by the past. This is what Christians believe is offered to them in Jesus' death and resurrection. And this is the good news we're called to share.
I'm always interested in the work of The Forgiveness Project, the reconciliation ministry of Coventry Cathedral, and St Ethelberga's. Any more I should know about?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Women's World Day of Prayer

Well, I was going to blog about this but my friend Revd Claire got there first and has said much of what  I wanted to say. So, check it out!
Today's service was prepared by the women of Malaysia and had as it's theme "Let Justice Prevail."

I remember this service from when I was a child, and little seems to have changed. As an act of worship, I'm afraid I still find it wordy, and bitty, with too many elements.
But I think it's more the fact that it only appeals to a small section of our congregation, that concerns me. It is actively avoided by men (at least where I am - I was ridiculed for suggesting in a magazine article that the service should be attended by men as well as women) Why should something as important as praying for justice to prevail not be a concern to all of humanity, not just half of us? It still feels slightly (and I could be wrong) as if the women are being allowed to go and have their little service while the men do other, more important stuff.
That's not to say that I don't see the value of a group of women getting together to achieve something. I was a Guider for many years so firmly believe that there is a place for women-only spaces. I'm just not sure that this is one that I particularly feel comfortable in.

Having said all that, there were some really positive moments today- and here's a picture of some of the props that were made - these lovely butterflies to remind us of the colours of Malaysia.
I also love the thought that as our service finished, another one somewhere in the world was just beginning, and that we took up where someone else left off.
And I had a great conversation with a Roman Catholic lady who is in favour of the ordination of women and who was a bit upset by the arrival in the RC church of former Anglicans in the Ordinariate.

So, perhaps as an act of female solidarity, it's worth retaining, but perhaps also the ultimate goal should be that eventually the whole of God's people would recognise that issues that affect women require all of God's people to pray and act - not just the female half.
Claire feels ambivalent about this - and so do I. You?