Monday, 14 July 2014

Let your light shine


I've just returned from a very peaceful retreat; this photo was taken on the last night after a prayer session in which  each member was represented by a candle. On my return I heard that Synod has passed the legislation which will allow women bishops. I thought this a very positive move but at the same time felt a slight sadness to think of the levels of bitterness - and what could seem like contempt or even hatred that the process has involved, along with (and I know this seems paradoxical) a sense of grief for those who will now feel hurt and angry. I also think many observers will be bemused that it took so long and was so difficult to manage - or maybe not many people will really even care.
Not sure the Church has let a light shine in the management of this issue but perhaps it will have more success in its practical implementation.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Wild child...

 Some readers, if indeed there are any readers still left, may have cottoned on to the fact that my life is pretty tame and quiet.  I am increasingly finding that routine appeals to me and doing anything out of my routine can frankly just take a bit too much effort.  The highlights of my life are a trip to the gym followed by a glass of wine, walking the dog down the canal and tending to my beans and radishes ( BTW that is not a euphemism for anything.) Consequently readers (if there are any left...) may be glad to hear that this week I have managed three nights out IN A ROW! This reckless spontaneity began with a meal out with friends at Gusto, an excellent Italian restaurant in Knutsford on Saturday, a trip to see the  Odd Socks company in their excellent, not at all highbrow, performance of Midsummer Night's Dream on Sunday, and a drink out on Monday to say farewell to a colleague. Top that all off with the fact that I am going on retreat on Friday. A retreat, I hear you say, does this woman always live life in the fast lane? Will the partying ever stop?

Meanwhile, my younger son is on holiday in Zante (Zakynthos). If someone told me I was going abroad and had to drink a lot and party all night, I might just cry. So he is the wild child to whom the title of this post refers. Heavens only knows what he is up to, all I can say  is that I am glad I don't. He returns on Friday early morning; in the afternoon I set off on retreat, hopefully to give thanks for his safe return!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Informal monitoring and reference

The case of Jeremy Pemberton, the priest who has had his permission to officiate revoked as a result of entering into a same sex marriage, reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with a priest who had entered into a civil partnership. This priest had also had his PTO withdrawn after a "pastoral" meeting with his bishop. Rather like Jeremy Pemberton it didn't have a material effect on his livelihood as he had other employment- and I believe he had officiated at most services without pay anyhow. The priest concerned worked as part of a ministry in a rural parish where churches were far apart and it soon became apparent that they were going to be hard pushed to cope without him and couldn't replace him due, I think, to finances and the difficulty of finding someone able to provide that kind of part time cover.

After representations by another priest, someone quite senior in the diocese told him he could officiate, but that it wasn't official, and if it came to light they knew nothing about it, and so he was still regularly taking services as he had before.  I had to say that my response to this kind "offer" would have ended in the word "off".  His response was that he felt called to ministry and wished to help his fellow clergy and he was above petty resentments. He said if he had ever taken the attitude of the C of E personally, he would have left ministry but as long as he felt called and his conscience was clear he would stay.

 I heard this account a while ago, yet the impression it gave me, which was of the hypocrisy and lack of humanity that can occur in parts of  the Church, has increased since then. There is no work place in Britain where people can  be treated as shabbily or offered as little legal protection and redress as they are in  the Church. And surely something is wrong when we have reached a place where matters can be so very underhand and dishonest? The recent denials that there is a blacklist  of clergy who enter into same sex marriages seems part and parcel of the same approach. So there is no official blacklist? Well, there is an unofficial one then, isn't there? How do you "informally monitor" people anyhow? If the group has "no powers", why set it up? If the group is to advise diocesan bishops, what exactly does it advise them about?

I don't expect decency, and certainly not compassion, but is  honesty and transparency really too much to ask?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Me time

After a very busy year I am at last finding I have a little more "breathing space" and a chance to pick up a few of the things that I just had to drop. I haven't blogged much over the past two weeks, and in fact I have pretty much stayed off the Internet, but I have read several books, had some early nights and weekend lie ins, done some baking and a bit of gardening. It feels like I've been recovering! It has been lovely.
  I have also started to get back to my previous levels of exercise with three to four gym sessions a week. I had dropped down to just one or two sessions at one point and was starting to find that I was struggling to work out to my previous levels. A real delight over this last few weeks is that I am starting to relish exercise again and to wake up in the mornings full of energy.
All of this has made me think about how we do need time for ourselves; it is not selfish and is really not an optional extra. Our health benefits if we have time to look after ourselves properly. We could all do with taking more exercise and eating more healthily given the rise in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, and our emotional and spiritual selves also need time and space and attention.
I am hoping I will have more free time next year, not too much free time or we won't be able to pay the bills (which won't be good for anyone's health)... but still, a little more time to look around and appreciate all the good things we have.
Hoping you find time to appreciate life this week!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Spirit of Power

The story of Bernard Johnson, the D-day veteran who, having failed to get on an official trip to attend the commemorations, absconded from his care home and just did it anyway has surely delighted and inspired many of us.He left on the Thursday  morning with his medals hidden under his coat and told nobody about his adventure, presumably to scotch attempts to talk him out of it.  Perhaps it is no great surprise that the fortitude and determination of those who lived through major conflict should prove more than a match for our pusillanimous risk averse society. A tweet, supposedly from the police officers who discovered his whereabouts, sums it up with,
                                        #fighting spirit: still has it.
With Pentecost coming up tomorrow, the story made me ponder the idea of spirit and how we use the term spirit not just to suggest an attitude but a life force, something living which inhabits us and shapes our actions and decisions.  The bible uses so many terms to help us understand the concept of the Holy Spirit - something given, a grace, a help and counsellor, a power beyond ourselves, something which transforms us and makes us more than we would have been without it.
 Those who fought for their country during the Second World War, or anyone who is faced with a huge life threatening situation,needs to be able to reach deep within themselves, and maybe outside of themselves, to tap into a power which gives them the strength to do what they must do.I do not like the glorification of war, and I support those unable for reasons of conscience to take part in it, but I am unable to be a whole-hearted pacifist, particularly given conflicts such as the Second World War. We are told in the bible that the Spirit does not make us slaves who live in fear, and the D day landings were undertaken by those who, although they felt fear, were not prepared to be slaves.
I think of them at this moment and ask that through our hardest moments and  most difficult decisions we may be guided by the Spirit, not of timidity, but of power, love and self-control.


Ouistreham or "Sword Beach" one of the main landing areas

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Finding ways forward

I haven't been blogging properly for quite some time, the reasons for this are mundane and not worth outlining.   I haven't been reading blogs or facebook or keeping up with anything that has been going on in the Christian blogosphere. To tell the truth, this lack of time to keep up with  things has been accompanied by a  growing lack of interest in what is going on and I see this as a positive. In fact, when someone told me this morning that all forty four dioceses have now voted in favour of women bishops, it was news to me!
Nonetheless it was good news and when I did have a quick browse through the blogs I haven't followed for some time I found more positive news from the Church of Aotearo, NZ and Polynesia whose synod has voted to look into developing a liturgy for the blessing of same sex relationships. A heartening aspect seemed to be its positive reception among both conservatives and liberals as there was a promise to protect the integrity and place in the Church of both those in favour and those opposed. I think one of the difficulties around the admission of women to the Episcopate has been the cleft stick that any concessions to those opposed has meant a diminishing the authority of women bishops.

A few months ago I was reminded of Robert Frost's poem On a Tree Fallen Across a Road. Frost is fascinated by our journey through life and with how our choices and decisions make us who we are. The tree is, of course, a metaphor for the obstacles we all face and how conflict and difficulty can work as opportunities to reassess our way, exercise ingenuity, thought and skill and through that process learn "who we are". I am offering it not as a thought on women bishops or any of the obstacles affecting the Church (sorry that this is a bit of a random post!) but as a much broader reflection on how the need to find a way forward to all sorts of difficult situations can be a positive. I hope you like it!

                                        On a Tree Fallen Across the Road

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not bar
Our passage to our journey's end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are


Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an axe.


And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole


And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Let's celebrate!

There's already been quite a lot of reaction to the  Reform press release on the twenty year celebration of the ordination of women priests. It is full of silly and weak arguments which can't really even be dignified by the word "argument"- they are more whiny petulant comments along the lines of "why aren't we celebrating the women who make the tea after service? Apparently they are not worth it! Why aren't we celebrating men? Apparently they are not worth it! 

The greatest revelation for me is that it is women who are responsible for keeping the church roof on. No really, it is our heroic efforts which keep it where it is (it must say so somewhere in the bible...)

"Every day hundreds of thousands of women serve their church families; they serve the sick , the elderly, the housebound (etc)... they ensure the roof stays on..."

There you go. Let me never hear it said that Reform is sexist after that testament to the keeping-the-roof-on abilities of women. Let's have a service to celebrate!

Arch druid Eileen sends it up better than I can here.

A church with no women