Christenings and Baptisms

One of the ways I serve my church is to be involved with families who bring their children for baptism. My role is twofold: first there is the administration side of things – have they filled in the application form? Have I booked a priest? Have I got certificates ready? – and so on. But for me, the other bit of my role is the best bit and that’s when we do the baptism preparation session together.

At the session, we bring together several families who are asking for baptisms and we have some activities and discussions around the different bits of faith and what it means to be baptised. Locally, here in North Manchester, it is more common for families to bring children to be Christened, and to be honest, even though I know there is a difference between being Baptised and being Christened, I don’t think I know enough about it to be able to explain it or argue about it!

So to make life easier, when I talk about “baptism” I also mean “Christening” and when I talk about “Christening” I also mean “baptism”. For now, at least. Wait until I’m further into my training and I might be able to split them and explain them better than I can now.

There is going to be a session of baptism preparation tomorrow evening, and we are going to be running out our “new and improved” version, which Hils (our curate) and myself have been working on. We have an icebreaker activity and some discussion activities before we get to the real crux of what we’re there for and that is the discussion and explanation about what the baptism service entails.

Our baptism invitation and instruction leaflet for families who want their children “done”, and a stack of coloured cards for cutting out for an activity at tomorrow night’s preparation session.

For babies and infants, this is the bit that parents do on their behalf, but for older children and adults they do this bit for themselves. And that is where they are asked about rejecting certain things and turning towards Christ, before they are dipped in the water and blessed.

I am always moved by this part of both the preparation and the baptism service itself. At the preparation, there is a moment of hush when parents think about what it is they are turning away from, and to whom they turn and there is a palpable awe in the air which is similar to the moment of baptism itself in church. It is a real sacramental moment, where God makes himself known in our presence and where his glory is revealed. It is fascinating to hear how the different families have arrived at this particular point, but the moment of baptism is always something special, wondrous and touching in so many ways.

I wonder what your experience of baptism is. Do you believe in it, or is it just another thing that we do with children along with the MMR jab to protect them in childhood? Have you been “done” yourself, or is it something you have never considered or thought about? What about the practices where you are in the world? In the Church of England, it is common for the font in churches to be used in baptism, but now and again, full immersion baptisms are done in small pools or even natural waters such as rivers or lakes too. How is it done where you live?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment below.


Blogging, Daybook

Daybook Entry

Daybook EntryFor Today… 11th September 2017

Outside my window… the weather is having a party today. It’s sunny for now, but in another couple of minutes it will be stormy and throwing it down again. It’s been like this since yesterday morning and it is showing no signs of changing any time soon. I can only think that it if it so horrible here with high winds and heavy rain, it must be a million times worse for those in the Caribbean or in Florida.

I am thinking… that I’m glad things are back to “normal” after the summer break. I have always loved September, and I have always loved the sense of normality that comes with it. I love the summer holidays too, but September is always a special time of year and I love that sense of routine and normality that it brings.

I am thankful… for the new duvet my mum and dad have given us. It is lovely and cozy and just perfect for this horrible weather.

I am praying for… everyone who has been affected by natural disasters recently.

I am wearing… a clean t-shirt and my pyjama bottoms. I got soaked to the skin earlier so wanted to get my comfies on.

I am creating…  a piece of writing on the American Civil War. I want to turn it into a screenplay and so I’m blocking it out and making copious notes as I go through research and reading for it.

I am going… to meet with the new DDO (Diocese Director of Ordinands) tomorrow. He will be guiding me through the exploration stages of my vocation in the coming months and this will be our first meeting.

I am wondering… whether I can squeeze a nap in before I have to go and cook the tea tonight.

I am reading… “The Seagull” by Anne Cleeves. It is the eighth book in the Vera Stanhope series.

I am watching… “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix. Not my usual kind of thing (too much swearing and sex in it for me) but it’s fascinating to see how relationships ebb and flow in a confined space such as a prison, and I find it interesting to see how the script is written and how the programme is put together.

I am hoping… to get my hair cut soon. It has gone through the “cute and curly” stage to the “frizzy and uncontrollable” stage really quickly.

I am learning… that small changes in my morning routine are having a big affect on my productivity.

In my garden… things are starting to die back now as Autumn is starting to creep in.

In my kitchen… we are getting inventive with our food choices for mealtimes. Tonight will be something simple, like pasta with prawns and pesto. Might throw some peas in too, purely for alliterative purposes.

A favourite quote for today…

day quote

A peek into one of my days…

We spent a couple of days in Portsmouth last week to see my daughter’s passing out parade, and we spent a little time at the docks. This is a selection of photos from that time – the Spinnaker Tower (views are AMAZING!!), the Historic Dockyard showing HMS Queen Elizabeth (the UK’s newest aircraft carrier), HMS Victory (Nelson’s flagship, most famously used in the Battle of Waterloo in 1805) and the building in which the Mary Rose is housed, Henry VIII’s most expensive warship which sank in 1545.

One of my favourite things… is drinking Ovaltine at bedtimes when it is raining hard against the windows.

In other news: I said earlier that I liked September because it feels like a new start, and this year is no exception. I am going to be studying towards my Masters degree this year in Creative Writing, again with the Open University. I will be learning more about the process of writing as well as writing lots of stuff myself, and I will be learning about critiquing other students’ work which will be something new for me. I will hopefully be able to share some of my jottings and things on here in the coming months, but only once I’ve decided that they won’t be forming the basis of any of my work which will be marked by the OU. The last thing I need is to be done for plagiarism – even it it is of myself!

Things are progressing with my vocation exploration, and I will be going for my selection panel at the end of November (not next week as originally planned). I am preaching this Sunday at my home church, which I am looking forward to immensely. I might publish my text early next week if it goes down well enough on Sunday.

Blessings to you all.



Christianity, General/Journal

On Placement – Part One

It has been a while since I updated you all about what’s happening with my spiritual journey so I thought today was a good day to share with you where I am up to.

You may know that I am currently in the stage of discerning God’s call and what it means for me and my life, and having gone through several stages of inspection and indeed introspection, I am now moving on to another stage of my journey.

I have been given a date to attend a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP for short) in September, where I will go through a three-day “interview” process where I may – or may not – be recommended to go for further training in the church. As part of the process so far I have seen two vocational advisors and an examining chaplain as well as having several conversations with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) about what God’s call sounds like to me. During that process, it has been highlighted that I have little experience of church outside my own circle, and so I have arranged to do a short placement with a neighbouring parish to see how they do things there.

I started my placement today at St Michael’s in Alkrington, and I am going to be there for the next three Sundays with a view to learning as much as I can from a different priest-in-charge and from the congregation there.

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It has been a long day – my first service was at 8am this morning – but I have met lots of new people and seen three different styles of worship with three different congregations. First was a said Eucharist, which means that we shared holy communion but there were no hymns and all of the prayers and responses were spoken not sung. Next was a service at 9.30am which was a sung Eucharist, which you can probably work out is where we share communion but sing hymns and responses. Both services were very different from that which I am used to, but it helped me focus on the reasons why we “do” worship in church, and how we relate to each other as fellow worshippers.

I had a cup of tea after the service with some of the congregation members and I think I have found a new set of friends in the needlework group who meet on a Monday afternoon! The ladies there promised me a noisy afternoon of knitting and nattering so I’m going to take my crochet hooks with me and head off tomorrow for some fun and chats with them. I also spoke to a gentleman who at the grand age of 93 still plays euphonium in the church brass band, and with whom I have a “date” on Thursday evening at band practice.

Later on, I went to a Family Service which was a totally different service in terms of style for families who are looking to have their children in faith schools. There was over 70 children there and wow, what an experience!

I was introduced to all three congregations and prayers were offered for me and my vocational call. I was touched and humbled by the response of the church today because I don’t remember ever being the focus of attention quite so much before, and to know that there are about 200 people who prayed for me today was an amazing feeling.

I have learned a lot of things today – not least that 93 year old gentlemen can use a smartphone better than some children can! – and I am looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks with this group of lovely people and sharing ministry and mission with them for a short while.

So. My pre-BAP placement has begun and so too has the next stage of my discernment journey. I hope to keep you up to date with how things progress, and I’ll perhaps blog about what is involved with BAP too as things progress there.



Funeral Ministry

I experienced two contrasting funerals today, and they have made me think about the things that unite us as well as the things that divide us.

You might know already that I am a lay minister in my church and I am in the process of discernment as to whether I am a suitable candidate to be trained further, with a view to being ordained in the future. My ministry takes in lots of different things, including children’s work, leading worship and prayers, leading study groups and so on, and recently I have been increasingly involved with the funeral ministry that the church offers. I started off by shadowing the priest who conducted funerals, visiting the family and offering some pastoral support at the event itself. That quickly evolved into me saying prayers at funerals while the priest led the rest of the service, and then I began to deliver the eulogy and address too. More recently I have had the privilege to conduct the service from the beginning right up to the point of the committal, which for Church of England funerals can only be conducted by a priest. I have found funeral ministry fulfilling as well as challenging, and I am gaining experience every time I do one.

Funeral ministry might sound morbid and depressing but it is such a rewarding experience for me because not only do we get to share good news with people at a time when they are at their lowest, but when there are no words with which to frame that good news, we can stand alongside people and show them that they are not alone.

Which is why I wanted to talk to you about today’s funerals and the way that they are sitting with me and in my prayers today.

The first funeral was of a 41 year old man and the second was of a premature baby who died after living for an hour and 16 minutes. There are further contrasts between the two funerals, in that the first was filled with extended family and friends, with six pall bearers drawn from that circle, and the second was just the two parents who had come to mourn their loss, carrying a tiny white coffin themselves.

I visited the man’s family (I’ll refer to him as A for ease now) the day before yesterday with the priest who was to conduct the service (“E”) and was struck by just how close the brothers were, especially after hearing how the family had worked together to earn money and how they had informally adopted a lifelong friend into their midst when he found himself in difficulties. The visit was a noisy one, with everyone talking over each other to tell A’s story, and their memories came tumbling out with very little prompting from either E or myself. They were all keen to share their grief as well as some of the happier times they had shared with A before he died. Visits like this one are easier for me to deal with emotionally, because their keenness to talk and to share shows me signs that they are processing the death of their loved one and are prepared for the difficult time at the funeral ahead. It also means that the conversation flows easily and there is little prompting or nudging needed for them to tell their story.

E and I also visited the baby’s parents yesterday, and for me, that is where the deeper contrasts began to show themselves.

Baby C was the third child to this couple, and the visit took place with one of their other children in the room with us. It was very quiet, despite a toddler being there, and conversation was not quite as forthcoming as it was for the big family the day before. But how could it have been otherwise? Baby C didn’t have a story to tell, no escapades at school, no achievements or disappointments with exams or boyfriends and girlfriends and so on. But the parents were just as upset over their loss as A’s family were the day before.

The purpose of a funeral (for me) is a three-fold thing: it is to give thanks for the life of the deceased, for the bereaved to comfort each other, and to commit our brother or sister to the eternal care of God, and because we do those things at every funeral, they serve to unite us despite our differences and contrasts.

So how do we give thanks for the life of a baby whose heartbeat only lasted an hour and 16 minutes? How do we offer comfort to the parents who are grieving not only the physical loss of their child but also the loss of a life not even lived? How do we comfort a family whose brother has found life so difficult that he could only find solace and strength in alcohol? What can we say to ease the pain and disappointment, the anger and distress at the loss of a loved one no matter what their age is, or how many heartbeats they have had.

It is so, so hard, but for me, the answer to those questions lies in the one thing that united the two funerals today, and that is the promise of new life when we go from here. It is the promise that was made real by Jesus Christ, and it is what we celebrate every Easter when we remember his death and resurrection.

I can’t imagine that the bubble of grief in which the two parents have existed after the birth of their baby was ready to be punctured by the gospel message today, but I do hope and pray that the ministry they received from E and I this morning will stay with them and that they could draw some comfort from the prayers we offered. I doubt that many words will have been heard today, but I hope and pray that our being there, standing alongside both families in their grief made some difference to them.

There was a time at A’s funeral, when one of his brothers was overcome with grief, that the only thing to do was to stand and hold his hand and simply be there for him while he clutched at the coffin and cried out in anguish. It was a privilege to hold Baby C’s mother’s hand as the end of the service came, at the moment when she had to say her final goodbyes. I could feel the pain rolling off her, and there were simply no words I could have said to have eased it but to just hold her hand seemed to have made a difference to her.

So, yes, lots of contrasts in the two funerals, but lots of similarities too. Most important is the unifying message that this life is not the end, and God has his hands and eyes and ears all over us, from the moment we are knitted together in our mother’s wombs right through to the moment we see him face to face and beyond.

A-Z April 2012

M is for Many Things

M is for Many Things

I have been thinking all day about what I could post for my “M” day today and to be honest, I was struggling to come up with a single suitable category. So I’m going to bend the rules a little and give you a list of top 10 things or people in my life associated with the letter M and maybe one day come back to each one of these and do a proper post on them in the future.

1. Manchester – I was born, bred and still live in Manchester and I am extremely proud of my Mancunian heritage and background. A truly cosmopolitan city with a history dating back as far as the Romans, Manchester is one of a kind. It takes some getting your head round the fact that there is a part of Manchester that has the remains of buildings that stood before Jesus was born. Good stuff eh??!

2. My Mum – there’s not much I can add to that statement. I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for my Mum and I am blessed.

3. Music – I have been involved with music for the past 34 years in one way or another and it is another defining aspect of my character and my personality. I play it, listen to it, perform it, write it, arrange it, sing it, talk about it, bore other people to death with it and on the odd occasion manage to teach it to other people. I remember my music teacher asking the class at the age of 11 “What is Music?” and to this day, more than 30 years later, I still haven’t come up with a suitable answer! The closest I can get is “music is a series of sounds constructed in such a way as to convey a story and emotion”. I wonder if Mr Craven would be impressed with that answer or would be be holding his head in his hands?!

4. Manchester City – my team. I am a true blue having been brainwashed at birth. City Til I Die is tattooed on my bone marrow, and yes, Denis Tueart walks on water.

5. Ministry – this is a new term to me. Up until recently I was under the misapprehension that ministry was something that only ministers did. So that would be priests, vicars, rectors etc. People with a licence from the Church of England to go and preach and literally MINISTER to the parishes needs. But not so. Ministry is something that all followers of Christ do in their day to day lives and in every single interaction they have with other people. I have come to realise that the word “ministry” is just something that we do all the time but until it had a title it was just known as “kindness and compassion for other people with God in your heart”.

6. Mirth – I love laughing and I love things that make me laugh. My favourite mirth-making things are cartoons and wordplay, preferably at the same time.

7. Marine life – no, not the musclebound military type beefcakes (although they are quite nice I suppose) but the things that go on under the sea. I am a lover of all things seaside and my favourite place to be on holiday is anywhere near the shore, boats, fishing paraphernalia and all that.

8. Marmite – traditionally, you either love it or hate it. I love it. It’s particularly gorgeous when my tummy is playing me up and won’t let me eat anything very much, or like earlier this week when even my spit tasted poisonous to me (pancreatitis attack brewing….) a bit of Marmite on toast ticks all the right boxes when it comes to hiding the miserable taste in my mouth whilst getting something down me that won’t be brought back up.

9. Maine – right at the top of my “got to go and see before I die” list is the state of Maine. Can’t really explain it other than to say that it looks a lot like England used to be like, with a great seashore and seafood and lovely people. Although, if I were a resident of Maine I wouldn’t let Stephen King write my tourist brochures!

10. Mountains – there is something wild and wonderful about mountains that absolutely refused to be tamed by man. They stand resolute and relentlessly rigid in a world that is in a state of constant flux around them you just have to stand in awe of them. I have been up a few and there are some that are on my hit list (when I’m well again), top of which is Snowdon in Wales and closely followed by Ben Nevis in Scotland.

A day off the A-Z Challenge tomorrow so I will be doing a Daybook entry no doubt. Back to the challenge on Monday with the letter N. Toot toot!!


Day/Night Book Entry – 12th Jan

I apologise for another Daybook Entry so close after the last one but there is so much going on at the moment I am using the format to try to get a handle on things by getting my thoughts down on paper. Or screen, if you are being really pedantic.


Outside my window…I’m looking at the moon. It looks very sad up there tonight; forlorn and lonely. Mournful moon.

I am thinking…about my Aunty Mo whose first anniversary it is today, about Dexy’s Midnight Runners, about coincidence or cosmos?, about who is Jesus?, about if Jesus is the Son of God and we are all children of God, what made Jesus so special?, and if Jesus came to earth tomorrow would he be the same person who came to earth 2000 years ago? Would he have the same name? Would he be the same nationality? Who would announce his coming?? I am thinking lots of other things as well, but those are the most pressing questions this very minute!

I am thankful…for my husband and his broad mind, broad shoulders and kind heart.

In the kitchen…left over chocolate cake from yesterday.

I am wearing…jeans and a grey t-shirt

I am creating…denim notebooks (photos to follow in a couple of days when the gum has set properly)

I am going…
to go to bed when I have done this post

I am wondering…whether my Christian beliefs are in line, out of line, way out of line, way off beam or right within the parameters of the established Church of England and where it leaves me with my ministry.

I am reading…I’ve not really got a book on the go at the minute. Maybe I should find one quick to stop my brain going into overdrive!

I am hoping…I sleep through the night tonight and the pain doesn’t cut through and wake me up as it has for the last three nights.

I am looking forward to…finishing making my notebooks and putting them for sale on Etsy.

I am learning…how to produce a saleable item.

Around the house…my worktable is tidy(ish), most of the laundry is done, the bathroom needs cleaning (tomorrow’s job), the living room is looking decidedly “lived in”, the hallway is clean and has been vacuumed today, the kitchen needs sorting out but I can’t be bothered tonight and I’ll tackle that in the morning.

I am pondering…next week’s menu which will dictate my shopping list for weekend. Fresh meat, veg, fruit, bread, milk and all that, but what exactly and what else do I need for the store cupboard? Definitely need flour but apart from that I can’t really think. Need the menu first.

A favourite quote for today… “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you”. As said by my friend Donna.

One of my favourite things…is a cup of tea made by my daughter and a chunk of yesterday’s chocolate cake (thanks Emma!)

A few plans for the rest of the week: finishing some notebooks tomorrow, arranging some music, watching the BDO Darts on TV, running the coffee morning at church on Saturday for my Mum who is on a course, church on Sunday morning and a session of Light (our Sunday School) and then possibly a walk round Dovestones Reservoir on Sunday afternoon.

A peek into my day…

My worktable

This is how I left my worktable when I went out earlier on. I promise you it hasn’t been staged! You can see one completed leather notebook, four interfaced coverings, two that have been interfaced and had the strengthening card gummed on and all the rest of the clutter that is being used in this latest project. You can see a bowl of wallpaper paste in the top left and no, those aren’t goldfish in it but it’s where the paintbrush was left in overnight and it went rusty (yes rusty, overnight. Tsk…cheap paintbrush!). The “tablecloth” is an old bedsheet that I think came from my Mum’s. I remember having sheets like this when I was a kid… Handy for keeping cow gum (the lethal-smelling rubber gummy stuff in the red and white tin in the centre) and sharp knives off my wooden table top.


Come and join us at and join in!!



This evening, my daughter was confirmed into the faith of the Church of England. I am so proud of her.

For those readers who are not Christian, to be confirmed is the next step following baptism and is usually a step taken at an age when a person is old enough for themselves to literally CONFIRM their faith in God. In the Catholic Church, this happens when a child reaches the age of 7 or 8, but in the Church of England (my branch of Christianity) it happens sometime after teenage-hood.

My daughter has undertaken a period of learning, reflection, prayer and fellowship over a number of weeks in preparation for the service tonight, and the actual confirmation is performed by a Bishop (tonight it was Bishop Mark – a lovely man).

For those who are not Christians or who don’t know the hierarchy of the Church of England, the Church is headed by the Monarch (in this day and age in name only) and the next highest are the two Archbishops – of Canterbury, and of York. Next are the Bishops, who preside over and lead what we call a Diocese (I live in the Diocese of Manchester, which covers all of Greater Manchester and some surrounding areas). Under the Bishops come the Deans who head small areas within the Diocese, and then come the parish priests, such as we see in churches up and down the country day in and day out. So the Bishop is a pretty important figure, and it is always an honour to speak to one. Well, it is for me!

Here is a picture of the confirmation candidates tonight, and in the line up is a lady who has converted from Catholicism to Anglican tonight. I’ll perhaps do another post on that because it’s something that I’ve not come across before, but is a really significant event.

Emma's Confirmation Group

From left to right we have Charlotte, Leanne, Emma, Deborah, Bishop Mark, Cassie, Jeanette, Lizzie, Maureen and Gavin.

Please remember these people in your prayers as they begin a new path in the footsteps of Jesus.