Blogging

Catching Up


It’s been a whole month since I last updated you with what’s what, so here’s where we are up to on the Mushy Cloud.

As you might know, I have just finished a four-week placement at another church prior to my BAP (Bishop’s Advisory Panel – selection panel to be a candidate for ordination training) and I am back at my own church this week. The placement itself was a fantastic experience and I met lots of lovely people, as well as learning more about my vocation and what God is calling me to do. I also had a very different experience of how to “do” church and that’s something that I will be reflecting on between now and my BAP.

I was straight back into my own parish ministry on Monday morning at our annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic with the little ones at Stay and Play. We said goodbye to 8 children as they move on up to “big school” in September and we are looking forward to seeing some new families in September when we get back.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last Thursday (a slight overlap with my placement and today’s ministry) I met a lovely family who were preparing for the funeral of their beloved Gran and Mum, Jean. We talked a lot about what family meant to her and I was moved to hear their stories of her life and how she treated people with love. It was Jean’s funeral today and I contributed the prayers during the service, as well as accompanying the vicar at the graveside. I had one of those lovely moments where my online life met my “real” life, and I met one of my blog friends at the funeral. He introduced himself at the end of the service, and it was absolutely fantastic to meet him in person – hello Andy!!

We are heading off in the wobbly box next week for a few days away in the Lake District. It has been a long twelve months since we were last on holiday and we can’t quite manage the full two weeks this year, but the few days we are going to be away are going to be a very welcome tonic after the hectic (and sometimes frantic) things we have been working through as a family recently. No doubt there will be photographs and updates while we are there, including – I hope – a series of sunset and sunrise shots from the top of Hardknott Pass. Please pray for good weather for that overnight expedition for us. I’m not bothered about having good weather for the rest of it – tea tastes as good under canvas as it does in the open air when it is drunk out of a tin mug – but for the night we decide to do the photography on top of the world it would be nice to have some clear skies so we can see the sun come up properly.

A couple of weeks ago I received a delightful postcard from my blog friend Mary in the USA. It showed a photograph of Niagara Falls and it reminded me of the trip I went on with North Music Centre in September 1987 to the same place. We played an afternoon concert on a bandstand in the park at the top of the falls and I remember the spray from the water managed to wet our music even from that distance away. We also had a trip on the Maid of the Mist boat to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, which is also depicted on Mary’s postcard. Thank you for the card Mary and thank you for the fabulous reminder of what a wonderful, natural world we live in.

In other news, I am trying to write a computer program that will help with crochet design so am on a crash course of learning coding (my head hurts) and how to apply maths and logarithms to what is essentially a textile art form. Not easy and anyone with any experience who can do this thing for me I will gladly talk to and get help from. I have also been trying to hone my writing discipline because since my degree I have gotten out of the habit of writing every day. I have started to keep “morning pages” and even in the short while I have been doing it I have seen an improvement in my word-craft.

That’s about it for now as I can hear my crochet hook calling me. Here is a picture of a bee I have designed. He doesn’t have a face yet as I’m not sure I like him to have a black or a yellow face. What do you think? The wings are still in the prototype stages too and so haven’t been attached yet. Sigh. A work in progress indeed.

My faceless bees – which is better? The one with the black end or the yellow end? The wings are still a bit dodgy too…

That’s all for now. Until next time, cheerio.

 

Advertisements
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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

Daybook

Daybook Entry 22nd May 2017


For Today… 22nd May 2017

Outside my window… the evening is cooling down a little. Some clouds in the sky but some bright sunshine too. A great metaphor for life!

I am thinking… about a painting I’m working on for a friend

I am thankful… for the space to think today

I am praying for… the country’s young people as they are in the midst of exams

I am wearing… my hair up and my smile down

I am creating… I am between crochet projects at the moment, having finished this last night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I am going… to be involved with two hospital funerals tomorrow, where people have died with no next of kin. The first person has some friends and extended family who will be in attendance, but the second has nobody but us laity and clergy to pray for her.

I am wondering… whether we can afford to go on holiday this summer. The car is not fit to tow the caravan and we don’t have the money to fix it, and we won’t have the money for site fees and food while we’re away so it’s unlikely we’ll be able to go. I’m wondering if something will turn up really.

I am reading… “Monk’s Hood” by Ellis Peters. It’s the third book in the Cadfael series and was a free download from Amazon.

I am hoping… to have my poorly ankle manipulated this evening.

I am learning… to be patient.

In my garden… the grass needs cutting but the lawn mower is broken. This post is starting to feel a bit like a moan-fest now!

In my kitchen… we are having a surprise for tea. Emma is here with her best friend and they are cooking something for us all. It smells nice and they have a great track record, so I’m quite looking forward to it.

A favourite quote for today…

A peek into one of my days…

This is my daughter, and I am very proud of her. She is extremely fit and healthy, and she loves running and doing all sorts of physical challenges. This weekend she ran “Tough Mudder” in Grantham, and volunteered to be a marshal for the other racers on Saturday. She has completed four now and has already got the next two planned. Go Em!!

One of my favourite things… is seeing my children flourish and thrive.

 

 

 

Blogging

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.

Blogging, Daybook

Daybook Entry 13th June


8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… Monday, 13th June

Outside my window… The sky is clearing slightly after a full day of drizzle, rain, rizzle, and showers

I am thinking… About how acts of hatred and violence seem to be everywhere we look at the minute. If it’s not guns and shootings in the USA, it’s football riots in France. If it’s not an argument about politics in Europe, it’s a hate-fuelled torrent of political abuse from people vying to be the next President of the United States. It’s everywhere and I’m sure that the world cannot be so filled with hate as it seems to be.

I am thankful… for the privilege of working with so many children at church in so many different ways. For example, I have been involved in three very moving baptisms in the last couple of weeks, each with their own different pastoral cares and this morning at Stay and Play was a joy for me.

I am praying for… E&S and their wedding later this week; my son who is facing some health challenges; my daughter who is spending the next 2 months in a forest teaching young people how to do all sorts of outdoor activities.

I am wearing… my comfy Everlast ankle socks. You know when you have a pair of socks that are the right amount of tight round the top, with a nice band that goes round the arch of your foot and snuggles it just so, and are thick enough to be warm but not too thick to be sweaty, and are pristine white? Well, a pair of those.

I am creating… a portrait of my son, and a painting of a sunflower. I’m into oil painting at the minute – a complete break away from words for a change.

I am going… to try to paint a landscape in the next few days.

I am wondering… when the summer is going to return again.

I am reading… “Time of Death” by Mark Billingham.

I am hoping… I can solve the problem of how to paint eyes in portraits or else I won’t be able to show you my son’s painting!

I am learning… that oil painting is not as easy as I thought.

In my garden… my bike is waiting patiently for me to oil its chain and to dust off the pedals again.

In my kitchen… we had lamb biryani for tea. All home made and twas rather delish.

A favourite quote for today… “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you sow” Robert Louis Stevenson.

A peek into one of my days… my Prince Charming this morning, pulling funny faces at the camera

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of my favourite things… is watching the rain watering my lovely green garden.

From the board room… I am sooooo making this for Emma!

 

Post Script:

We are deep into the GCSE exam season again, with only a few more weeks left before another set of 16 year olds are left bereft and betwixt the worlds of school and sixth form or college. Having worked in secondary schools for the past 14 years, first in pastoral role and now as an exam invigilator I have witnessed this stage of children’s education many times over. I don’t know whether I despair OF these children, or despair FOR them as they reach this stage. Most of them are well-adjusted individuals who realise the enormity of exams, and the consequences of having good, bad or indifferent results but there are some who are entirely clueless and it’s those young people who I feel deepest for.

Take the boy on Friday, who whilst waiting for the exam officer to arrive with the papers, said to me “Will I get in trouble if I put my head on the desk and go asleep?”. I said to him that he wouldn’t be in trouble from me, but did he really want to scupper his chances of passing the exam by not even attempting it? His response is typical of a worrying trend that I’ve seen before, and he said “Well, even if I score 90 on this I’ll only get a C so I’m not going to bother”. And he didn’t. The exam started, he answered the first part of the first question and then promptly closed his paper and put his head on the desk for the duration of the exam.

Why would you do that? Why does he think his only worth is in terms of what grade his exam shows? Why does he not care that even a grade D is worth something? And if he wasn’t satisfied with what he had attained already, why did he not work harder for the last couple of months to try and pull himself up? It’s not as if young people today don’t know where they are in terms of attainment and grading etc because they are tested and told often enough.

But here’s the thing that worries me and makes me despair FOR them: so, even if that lad had pulled his guts out and attained a C for that subject, what difference will it make to his earning capacity in the years to come? Even ‘good’ grades don’t necessarily convert into ‘good’ jobs. No job is secure any more, and all that lad could hope to get would be a zero hours contract in a warehouse of retail outlet somewhere for the next couple of years. I don’t blame him for wanting a nap on a Friday afternoon instead of sitting an exam when the sad truth is that it probably won’t affect his life chances and options later on very much at all.

The even worse thing is that he’s not alone is he? There are thousands of children churned out of the school system each year with little to look forward to and little prospect of getting ahead or lifting themselves up from the position they are in unless they are extremely lucky or extremely brave. A subject for another blog post maybe, but it seems that schools are little more than exam factories whose job it is to churn out compliant drones who fall into the category of “A* – C” or not, as the case may be. Art, creativity, spontaneity, individuality and so on are all squashed and discouraged, sacrificed for grade boundaries and “performance indicators” for both staff and students, upon which funding is based for subsequent years.

In some ways I wanted to shake that boy for scuppering any chance he had to further himself on Friday, but in other ways I applaud his individual stance and his refusal to play the game of being turned into another drone. Only time will tell whether that was the right course of action for him to take.

 

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!!

Christianity

God Calling