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WE’RE HO-OME! Actually we landed on Friday evening and have been home for three whole days now. The Vicar left Devon at 2pm on Friday with our car and trailer with a couple of Pathfinders and Mac from church who’d been helping on the Task Force, following the minibus. Dreamer and I departed at 3.30pm, but rocked up at the Vicarage just twenty minutes after the rest of the crew. With holiday traffic, departure time is everything. Anyway, we’re still in recovery mode here and I thought I’d share our key techniques with you:

1. Unpack. On arrival dispatch all non-residents of your home to their respective families asap. When Dreamer and I drew up, there were still a few waifs and strays at the Vicarage. Plus we still had five Indian missionaries staying. It took us a little while after all that to unload all our luggage and decompress. But you need to get all the kit out of the car/minibus. It’s not fun realising the next day that your sleeping bag is in Tipton because you didn’t unload things properly.

2. Takeaway for tea. Or something you froze before you went away. No matter how perky you think you feel on leaving camp, you will definitely be too tired to do more than pop something in the microwave or call EatWise. Consume in front of a movie. Do not attempt conversation.

3. Sleep. As much as possible. Do not arrange to play in a golf tournament early on Saturday morning *looks hard at someone resident in the Vicarage*. One of the main leaders from our venture slept 14 hours on Friday night. This seems like a suitable amount to me. NB Golf tournament didn’t happen in the end. Too tired, obvs.

4. Reminders. Note that you will have to regulate your life without the aid of a hooter (or bell, depending on your venture’s choice of noisy reminding instrument). Set alarms to remind you to come in for tea. Don’t set a morning alarm if at all possible (see point 4 above).

5. Laundry. There will be many loads. Take your time. You are unlikely to need the multi pocketed shorts in the week to come. Unless you are super keen and have a quick turnaround for another venture. Then you deserve a medal and a laundry company calling round.

Up later this week: more reflections on venture life, including an analysis of best costumes for the last night and tried and tested techniques to get your dorm to be quiet and go to sleep. Or something like that.

All the usual things happened this afternoon:

1. We had a barbecue. Rev Ted and his family joined us, together with Dreamer, for a lovely lazy lunch to celebrate the Queen’s 14th birthday. (FOURTEEN! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?). We ate lots of salad and fruit as well as the obligatory meatfest. Because it’s after camp where we’d overindulged in carbs in a big way. Our insides need to recover a bit. There was lots of laughter and many tales of teenagers in Devon.

2. The family from over the road who have no garden and lots of children had a picnic in the churchyard. I’m very glad the churchyard is there for families without grass outside their house. They asked me where we’d been and I told them I’d been to Devon with lots of teenagers. They looked enthusiastic when I told them that the twins (aged 9 now) would soon be able to join us.

3. Gone let himself into the garden, very drunk and smelly. He talked at me for ages about how hard he’s finding things, and the Queen brought him some crisps to eat (he didn’t want a cup of coffee). Then he asked for food to get him through the next few days and I rummaged through the cupboards (which haven’t been restocked since camp) for some things he can eat. He’s not able to prepare much because he broke the microwave. So he says. Then I came into the house to get him a new notebook for remembering things.

Whilst I was in the house, he stripped off his TWO fleeces and started to help himself to the Joker’s damp t-shirt from the washing line. When we let him know that this wasn’t totally acceptable, he stormed away, swearing as much as possible. He took the bag of food, but thankfully not the t-shirt (it’s a favourite Dr Who one). I’ve put the washing on again. And I’ll see if I can get some cheap t-shirts next time I’m shopping.

So it’s good to be home. Tales of camp to come next week. Spoiler: we had a great time.

The garden is the place to be today

The garden is the place to be today

We’re off to camp in a couple of days. No, we’re not actually camping. But we call it that because it’s always been called that. Maybe because people used tents when they took young people away in the 1950s. Who knows? We’re actually off on a CPAS Pathfinder Venture – taking 76 11-14 year olds from youth groups round the country to a boarding school in Devon for a week of fun, adventure, beach trips, crafts and learning about Jesus. The whole of the Vicarage are going, even the Engineer, who is still too young to be an official Pathfinder, but will buddy along with the rest of us and join in where he can and hang out with the Task Force team (who do all the practical stuff) when he can’t.

Also round the country are about 40 leaders of all shapes and sizes getting prepared. Here in the Vicarage we have our part to play. So what essential things do we need to get done before we leave?

1. Reply to the gazillion emails about transport, bible studies, menus, equipment. The inbox tends to heat up red hot in the days before we land in Devon.

2. Concoct suitable costumes for the theme. (France this year). Personally I’m hoping that stripey t-shirts will cut it. Although I know that there will be a few people dressed as baguettes and the Eiffel Tower – the team is a pretty creative bunch. Me, not so much.

3. Prepare the Bible study for the dorm. Although miraculously this year I have done mine already *smug face*.

4. Receive, check, price up and then repack the bookstall. This will take a day or so. There are a lot of books (I just counted and I think we have ordered 251). It will involve post-it notes and patience. It’s arriving from 10ofthose tomorrow!

5. Acquire all the sweeties, craft items and other bits and bobs I have agreed to bring for our dorm times. After first checking through the email that itemises them. If I can locate the email in amongst the gazillion.

6. Sleep for as many hours as possible. Sleep is in short supply in Devon what with early morning leaders’ meetings and late night dorm patrol. My aim is to arrive there *not* completely shattered.

7. Find my shorts with the capacious pockets. And the flip flops. And a raincoat and a couple of fleeces. Doncha just love a summer holiday in the UK?

8. Fill out all the health forms. For me, for the Vicar, for the children. And possibly for the cat aswell; I’m losing track.

9. Obsessively monitor the weather forecast for Barnstaple, praying that we won’t have to book out an entire cinema for an afternoon like we had to that year that Devon was subjected to sheet rain for the almost the entire week of camp.

10. Pray for the team, the kids, the families who send them, the home churches and the Ventures team at CPAS, who all work together to provide a fantastic week of holiday and happiness that can be so important in the Christian walk for so many. My own faith came alive on a CPAS venture in 1981 and I’m praying that all our Pathfinders will grow in faith in Christ next week.

Thankfully we have people staying in the Vicarage whilst we’re away, so we don’t have to work out who’s going to feed (and clear up after) our arthritic cat. I’m leaving early on Friday with Dreamer and we’ll be with the advance troops setting everything up before the kids arrive on Saturday. Then it’s all go until we land home on the following Friday, filled with tales of faith and fun and starting the plans for next year.

We get to go to a lovely beach on camp. We make it a lot busier than this one though…

A couple of weeks ago Dreamer and I and Freddie the Dog took a walk around the local park. It’s bigger than you might think. It even has a couple of lakes. It was looking fabulous, as you can see. So if you were holding off applying for our Ministry Trainee position because you thought you might miss nature, think again. We’re still looking for someone!

And training, and the opportunity to preach and to lead youth work, school assemblies and Sunday services, the experience of living in a busy inner city vicarage with a messy family which includes a couple of teenagers (and a younger one), and a year or two seeing what God is up to in multi cultural West Bromwich? Anyone?

The Shropshire Lad is moving away next month to a new job and to be closer to his beloved. King is spending another year in the attic and so now we are looking for an attic mate for him. Maybe you? Or someone you know?

Our Ministry Trainee scheme has produced three ordinands to date, two of whom are now curates. Another is waiting to hear about his BAP. So it’s a great way to explore vocation in the Church of England – and our Diocesan Director of Ordinands is very friendly and helpful. But you don’t have to be thinking about ordination and others have joined us and taken the skills they’ve learnt into other fields. There are many opportunities to serve in the church – music, technology, visiting, evangelism, teaching the Bible to all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. There is great flexibility for development of existing gifts and discovery of ones you never even knew you had. And it’s lots of fun. And there is cake.

Generally our MTs attend the Midlands Ministry Training Course one day a week and there are opportunities to attend other training conferences and courses through the year. The Vicar meets with the MTs for supervision and there is also training in youth and children’s work with Dreamer, our Families and Community worker. Our church website is a bit undeveloped at the moment after it fell over a few months ago, but details of the post can be found there (and if you can do websites well that would be great too!).

And did I mention the cake?

Muffins and cheese straws NB Church hall table cloth!

Muffins and cheese straws (please excuse the church hall table cloth)

May I Say…

Hello there blog. Sorry it’s been a while. But now it’s May and the sun is shining and I think I should see if my brain links to my typing fingers for more than 140 characters. What news in the Vicarage?

1. I gave some talks to people I’d not met before, which was a first for me. The lovely spouses of Sheffield Diocese asked me to speak to them on Messy Ministry and so I spent last Saturday talking to them and encouraging them to talk to each other about the messy and peculiar world of Vicarage life. I was very much encouraged to meet them and hear of God’s work in Yorkshire. I also got to drive past the church where my parents were married, as the venue we were using was just close to the village where my Yorkshire grandparents used to live.

2. The Ministry of a Messy House is available in German now. I have a copy of Herrlich Unperfekt but my schoolgirl German isn’t quite up to reading it. They even translated my dad’s poem.

3. The book in English is currently being reprinted by IVP, as they are out of stock in the warehouse. There should be another 500 copies available at the end of May. See if you can find one at your local Christian bookshop in the meantime.

4. I have cleared my desk. This momentous achievement means that my head feels a little less messy. Maybe I’ll even start writing things again. Although it’s amazing how attractive housework becomes once there’s something else that you feel you should be doing instead.

I had a fun week last week tweeting on behalf of the Church of England as @OurCofE. I managed to capture my tweets on Storify, so if you missed it, you can check it out over at Storify (I can’t upload it on here because WordPress block it). There are lots of pictures from the parish and tales of day to day life here. It was a great experience to try and share a little of our Vicarage life and what the Church of England looks like in action in the multicultural inner city. The @OurCofE project continues every week with a Christian from somewhere in the CofE tweeting. It makes for a fascinating insight into the wide variety of parishes and ministries within the church.

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