The September sunshine is streaming through the Vicarage living room windows as I type. Yesterday the Engineer was off school for a teacher training day and we had a lovely time at the park with his friend, playing in the early Autumn warmth. I’ve been quiet on the blog this month, but not only because of trips to the park and the temptation to sunbathe in a garden that has usually been warmer than the house. In addition, I was writing some other things, explained below.

Our sunny September park

Our sunny September park

At the beginning of the month I took the plunge and put my name forward to stand for election to the General Synod of the Church of England as a representative of the laity of Lichfield diocese. There are 22 candidates for six places, and you’ll find me fifth from bottom of the list and can read my election address. You can also identify me by my surprising middle name. With so many people standing, I am praying for wisdom for the electors and trusting God’s sovereign will to be done throughout the next synod.

And at the end of the month – this weekend just gone – I got to speak about mess to a group of clergy spouses from Chelmsford Diocese at their annual retreat in the beautiful surroundings of Pleshey. Following publication of The Ministry of a Messy House my Twitter friend from the diocese, who organises it, asked me if I’d be the speaker and didn’t seem to mind that my speaking experience was very limited.

It was a real pleasure to meet her face to face and to share some of the things I’d learnt whilst contemplating (and writing about) mess. It was especially good to talk with a group of people who I know are often overwhelmed with extra mess not of their own creating – ecclesiastical, emotional and spiritual. We laughed a lot and encouraged one another. We shared recipes and tips for mess containment. We prayed and we sang and we gathered around the Lord’s table. I enjoyed myself very much and came home encouraged and surprisingly energised, with some new recipes to try and thankfulness to God for the work of the gospel in Essex and East London.

October is kicking off with the excitement of joining the youth group on their first ever weekend away together. I suspect there will be as much chatting as the weekend just gone, but with added running around and screaming. The joy of youth work, eh?

[Edited to add some words I lost in a draft and then found again]

Gone Autumn News

Those of you who follow the progress of Gone, our friend who’s been long term homeless, will be sad to hear that he’s back in prison for a stint. The good news is that he managed over four months in the hostel up the road from us and they’re happy to have him back when he’s released. Sadly, he was in a bit of a state after our two week holiday, which coincided with hostel staff leave. That was when he managed to get himself arrested and we weren’t looped in so couldn’t help at the magistrate’s.

Prison will also be an opportunity for him to dry out a bit in preparation for another go at living in the hostel. We are still optimistic that he will be able to tackle life from his place near us, and we’re praying for him and planning for his release. Do continue to #prayforGone. God is working in his life, and in ours.

Today I snapped a photo of an unexpected churchyard visitor. No idea how he got there, although flytipping is a popular local pastime. He rather looks like he’s been on the sauce, although I think it was milkshake in the bottle next to him. I’m not entirely sure what we shall do with him, as he’s too large to go in our wheelie bin. Still, makes a change from the beer cans.20150917_112508

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!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,812 other followers

%d bloggers like this: