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Posts Tagged ‘change’

At Cake and Chat, our weekly social group of school parents, church folk and random parishioners, we were talking about Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals to change the government’s definition of child poverty. Our parish ranks in the bottom 2.5% of parishes in the country for deprivation, so we are all familiar with poverty and its effects.

The general consensus was that poverty is not absolute – the amount of money someone has does not define how poor their life is, and especially how poor their children’s lives are. We see many parents with little money whose children are doing brilliantly – growing up with aspirations and discipline. And we know others whose children are not doing so well. Some of this is related to the amount of money available, but mostly it is to do with how that money is directed, and many other factors to do with the ability of parents to raise their children to escape poverty.

Jesus said

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. Matthew 26v11

Poverty is in many ways an attitude of mind, but there will always be those who cannot escape it.  As Christians we follow the God who chose poverty so that we might become rich, and that is why we choose to live in the inner city – so we can offer the riches of Christ to those who know the reality of poverty.

Yesterday I listened to Mez McConnell’s story of grace (I’m going to be ordering his book too). He grew up in the most heart wrenching poverty – not just financially, but in almost every way you could think. What transformed him and turned his life around was not a government scheme or piles of cash. It was the gospel.

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I drove into tow-un yesterday morning to get some messages (as the Scots like to say). As I was driving I noticed a few new shops that have opened recently that should give you the flavour of the boom industries in our neighbourhood. They were:

  • A Polish delicatessan. I think we must now have half a dozen of these shops in town now, along with a good few Polish hairdressers and beauticians. A sign of the changing face of immigration in the area – many Eastern Europeans have joined the mix that brings a buzz alongside many challenges and gives us 22 languages spoken in the homes of the children in our church primary school.
  • A new ‘wine’ shop. There are very many off licences in our high street, and all the grocers sell cheap booze along with the chapatti flour. I saw a chap who must have patronised one of the local off licences in the carpark of Lidl at 11am, rolling as he walked and clutching a bottle of Frosty Jack cider.
  • A Brook ‘Young People’s Health Shop’. A sad indicator of the ubiquity of the sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility that is the norm here and that contributes to the brokenness of so many lives around us.

Talking of my trip to Lidl, as I went into the shop a chap charmingly spat generously on the floor by his car, which his wife and child were sitting in. He looked shocked when I mentioned to him that his behaviour was both disgusting and a health hazard.

I didn’t wait to discuss it with him any further though, chicken that I am, and dashed into the shop to stock up on cheap sliced ham and fresh peaches.

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I’m off again today on the Proclamation Trust’s wonderful Minister’s Wives’ Conference. I’m looking forward to being refreshed by teaching from Lizzie Smallwood and Vaughan Roberts, chatting to friends from dawn until dusk and being encouraged by hearing what God is doing in many different places.

It’s hard to believe that it’s a year since I was last at Hothorpe Hall. We have been living in our Vicarage for two years now. We moved in during February half term and the Vicar was inducted on 10th March.

There seems to be a pattern in moving to a new parish: a while ago I blogged about the ‘I hate foreign’ part that happens early on. But a lot of clergy say that the second and third years can be tough – when you start changing things more and your weaknesses become more exposed.  It’s when you begin to really know your congregation and your parish and they you. I think we’ve found that true – last summer felt like quite hard going. But now we are very encouraged by signs of growth.

And only yesterday the Vicar launched a big new initiative: we are aiming to increase the number of small groups. We’ve even had fabulous banners printed up. Designed by a Vicar’s wife, natch.

Does your church have small groups? How are they getting on? Any wisdom could come in very handy…

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So much to do...

Not a question about whether to watch the election coverage on Twitter or listen on the radio, nor about where to start with the housework (the answer to that, of course, is ‘ANYWHERE. NOW.’), but a question about church.  This Sunday I played the keyboard for 3 of the 4 songs in our morning service. This was a big achievement for me, as I failed Grade 5 piano over 20 years ago and haven’t improved much since.

Thankfully, Happy played flute to give people the tune and the Queen and lovely church member BigVoice sang, so my fumblings weren’t too exposed. Happy found it a little stressful, tho’. He was also leading the first half of the service, so he was hopping up and down from the front to grab his flute after introducing the songs.

This is a typical dilemma for us on a Sunday: who should be doing what? In the last year since we arrived in parish I have prepared after-service refreshments,  operated the sound desk (and played the cds which usualy provide our musical accompaniment), led services, run youth bible studies during the sermon, operated the computer that projects our songs and liturgy and played  the keyboard for songs (this is the latest string to my bow). Almost everything apart from preaching and communion, really. I’m so thankful to be unqualified for those. I’ve not yet helped in the creche or Sunday school either, but not because it’s something I don’t feel able to do.

Obviously I can’t do everything I’m able to every Sunday. But sometimes it feels like I should be, as existing leaders are tired and worn out, or just don’t exist. (Anyone know a pianist who fancies joining a friendly inner city West Midlands church?). Somehow we need to work out what’s important and do that well first, and train others, before moving onto the next thing. So we need wisdom AND patience. As does our congregation, who do so much aswell, not just on Sundays, but throughout the week.

My old friend MacGirl is also a vicar’s wife. She wrote to me the other day about their church, where nearly everyone is over 65 and her husband is slowly trying to bring in the changes needed if the church is to live and grow again.

I can’t be in more than one place at a time…So we are taking decisions we hope carefully and wisely so as not to over commit my time…Our brains run through all kinds of scenarios that we would like to implement, but we can only go at the pace the church can cope with. I’m really learning to be patient.

Patience and wisdom always feel like they are in short supply here in our Vicarage. I’m praying that we grow in both these spiritual fruit as we try to make our Sunday services a place where believers and non-believers alike will feel welcomed, built up and challenged. Phew. At least I’ve not just been appointed to the government. Now there’s a job that’s going to need wisdom and patience (from the rest of us).

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My friend DoctorMum is a curate’s wife, shortly to be a Vicar’s wife. She posted this video clip on her Facebook profile. It illustrates perfectly how we all feel about change in church.

This one’s expecially for my dad, who is at one with Mrs B on the peace.

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