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Posts Tagged ‘Church of England’

It can be hard to imagine what a Vicar does all day, particularly if you watch Midsomer Murders, where the clergy mainly seem to skulk about looking sinister and then getting murdered. Or doing something nefarious.

So to give you a glimpse of what the Vicar does in our parish, here’s a set of pictures from a couple of days ago, showing you what the Vicar does on a Monday after leading a school assembly and meeting with church staff to plan the week ahead.

He’s got the pump that we’re using temporarily to drain down the basement where the boilers for the church heating are located. The old pump has been broken for a while and this is actually the one from the birthing pool we used to use for baptisms (we now have a shallower, wider heated paddling pool). The old pump worked automatically, but this one has to be switched on when the basement gets flooded. And it can get a bit clogged and mucky. So after draining the basement down following some recent heavy rain, it was brought into our back yard for cleaning, and for making an amusing fountain.

They don’t give you lectures on drain pump maintenance at theological college. Or on boilers for that matter. But they probably should.

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So today we launch into Lent. I already have a couple of disciplines on the go this year – Doing the Next Thing and the February declutter (just about up to date, I’m pleased to say, mainly children’s books that my kids have now grown out of).

So my main focus this Lent is going to be something partly inspired by the 40acts initiative – we have the family wallchart up in the kitchen. And it’s partly inspired by the door to door visiting that Dreamer and I did in the new estate in the parish. Before Christmas, we went to every house with a paper lunch bag containing a home made Christmas decoration, a bag of chocolate coins, details about regular church activities and invitations to our Christmas events. People were surprised and pleased to be given something with no strings attached. We called them Bags of Blessing.

So this Lent my plan is to take 40 Bags of Blessing round to people in the parish – houses and shops and other places. I began today with a family who live opposite us. I often talk to the mum and admire her as she shepherds four lively boys down to the school gate every day. So today I knocked on her door and handed over the bag, which was almost immediately ripped open by the 3 year old, who identified it as containing goodies. Tomorrow I’m going to visit the pharmacy on the High Street with a bag. I’m enjoying planning who I could visit. The next few will contain a few sweeties, a bargain Lidl daffodil plant, a homemade heart decoration and few leaflets about church activities that might be useful. I’m going to adapt them as Lent progresses and depending on who I’m visiting.

What are you up to for Lent?

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My distractibility and butterfly mind can be a creative strength. What they are not, however, is an aid to focussed prayer.

Reading my bible and devotional material is one thing, but a concentrated session of prayer often seems too much to tackle. It has recently, at least.

Do the Next Thing Prayer

A prayer meeting is fine, getting together with my prayer partner is great, but me, praying on my own, that’s too big. So in this year of Doing the Next Thing, I need to learn to commit to doing prayer as the Next Thing.

And so last week I was prompted to return to the best aid I’ve found for reducing distraction in prayer – the most excellent PrayerMate App (also available for Apple products). I have my PrayerMate sorted out so that I start with reading things – a psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, the Church of England Collect for the day. Then I pray for family, friends and further afield. I’d forgotten I’d set my prayers up like that, it had been so long. It wasn’t as scary as I remembered, nor as difficult to do.

I was gently eased into prayer, and I was reminded of the Puritan injunction to ‘pray until you pray‘, which I first read about in Don Carson’s terrific book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation. I’ve found this to be wise advice. Prayer takes work and it takes time to find the focus required. So beginning my prayer time using written prayers I don’t have to think about too much helps me to start praying. And once I start praying, finding my own words to keep praying seems easier.

PrayerMate got a shiny new update just a few days ago, making it even better to use and prettier to look at. One of the lovely teenagers from my dorm at our summer holiday venture bounced up to me on Saturday to tell me that she’d downloaded the app. And she’d even used it a bit too. So if a distracted 13 year old can use it, so can I. And maybe you too? Do the Next Thing – Do It with Prayer.

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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]

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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…

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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)

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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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