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Posts Tagged ‘Proclamation Trust’

Blogging is a funny old thing. Sometimes I can focus myself and write something every day. Other times I can’t think of anything to say. And then time goes by and there seems to be too much to say. So today I’m just going to say a bunch of random things and am hoping that will clear the blogjam that I’ve been experiencing the last week or so.

  • My kitchen was full of smoke earlier because I had a sourdough loaf in a very hot oven. First time for sourdough in ages too – perhaps my blog has become sourdough-fueled and I hadn’t noticed?
  • I have just agreed to lead a seminar at the Proclamation Trust Ministers Wives conference I’m going to in March. I’m more of a writer than a speaker so if you have any top tips for speaking and seminaring I’d be very grateful to have them.
  • I have been debating with myself about how much self-publicity is appropriate for a Christian writer. I don’t want to be a blog bore about the book. But having said that I’ve had a couple of very kind reviews and wanted to tell people (they were from Eddie Arthur and Deb). The recent Christian New Media Conference, with its awards for Christian bloggers and tweeters and websites makes me wonder about this too. Should Christians promote themselves and award prizes to one another? How much self-promotion is appropriate? I am still thinking about this.
  • Our area has a very low breastfeeding rate (around 50% against national average of over 80%). It’s not in the new trial where mums are going to be paid to breastfeed, but a friend who is breastfeeding has found herself singled out for being odd at clinics. Not exactly an encouragement. Tchuh.
  • I am going on an outing with Year 5 on Friday. Wish me luck. Thankfully it does not involve going on any rides.
  • I have about a squillion books waiting to be reviewed on the blog. They are sitting in a pile on my desk, scowling at me. Sorry if it’s your book that’s waiting.
  • Someone from the BBC asked us if we’d like to have a documentary made about life in the Vicarage. We thought about it for a nanosecond or two. And declined, like sensible people who worry about cameramen tripping over the clutter in the hall and generally having too much to do already. Wonder if anyone else is brave enough to agree?
  • We had a great firework party last week with our youth group and a couple of other groups. The weather that day was terrible, but thankfully the rain held off whilst the bonfire was lit and then returned in a deluge just at the end, so that everyone left promptly.
Vicarage Fireworks

Vicarage Fireworks

That’s enough wittering. Perhaps some more coherant blogging will flow now.

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What do wives of Christian ministers do when they get together, other than talk (obvs)? Last week at Hothorpe Hall we managed to take in some great bible teaching, pray together, swap tips for local church ministry and still had time to walk in the Spring sunshine (some of round fields, others between charity and coffee shops in Market Harborough). Er, and there was eating and a frock swap and crafty type things.

I also took time to assess the important question of what Vicar’s wives are wearing. A while ago I blogged on this and thought I would revisit it when I observed this year’s trends. So I am able to share with you that the current Vicarage/Manse look is likely to include one or more of the following:

  • Long boots with skinny jeans or leggings (very popular)
  • Converse sneakers (when boots don’t quite work)
  • Long sleeved t-shirt worn under short sleeve tunic or similar
  • Scarves are definitely in (possibly in place of necklaces, which were less in evidence than previously)
  • Fewer gilets this year (perhaps because of the milder weather, or people had remembered that the conference centre is about 20 degrees warmer than our houses).

Some of the essentials for this year's must-have Vicar's wife outfit

 The enjoyable frock swap run by Frock Chick Hilary Nicholls was a fun way for us to get rid of not-quite-right-for-me clothes – the wide-legged jeans and short boots etc. We were able to get new clothes ourselves and also think about whether such a thing would work as a women’s event back home. I’m not sure a clothes swap would work here (our women are probably too diverse in age and fashion sense), but I think an accessories one would. Seems like a fun option for an evangelistic event at church – just add refreshments and a short talk and you’re done.

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I’ll have lots to blog next week when I get back from Hothorpe Hall where I’m on the Proclamation Trust’s Minister’s Wives conference. I’m being very well fed on a diet of Ezekiel, Luke, tales of minister’s wives from history, seafood pasta and cake.  I didn’t bring a laptop, so I’m using the steamdriven conference centre computer and I don’t want to spend too much time online. There are too many lovely people here to talk to and a wonderful bookstall and space to pray and think.

I was going to upload a great song video we watched yesterday but the Jurassic system isn’t letting me show it to you. So instead, I’m going to commend Open Doors to you and their campaign to get those who are able to write letters of encouragement to Christians around the world who are suffering for their faith. We are writing some this afternoon here at Hothorpe. It’s such an encouragement for us to be here that we want to share some of that with brothers and sisters in far more difficult situations.

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So I’m back from the PT Ministers Wives Conference. I arrived home on Thursday afternoon last week full of beans. This year the conference was rather less densely packed with sessions than previously, so I felt I’d had lots of time to digest the excellent bible teaching (of which more in another post later).

A key phrase came home with me – from a seminar I attended on ‘Bridging the Gospel Gap – Applying the Gospel to ourselves and others’. That phrase was ‘Who is the LORD (in this situation)?’ In the seminar we thought through a fairly trivial example – how we would react when stuck in traffic on the way to get test results from the doctor’s, considering how our reactions under stress indicate who or what is most important in our lives.

I’m so pleased I’d learnt that, as I came home to a couple of tough situations,  both personally and in the parish. I am so grateful to have been prepared by God to remember that He is sovereign in everything. My small challenges are nothing, of course, to those faced by many, and this week the situation in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami puts my life’s gentle meander into perspective. But the truth that God is the LORD in everything helps me to trust him in my minor situations and not be ruled by them. And that truth helps me to pray for Japan and the people there as they mourn and as they search for meaning in the chaos.

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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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Obviously, you recognise my quotation from Psalm 121:

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

And of course, as a Christian, I look to the LORD when things are difficult and when I need help. But God uses other people to provide some of the human comfort and support I need in my Christian life and in our ministry. One of the ways that we can get that support is through formal support structures.

The other day I had a leaflet in the post about ‘Clergy Spice’, which is a programme of events run through the year by our diocese for clergy spouses. The admirable wives of our bishops and archdeacons and a few others run this and also produce a Clergy Families handbook.

But I must confess that I have never been to one of their events, but not because I don’t need support. The thing is that I already had some great support structures in place before we came to Lichfield Diocese.

Apart from my wonderful husband, who helps and encourages me daily, I am involved in three groups that enable me to share the joys and frustrations of Christian life in safety and support.

The oldest group dates back to before I even met the Vicar. I was in my early twenties and was invited by a few girlfriends to join them on a weekend away. That group met initially for some talks on the Christian life and to pray together. Twenty years later, nearly all of us are still meeting twice a year and continuing to pray for one another (we circulate a prayer letter three times a year). Not all of us are married or in paid Christian work (or married to people that are), but as the years have passed, this group has delighted us all more and more as we’ve seen the Lord’s work in us and through us.

The second support structure I tap into is the Proclamation Trust Minister’s Wives conference. I started attending these when the Vicar was still in training, and I find the refreshment of three nights away with some excellent bible teaching a great tonic. That’s the place where I catch up with folk from theological college days and make new friends who are in similar situations. Last year I was very encouraged to meet someone whose husband is in a small Black Country church like ours. Because we are in different dioceses we’d never come across each other, but the conference enabled us to share some of our experiences. I have other Vicar’s wife friends who go along to the New Wine Women in Leadership conferences, which are similarly encouraging (but possibly with a bit more singing!).

The third ministry support structure I’m involved in is an annual reunion of the group who left Oak Hill Theological College in the same year as us. I organise this and last year we held it here in our parish. Less travelling but more catering responsibility! The first couple of years after we left a pretty large group of us gathered but in subsequent years there have been fewer folk, but always at  least 15 of us, including children. We meet, share something of what has been going on in our churches, eat, go for a walk and then pray and break bread together. Alongside the meet-up I nag everyone to send prayer and praise requests, so we also have an annual prayer letter which helps folk just to feel in touch as well as pray for one another. Writing this reminds me that I need to get an email out this week about the reunion and prayer letter – we’re meeting in less than a month!

I guess I also use social media (Twitter and Facebook) for support. Last week I mentioned on Facebook that I was thinking about whether to change our Sunday school resources and I had some wonderful help from friends who’ve been (or are now) in similar quirky churches with fluctuating Sunday schools.

So I feel I’m blessed to be pretty content with my support structures. I know that I have enough discreet people who know me well who I could turn to if things were sticky in parish or just if I felt fed up. But I know that others struggle in this area.  I was interested by some comments on Twitter recently from folk (I think mainly ordinands’ wives) who felt a need for some better support.

Where do you find your support in ministry? I notice that there doesn’t seem to be a non-evangelical equivalent of the Proc Trust or New Wine. Are non-evangelicals less good at networking and supporting one another?  Or is it a personality thing? Are there other conferences out there if your diocese isn’t running things or they aren’t convenient for you? Maybe I’ll see you at the Proc Trust conference in March. But book soon – they sold out last year!

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I have a few hours before I leave for my four day clergy wives conference. It’s a real tonic to spend time in the company of other Christians in similar situations and to hear solid uninterrupted bible teaching without worrying about who’s missing from church or whether the lunch is going to burn.

In the meantime I thought I’d let you in on happenings over the last few days:

  1. I spent most of Friday morning on the phone to the Benefits Agency on Gone’s behalf. It took two hours to ascertain that Gone had recently made applications for Incapacity Benefit and Job Seekers Allowance but hadn’t managed to actually claim any money. There was a computer foul up that meant that the claim he now needs to make for Employment Support Allowance couldn’t be processed over the phone. Everyone on the phone was very kind and helpful but Gone’s situation is so far gone that he seems to drop out of the bottom of the net. They have sent us an ESA claim form and that project is looming now.
  2. I did manage to arrange a crisis loan for Gone, and went with him to the local job centre to collect it. The people in there were again very kind and helpful, especially the manager, to whom I’d spoken previously in my negotiation of the system. So Gone had some money on Friday, the first he’d had in about a month. He spent some of it on a copy of his birth certificate. He’s struggled recently with his total lack of id, and he really wanted to have some. I went with him to the registry office – he’s very anxious and struggles to deal with formal situations.
  3. A local Christian GP came to see Gone at our house and has written to Betel saying that Gone is healthy enough to go there. Now to speak to them, check all is ok and arrange for him to travel there and stay.

I’m back on Thursday. One friend had suggested that I blog from the conference and I might check in if I can. If not I’ll report back later this week.

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