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So I mentioned earlier this week that our attic is full for this coming academic year… And then I had a tweet from another vicar’s wife who doesn’t exactly have an attic, but does have a space for a Ministry Trainee at their church in St Bees. So I said I’d get the word out. Their location is totally different to ours – rural Cumbria (with seaside!), and there is a lot of work with a local school involved – it looks like a great post for the right person. Cliff, the vicar, wrote to me with some further and better particulars of the post, which might whet your appetite:

St Bees is an ancient church complete with a famous dead crusader and a legendary Irish princess, but with a desire today to bring the Gospel to our community. The vicar is Cliff Swartz, an American who with his wife Katie moved to England in 1997. They’ve lived and worked in Cambridge and East Yorkshire, and had some years back in the States for boarding school ministry in New England and parish ministry in Manhattan. Each time they’ve moved, God has blessed them with a child, which means five children over their seventeen years of married life. They are now never going to move again. Cliff’s wife Katie is the one who would really give all the wisdom to the trainee, but don’t tell the wardens.

Cliff is vicar of the Priory Church in St Bees, which is moving along from middle of the road gently declining Anglican village church, by introducing a ministry with a greater focus on teaching the Bible to all ages and in all settings, and so it is gently growing and reaching its community, by God’s grace. The parish has been excited to have its first ministry trainee this past year. He has been encouraged to stay for the optional second year. We hope to add a second ministry trainee, and would prefer a young woman, but the right person is more important. Twenty pupils went along to a Gloddaeth Holidays camp (glod.co.uk) this summer from St Bees School, and the youth work in the parish is getting off the ground, so there is lots to do in that area. We are small enough to craft an experience to meet the gifts of the trainee, and mix up work at the Priory Church, St Bees School and the North West Partnership which offers the weekly training course.

Housing and term time meals are provided in staff housing at St Bees School. A grant is made available for living expenses along with ministry expenses and training expenses paid by the church council. We are a small outfit, where a broad experience and a safe environment to learn and grow can be achieved. We live in a beautiful, but remote, place, and so insist on the participation of ministry trainees both in the North West Partnership scheme as well as the Living Room, which is the 20-something Christian group run with a church in partnership with us here. And you’ll be home for Christmas.

There is a proper advert that Cliff sent me but I can’t get it to load up, but you can download an application form from their church website or email him vicar [at] stbeespriory [dot] org. BytheSea came to us via this blog last year because the Children’s Worker at his church is a reader. Maybe you or someone you know might like to work with Cliff and Katie…

Ministry and the seaside, an enticing combination

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So, this week

  • The Queen started secondary school. We are all quite enjoying the early mornings but are considering investing in coffee producers and matchstick makers. She is having fun meeting lots of new people and being all grown up and responsible. She has not missed the bus nor lost her phone. Yet.
  • A house for sale about 100yds from our front door was raided by the police. They found it full of cannabis plants. The police took the plants and left the pots outside the house. Might see if we could use some!
  • Our new Ministry Trainees, Radiohead and Sweet Tooth moved in. They have survived so far – even with the children bouncing around all over their attic home. We are very much looking forward to getting to know them as they serve in the church and experience Vicarage life close up.
  • The Vicar spent a long time at a Deanery Standing Committee and nearly everyone on Twitter suggested that those meetings would be a lot better (ie shorter) if the committee did stand and not sit.
  • The Queen has been asked to give a short speech at the local library when they officially celebrate their refurbishment. The mayor will be there and everything. We are just waiting for permission from the school to come through.
  • We played tennis at the local courts. All the courts were being used, something I have never seen before. It was the last day of the holidays, and sunny, but I also suspect an Olympic/Paralympic effect. Good for Lord Coe.
  • Our friend Nick Barr-Hamilton was featured in a post on Archbishop Cranmer’s blog. You should read it.
  • Gone has not been seen here for nearly two weeks now. So we have thrown away the mouldy and smelly blankets he was using to keep himself warm when he slept under our hedge. I expect he’s either in prison or has managed to find some housing (a housing person came to the door and spoke to Rocky a few weeks ago, looking for Gone, but we don’t know anything more than that). It’s rather strange to have someone so much in your life, but no real means of finding out what has happened when they go. Do pray for him.

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Following up from a blog post I wrote nearly 2 years ago(!), I’ve just been putting together some suggested prayers for our church primary school. I used some of the suggested ones in the blog post and some others I sourced from around the web. This is the selection I’ve given them for first thing in the school day:

Good morning Lord
This is your day.
We are your children.
Show us your way. Amen.

God bless the sky that is above us
the earth that is beneath us
your image deep within us
the day that lies before us.
Amen.

Lord, teach us how to keep your day
And lead and bless us all the way. Amen.

For this new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends.
For everything your goodness sends,
We thank You, dearest Lord.
Amen.

Jesus, gentle Shepherd,
Bless your lamb today;
Keep me in your footsteps,
Never let me stray.
Guard me through the daytime.
Every hour, I pray;
Keep my feet from straying
From the narrow way.
Amen.

(Sung)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning,
New every morning.
Great is your faithfulness O Lord.
Great is your faithfulness.

I found a lovely but very amateur clip of the Calvary 1st Nigerian choir singing this – the singing is gorgeous but the video is rather out of focus so I suggest you look at something else in your internet browser whilst you listen.

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The kids eventually agreed to go in the costumes they said they would yesterday morning, although the Queen switched from the purple dress (which had been mine and she said was too baggy) to a blue one of hers (which is now too short and she had to wear with jeggings). And didn’t they turn out lovely? Bit of a pity that the Engineer’s (sorry) Mr Munroe’s eyes are hidden, but he was very tired after two nights away on a school trip. Yay for World Book Day!

Dr Who, Violet Baudelaire and Mr Munroe ready for action

Rather sadly, a good number of their schoolmates weren’t dressed up so a teacher from school and I discussed issuing some suggestions next year – aided by the growing list from Wednesday’s post.

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If you are a parent with a child in primary school, you may today be panicking about World Book Day tomorrow. This is the occasion when many schools encourage kids to come in dressed as a literary character. My three are going as:

  1. Violet Baudelaire from the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events. This involves her wearing a purple dress and tying her hair with a purple ribbon. She is currently not keen on wearing the long black wig I bought because it isn’t quite as she imagined Violet’s hair looks (‘too long and curly’ apparently).
  2. Dr Who. Not very literary I’m afraid, but the Joker is obsessed and has been reading the annuals repeatedly. We obtained a second hand tweed jacket for him to accompany his sonic screwdriver and the bow tie he was given for Christmas.
  3. The Engineer’s outfit was trickier, involving the use of fun fur and a sewing machine. He is going as Mr Munroe from the Ottoline stories.

However, for those panicking this afternoon (as I usually do – this year is completely out of character for me), I give the following suggestions of easy outfits to cobble together before the morning, if your children are persuadable, as, alas, mine often aren’t.

  • Roald Dahl characters. Charlie (from the Chocolate Factory) just needs a golden ticket and normal clothes. Or Mrs Twit involves a headscarf and walking stick. George could go in normal clothes with a bottle of medicine and James could take a picture of a peach. Matilda can just take a pile of books!
  • Narnia children who could go in anything looking vaguely 1940s/50s eg shorts and knitted sweaters.
  • Horrid Henry characters (sorry) – Moody Margaret or Henry himself, for example. They will need to wear a scowl.
  • [Late edit] Captain Underpants. All you need is a cape (or piece of cloth) and undies worn over trousers. Would mainly appeal to 8 year old boys.

That’s a few off the top of my head. Any other top last minute outfit tips?

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This week I finally put into action a project that I’ve been wanting to organise ever since our friends the Rocks showed us their fantastic puppet theatre constructed from PVC plumbing pipes. After a bit of internet research we decided that we’d try and make a fairly large theatre, as we usually have two puppets in the sketches that we do in church and school.

A quick trip to our local plumber’s merchants and £34 later (after they gave us a special discount) and we had the piping for a theatre that’s about 2m high at the back, 1.4m at the front (for a kneeling adult or standing child) and 1m deep. Our plumber’s merchant didn’t advise gluing the thin-walled 32mm piping we had, so we had to cut small joining pieces to connect the T-pieces and 90 degree bends.

Yesterday morning we had one of our holiday Cake and Chat sessions. These are pretty much the same as the ones in term time, except they start later (for holiday lie-ins) and we have more kids with us. So we took all the pipes and connecting pieces down to the church hall, together with a couple of hacksaws, and got down to work. Rocky was the man with the saw, and we had a team which included his fiancee Bee and her mum, and various children who particularly enjoyed applying washing up liquid to the joints to make it easier to connect the pipes in.

Once we’d assembled everything, we found that the frame was still a little wobbly (especially at the beginning when we were still missing the strut for the middle of the front). We will be applying some silicone (the sort you use to line the side of the bath) to the T-pieces, which should stop the rotation that caused the wobble by fixing the connectors to the pipes.

Bee and her mum have kindly offered to make some proper curtains (today’s were a random selection from my materials box) and also a kit bag to carry the rather unwieldy piping, so we are hoping to have everything looking pukka in the next couple of weeks. I’ll blog the first official appearance of the theatre so you can see the final product.

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Not my own, you understand. I am definitely morning-challenged and I have a battle with myself every day as I force myself to leave the cosiness of bed. But we have recently discovered the wonders of children with alarm clocks.

Some folk complain about how their kids are always up at 5am or some other hour before God has risen. But ours have always been blessed with a good sleeping-in instinct. This was great when they were tiny, but now that they need to be up for school it has begun to be somewhat problematic. The Queen, if left to her devices, will sleep until 9am. Not good when school starts at 8.45am and there are things like getting dressed and breakfast to be dealt with.

So we have been waking our children in the mornings and cranking them up for the school day. It had got particularly bad with the Queen as she likes to feel in charge of as much of her life as possible and recently, she has felt very strongly that getting up should be her domain. This means that she does not take kindly to being woken up, given a morning cuddle, having her clothes presented to her, having her curtains opened or any other morning activity being done for her by others. As you can imagine, there have been a few stressful mornings, when Mum or Dad appearing and trying to help has had the opposite of the desired effect.

Then I had a very helpful conversation with Glamourpuss, who also has a strong willed daughter, who was also getting grumpy in the mornings. Glamourpuss told me how she gives Wildchild her phone, with its alarm set. Wildchild is in charge of waking up to the alarm and bringing her mum the phone every morning. So I went straight out and bought an alarm clock for the Queen. We’re now a week in and our mornings have been transformed. The boys have one too, which has been helping them to rise, but it’s the Queen’s attitude that has undergone the greatest transformation. She has been delightful in the mornings – up and dressed without any shouting needed, and this morning she also went and spent time reading her new devotional book, praying and looking at her bible. All before breakfast.

Now a week is obviously not a habit, but I’m so glad that one of the big battles in our house seems to have disappeared. And so simply. Now I just need to find out how she bounces out of bed immediately the alarm goes off and copy her…

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