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Gone Away

I used to post pretty often (and on Facebook and Twitter too) about Gone, the gentleman who visited the Vicarage for help and company on a regular basis. There was a comment on yesterday’s post asking about him, but I don’t have much to say I’m afraid. He’s been about on and off. He had a good few weeks where he was housed and bringing his washing over. But that was almost a year ago now, and we’ve not seen him since. One of the hardest parts of Vicarage life can be that intense involvement in people’s lives, coming to love and care for them deeply, and then – like a puff of smoke – they disappear.

I do miss his random visits, even though he takes up an enormous amount of time and energy. We pray for him and from time to time I make a call to see if I can track him down. But mainly we have to trust him to our mighty God, remembering the Lord’s great love for him.

IMG_20200203_171224590-02

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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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I am being The Church of England this week! I have the password and login details and am tweeting as @OurCofE, telling people about what life is like as a Christian in this tiny corner of the world. I’m trying to tell stories about our life here in the Vicarage and about our parish and life here. I’m taking lots of pictures!

Come the end of the week I’ll try and upload some of the pics here on the blog, so I have a good record. Today was really sunny, so everything looks optimistic and jolly around the parish.

Sunshiny parish

Sunshiny parish

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Alphabet BlocksYesterday the Vicar asked me to proofread a document for him. The usual lot of the wife of a dyslexic vicar. So I read through his Ministry Development Review (MDR) form. He has an MDR every two years –  talking through where he’s at with another member of clergy from the diocese and drawing up some goals for the next few years. It’s a useful process for reflection and planning. The form was mostly fine, but right at the beginning of the form it asked him to give:

Date of last ABC

To this question my husband had responded:

Don’t know what this is

Since I didn’t either and my google fu let me down, I shared the problem with Twitter. The Church of England is like any other large organisation – it loves its acronyms. And likes to change them on a regular basis to keep you on your toes. Suggestions from far and wide included the following:

  • Approved By Committee (if this was a long time ago it may indicate ructions in the PCC)
  • Attack By Churchwarden (recent date indicative of alarming breakdown in parish relationships)
  • Another Blooming Chore
  • Absolute Belief Crisis
  • ArchBishop’s Council
  • ArchBishop of Canterbury (and one clever clogs said that the answer to that was Lady Williams of Oystermouth)
  • Appalled By Congregation
  • Attended Baptist Church
  • Apple Boring Contest
  • Appeared Boyishly Charming (alas, this would be quite some time ago for the Vicar, unless you can be boyishly charming without hair)
  • Annual Bishop’s Consultation

Eventually a very helpful person linked me to a diocesan document that explained that ABC stands for The Archdeacons and Bishops Pastoral Conversations. Of course. Obvious. And these ABCs happen after 5 years in post. Which is why the Vicar didn’t have a scooby, as we’ve only been here for 4 years. We’ll know for next time. But I thought that some of the other suggestions were much more fun.

Are there any other options, I wonder?

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Last week I didn’t shop at our local Morrisons as usual. I was making a point to one of The Sun’s biggest advertisers because I support the No More Page 3 campaign. It was a pain to change the routine, but I wanted to continue to add my voice to that of nearly 52,000 people who have now signed the petition. No More Page 3 are asking The Sun to discontinue their degrading and ridiculous habit of placing a large photo of a girl wearing only her pants on Page 3. The campaign has been gathering strength over the last couple of months and I urge you to sign the petition and check out their Facebook page and Tumblr blog. Lucy Anne Holmes, who heads up the campaign, compiled this great video of some interesting conversations with male Sun readers:

On a related issue, Mike Beecham has recently relaunched a campaign for Modesty Wraps – covers for the Lads Mags magazines which are stocked in supermarkets and newsagents. Although some shops have these publications on higher shelves and behind screens, many do not and they can easily attract the attention of children (as well as making adults feel grumpy). I have had success complaining about the positioning of Lads Mags in supermarkets, so let’s see if this campaign can also gain some traction.

You can follow No More Page 3 and Modesty Wraps on Twitter.

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And I’m not talking about the King James bible, also known as the Authorised Version. I have to say that I’m struggling at the moment to decide whether to vote for or against the new voting system called Alternative Vote. And most people I speak to locally are completely indifferent.

I asked the Twitterverse which way a Christian should vote on the matter and the main response I got was that the bible’s only recommended system of election (apart from the Lord’s election of his people, obvs) is by lot (cf Acts 1v26 – for the selection of Matthias as an apostle to replace Judas). Selection by lottery is a system which leaves the choice to God and teaches his people to pray, although I’m not aware of any churches which use that system for selecting their church council these days.

The Christian Institute has a paper on AV which is fairly non-committal – it highlights the issues  and also links to Christians and others for and against.  Christian bloggers who have posted include John Richardson and Peter Kirk – both in the Yes camp.

My current concerns are fairness – is AV fairer than the existing First Past the Post system? And also cost – will a new system involve the country in extra expense for advertising, teaching and counting? And is anyone bothered enough about it to implement a new system? I’ve not met anyone locally yet who is passionately convinced that AV should be brought in for the good of the country.

Tonight I read a helpful article in the New Scientist which mentions a system that is claimed to be ‘an alternative, “perfect” system’, which actually sounds more like the biblical method I mentioned above:

Maclver’s system is identical to FPTP in all but one respect. Voters in each constituency choose a single candidate, but then one voter is picked at random from each constituency and their choice determines which candidate gets elected. The random element means the system isn’t covered by Arrow’s theorem.

It sounds horribly unfair but it would actually produce results that are more proportional to the views of the country as a whole, argues MacIver, as it is simply a random sampling of the population. So if a party has 20% of the national vote, it should end up with roughly 20% of the seats in parliament.

It turns out Maclver’s idea isn’t a new one – the system is known as a random ballot. But it isn’t one of the choices being offered to the UK public.

I liked the way the New Scientist summarises the dilemma for all of us who want to cast a vote in this referendum next week:

Do you want a system that picks a winner with strong support from a minority of voters (FPTP) or one where the leading candidate is vaguely liked by a majority of people (AV)? No amount of equations can help you reach an answer.

And as a Christian the response to the final dilemma has got to be prayer. So that’s what I’m planning to do. How about you?

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Yesterday I attended the (more or less) weekly diary meeting in the Vicarage. This is where we sort the week out, both churchwise and familywise. Monday mornings is our slot for this.

Making sure the message is received can be tricky

It’s not just me and the Vicar at these meetings: Rocky the Ministry Trainee attends too, as does Beauty, who volunteers some time to help the Vicar out with some of his admin. The weeks when this meeting doesn’t happen can get quite stressful as important information like ‘I’m doing a funeral but don’t worry I’ll definitely be back with the car in time for swimming’ doesn’t get communicated. The last couple of weeks have suffered from this lack of diary liaison.

So you will understand that I like it when we have a diary meeting. I’m not sure whether this is normal for clergy wives, but it certainly helps us.  Vicarage life suffers from a serious lack of routine, so knowing what is on this week helps me to keep my head above water. I also usually pop in to the less frequent meeting that the Vicar holds with his leadership team where they plan ahead for the coming months. This can be a great help for our plans as a family, especially as diary and admin aren’t really the Vicar’s strongest subjects.

Whilst we’re talking about Vicarage communications, I had a funny discussion on Facebook yesterday where a whole heap of Vicar’s wives (I think I decided ages ago that the collective noun is a hoot) agreed that the best way to communicate with our husbands is by email.  And this was a group of wives who don’t work outside the home, who could just pop their heads around the study door! I also use Facebook and Twitter from time to time. Little post-it notes get lost in the chaos of the study and verbal communications are immediately forgotten. Best to put it in (electronic) writing every time. How do you communicate as a family and avoid double or triple bookings or just the stress of not quite knowing what is going on and where the car has got to?

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