A number of folk have told me that they miss the posts from Mr. Dog….. so I have promised to get some updates done….. 

Mr. Dog a.k.a. Barney here…. The garden has been barricaded to make me think…. or so the Boss says. 

Where’sLez says the grass will grow back but the Boss was having none of it and now I have to hurdle or go round rather than skidding the length of the garden and turning it into a mud slide. 

Where’sLez does not seem to like it when I walk on the pale grey carpet after I have skidded up the garden after catsssssssssssss…. 

I wonder why?

Barney aka Mr Dog here… this morning I has my best alien look headingvinto the dark. Nobody to scare today like I did last week appearing from the gorse in the mist in my green halo with the green glow ball…. I’m sure the poor walker thought he was being abducted… but then he did not have head torch like the boss…. who picked him out in a searchlight beam.
Mr. DOG aka Barney here: two other dog walkers said, “what a well trained dog!” I eas very proud… but I find not look at the boss’ face in case he said something about the way I pull on the lead especially when I see a cattttt!
 

Where’sLez has strict rules for all dogs about not going on the furniture except for my window chairs in the front room so I can see out…… but I was allowed u and to be a lapdog!   I liked it for about 90 seconds and then I wanted to play ball….. 

Mr Dog’s musings: we went back to the beach yesterday Where’Lez and the Boss both came for a change and took it in turns to throw the ball. They seemed very interested in bits of coloured glass that they collected….. I couldn’t understand it it, after all I am far more interesting. Where’sLez thought Nick might like a picture of the glass but I think he would rather take me for a walk.
 
 
 
 
 

January 7th

A Tale of Two Funerals – You Can’t Please Everybody All of the Time… 

So 34 years in Lay Ministry and now18 months of funeral ministry and there is always something to learn, not just from texts, conversations and courses but from the ‘job’ itself. I have taken two funerals in the last 7 days which were hugely contrasting. 

Today’s funeral at Treswithian Downs Crematorium was packed with standing room only for a popular lady who had died of cancer over the Christmas period after a two year struggle. I was requested as minister as I had taken the funeral for her mother nine months ago and knew the family.  The funeral director sent me the details with the chosen music etc. and I arranged a visit to gather information. I arrived with time to pray for the family and to greet guests and it went very smoothly, and I was in my comfort zone, if a little nervous as always. Afterwards I spoke to the immediate family and then slipped away leaving the huge group of people to chat with each other.  Job done!

This was a far cry from the previous week which I count as the least satisfactory of all the funerals I have done when, being in my own church, it really should have been the opposite. 

The deceased  was a lovely, serene and faithful member of the  congregation until a combination of health issues and the infirmity of age took her to residential care, complicated in the last few years with the visiting problems around the Covid Pandemic.  I have an indelibly stamped image of her white hair and generous smile in the fifth pew from the front- so it was a huge privilege to be asked to do the funeral service.  I had been asked a year ago if I would do it when the time came.

I was reassured that it was to be an unfussy commemoration which suited me well and I prepared in my usual prompt meticulous  way agreeing everything with the family early on – even the words of the eulogy /address. The screen in church would have a slide show and pictures would be sent and reflective music was chosen and stored as MP3 files ready to use the church sound system

Now in hindsight I should have realised that it was going to be a tough one when the funeral directors, instead of sending me the letter of details as the person taking it, instead  sent to the PTO priest who had been added at the suggestion of the Funeral Director.  My name was a handwritten addition. It is no wonder we lay ministers feel somewhat second class but that’s Anglican life.  I should add at this point that I get on really well with the PTO priest and the funeral director -and they are lovely people,  but they have a huge (and daunting)  fund of knowledge and experience and  a different vision and style to me, so this  became an exercise in trying to incorporate everything and please everyone. 

Mostly, all was well and I knew what I was doing – until the changes began to be sprung upon me to make life more interesting. Isn’t,  “may you live in interesting times!”  an old curse?

As mentioned, the (retired) funeral director spoke to the family and suggested that they might like to include the PTO priest in the service and he in turn suggested they might like to have the chaplain from the care home as well so suddenly I had to apportion parts of the service to them.

  • PTO priest –tasked to lead the intercessions and so say some words of sending off at the hearse as it set off for the crematorium as there would be no service there.
  • The chaplain of the care home- I tasked with reading psalm 23 and a poem.
  • The ladies singing group – would be in the choir stalls and sing one of the hymns standing socially separated in the chancel.
  • The grandson who would perform an original song for his grandmother but would need an amplifier, microphone and assorted cables.
  • A slide show on the church screen of photographs, requiring my laptop and making sure the connection worked.
  • An organist to play the two hymns and some music beforehand.
  • A connection from the laptop to the sound system to play the MP£ files for entry and exit music…

So I went in early in the morning with the deceased son-in-law and set up the keyboard, the laptop and various other things.

I was not really prepared for questions such as “what do you want us to wear?” from our PTO… who normally has his own flamboyant style. I wanted to say, “Well that’s up to you” but instead we gave time to a discussion and I think he decided on a dalmatic, in the end.  I googled dalmatic to check and the range of images left me none the wiser but I was reassured by the words “not done up as a Christmas tree”  

As there were eleven in the family I had arranged for them to sit on chairs at the front of the church with the coffin where the nave altar usually stands so that it would be an intimate atmosphere however again there were complications. 

  • The PTO priest suggested to the family that there should be holy water and incense- so these were added to the ceremony with him swinging the thurible and the care home chaplain flicking holy water with a small evergreen branch!
  • The PTO priest asked if we should have the catafalque candles. In St Andrews there are half a dozen, three feet high and foot thick and have to be lifted with two hands. My answer as always was, “well if that is what the family want….. “  When finally positioned around the coffin they had the effect of making a barricade which was not really what I wanted and in effect prevented me from gathering the immediate family at the committal.
  • The funeral directors team took much persuasion, first by me and then by the church warden that they had no need to put out reserved notices because the family would occupy the seats…. It was a tad ‘jobsworth’, “well we have been told to reserve seven pews for family” with the added silent implication that that was what they were going to do whether we agreed or not as they laid out the reserved signs anyway.
  • Various of the Funeral Director’s team were also working behind the scene making decisions about where the coffin would come in and leave the church – which I had already agreed with the family. It would come in the main door and travel down the church to the nave for the service. After the committal we would leave by the side door in procession with the family because it was
    • a) near
    • b) meant I could have folks leaving through two exits (as is common sense for covid-tide)
    • c) there was a ramp rather than awkward granite steps which meant it was safer for all to negotiate! 

My usual prayerful pre service preparation was now in tatters.

My laptop which had had a recent Microsoft update had changed its power setting to going to sleep after 5 minutes even when plugged in… so every time the image on the screen turned to that dreadful blue projector light I had to go and wake it up again. 

At the hearse by the gate, one minute from beginning the service the funeral director asked, “so you have the music?”

I hadn’t! I had completely forgotten about it and the family had the cds which of course they had not brought.  It was somewhere on the laptop but I had no time to sort it out and no time to plug in another cable…..  so I nipped in, apologised to the family and told the organist to cover.  Bless him, he did!

Now you can imagine that by now my normal healthy pre service nervousness is a full-on adrenaline fuelled jitter which meant by the time I got to the eulogy I actually managed to leave a page out of the middle!  

I had announced in the address how we would be leaving the church, the order of the procession and that when everyone was outside our PTO priest would say a few words to begin the final journey   which would be the signal for the driver to set off down the road with the hearse – at which point we would all wave goodbye and call out of we wanted to.

  • Crucifer
  • PTO priest wielding thurible
  • Me
  • The coffin
  • The Chaplain with the 11 family members.
  • The ladies in the singing group
  • Everyone else to leave by the main door and stand on  the path outside or on the steps.

 In the event this idea was hijacked somewhat by the PTO priest who walked backwards down the road in front of the moving hearse intoning funeral liturgy.   By the time he had finished, the hearse turned the corner and vanished leaving no time for waving etc….. and the crowd slowly dispersed.  I was underwhelmed!

The danger here is to dwell too much on what went wrong rather than what went right and the pastoral welfare of those attending – after all it was not about me! 

None of the ‘stuff’ really mattered, (that was all the mad paddling of the swan’s feet below the surface) because it was a fitting, reflective and heart-felt commemoration of a wonderful lady in which everyone took part. I spoke to the family in church the Sunday after and commented that it was not quite what I had had in mind and nether was it in theirs but it worked out alright – the highlight being the grandson’s song which was brilliant.

So what did I learn?

  1. Don’t try to please everyone- focus on the family and stick to your guns.
  2. Never believe that I have got things under my control…..
  3. I prefer doing crematorium services where the format is much less flexible.
  4. If asked to do a Church service again I will be reluctant to have to manage a cast of others  so I think more communication with the family asking each time, for each change, “are you sure that is what you really want?”
  5. People have their own set ideas about what should and should not happen in services, especially the ‘professionals’ and managing them means going in with a clear set of objectives and a steely but quiet, polite assertiveness.

What are your best / worst funeral moments?

Resolutions

So another New Year and my resolution from 1967 is kept once more; never to make any more New Year resolutions. 

If something is worth doing, or worth giving up then it is too important to leave it to a once a year attempt and should be attended to right away. After all God gives us infinite chances and has infinite patience and should we fail he will pick us up, dust us off and set us going again..

Life on the Cornish breadline – Unheard Do give a little time to this article about poverty in St Ives. It is probably something of which you are perfectly aware but it may give useful sermon material for the new year.  There seems to be little resolution from the powers that be to resolve the issues around poverty in our land and in our county.

 

The Nativity Scene at ST Andrews- joined by playdough figures representing all those present at the Children's Service on Christmas Eve.

96 CV  Thought for the Day – New Year

by  Didymus (Peter Coster Licensed Lay Minister) 

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men: And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”  (John ch.1)

“ARCH”

 Archbishop of Capetown

Primate of South Africa

On the day after Christmas, another light that shone in the darkness left us, taking the hand of God, Jesus Christ.  Following in our Lord’s footsteps, this light faced the darkness of apartheid, and by faith, humility, bravery and love, overcame it.  Christianity is the poorer today.

Desmond Tutu was a man of absolute faith, with a sharp wit, a keen sense of humour and a cackle of a laugh, often deflecting anger.  He faced the evil of apartheid and all of the thuggery that was used to enforce it, and defeated it.  There were many instances of threats of violence, and even murder, which he received over the years.  In his remarkable 90 years, the priest known to many as “Arch” achieved a relatively peaceful dissolution of the cruel colour discrimination practised in South Africa by the nationalist ruling party. 

A Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1984 for his work.  He was Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1995 to 1998, where people came to confess their past deeds and express regret, bringing different sections of the community together.

A wonderful man.  One felt that, however many thousands of miles lay between us, we were his, and he was ours.  We were part of his spiritual flock.

The Gospel reading for Evensong is from Matthew’s second chapter, in which the consequences of the visit of the three wise men unfolds – the anger of a frustrated Herod, the slaughter of the Innocents, (remembered on the 28th), and the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt.  Herod died within four years, and it was safe to return to Israel, and the Holy Family settled in Nazareth, in Galilee.

There is about Matthew’s Gospel a concern to bring the narrative into close alignment with OT scripture, and the whole of chapter two is unique to Matthew.  However, there are unique events recorded in the other three Gospels, certainly in John’s, and in 2000 years or so many fine minds have analysed and challenged the Gospels, not all from a Christian viewpoint but historical.

We remembered John on 27th, something I always regret since the fourth Gospel is so important that it deserves a wider study, and not to be buried under the Christmas aftermath!  John describes many miracles, including the first at Cana, and probably the last, raising Lazarus.  He gives us the teaching of the True Vine, of the Farewell Discourse, and finally the post-Resurrection events.  In all this, he tells us who Jesus was several times and the importance of the spiritual dimension of life. 

AMEN

 

Art-work by Reader John Wallis

Safeguarding Blog part 2- How we have gone about it in the Redruth Benefice.


Since the last blog I have met for a chat with Sarah and Sue from the diocesan safeguarding team that was both positive and reassuring  that we were on the right track. It was also really helpful to see how aware hey were of parish problems and how systems are evolving and being  tweaked all the time to make safeguarding possible in the vast range of church scenarios.  I suggested that it would be really helpful for churches to see some scenarios of how other churches are working and to be able to select the one that is nearest to their situation in terms of demographic, so this blog is how we have coped with it in Redruth.

As a result of the team council meeting and a few things responded to we have completed level one of the dashboard and moved on to level two! Whooppee!

In last week’s blog I wrote about the deep joy of tackling the Safeguarding dashboard and preparing for a team council meeting to  agree the latest missive and regulations from the national safeguarding team on safer recruiting which has to by done by January 4th.

Since then I have had the meeting and was pleased that there was so much positivity across four of the five churches with a commitment to training and responding to my bit of the agenda. The fifth church is a small congregation with little energy to spare who need support from the rest of us- which I think is a scenario being played out in places across the diocese.

Trying to do everything to the letter of the law / regulations / guidance is not always possible, practical or feasible but finding a pragmatic approach to safeguarding and safer recruitment that follows the spirit of the task is possible.

We have 5 churches, which is 5 DCCs and 3 PCCs – but the most practical way to deal with safeguarding and recruitment is through the Team Council that represents everyone even though it is not the statutory body.  The PPCs can have their say if they want to at the meeting following the team council – although I do not envisage any issues arising!

Having said that however, I did speak to one poor beleaguered Reader from elsewhere in the diocese who was at her wits end with her PCC because they have refused all safeguarding training and have a church warden who says they will resign and do the job without a title if the are forced to do the training because they consider it a waste of time and money.  I suggested that perhaps they need a face to face session for C Zero with their PCC.

Each of the churches, in theory has its own safeguarding officer although one is so small and beleaguered that their poster refers folk to me as safeguarding coordinator for the Benefice or to one of the leads in the other churches.

Safeguarding Officers are often a tick box title, sometimes just another bit of the Church Warden’s job and these folk have lives to lead outside safeguarding so finding  time for the safeguarding training and extra reading can be problematic.  They are often doing it because there is no one else and I am not sure that is appreciated by the central team who write policy and training with a computer literate congregation of many volunteers across the age groups in mind. In reality we know that many of our churches are populated with tiny congregations of octogenarians. I am very patient with training and try not to put too much pressure on…..I would rather have a person who people are comfortable to approach with basic training that someone who is trained up to the eyeballs but comes across as officious and unapproachable. A few of the wrong words at the wrong time can put off a volunteer and set safeguarding back years if not carefully handled.

Links to Documents and “stuff” referred to in the article

As part of my safeguarding commitment as Chaplain I sit on the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel and the DSAP subcommittee so that I get the latest news and information and, more importantly, so that Readers and Parish safeguarding officers have a voice in matters to do with training, policy and edicts from on high.

 The latest deadline for things safeguarding is of course the safer recruiting strategy. The self assessment tool (called the Safer Recruitment Survey) and the adoption of the policy for Safer recruiting should be complete by January 4th which I can imagine could be a real struggle for many parishes.

The new Safeguarding Dashboard tool which is available for every church is really helpful although it does have one or two flaws and things that need some work but there is no such thing as a perfect tool or a one size fits all solution which is why the dialogue is important.

I came unstuck with the dashboard question on safer recruiting which asks,  “Which sections of the new Guidance are being followed for ALL relevant roles?”

The simple solution here in the dashboard would be to put in a footnote explaining that the relevant roles this refers to are those that meet the threshold for hours worked with vulnerable adults in certain situations or children.

However, it doesn’t. (yet)

So I opened the Safer Recruitment self assessment tool  and clicked on the E-Manual link. making sure that I clicked on the blue print in the right box otherwise as I discovered the other day you end up somewhere else!  You do need to be connected to the Internet and to know how to use the CTRL key when you click the link.  You can download chapters or sections but for the life of me I have no idea of the difference…. I was losing the will to live slowly.

At this point I read the explanations several times and then went to have a cup of tea and play ball with the dog.  Maybe the frequently asked questions document would help.

So now I had the safer recruiting assessment tool open on my computer along with the Redruth Parish dashboard, the e-manual page and the frequently asked questions document.  There was so much stuff and so many words written in convoluted legalese that I felt like a claustrophobic desperately seeking the way out of a maze of hedges that were narrowing as I walked!

I went to help my wife do some stuff for the craft market, or more honestly, I watched her do stuff and chatted…. then I tried again.

With a face full of grim determination I clicked a few things on the dashboard and clicked the button to have it send me an action plan….. after all an action plan would not be much use if one had done everything on it.  That could go to the team council for the next meeting.

At this point I should say that I went to one of the safer recruitment drop-in sessions and at that session I had the impression that we should be following safer recruitment processes for all roles…. so what about the roles such as sacristan, flower arranger, member of the coffee after church rota or church cleaner?  There is probably little opportunity for grooming the vulnerable but they will need to have certain parts of the guidance applied such as  a risk assessment for lone working, perhaps something about using tools safely, maybe a food hygiene course if the coffee duties spill over into doing soup lunches in the flower festival. 

Well in an ideal world where churches are overflowing with pew-dwelling volunteers, advertising every post, sending out application forms, taking up references, providing training and ticking the 11 other boxes in the policy might be possible, however, in the real world someone who wants to be on the flower rota is on the flower rota until they a) don’t want to be or b) they die or c) they do something to upset the other flower arrangers. 

  What should we do for volunteers who are not in roles where they are working with vulnerable adults and children (for the significant time)? Well I think it is about following the spirit of the recommendations and making sure that volunteers are: 

  • happy to do the role and can stop if they want to
  • have access to some help if needed
  • understand the about lone working if that is their practice
  • only have a DBS check if it is relevant! 
  • have a look down the list and see if there is anything else that might be beneficial. 

Of course, if our flower arranger starts doing a flower arranging club with children from the area then there are extra checks to be put in place. ah…. a problem… the flower arranger has suggested the club….. do we have to do an application process for the work they have offered to undertake or do we just have some sort of official chat, make sure the DBS is done at the right level and put something in place to monitor what is going on? 

Tricky! 

Wish me luck and send a few prayers for the Team Council at which I have to explain all this and adopt the policy for 5 churches from 3 PPCs.  Good luck with yours! 

How’s Your Spiritual Health? Some ramblings for the week!

It might seem like a funny question but quite seriously when did you last go for a check-up and with whom?

It may seem like a daft question but it is all too easy to get drawn into a task-driven life where prayer becomes one of those tasks or worse still, does not find much of a space.

Some Readers/LLMs do manage to find time to go on retreat which is an ideal time to recharge spiritual batteries but not all of us have the space in our lives to be able to do it.

Wendy Earl writes:  Sheldon is the most wonderful retreat from the frantic world we all now inhabit; a balm for soul.

 It is tucked away in an unspoiled corner of Devon above the river Teign east of Dartmoor. It includes a thatched restored barn and modern comfortable rooms and has its own flock of sheep, orchard and vegetable patch. Some lovely walks in the local countryside beside the river can be taken directly from Sheldon but all the surrounding countryside and up to Dartmoor is gorgeous.

 Sheldon was primarily set up to support the ordained Ministry as the ‘Society of St Mary and Martha’ but now it also welcomes anyone who feels they can benefit from ‘coming away and resting awhile’.

 Retreats can be taken individually or as a group and there is a regular program of speakers for guided retreats. By contrast the R5 program is not structured. It’s enables: Rest, Retreat, Read, Relax and Recuperate.

 The Daily Office is said morning and evening in the Chapel by the Community to which visitors are invited to join. There is an extensive library and wonderful meals are served using mainly local produce. Private counselling is also available.

See: https://www.sheldonretreat.com

It is hard for some of us to justify a week away, or even a weekend and the thought of leaving one’s spouse with everything including walking the dog and so on is tricky to put it mildly. In our house going away together is much more the thing!

Quiet Days are rather easier to manage but still require us to make a commitment to them both in time and cash and in finding the motivation to sign up in the first place. The Readers used to have two quiet days a year, one in Advent and the other in Lent but the Lenten one was abandoned with the rise in Reader/LLM activity in running lent courses etc.   The advent one has had mixed attendance but always ended up subsidised each year by the diocese until Covid put the brakes on.

With other quiet days on offer, especially at Epiphany house such as my favourite that I have been chaplain for, the prayer and painting day, I do wonder whether we need to offer quiet days specifically for Readers/LLMs at all.  Your thoughts on the matter are welcome!

Spiritual Direction or soul friends, spiritual accompaniers etc.

I have to make sure with my spiritual director that I put a date in the diary for the next session at the end of each one otherwise it is too easy to put it off and then find it hard to begin again. As ministers, let alone just as folk who take our faith seriously, we should be looking after ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually and that means having someone objective ask us some searching questions.

As chaplain and a spiritual director myself I also have a second line of counsel. Anyone in the world of counselling, or spiritual direction has to have supervision and I am grateful to the “Three wise women of the west” who make up my supervision group and give me the chance to seek wise counsel.  I also get to chat to Bishop Hugh every 12 weeks or so to update him on Readers and their issues – so do let me know if there is anything I need to follow up.

So…. Make time for yourself.

  • Say “no” occasionally
  • See your spiritual director, or get one! (ask me if you want to know more!)
  • Book a retreat or a quiet day
  • Find time each day for silence, solitude and prayer.

It is wise to remember that if we don’t look after ourselves we will be no earthly use in looking after anyone else!

Reactions to the Annual Survey Comments

 A summary of the written answers with some personal comment from me about the chaplaincy, the blog and the website and attitudes towards “On the Way”

JNS

 To What extent are you involved with On the Way

 Of the Readers who responded to the survey and to the question most Readers/LLMs were not involved yet- but a significant group had been taking part in meetings, both face to face and online. Concerns seemed to be centred around communication and the amount of paperwork, especially for those at the heart of discussions.  One comment began “I am aware of the initiative; but find it totally uninspiring and irrelevant to the realities of the average person in Cornwall today.”  But otherwise there were few strong feelings on the topic.

What would you say is the most fulfilling aspect of your Ministry?

Unsurprisingly, preaching and teaching were high on the list of answers but pastoral work, chaplaincy,  and being alongside people from schools to care homes, and in Covid times making phone calls to those shielding. Funerals are also a key element of Reader ministry although some readers have found they are doing less of them.  Leading groups, praying with people and the sharing if faith were also mentioned a number of times.  

Tell us about your Reader Ministry other than conducting worship on a Sunday- what have you done recently to respond to ministry needs in the current time of pandemic?

 The variety of Reader involvement, commitment and support for other people is truly inspiring.  There was some fairly common activities such as phone ministry and leading Zoom services but Readers /LLMs also wrote weekly reflections, wrote letters and delivering treats of chocolate and ‘fun bags’    The telephone ministry included Pastoral conversations and also Phone church services!

Other activities included ambassadorial work with SAT7UK.org that works in the Middle East to remote youth work in the Local Skate-park and heavy commitment to the work of the Foodbanks

Some PCCs and churches, it seems, would collapse altogether if it were not for the commitment of Readers and they seem to be able to plug gaps wherever they appear and to respond to community needs as they are discovered.

 Here are a couple of illustrative responses:

  • Opened the church for private prayer and supervised. Joint leader of an online Alpha Course. Acted as sacristan on 24 occasions. Attended several webinars concerning the way forward after the pandemic including, e.g. Lockdown resourcefulness, Funerals: an immediate concern, Opening the Doors, Leading through Lockdown, Midsized churches, Opening Churches. Considered increasing giving in the parish (Generous Giving webinars), encouraged the PCC to send out an appeal to people on the electoral roll and been active in producing a letter. Acted as Lay Chair for the PCC in the absence of an incumbent. Prepared for APCM. Updated risk assessments. Telephoned where I have been aware of a need. Joined two online prayer groups and led Morning Prayer fortnightly for one. Prayed daily for needs asked for. Provided a Service of Remembering and a Remembrance Trail in the churchyard. Taken part in the village Remembrance Service. Provided an open-air Carol Service in our church yard. Initiated a joint Witness Walk on Good Friday.. Provided a reflective service on Good Friday afternoon.
  • The church has been open throughout the pandemic providing support services – quiet space, a listening ear, meditation groups, packing food parcels etc. I have helped facilitate these. I have supported a young man who was suicidal. I also helped in producing worship for transmission to those unable to attend church (including some singing) I have continued to be part of the Town Council’s subcommittee (as a member of the public, representing the XR group and by extension the Cluster Churches) on the Climate Emergency following the Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency in 2019.

What concerns do you have?

 I have compiled some of the comments below but it would be true to say that Readers / LLMs  have a good deal of concerns but they are varied. Some of them concern the Diocese as a whole and its strategic path, some concern individual benefices / parishes and the lack of support from incumbents- or lack of an incumbent altogether. Others worry about the demographic of our congregations, the lack of diversity and the failure to attract new people.

  • I have been extremely disappointed in the way the Church of England — and just about all the mainstream denominations, have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. Closing churches when the buildings should have been available (probably under supervision) to the fearful, the anxious, and to those who just wanted some quiet meditation or some prayer with someone else — this has been a dismal failure of witness to the power of the Gospel, and a failure in the church’s mission to preach the Gospel. It also has been a dismal failure in the Church of England’s mission to the nation. That multi-layered failure has been aggravated by the tendency for church leaders (again, not only CoE) to publish pronouncements that read more like a county council’s public health notice than anything inspired by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is no less than a failure of leadership; and it has put in an impossible position, incumbents and other ministers who might wish to do things differently (I know several). The un-churched public have noticed; and it has left a damaging legacy. If asked, publicly or privately about this, I declare my disappointment, for I will not defend such failure.
  • I attempted to publish, in the parish magazine (which has spiritual as well as practical content), some short pieces putting forward a respectful but different perspective on this situation. But that has not been welcomed, being seen as negative, even though it was not; and I suspect it was also seen as over-opinionated and disloyal. A pity! Our primary loyalty should be not to the Church of England, but to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • I hear a lot of comment about the way the CofE seems to be going. Sadly, not much of it is positive as we get given one initiative after another, yet have fewer and fewer resources to implement them. The never ending confused CofE input from the Church Times does little to build trust and hope. Rather, it seems to feed the overall downslide in the parishes and does little to support us in our small parish.  The feeling that we are ‘on our own’ pervades.
  • Due to the unusual circumstances of this year the numbers of services undertaken do no necessarily reflect the full extent of involvement with the community this has often been one of pastoral conversations. through safe distance meetings outside.
  • Lack of ordained ministers putting pressure on lay ministers and worship leaders to ensure coverage across the benefice.
  • We seem to have acquired so many new personnel under the Transforming Ministry that I do not seem to be as involved as I once was.
  • FOR THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE Congregational numbers are dwindling. The age spread is not representative of the population. In particular most churches have a dearth of people between the ages of 18 and 40 or so.
  • The Church of England needs, amongst other things, to focus on those not yet in the church. This may involve changing styles of worship. The focus needs to be on preaching Christ in a manner that is challenging and attractive. Communion services are not of their nature “outsider friendly”; the Church needs more attractive non Communion services.
  • Mid week events are needed to meet the needs of both enquirers and those who would wish to grow as disciples.
  • The church is too focussed on “word”; there needs to be more on “signs and wonders”.
  • Only Readers and clergy are trained to preach. Yet in many churches others do so.
  • Not sure where to put this but this has been a most unusual year with almost no live services
  • I am concerned for our whole Deanery which is understaffed and underfunded. In our Benefice we are entirely reliant on two retired Ministers who do a wonderful job, but can’t keep this up for ever. We Readers do what we can to support them, but there are some things we cannot do.
  • Our pattern of worship has changed hugely in response to the pandemic, so the documentation of liturgical ‘roles’ is not high on my list of priorities. Many people share in presenting out liturgy now.
  • My concern therefore is that we should look to reader ministry much more widely than is reflected in Q2 above.
  • The age of the congregation and the lack of new people and children.
  • Again this year have seen Readers marginalised – only three Ministry team meetings this year. I have asked for more so that we can have some input into ministry in the parish.
  • This has been a difficult year and having to self isolate ( being at risk ) NHS advice has curtailed my ministry involvement aside from telephone and online.
  • The lack of support of the priest in charge – the lack of her knowledge/understanding about Reader ministry – her indifference towards me.
  • Our churches have been in transition for 18 months and there is on prospect od an appointment being made at present
  • They are manifold. Perhaps foremost is the continuing ‘dumbing down’ and ‘diminution’ of the distinctive nature of Reader Ministry. The recent review of Reader Ministry goes some way to addressing these concerns; however, previous experience of the way this diocese operates indicates that there will be deliberate delays in implementation and the most critical elements will be ‘kicked into the long grass’, as always. This leads me to my other major concern that the diocese has lost the plot in its strategic direction and emphasis. It appears to be all about ticking boxes and assuring ‘brownie points’ for bishops; and not about providing the leadership and churchmanship that is appropriate for Cornwall. The average Reader has more relevant worldly experience and theological capability than many of the incumbents appointed to their parishes.
  • Worship group could I do it all? There appears to be a duplication of movement of Readers?
  • Lack of awareness that the church is becoming top heavy and managerial. False belief that amalgamating parishes will help them to grow. Failure to have enough priests on the ground. The diocese appears to be fiddling while Rome burns, it is the church on the ground which appears to be being ignored, and where Christianity is rooted, not in the cathedrals.

Who would you go to when in need of support?

 This was pleasing positive as well as mixed depending on the sort of support needed but it certainly showed the need for a chaplain to Readers as well as a diverse range of support including spiritual directors.

Do you have any comments to make on Annual Reader Day and suggestions for future events.

This was a question that divided opinion and proved the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Here is a representative set of example responses

  • My suggestion for future events would be more discussion of the Reader role(s), and in particular the relationship between Readers and ordained clergy.
  • As travel can be an issue for me, I have been grateful for the online sessions we have had this year, which have been very interesting and have offered a chance to catch up. I wonder if it might be helpful to instigate some kind of small group online activity at a more local level, whilst maintaining the existing structure?
  • I hope we can get back to meeting face-to-face. I do not like zoom meetings/events.
  • I like the zoom format which reduces travel and time away from home.
  • I suggest less listening to others and more sharing.
  • Being a wheelchair user access has been a problem in the past. Living in the south of Cornwall Bodmin is too far for me to drive. I also need access to an accessible toilet which is not available at all venues.
  • I think we miss a trick by not asking a superb speaker to address us, teach us, inspire us; someone from outside the normal circle of Truro Readers who is not consumed by LGBTQ+ ideology or unconscious bias trivia. Someone who is really worth listening to would be excellent. Whilst the usual Readers Day format enables us to meet up with other readers (if they attend) it has become stale and boring, which might explain why attendance is falling and the day is becoming a formality rather than event not to be missed.
  • Zoom worked very well

The Blog and the Chaplain’s Website – A Chaplain’s eye-view……  

 It was really interesting looking at the comments in the annual survey; it is gratifying to know that so many folks found it helpful especially in lockdown.  Like a number of you who suggested that there should be more contributions from other Readers I would love to share the platform and to make it more varied.  One reader put it like this, “I find the Chaplain’s Blog an invaluable weekly ‘update’, helping to engender a sense of community among Readers. Perhaps more people might be encouraged to contribute short articles, so that there is a diversity of voices”

A couple of people found that there was too much in it  so I will try and make the titles more explanatory so you can decide whether you want to read them.  

I loved the suggestions for other articles and would really like some volunteers to help produce a few.

  • “Occasional ‘Bio’ of fellow Readers. We rarely know very much about each other. Starting with the new ones.”
  • “Hard to think of any……..book reviews recommendations.”
  • “Perhaps to develop a series of Biblical reflections that could be written in succession by a number of people? Rather than being seen as one person’s ideas about a specific passage of scripture, a reasonably regular series”

And thank you too to the few Readers, who are possibly no longer readers of the blog- Like internet shopping or Trip Advisor reviews I don’t trust them unless I see the odd really negative comment.  

So to anyone who feels like the Reader who wrote,  “It is time to give the Chaplain’s Blog a rest. Tired, contrived and tedious,” there is the option to unsubscribe from the emails.

 

 

 

 

 On the Way

So the following thoughts might be contentious and if they ‘rub you up the wrong way’ please do respond and I will publish your reply.

As Readers / Licensed Lay Ministers we are ‘of the Diocese’ and of the “Church of England” rather than being ‘done-to’ as participants in it. We are part of the wider ministry team that includes all licensed minister, both Lay and Ordained and we have a duty to be the positive, helpful, enthusiastic and optimistic face of that ministry team.

We may not like initiatives, changes and policies and should, quite rightly, express our opinions- but in the right place. That right-place is in the ministry teams in our own areas, to our Deanery Reader Stewards, to the Reader committee or perhaps even as a discussion piece for other readers to put in the chaplain’s webpage.  To the congregations, and to our wider communities however we need to make the most of the opportunities to “build up the people” as Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians.

The ‘On The Way Survey’  has had mixed reviews in my conversations with Readers, but it is an important tool in attempting to see how the wider community sees us.  How can we respond to the needs of the community unless we know what those people think ?  I suspect when we send it out in the Camborne Redruth area we might find that the community likes the church buildings, likes the being there for hatch, match and despatch, Remembrance and Christmas but otherwise finds us largely irrelevant, if not strange!  I will be using social media among other things to encourage as many folks as possible to fill it in because we want a representative sample.  I hope a few folks might be going out to those without access to technology with a paper version!

Whatever the findings, it will help shape our response.  Yes, I know we cannot ask everything but you have to draw a line somewhere. An addition the multiple choice lists of, “keep everything the same in church until I have shuffled off this mortal coil”, or “bring back one priest for every church”  do not make the cut!

The Church, and that means us as Readers as well as everyone else is under enormous pressure- as a the merry band of Licensed Lay ministers we have a duty to to hep the wider ministry team “build up the people” which might mean supressing our natural cynicism of new initiatives.

As a deputy / head teacher we had certain categories of people you really did not want in your staffrooms or Governor meetings and  the same applies to church councils and indeed any teams that are trying to get something done.

  • The “I hear what you are saying but…. “ person, which means’ I am not listening to you because my view is the only one that is important’.
  • The “yes, but……  It won’t work because……” usually  slightly patronising
  • The “we tried that years ago- it didn’t work” usually very patronising,
  • The silent, arms across the chest one who only gives an opinion outside the meeting and it is always negative. The one mitigating feature is that they are AT the meeting and not one of the ones who would never be on a committee because they would have less time for complaining behind backs.
  • The “we belong to do it that way” or “we have always done it that way” ( I have heard that one numerous times about weekly Sunday Eucharist when I know full well that I was taking Matins services!)
I am sure you can think of others….. 

Let us be cheerful and positive out their folks – there is enough gloom and doom and the gloomy and doomed are destined for a sad time.   Jim

Next week all the local children will return to school for the new term and a new set of rules and regulations to keep them and the staff as safe as possible in these times of pandemic.  My Granddaughter, Ellie, is amongst the children who are transferring from primary school to secondary school – from being big fish in small ponds to very small fish indeed. It had me thinking about my own experience of arriving at Harborne Hill School in Birmingham.   My prayers this week are for all those 11 year olds! 

Times were rather different of course and it seemed sanctioned ritual humiliation of new children was the order of the day rather than the taster days and close consultations of today. So there follows some of my recollections of secondary school leaving out the clips round the ear from the rugby playing history teacher, the dumping in the stinging nettles on the way home and the cunning ways I developed to stay out of ham’s way…. 

At the age of eleven, in new green blazer (all other years wore black blazers) and shorts (compulsory for first years so the older ones knew who to humiliate) I set off for Harborne Hill School –the secondary modern with the best reputation in the area. The head was Daisy Hill, a remarkable lady who knew everyone’s name by magic and had secret powers that would make bullies weep and the cock-sure tremble. She was also very caring; when I had a bout of asthma and was unwell at school she took me home in her own car because Dad was away and couldn’t collect me.

 

The deputy head was Miss Bonham, a strangely carved figure-head of a woman with a wedge shaped bosom that could have provided a safe platform for a three course meal were she to be leaning backwards against a wall. Her mouth was a short, thin, deep red smear. Her tiny lips protruded slightly in amongst the flesh of her face. Her tiny eyes stared out from beneath furrowed brows with an extra-sensory detection of wrong-doing. She was formidable. When her huge frame began to pick up sped towards the latest student crime her flat back brogues would clomp the corridors with increasing pace as her muscular calves as thick as footballers thighs trundled her huge frame onwards. Crowds of children would part in her wake, corridors would clear, fights break up as if by magic and heads would be held still. Some were bowed in supplication, or pleading, some held high with pride or daring, some pretended that nothing was untoward, but Miss Bonham knew. With deadly accuracy, names were spat across the room and children summoned to meet their doom. She taught geography.

I hated all school but I particularly hated secondary school. I hated the uniform, I hated the bullies, I hated the playtimes and I hated school dinners. I hated the journey to school and the journey home but there were a few redeeming features such as Miss Mole my form tutor who spotted my passion for the stage and got me involved in drama and dance productions. Amazingly for someone who claims two left feet I danced the part of “The Firebird” in the first year adaptation! In later years I played the Genie of the Lamp in Aladdin in the year we all had our TB jabs which we were supposed to not get wet. My top half was stained brown each night (no thoughts about racial stereotyping in those days), and each night I had to shower TB jab or no TB jab… as a result the spot is still visible. My biggest role, Willy in “Hobson’s Choice” was directed by Mr Harrison (who later signed my autograph book as ‘George, not the Beatle, Harrison’) and finally I got some “cred” and some confidence.   In the singing o “o Jesus I have promised” in assembly    the boys would chorus “My hope to follow Julie is in Thy strength alone,”  Julie was unattainable, mature beyond her years and had the sort of smile that withered the boys in the class- they just were not old enough, mature enough or handsome enough for Julie.  She and I were cast opposite one another in Hobson’s choice which had to finish with a kiss, not a peck on the cheek job but a bend over backwards, full on the lips snog. We rehearsed, lips brushing the air, never believing  that we would actually have to touch, let alone kiss. The dress rehearsal arrived and George (not the Beatle) Harrison said it was time we did the kiss properly. I was beside myself with embarrassment- not only was it a kiss, not just in public but it was with Julie the femme fatale of the fourth form but as the show must go on… I went for it.

 I am sure the experience was a formative one. I remember little about the kiss or even the performance except for the next day. First and second years stopping me in the corridor demanding to know “Did yer really kiss ‘er”?” and “what was it like?” I just grinned and glided on to the next lesson several inches above the floor and safe in the knowledge that I had indeed kissed Julie and now that the spell was broken I was free to follow in the steps of someone else!

 There were some other people of note at Harborne Hill who stick out in the mind for one reason or another such as Geoffrey Malkin who had ribs like a xylophone and could suck his stomach in so far you could almost see his backbone. He also had a huge dent in his chest and shoulder blades that he could make stand out at right angles to his back. His Brilcream plastered blonde hair and pristine brief case should have made him a bigger target than me but maybe he was not so opinionated!

 I soon learned that joining clubs and societies in school was a good way to keep warm and hide from life in the playgrounds so with the arrival of my first guitar I convinced the music teacher that my ‘group’ (no bands then) should practice in the music rooms to which she surprisingly agreed and gave us a pass. The only music I remember from her lesson was a study of Shubert’s “Trout” and singing a song to it.  When she left we are afraid that the group, or rather the pass would carry on but I was far from disappointed. The new man was Mr Morely who decided that my ideas should be widened if I was going to play guitar and over the next couple of years he landed me countless records of legends such as Leadbelly and Fats Waller. I have never been an exceptionally good musician but the fact that I carried on playing and developed such eclectic tastes was largely down to him.

 Mr Morton was the tall, angular, fiery Religious Education Teacher with a slight stoop and a goitre on the back of his neck which used the throb when he was angry, which seemed to be quite often. The class would provoke him mercilessly in later years and one day after I left I was told that he cracked and stormed out of the school never to return.  

From all these folk I learned much, not always what they intended, but I learned and they also inspired me to be a teacher – in order that at least some children should not hate school as much as me 🙂  Good luck to all the new year 7s we are praying for you .

My form c 1964 –I am in the second row on the far right. Centre is Miss Anne Mole, Geoffrey Malkin, sadly is not in the picture

 

Last Blog until September!

Having just seen  £143.88 disappear from my bank account for the ZOOM subscription for the next 12 months I am hoping I shall not need it quite so much but it has been useful for Morning Prayer, Spiritual direction, chaplaincy meetings and readers in training … so it has shown its value…. I am sure there will be things that will never leave the online forum now that we have it. 

We had the Wardens Group this week, on Zoom, where we looked at the report and recommendations for the future of Reader Ministry among other things and it is pleasing that there is a plan of action which has apportioned various sections to the people who can do something about them.  I am still hopeful that I shall retain my Reader license in October 2022 and not have to seek permission to officiate after I hit the spurious target of 70 in February! We shall see!

I have had some interesting conversations about Living in Love and Faith with Readers in the last few weeks, although nobody else has come forward wanting to do the course. Bishop Hugh tells me that many parishes are due to begin face to face courses in the Autumn and that the time period has been extended.  I have a feeling that because the issues do not affect some people personally, that they don’t see the need to do the course. It is a bit like saying, “well I know I am not racist, therefore I have no need of doing an equalities course.”      So one last plea….. please, as Licensed Lay Ministers (or those who have permission to officiate) please do register with the Church of England Living in Love and Faith site and at least watch the story videos even if you don’t look at the course material. Personally, I think as Ministers in Ministry teams we should be leading the way and  enabling the discussions….  

I am having a break from doing Morning Prayer each morning on ZOOM, although the ZOOM prayer room will be open for folks to drop in. here are a couple of useful links for materials to lead morning prayer online:

Morning Prayer (Contemporary) on Saturday 31 July 2021 | The Church of England

Morning Prayer – Northumbria Community

If you have any other suitable sites please let me know. 

Next Saturday Morning  7th August I shall break my ZOOM fast leading the Post Licensing Group in some sessions about Worship which we will begin at 9:00 on the Morning Prayer Link….. with an order for Morning Prayer, unsurprisingly. Others are welcome to join us. Then we are delving into Holy Communion by Extension and looking carefully at the the materials sent out by Bishop Philip. I am taking my first HCBE service at Treleigh tomorrow which should be interesting! 

Back in September – possibly with a revamped and updated website. 

Prayers and blessings


Jim

From a book called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Weird!” – it made me laugh. 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Weird: Amazon.co.uk: Peterson, Doug, Tutte, H.Winfield: 9780310287315: Books

 

SALTS of The Earth  (Matthew 5:13) 

The first part of this week the tide was out far enough to exercise the hound at Portreath. There are usually very few people about just after dawn but the holiday season has certainly had an impact if only in the amount of litter left lying about from the barbecues and beach parties from the night before. and sometimes the stray revellers themselves sleeping it off at the top of the beach.  This week I met with a couple from Barnsley, down for a two week stay with their grandchildren. They were on honeymoon, having married at Truro registry office. In the course of a 15 minute chat during which the hound got bored and went down to investigate the flat sea I discovered that he was an ex-coal miner and heard of various exploits and that she had been litter-picking, because that was ‘what she did at home’. Later in the week we came across her again with a full bin liner!  What a community minded lady! A true salt of the earth.

On Thursday I did a funeral visit to the friendly and welcoming family of a chap who had worked in South Crofty Tin mine and various other places in the local area. A man of a thousand stories the vast majority of which are too rude to tell. He had been brought up in a strict Plymouth Brethren family, his sister becoming a Methodist and him rejecting religion.  This was especially when he was told in no uncertain terms that he was not good enough to attend a funeral function at a local church.. When I asked what the children had inherited character-wise from their dad the reply was, “oh… swearing (laughter) and tattoos and straight talking….. ‘  The more I sat and listened the more I thought that if one wanted to find Jesus, he would more than likely be sitting with this chap and his family or joining the lady on Portreath Beach to pick litter at dawn.

It is a great privilege to be able to listen to people’s stories to congratulate them on their weddings and to console them at their family funerals….  what a joy it is to be a Reader. 

 

 

Following the email from +Philp this week with materials for the Service of Holy Communion by Extension  – I met with our Rector, Caspar on Thursday afternoon for a discussion about and exploration of the materials, the issues and the practicalities around making sure that we could do it justice. 

I note that there is a page on the diocesan website ; Public Worship with Communion by Extension – Truro Diocese : Truro Diocese  unfortunately at the time of writing this there was nothing in it apart from the title.  However here is a link to the excellent PILGRIM course on the Eucharist. The Eucharist (Book 6) (pilgrimcourse.org) 

If all goes to plan I should be doing my first Holy Communion by Extension Sunday Service at St Stephen’s Treleigh in coming weeks if their PCC decides they want me to do it…..  I will be interested to see, More on these services as the year unfolds.  

Whatever the outcome of CBE and whether or not we build these services into our rotas as part of the rich tapestry of ministry in Redruth the opportunity to sit and talk at depth about things at the heart of our faith and practice are to be treasured.  

The latest from Reader John Wallis – se more of his work here: John Wallis’ – Illustrated Poetry Gallery – Chaplain to Readers in the Diocese of Truro (readers-chaplain.org.uk) or follow him on Facebook for the regular updates. 

Happy Golden Wedding Anniversary t Anne and Andrew Hicks for Wednesday 14th!