I have been using the Parable of the Lifesaving station in sermons for longer than I care to remember although I have not for some time. On my walk this morning pondering on upcoming sermons in some Methodist Churches where I have not been before I thought I might revisit it. Imagine my surprise when I turned to the Book the Rector gave me for Christmas (Bishop Michael Curry’s ‘Crazy Christians’ and found it staring me in the face. Definitely worth a read as a book…. and the parable is excellent sermon material….
There was a time when boxing day meant the start of planning for the new term ahead for my 10 and 11 year olds. My desk would be strewn with spider charts and textbooks and in later years with a computer screen glowing among the Christmas lights. It was not until about six years into retirement that the nightmares about not having done planning or marking ceased – but to this day I give thanks for being retired and still wake early on Boxing Day.
I loved my job when I did it but I don’t miss the planning. the marking.the assessments the data analysis, the spreadsheets and the report writing. Consequently on Boxing Day, I woke at five and felt I should be doing something! So this year it was rewriting chaplain’s website and learning how to use some new software called WordPress and no….. it wasn’t present!
By ten o’clock the rest of the household was ready to go for a walk and the computer was abandoned for another quiet moment. That walk amongst the laughter and the chatter of the grandchildren contained some silent spaces when atop Carn Brea I prayed for all teachers I know whose minds would be on the school term ahead-some with enthusiasm and some with trepidation and some with a sense of foreboding at the threat of impending performance management.
By the time I retired, I really was a dinosaur in teaching, belonging to a school era when teaching was a performance art which was done to a whole class rather than the very different animal it is today. So I thank God for that pneumonia and the need for a new hip released me from school and into new adventures.
So in your prayers spend a few moments praying for all teachers battling through the darkest time of the year.
So the fairy light and the decorations are away for another year although the bare tree remains in the conservatory destined to die slowly before being dismembered to fill up the brown recycling bin. The Welsh dresser is populated with bottles from Christmases past and present although I’m aiming to get through the beer by epiphany; the single malt may still be there next year and southern comfort will probably light its sixth Christmas pudding in late 2019.
But somethings are left when all is said and done, the candlesticks, a present from the artist stand either side of the cross as I say evening prayer and the memories of Christmas reflect back with joy. Eight year old Ellie and arrived for Christmas lunch dressed as Harry Potter’s Hermione and younger Brother Patrick as a Dalmatian dog complete with spotty ears and tail. Before lunch it was a time of contented conviviality balanced with an awareness of time passing, and of absent friends, in the knowledge that it will not always be like this, just as the knowledge that in so many households not so far away, the scene would be entirely different, threatening, foreboding and fearful with the expectations of the season for letting them down……… again.
As I waited for all to settle at the Christmas table my prayer brain flicked through the list of those, especially, readers for whom I pray often and I gave thanks but the reverie was broken by the grandchildren who ‘prayed’ the shark grace which. although horrendous, was not as bad as the version on YouTube, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jCyjW1I6aU)
The chatter at the children’s table was joyful until Ellie, disgruntled with the three boys pleaded, “can I come and sit next to you grandad?” Of course she joined me at the adult’s table and my Christmas meal was made.
Good food, good company and love – long may it last.
Saturday 5th January – I feel sick!
Literary rather than metaphorically although there is a little of that too! After a very early start (5:30) having been woken in a flood of adrenaline by my dreaming spouse screaming and flailing all limbs in a nightmare, I worked on the chaplain’s blog, said Morning Prayer and ticked off a few things from the to do list. At 9:15 I determined to set off for a walk, and boots on, I strode in the direction of Carn Brea where I suspected Redruth Baptist church would be taking down the Christmas cross. I was very pleased to have climbed up there just as the trailer and the first volunteers arrived in the car park.
After greetings from Phil, an ex-pupil, and Jason and Andrew, pastors is of Bethel and RBC we prayed and the first tasks allocated. I helped to reel in the several hundred metres of armoured cable for the lights that lit the cross at night and then attempted to help carry the cross but found it very difficult to find a useful place to stand. Hopefully I can be more useful when it is raised once more on April 13th for Easter.
Once the cross was on the trailer I had bade them all farewell and set off down the other side of the Carn to call in on the grandchildren for coffee.
Back home I felt pleased with myself for taking so much exercise and merely had fruit and soup for lunch to complete the self satisfaction. More work on the website and intercessions for Sunday were the order of the afternoon, broken by vacuuming upstairs and washing the car. A chap called Paul with a staff walked up the drive and began to tell me about his Ph.D. thesis while I scrubbed the wheels – something about corporate mind control or something similar- I listened and muttered something about neuro linguistic programming which made him nod enthusiastically before setting off and leaving me to the soapy sponge!
Back inside, it turned out the children and grandchildren when not coming to dinner the next day after all so that meant there were two spare bottles of beer that would not be consumed by my son and son-in-law and I could have one with supper.
Although I only had one bottle of beer which, pleasant as it was, reduced my resistance and I finished the Christmas chocolates from the bowl on the table.
I feel sick – both literally and metaphorically- the good work of exercise, piety and self-control having disappeared in a rustle of chocolate wrappings.
Well there is always tomorrow!
The first blog of 2019 – on the new website!
You will already have noticed the design of the new website. I do hope you will click through the menus and see what resources I have managed together. I really would appreciate it if you have any favourite links that are not included that you would let me know so we can share them. Please also let me know if you find a link that does not work or goes to the wrong place.
2019 heralds a new season of safeguarding training and I think we as Readers (licensed Lay Ministers) have a huge role in changing attitudes. If our congregations are to ‘buy in’ to this important part of discipleship following the notion that whatever one does for the least of others one also does for Christ then we must set the tone and be enthusiastic about it- even when our hearts sik and we think to ourselves, “oh not another safeguarding course / form / assessment/ report etc”
I have a number of sessions of various levels lined up to lead or assist with including a C0/C1 taylored for the Redruth Benefice for all new to safeguarding and those beneath leadership to refresh their knowledge. We are trying a Benefice evening with food to see if it will help! One of the churches has been especially reluctant t get involved and I suspect this is partly because they discuss it at DCC level as a box ticking exercise that does not concern them. Hopefully this might strategy might help.
I note that Jonathan Aitken, the MP who has served a prison sentence for perjury, is working as a prison chaplain having been ordained in his mid seventies. See the Daily Mail 21st December. How good it is that someone can turn themselves around and find a love of God and a vocation and that we worship in a denomination that appears not to discriminate against age or past criminality.
At 66 I was quite content in thinking that I need not think about any further stages to vocation – hmmm besides I am too busy! (mid 70s good grief!)
I have put a Vocations page on the menu with links for people to look at all sorts of vocations although understandably the main focus is on a vocation to Reader Ministry.
Taking Down the Carn Brea Cross until Easter!
A Christmas gift- candlesticks to go with the chaplain's cross
The artist is an old friend who is a regular church goer in so much as he attends Midnight Mass on Christmas ev and helps wit the practical side of the earlier children’s service so I asked Nick what he thought about when he made the cross and this was his reply:
“Ah… Because the plaiting process is so slow and deliberate it demands a lot of thought and ‘faffing’ about, selective masking and sacrificial components etc that will never be seen on the finished piece. There’s an evolution of sorts as time progresses. I wanted it to be organic and living as the church is. I also wanted to hint at abandoned ruins because we have left so many old ideas behind as the world has changed. It had to be rooted but also hint at movement, which is why the bit near the base is less solid and tree-like, but I also wanted the roots to be substantial as ours are. Beyond that there was a man spreading his arms out in welcome, that was not planned, that was given.”
If as a result of your look back on the old year think you might benefit from a new challenge for 2019 that will dove-tail neatly with Lay Ministry please think about volunteering as a governor. Knowing how important children are to the future of the church and how important the church is to the future of our children it is an excellent opportunity to get one’s feet wet.
Recently in addition to my own school, I have been asked to fill in as chair of Governors in a school where governors are thin on the ground. Those they have are mostly parents in the school who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and committed but there are only five of them and experience shows that the local board needs to be twice that number in order to function efficiently.
Governors are important in schools whether they are maintained Local Authority Schools or Academies and having the right governors with a heart for the folks they are working with is vital. Governors who are box ticking b
Lots of listening with a little bit of report writing and an occasional two hour meeting so really an ideal role for those in ministry!
There are usually a couple of evening meetings a term and it is hoped you would be able to get into school for a few mornings a term- perhaps once a month for a fact finding visit on areas from health and safety to mathematics.
You don’t have to judge teaching- that is not the role; it is about support and being a ‘critical friend’ – if you want to know more about being a governor you can chat to me but the diocesan education department has a fabulous governance team who work very hard to train and inform.
Bex Couch, Governance Development Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01872 274351.
Or look them up on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/cornwallschoolgovernance/?ref=gs&fref=gs&dti=1806545833003224&hc_location=group_dialog
In this blog
- A link to Bishop Philip’s message on YouTube.
- Thoughts and Reflections- from the Quiet Day for Advent
- Spiritual Direction
- A reminder of The Richard Rohr daily meditations – this one on death and resurrection- worth a read and then subscribing!
- Interesting links to resources and mildly entertaining things
- Comments from Readers about the blog and the Chaplaincy from the annual survey