Dear All!

Next Monday, the 11th Of November is Chaplain’s Coffee and conversation at the Penventon hotel in Redruth between 10am and noon. Last month there were about seven of us sharing all sorts of topics from choosing hymns and the use of music in worship to the rights and wrongs (or rites maybe) of the extremes of religious practice! I am sure the world was a better place as a result. Do join us if you have time….. and a sense of humour 🙂 

Please do book for the Quiet Day on the 7th December- we need spiritual food too! Details on the post below this one!

Chris Kingshott’s Christian  novel, “The Cardman” is available in its entirety under the prayer and reflection Tab at the top of the web page. (I will add a downloadable PDF file at some point when I have time!)

The suggestion that we keep additional details of the work we do as Readers has prompted a number of conversations with questions raised such as, “why are we doing it?” and  “What is going to be done with the information” alongside some expressed reservations about what some questions actually mean. A good example of that is, “What is the difference between assisting at a communion service and being a deacon?”  The survey is always interesting and does help to inform the thinking of the Readers Committee and the Diocese but discussion of what should be asked and how it should be asked is worthy of debate. Please do send me your opinions and I will try to reflect the range in a future blog. 

Blessings and best wishes

Jim 

 

Prayers – keep in mind: Ali, Miriam, Lesley, Lesley, Joan, Molly & Steve, Sue, Penny, Stephanie, Anna. Gwen, Sandie, Roy & Chris, Gordon and Jean, Jane & Frank, Shirley & Terry, Roy, Roy, Robin, Deb,  Becca, Margaret, Margaret and those Readers licensed in October. 

The Quiet Day

Currently there are about eight people on the list for the quiet day, it would be really helpful if you books soon so I can let Epiphany house and Garth know. Please send me an e-mail or a phone message.

 

The programme is as follows:

READERS’ ADVENT QUIET DAY – EPIPHANY HOUSE

SATURDAY 7 TH DECEMBER

FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY

 

0930 Arrival and coffee

1000 Franciscan Charism

Time of Quiet

1130 Franciscan Principles

Time of Quiet

1230 Drinks trolley and lunch break

1345 Franciscan Practice

Time of Quiet

1515 Franciscan Office

1530 Departure

Geographical and other Extremes

Last month was a fascinating one from my ministerial duties with some interesting extremes from preaching in the cathedral, which I prepared to last full stop and pause, to preaching and Mawla chapel to a congregation of nine stalwarts desperately trying to keep their church alive. Both were equally challenging in their own way but I felt equally privileged to do both.

Geographically my extremes were from Rilla Mill near Callington in the east to Sennen in the west. In Rilla Mill I led a C5 safeguarding update course at the Retreat Centre in the old Methodist Church. The session was well received and our hosts were wonderful providing a great venue and super refreshments!  After the session I got a guided tour of the facility which would be brilliant for a quiet day at that end of the county if there is enough interest!  https://rillamillretreat.weebly.com/

My trip to Sennen was to see Brian Simpson for a one-to-one C3 training session so that he could be dragged back into reader ministry having retired from it a few years ago! I am sue Canon Wanda will be delighted and somewhat relieved that she has another Reader to begin services for her.  One-to-one safeguarding sessions are unusual and not ideal because there is less sharing and discussion but I try not to pass up opportunities to visit and get to know Readers. Brian is an ex-teacher who is actively involved in the education service of the RNLI so has been steeped in safeguarding over the years. It was very gratifying to hear him say that he had learned some knew things and that there were a number of things he would be asking the PCC about and looking at in the context of his church.

On the 14th I am in Coverack on the Lizard leading a c0/c1 session with pasties and puds which should be great and I get to see a Reader or two in St Keverne on the way. Now I know that an awful lot of folk see safeguarding as an irritating box-ticking exercise but I am really and honestly quite passionate about it! To me, it is all about discipleship and loving one another as Jesus loved us. Not that He went round doing risk assessments, checking whether the sacristan had a lone working agreement or whether the Sunday School leader had been safely recruited and had a DBS check but he did ask, “What is it that you want me to do for you?” and that question is at the root of our duties.  

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility- everyone! It is not a lone task for a volunteer coordinator, or the incumbent or for that matter a Reader or Church Warden. Everyone needs educating (rather than training) in how to embed it as a a matter of church culture and ethos.

Oh Cassocks!

“Oh Cassocks!!!!” sounds like an expletive and I certainly felt like uttering a few expletives when I tentatively looked into shopping for a new one.

My current cassock and surplice I got second hand, donated from a chorister who was off to university. That was back in 1986 when I was in training, when we had a choir at St Andrews and when I was rather more sylphlike than I am these days. So before the annual service I trawled around online to see what I might find…… the choice, the cost and the measuring chart left me muttering, “Oh cassocks!!!!” under the voluminous surplice I have got no-one can see that the cassock does not fit properly anyway – I’d rather give the money to charity. A few clicks later a donation was winging its way to the https://www.oarsomefoursome.co.uk/ Oarsome Foursome who are rowing the Atlantic over Christmas to raise cash for several charities including Cornwall Blood-Bikes and Care leavers.

Dear Readers and exalted others……

Some more posts will follow shortly with reflections from others on Reader Day and things going on around the Deaneries involving Readers- but in the Spirit of not giving you too much all at once……… 

             ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In coming days as Chaplain I am seeing two people  discerning the path to Reader Ministry, Leading a C5 course near Callington, going to Sennen to do a small C3 safeguarding course so that a Reader can take up his PTO license once more, seeing a student on the Reader Training Course about their reflective journal and hosting coffee and conversation with the Chaplain tomorrow morning (Monday 14th) at the Penventon Hotel in Redruth between 10 and noon for any Readers or supportive others to come and join our in depth discussions! 

               +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Reader’s Service seemed to go well this year but I am always aware that we can improve things. So in the spirit of the old primary school teacher in me I wonder if you would do a little evaluation of you went this year. I would suggest two stars and a wish – in other words mention a couple of things you thought were really good and something that might have made it better. Do several trios of comments if you like! 🙂 

Chris Kingshott who was chaplain before me and now plying his Reader Ministry and the Penlee cluster has written a novel!! It is not yet published anywhere so if you would like to read it- it is going to be serialrised here! Click for Chapter One! And about the author.

      +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Quiet Day 

This year on Saturday December 7th, the quiet day has been proving both a popular and necessary Advent experience! Please see the article for booking details. 

        ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Funeral Thoughts – There’s a page for responses to this HERE!

In response to my post about my first Funeral Service, Reader Wendy Earl had a few thoughts that might begin a discussion, she writes, 

With regard to your visit to the crem you will now know the huge amounts of energy needed.  Personally being very ‘green’ I keep asking for some Woodland burial sites in Cornwall.  I understand Penmount are now offering ‘green’ but up country there are some beautiful, rural sites and barns converted to chapels as well as offering facilities for wakes…(good diversification for farmers!)  and shouldn’t tree planting be top of all our agendas?!  It would be good to get folk talking about this.

Saturday 7th December 10-4 Epiphany House

I am delighted that Reader Garth Wright will be leading the day this year and that places are already being booked. This day is getting more and more popular! 

Garth’s experience with the Third Order of the Society of St Francis together with his contemplative persona will, I am quite sure, both refresh and challenge us.

 If you would like to take advantage and step out of the busy time of Advent and the pre-Christmas rush please book by email. 

Places are strictly limited so that there is space to think and reflect.

We book an extra couple of rooms in case someone needs to see me as Chaplain or to speak to the leader of the day.

We suggest a donation of about £10 towards the costs of using Epiphany House and although there will be refreshments provided on arrival and at lunchtime, participants are asked to bring their own packed lunches.

If there is enough interest I could investigate whether Epiphany could provide a soup lunch and what the cost would be. Please let me know if that would be helpful. 

 

A Sermon for the Reader Licensing Service October 2019

Let us pray

In the written word and spoken word may we meet the risen word, our lord and saviour Jesus Christ – Amen.

The challenge of preaching at this particular occasion is not much different to the challenge all us preachers face every time we stand before God’s people………  it’s just got a couple of extras! 

  • to give a sermon one needs to hear one’s self,
  • a sermon that welcomes and encourages those about to join our merry band of blue-scarved warriors for Christ,
  • a sermon that should speak to all those in ministry both ordained and lay
  • and finally a sermon that will say something to everyone else because after all every single person in this building right now whether they are wearing frocks, playing the organ, shuffling their bottoms on impossibly uncomfortable chairs or tasked with making everything work smoothly for the rest of us (pause) each is equally important, equally loved and equally valued by God (Pause) and that does not matter whether you are here as a born again atheist basking in the architecture – or a bishop.

Now THEY (the about to be licensed readers)  are probably expecting a story- but I don’t have one today; they are the story and for the purposes of this sermon they represent all of us in ministry who are here today…

I stand here in my role as chaplain having worked with – and prayed with – and prayed for this group over the last several years as I did with the several groups before that. Each year that Jane, (indicate) as director of training, and I have been here – we have been immensely proud that the future of reader ministry has an injection of such talent, dedication, scholarship, compassion and, above all, love. 

So as one does (pause) I was pondering on what it is that makes the perfect Reader.

What would you put in the recipe? (Pause) articulate, well read and prepared to make promises to the Bishop (indicate J) but what else?

(pause)

You see this group here (pause); representing all of us remember– each with our own God given gifts, personalities and vocations …… between them I wonder if they make the recipe for the perfect reader.

Let me introduce them…

  • Martin the constantly inquisitive and searching, orthodox- rigorous academic music professor.
  • Henry the surgeon whose wit and ability to get to the heart of the matter are as sharp as the scalpel he used to wield.
  • Robin whose practical approach and generosity of time are reflected his sermons which are seemingly hewn from the bench ends which he carves into useful artefacts.
  • Liz from Warleggan who strides the ecumenical divide and understands the real needs of the folk she serves,
  • Debbie the teacher, who is so thoughtful, and more creative than almost anyone in preparing worship
  • James the traditionalist who is as happy leading BCP evensong as he is tying a tarpaulin to a church roof in a gale or conjuring life from a recalcitrant computer.
  • Kim who’s cheerfully up for any challenge from leading a drumhead service to a time of quiet reflection and can balance needs all from military personnel to children in a family service.
  • And Lesley – who once trained nurses, has a heart as big as an Olympic swimming pool and takes God’s love to others wherever she goes.

So although I’m looking at them – I’m speaking to us all when Isaiah reminds us   

“you are my witnesses …..  and my servant and I have chosen you

which probably sums up the reason why many of us are here today; we are called to be God’s witnesses  and to stand up and tell the story.

WHY?

“because you are precious in my sight and honoured and (pause) I love you 

As ministers we have to believe this of all people including, very importantly, (pause) ourselves.

The eight folk you have standing before you today have sacrificed much to be here and as I said, they represent all the readers and ministers in this place today. Between them they’ve probably sampled most of the Medical Equipment that the NHS has to offer from radiology to cardiology. Like all of you have written essays, read carefully, prayed dutifully and battled through personal burdens in order to be good witnesses and live up to being personally chosen by God.

But through these battles and adversity we are reminded..

do not fear for I have redeemed you I have called you by your name and you are mine – when you pass through with the waters I will be with you

We have been chosen and whatever our physical or mental state, God can use us to further his plan if we only trust in his love and reflect that to others.

Jesus tells Peter to fish from the other side of his boat and Peter obeys even though he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything.

Now if that had been me, having been up all night, vastly experienced in my trade and a carpenter gives me advice I might just have grumbled something about somewhere even more suitable for the net or suggested that he might like to try it himself but that’s because I am a grumpy old bloke and I have been like that since I was 12.

Peter, however, is made of different stuff and amazingly he just does what Jesus says and of course hauls in a miraculous catch. Then, to cap it all, he accepts Jesus’ invitation to leave the trade and go into ministry.

Our new Readers have obeyed the command to fish from the other side and to fish for people from whatever boat they happen to be in whether it’s a cruise liner or a rowing boat with a few holes. 

But what you think you might have been called for will not necessarily remain the same- God changes our jobs, our vocations to suit where we are on our journey, our capacity, our health our situation and the needs of others where we are , but one need remains constant and that is love.

My recipe:

  • Folks who have open ears to hear the cry of those in need,
  • open hands to receive the gifts that God wants to give us
  • open intelligent minds that can use those gifts in service,
  • and huge hearts that can act like a reservoir for the love of Jesus that all who meet them might share in that glorious gift. Ministers who are always ready to call, ‘Here I am Lord..!”

I pray that all of you who preach and teach and minister might see that love reflected back to you from those you have been chosen to serve and to witness to.

And if you don’t think you are a minister, perhaps because you do not have all that theological study under your belt or because you don’t wear the right fancy dress – look over your shoulder- God has chosen you for something too!

Amen

 

Jim Seth

October 2019

 

Dear Bishop Chris

 

I know you are not officially a Bishop any more in your new role but for me the title is something I think you may be stuck with. 

When someone moves on to other things it is interesting to reflect on the impact they have made and the shape of the hole that they have left. With some folks the hole is not much than a dent and with others it’s not so much a hole as a pile of debris that has to be cleared away. Thankfully neither of those applies to you. 

The impact of your ministry on me  personally has been huge and through that I am aware of some of the impact across the diocese.

Although I had been getting increasingly involved in Reader life since I retired from my paid job in 2009 spending some time as Deanery Reader Steward and somehow getting the job of producing a three fold brochure on Reader ministry there was none so surprised as I at getting an email from you inviting me to be on the panel to select Readers for training in 2014.  

The conversations that day with you and Jane (Kneebone) as well as the amazing privilege of listening to the faith stories of the candidates set me on a whole new path. From preaching and teaching and organising stuff my ministry became more and more about listening which if you were to speak to my wife Lez she would tell you that me actually listening is a miracle. I am not sure that it would count toward your beatification however 🙂 

So as a result of that I was asked to help on the course and  became chaplain to the course later that year.  Then eventually I took over from Chris Kingshott as Chaplain to Readers.

 

So part of your impact is in that wonderful ability to discern the skills of others and to open the opportunities to flourish both for me and for many others over your years as Bishop of St Germans.  The wider impact being the empowering of others and delegating responsibility which enables the holes one leaves to be filled much more easily. Hence the role of Warden sitting with a small committee until a new one is formally appointed. 

Another aspect of your ministry that impacted upon me in particular and I suspect in many others was your ability to ask the probing question that would set one’s mind on a different tack or to cut to the core of an issue. Asking the right questions is such an important skill.  That some folks may not have altogether enjoyed that challenge is the hard stuff of being a leader but challenge is what we all need if we are to grow. 

Your support for and belief in Reader Ministry really did make us feel valued and that we have a special part to play in the modern church even with the pincer movement of other lay ministries and the seeming dominance of some ordained ministers! (not my Rector, I hasten to add- just in case he reads it!)  I for one am thankful that your experience with us in Truro will be put to good use in your new role where I hope that support of Reader ministry may be seen  in a wider context and have greater impact.

 

Thank you for your challenge, for your invitations, for your encouragement, for your compassion and your belief in the skills and the callings of those under your wing. 

We will miss you and our prayers will be with you in your new tasks

 

Jim

 

Just some memes to brighten your day

It seems all denominations share some of the same problems

The next one is a hangover from the ethos of my teaching days but so relevant in faith matters!  Just don’t expect the answer you want every time. 

Just nice.....

Funeral Ministry

I finally took my first funeral this week having avoided them for the three decades of my Reader Ministry. 

That was partly because I saw my skills being with children and young people and partly through being uncomfortable, to put it mildly, with thinking too much about death and dying. 

The other reason is something to do with getting it wrong in such a delicate situation. 

The same minister led the funerals for my mother and my father some five years apart. At Dad’s funeral he got my brother’s name wrong which did not amuse him so at Mum’s funeral I prepared the whole service and gave him a eulogy to read with the instruction that the majority of mourners were Christians of different denominations so a bit of hopeful theology would not go amiss. 

He did not put in any Christian hope and in the Eulogy he attempted to paraphrase….. Where I had written ‘Doreen loved birds and was a keen naturalist……..” he decided in a lilting midlands accent to declare that ‘Doreen was a keen naturist…..’ 

Oh dear! 

 

Since retiring in 2009 I have spent hours listening to people in case-work, chaplaincy and spiritual direction situations and listening to others has a tendency to change one’s perspective. 

So the time came when the Rector needed another pair of hands to cover funerals and not being one to pass up a challenge I accepted.  I have done funeral training at least three times with the Readers in Training and another three at different times over the years, just not the practical aspects so after quizzing the Rector and having a good conversation with Richard Putt, the hugely experienced Funeral Director at Bernard Williams Funerals I was all set. 

Part of the preparation was in an empty crematorium in Camborne with Rector Caspar, escorting a coffin in from the hearse (the committal having been done outside the church much earlier) and saying an appropriate prayer. Once done, that gave me the opportunity to chat to the crematorium manager, stand at the lectern, rehearse pressing the button to shut the curtains and work out the best speed to walk in in front of the coffin! 

Then I was taken around the back to the ‘business end’ and chatted to the chap whose task it was to run the cremator and other equipment.  It was fascinating and rather wonderful in its own way. Even seeing the bin of metal replacement body parts from hips to knees and from staples to pins which goes off to Poland or Holland for recycling and generated around £6000 which is then donated to local charities. 

Speaking to the sons of the lady whose service I was to take was a special experience as was writing all their thoughts into something cohesive. I emailed it to them when I had written it so that they could edit if necessary.

The funeral itself was in a packed crematorium and went very smoothly – I was pleased that I had taken on the challenge because the privilege of helping people through their grief  is at the heart of showing Jesus’ love to all people.  I may well be up for doing more should they fall my way…….

Resourcing Sunday to Saturday Faith

Click on the link above (or the picture of the booklet)  to open this document which I would highly recommend! Many of you will have seen it in your latest copy or the Reader. I missed it! My habit is to open the recyclable sleeve putting it with the compost, remove the magazine to read later and extract all all the advertising that drops out like confetti and putting that in the paper recycling. A sad end to this carefully written and hugely accessible booklet!

Luckily Bishop Chris thrust it into my hand and there will be some extra copies available on the Reader stand on Vocations Day thanks to Carrie.

You might care to go and mine for your own resources in the vast caverns of the CRC website- there are some treasures there even if they are called unhelpful things like P348https://www.readers.cofe.anglican.org/resources.php 

 

So 50 years ago this summer I was 17 and living at home in Birmingham. My parents had gone off with my brother and my cousin for a caravanning holiday in Scotland and I was working nights in Cadburys to build up the college fund.

It was 1969 and I maintain, the best year for popular and rock music ever; the Stones were top of the charts with Honky Tonk women, the Beatles with Get Back and Fleetwood Mac with Albatross. Of course there were some dreadful musical memories too such as Sugar Sugar by the Archies, the somewhat pornographic Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus and arguably ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra which seems to have become a song of choice for many funerals! There’s nothing new under the sun.

So the other week I was preaching at St Andrews in Redruth  on that wonderful set of readings that included the lines from Ecclesiastes about there being nothing new under the sun and musing that in 1969 Richard Nixon was president and now there was Donald Trump. Woodstock set the standard for large music festivals and now they are common-place. Neil Armstrong made ‘one small step for man’ and now we have a space station orbiting the planet and entrepreneurs are working on taking folks on holiday in space. Charles de Gaulle resigned as French president famous for saying “NON!” a couple of years before to the UK entering the Common Market following years of negotiation and now…… well the less said about that here the better! There’s nothing new under the sun.

That summer I joined a sponsored March from Central Birmingham to the Lickey Hills in aid of Medical Aid for Vietnam and these days teenagers and others are still Marching for Climate Change and so on! There’s nothing new under the sun.

History seems to prove than humankind does not learn from its mistakes and maybe it has to be allowed to make them in order to learn and that goes also for Rectors, Curates, Readers and anyone involved in ministry! No amount of PCC meetings that declare “we did that once…. It didn’t work!” or “we don’t belong to do that here!” will help. 

David Bowie was the soundtrack to the Moon Landing encouraging us all to look up and the Edwin Hawkins singers sang Oh Happy Day when Jesus washed my sins away reminding us that there is always a chance to start afresh- putting off that those bad habits and learning from mistakes of the past. Blue Mink Sang “Melting Pot” in which they appealed for all races to be lumped together to produce a “get along scene” and on that Sunday at St Andrews the epistle was from Paul explaining that in Christ there was no Greek no Jew, so slave nor free, make nor female etc.  There’s nothing new under the sun.

(Final paragraph)

Maybe we should focus on the Hollies, “He Aint Heavy, he’s my Brother” I suggested in my sermon and remember that at the heart of all we do is looking after one another- the whole of humankind in Christ.

I had a rare email commenting on the sermon a few days later from someone much moved by the mention of that song because it reminded him of his long departed brother- we don’t know the power of what we drop into sermons.

Back in 1969 I was very much a ‘born again’ atheist- very anti organised religion and especially anti the Billy Graham evangelistic movement – but I don’t think I ever really lost God in that time and God certainly did not lose me but popular culture and the words of songs kept me in touch but it took nearly another decade for me to head back to church.

 The top 100 for 1969 can be found at: http://www.uk-charts.top-source.info/top-100-1969.shtml

 

The road is long, with many of winding turns
That lead us to (who knows) where, who knows where?
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him – yeah
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

So long we go, his welfare is my concern
no burdon is he to bear, we’ll get there
But I know he would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

If I’m leaving at all, if I’m leaving with sadness
that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness
of love for one another.

It’s a long, long road, from which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there, why not share?
And the long doesn’t way me down at all
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

He’s my brother – he ain’t heavy – he’s my brother …