This first post is more an initial thought diary of the course to give a flavour for those interested. The next post will be more reflective on some of the issues raised especially around forgiveness. 

Part one! Friday afternoon.

The third of the seven residential experiences of the academic year for the year one and two Readers in training took place at MARJON in Plymouth this weekend. Normally my wonderful assistant chaplain, Margaret Sylvester-Thorne would be covering as she lives somewhat closer to the border with England but as she is away this one fell to me and a most interesting and fascinating experience it was! 

It also reaffirmed just what a commitment it is to be a reader or ordained minister in terms of time and personal challenge, All these good folk need our continuing and sustaining prayer as well as our encouragement and help where we can give it.

The major themes of the weekend depending on the year group were Sin and Atonement and The Holy Spirit. I followed the Truro readers year two group in the main who moved between the two themes because they do not quite fit into the ongoing programme though all will be sorted next year when the courses are fully integrated. 

Mercifully the drive up was in the sunshine…… which made for good conversation about what to expect with Jason and Judy with whom I travelled. The instruction to ‘bring my own mug’ made me wonder just how chaotic breaks were going to be. I need not have been concerned.

The hotel, a huge “Future Inns” next door to ‘The Range’ Headquarters is 5 minutes drive from MARJON and is a huge corporate affair but comfortable enough (except that the bed was rather hard which did my old decaying hip no good at all – but others loved them…. good for backs!) and after a coffee and chatting to a group of Readers in Training I went up to the top floor for the ‘cheesecake’ meeting when the staff get together for a final run through of who does what what, when and how.

That was really useful and I began to feel slightly less out of place. I did wonder just how useful I was going to be and whether anyone in an already set course group would need to speak to me at all. 

However the chaplains gathered in the reception area as all the other students arrived and I found myself enveloped in hugs and greetings and requests to talk to me later…….. 

Part Two – Friday evening

Then it was off the the college chapel to set up for evening worship before the first teaching session. This was the first inkling that the college were not wholly committed to making life easy for SWMTC to work within its walls. On the main altar was a memorial complete with a large portrait and candles for a student who had sadly died that week. If only the college chaplain had set it up on a side table it would have been reverential and easier to deal with but after some telephone negotiation it was agreed that it would be removed and replaced after each worship session in the weekend.  It worked but added a layer to organisation that was not needed. 

The second clue to the college lack of hospitality was that none of the codes to get on to the MARJON IT system worked and there was no-one to sort it out so there was much to-ing and fro-ing with laptops and cables to provide work-arounds so that lecturers could use PowerPoint and video clips. 

However the first actual teaching after a passable fish and chip supper in the dining hall was soon underway and I found myself perched at the side peering around the room to see how folk were reacting – as per the instructions I received at the meeting. It is quite tricky just to sit and watch!

The session on Sin and Atonement was led by Philip Sourbut the Joint Principal and was both full-on and challenging as he asked tricky questions about the nature of sin, forgiveness and repentance  all leading up to a period of reflection on a personal level about their response to what they might need to work on and a final question along the lines of ‘What do I need to do to align myself to the economy of God’s Kingdom?” 

Following the session as I met folks back in the bar at the hotel those questions were much discussed and the latter greeted by several folks with a “what??????” But one person I spoke to had found that it hit the nail on the head for them and I spent the bulk of the time before bed in conversation with them about how they were going to act on it. Fascinating but also a huge privilege to listen.

My half a Teleys exhausted I headed to my room and the large bed that felt to me like lying on a sheet of hardboard with a sheet over it. 

Morning could not come soon enough. 

More after the picture…… 

Part 3 – Saturday Morning

Breakfast was at 7am during the eating of which I tried to agree a date with several readers in training who still needed to do safeguarding before their placements so after several conversations and emails we had suggested dates….. but no agreement.

Then having grabbed a quick glass of fruit juice I then got involved in a conversation about safeguarding and chaplaincy in the Coastguard which probably opened more questions than it answered but was really interesting. 

A quick check of my room, cleaning teeth etc, I grabbed my bag, fled downstairs ( I refused to use the lift to the first floor after the first trip- I need the exercise!) and checked out. 

The first Session led by Sue Sheppard in the chapel was ‘Bible Study’ and was a fairly gentle introduction to when different versions were printed and a comparison of beards of the main characters involved from Tyndale and Wycliffe to King James! Suffice it to say my beard would not compete and neither would my knowledge! 

Common Worship morning prayer led by students buffered the next session attended by both years of Truro Readers, Led by Dr Cheryl Hunt on Sin and Atonement in the Bible.   Personally I really liked the fact that after the safeguarding slide the learning objectives were displayed so I knew where things were headed! More than several  folks I spoke to were quick to point out that they ‘could listen to Cheryl all day’  and it lived up to expectation. 

After coffee using my own mug as instructed and a conversation about Spiritual Direction in the Diocese of Truro with an Ordinand I followed the year two students to a session led by Dr Dominic Cyrus on “who is the Holy Spirit” which was part of the Christian Doctrine strand.  Students had tried to describe Dominic’s teaching style to me but to sit in on a lecture is to be both entertained and challenged. It is what I have long-termed ‘performance teaching’ – excited, fast paced and high powered.  The only slight negative for Truro year twos was that the Exeter year twos had this as a middle session of three where for Truro it was a stand alone session that had not had the introduction and would miss the conclusion to the topic. But this would not happen in future years when the courses all matched up. 

Part Four- Saturday lunch and beyond…

The Buffet lunch provided more opportunities for conversation this time mostly about getting emails with the results of essays – the timing not being wonderful arriving as they did during the residential.  I suppose the notion is that if people needed to talk to someone about it they could.  

The sandwiches were very good- although it would have been helpful to have a few labels describing the contents. I did have my mug and could have murdered a good mug of tea but I had to make do with visiting the shop and making do with a bottle of Coke…. which served to remind me why I have not drunk coke for so long! It did wash down the cake and and infuse enough caffeine to counteract weariness. 

The “Sin and Forgiveness in the Gospels,” session was led by our own Director of Reader training Jane Kneebone. The after lunch slot is often called “the graveyard slot” because having worked hard and eaten the temptation to nod off is quite strong. This session, although at a quite subdued pace compared with the Doctrine lecture, had just enough interactive involvement to keep everyone going as they worked through the various issues and scenarios.  

FOllowing a break most people were back together for “When Things go wrong” with Rev’d  Dave Carrington which was less about things going wrong and more about practical aspects of and approach to sermons and preaching. The session had me both involved and frustrated because as Chaplain I am not supposed to join in and not speaking on something I am passionate about it was tricky to put it mildly! Dave (Also one of the designated safeguarding officers) showed clips of  comedian Michael McIntyre and a singer, Rag’n’bone man singing passionately ‘I’m only Human’. and a couple of other examples that drew out various aspects of the skill of preaching. 

It was very well received as a round up for the day. 

Worship in the Chapel was led by students with three reflections on parts of a reading from Isaiah. As a trainer of worship leaders I itched to feedback not to be apologetic for the technology….. just concentrate on what you are doing…. even when things do not go quite right more often than not nobody notices if you just act confidently. 

I do wonder if the folk leading worship need a little lesson in using the rather good technology already in the chapel. 

Truro Readers reflection

Following the worship I sat with the Truro Readers to gather their reflections and make enough notes to write up a report later! 

The drive home was dark and damp, the weather providing normal service but the conversation was good and as we drove I added items to my growing To Do list. I arrived home sometime after eight, collapsed in my chair with a couple of pieces of toast and a mug of tea and watched some old TV programmes to switch off….

It was an excellent course, with skillful, knowledgeable  lecturers and I felt used and useful as chaplain…. which, after all, was what I was there for. 

 

Since William started training in 2013 he has notched up an impressive 201 preaching engagements! 

Great to see a Reader so well used! 

How about news from other Readers….. and perhaps some pictures and comments. 🙂 

More on Funeral Ministry

Yesterday I took my second ever funeral and the first in a church and the first at Penmount Crematorium.

Because it was a celebration for a local legend who was president, chairman, Lodge Master and choir member there were an awful lot of people who wanted to say farewell and I found it an enormous privilege to be able to to take the service and provide pastoral support for the family.

I never intended to get involved in funeral ministry and it does not even appear on last September’s Work Agreement but  I have done so with  the encouragement of my Rector, Caspar Bush, who backed up his encouragement with a good deal of conversation and email because I like to get things right and pay attention to detail!

The funeral yesterday was a marathon affair and I suspect only really fell my way because the Eight Saints Cluster is somewhat short staffed for one reason or another at the moment. The family were really helpful and even gave me a lift to the church arriving at the same time as the church warden (Terry Lister) who could not have been more helpful in providing local knowledge to help with the choreography of the service- there were no spare seats and we even had Truro male voice Choir singing in the choir stalls! The first mourners were there over an hour before the start to get a parking spot and the seat of their choice but I was able to greet most of them at the door.

“Oh are you the vicar?”

“No not me….. not a vicar just a licensed Minister taking the service”

or

“Thank you reverend..”

“No I’m not a reverend”

“what are you then…?”

“Oh I’m a Reader, a licensed Lay Minister”

“Oh are you Methodist then?”

“Well no, I’m an Anglican minister but I am on the Redruth Methodist preaching plan”

(There is a question about Reader identity here I suspect!)

I had been wrestling with the cough that has lingered on since mid December and continued to do so as I wandered sedately down to the lych gate to await the hearse and the family. There I offered up my usual pre service plea for some spirit filed assistance and another one specifically about coughing.  Interestingly, and rather wonderfully I did not cough again until three hours later when we left Penmount. Thank you Lord! 

The wake had been planned for immediately after the service – so having shaken a couple of hundred hands and had several lengthy conversations I headed down to the bowls club to join the party- without my Readers robes, without them I could easily have been invisible- it was fascinating!  I had to explain I had just taken the service so I could jump the long food queue and get a mug of tea.

The undertaker mustered the family at just after four and I threw on my robes once more and headed for the short committal at Penmount and then I was taken home! Everyone was incredibly grateful but I just felt that I had been in the right place at the right time and hopefully said the right things. 

So I am glad that when God opened that door a fraction I stepped inside to give it a go and to learn new things. Even at 67 and three quarters you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Rest in peace Denzil.

The New Year was ushered in relatively quietly: the grandchildren were taken home by 10 pm after an evening of Mahjong and other board games and I nursed my cough through till midnight and the usual well wishing by text.  There was a certain relief at being in bed within the first hour of 2020 and a certain smugness in reminding myself that I had never broken the resolution I made back in 1967 – that I would never again make a new year resolution. This year I kept it again.  

If there is something one needs to resolve to do its not worth waiting till New Year- begin today….. if you fail then have another crack tomorrow but don’t wait a whole year. 

I have posted a couple of eulogies from the Redruth Parish Magazine from 2010 remembering a couple of Readers, Arthur Skewes and John Brown both of whom had an impact in one way or another on my ministry. I wondered if we should have a section of the website for Readers Remembered and include contributions from around the diocese. Let me know what you think….. better still – send some articles. 

 

 

Epiphany Sunday with granddaughter Ellie and the chess board.

“Farewell” to some good friends   (2010)

In the last month we have lost two faithful former Readers in the Team, Arthur Skewes and John Brown. They were both in their very different ways well known and loved members of our town and churches. We include here very personal reflections on two characters who will be missed and long remembered.

Arthur Skewes RIP

I fist met Arthur when he was part of the Lay Readers team which included Frank Michell, Fred Martin, Bill Combellack and John Brown. He always had a smile, a pithy comment and a kind word. Arthur seemed to find joy in all situations and had the wonderful ability to see the funny side of people’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. In later years Arthur took over as organist at Pencoys and “emergency” organist for other churches in the benefice. He never said, “no” when I rang him in a panic on a Saturday night asking him if he could play the next morning. He would turn up as cheerful and good humoured as usual as if he had been given several weeks rather than several hours of notice.

I met Arthur again , more personally, this time when I visited him at home after he had a stroke. Although he was reasonably well (physically) the stroke affected his speech, which for someone who had always been good with words must have been very frustrating.

In spite of this Arthur was always warm, welcoming and friendly and took part fully in the home communion service. Eventually, however, the effort and energy that this took became too much for Arthur and we put these visits on hold. They were due to resume in the new year but before they could happen came the sad new of Arthur’s death from a second stroke.

It was a privilege to spend those few months with Arthur, to share communion and fellowship with him and to sit in his company for a while. I shall remember him for his quiet humour, his unassuming nature and his love of serving God in so many ways.

May he rest in peace.

Lez

John Brown RIP

At John’s funeral his great nephew Rowan read a “rap” composed for John. It was a moving, memorable, affectionate rich tribute to John and we can offer no more fitting tribute here than to print it in full.

 

Rowan makes his living from “rap” and music, he is known as Dizraeli.

UNCLE JOHN

Solid in solitude with his dreams and his memories

A resolute raft, ploughing the seas of the century

Chin set, he settled and barely admitted tenderness

for friends, Romans, and country walks with his weathered stick.

I remember John among the gorse of the Cornish cliffs,

Calling to his boys, with his voice free from ornament;

“Val! Asti!”

A smile broad as a house hides

In his cheeks, and only shows itself as an outline.

I remember John sat in the chair that he sat in,

Reading a hardback, as squared as his passion

As Greek ghosts gather at the back of his mind

And the wallpaper yellows with tobacco and time…

I sit with him. I like the way the quiet makes my head buzz

Silence my twelve-year-old self doesn’t get much.

It tingles my blood and it settles my bones;

Uncle John Time, slow as Old Testament stone.

Coal goes in the scuttle

Tobacco in the pipe

It isn’t any trouble if you stay for the night

But the forks live there.

Realign your chair when you stand!

And God help you if your manners aren’t right.

To me, at sixteen, he breathes fire, dust and history

He lives Redruth and Pompeii just as vividly.

Lord Governor of his interior economy

In a cold bath, with the Roman Empire for company

John keeps time on a chain in the pocket of his waistcoat;

It falls and it rises at his say-so

So innovation is as unnecessary as a wrist watch

              … and here am I, trying to explain hiphop

It doesn’t matter: family is family.

John keeps photographs of us on his mantelpiece

And now, at twenty-seven, I’m proud to have been

a face among the many in that gallery

where Coal goes in the scuttle

Tobacco in the pipe

It isn’t any trouble if you stay for the night

But the forks live there.

Realign your chair when you stand!

And God help you if your manners aren’t right.

Coal in the scuttle

Tobacco in the pipe

It isn’t any trouble if you stay for the night

The forks live there.

Realign your chair when you stand!

And God bless you.

John Brown  was a Reader and retired History & Classics Teacher who was quite an influence on me as a young readers…

 

A Franciscan Blessing ~ May God Bless You With Discomfort, Anger, Tears, and Foolishness

May God bless you with a restless discomfort

about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger

at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears

to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,

so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness

to believe that you really can make a difference in this world,

so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Here is a slightly different version of the blessing . . .

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

‘The Reader Training Dept is holding a Study Day for Y3 students and any Readers who would like to join them on Saturday 8th February at The Old Cathedral School from 10.00 am to 3.30 pm. 

The subject is ‘The Dominical Sacraments – Baptism and Eucharist’ and will be led by Rev’d Joachim Foot. 

If you would like to attend please contact Jane Kneebone on janekneebone@gmail.com to book your place or to find out more . 

Numbers are limited to 20, so book early to avoid disappointment.’

My grateful thanks to Joy Gunter who has collated the prayer list for a number of years. She has passed the baton on to me to put on the blog.  

I do have a few concerns about the publishing of names on the blog because of privacy so there will be no details.

If you think someone should be on the list, let me know. Likewise if there are updates on folks on the list please do tell me! If you need to have updates please contact me by email or telephone because no details will be posted on the site.  The majority of those on the list are Readers or Clergy or have a particular connection.

Please pray for:

Ali, 

Anna. 

Becca,

Deb, 

Garth

Gordon and Jean,

Graham

Gwen, 

Jane & Frank,

Joan,

Lesley,

Lesley,

 

Margaret,

Margaret

Miriam,

Molly & Steve,

Penny,

Roy & Chris,

Sandie,

Shirley & Terry,

Stephanie,

 

Sue,

 

Roy,

 

Roy,

 

Robin,

 

 

 

Those facing Christmas alone or in an abusive or  dysfunctional relationship.

Dear Readers with a capital R (and other interested parties)

Perhaps I should be writing “Dear Transforming Missionaries” rather than “Dear Readers” as the Central Readers Council is changing the name of the “Reader” magazine to “Transforming Mission.” It seems indicative of the current trend in the church to speak of Lay Ministry as being pastoral ministers, home communion officiants, Worship Leaders and so on but not really including Readers. We seem to be, at least in the Truro diocese, somewhere in the limbo-land between the enthusiastic but ultimately briefly trained and the ordained ministries.  It is no wonder that a number of Readers (Licensed Lay Ministers) (transforming Missionaries!) feel somewhat disgruntled about putting aside two or three years for theological training and then watching others with less than 18 hours training in total give ‘talks’ in the sermon slot.

I have to qualify that by saying that it is what I have been told by Readers on my travels rather than my personal experience which is rather different. In Redruth as a Reader I enjoy going to the weekly ministry team meetings (Readers and Ordained Clergy) for our Bible study and business. We do have worship leaders who are encouraged and guided the Ministry Team but they don’t preach but then the worship leader who felt called to preach is currently undergoing Reader Training.  I actually feel quite strongly that as Readers, we have a responsibility to foster the vocations of others at all levels and that enabling someone else to share the Good News might be more important that our individual need to stand in the pulpit.

Elsewhere, outside the diocese of Truro, Readers (or whatever one likes to call them) are undergoing different paths and different levels of participation but it does not seem I danger of dying out in the near future. After all, there is personal benefit to being trained as well as to equip us for ministry. Ultimately we go to lectures, attend residentials, write essays and sample sermons because we want to and get something from it. God nags at us and we respond….. but should we expect pats on the back or sympathy or should we just be grateful that we have been given a job to do, that a door has been opened before us and we should joyfully go through it….. until we meet a closed door.

I had my favourite ever compliment following my half hour sermon/talk to Camborne Wesley Ladies Fellowship last week. An elderly lady approached and said how much she had enjoyed it, that it was fascinating and interesting and that she had loved every minute. Then she apologised for falling asleep in the middle and having to be nudged awake by her daughter- it was the tablets. I had to laugh.

So, back to open and closed doors.  Many of the problems faced by those in ministry, both lay and ordained seem to stem from lack of appropriate communication which in part is why I bang on about work agreements, a document that gives a great basis for discussion. A work agreement should not be drawn up in isolation and rubber stamped…. It should be discussed. Here are some sample starting points….

  • Are you doing too much or too little?
  • What are the needs of the Parish / benefice and how do you fit?
  • Where does the incumbent need help most?
  • Are there things you don’t like doing?
  • Are there things you love doing but don’t get a chance?
  • How many committees are you prepared to attend?
  • How many committees do you actually need to attend.
  • Ideally how many services could you manage?
  • Is there any training you need?
  • What would help you carry out your ministry better?
  • Would it be helpful to work ecumenically? (e.g. help on the Methodist Plan)

There are several varieties of work agreements on the website because one size does not fit all. Pick the one closest to your situation or your style and use it as a base changing, deleting or adding to as necessary but in conversation!

Health warning: I have come across incumbents so stressed that they can no longer delegate because they don’t have the energy to let alone host a meeting about work agreements – as Readers it is important that we choose our time and be sensitive if we are to Transform our Mission into something more useful / suitable.

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