Category Archives: Community

A new stage of life, following on from SCMing

Overheards and expectations

I’m typing this on the gadget while being sat in a cafe in Shropshire and this is providing me an opportunity for highly entertained reflection which is challenging my expectations.

Since the mrs moved to the same city I’ve been travelling by bus more again. The journeys have varied from being completely unexceptional to highly noteworthy. On our latest explore we overheard a story which would have seemed quite at home on Jeremy Kyle. The woman in question was in a deeply personal conversation with what appeared to be her ex and she was suggesting that he couldn’t play happily families with her, their child… And the new gf! As the phone calls (plural) progressed prison was mentioned and reassurance that the person on the other end of the phone wouldn’t be arrested. This seemed particularly ironic as it was barely mentioned before the bus took as past the prison. Neither of us seemed convinced this was the kind of conversation you’d want overheard but the whole bus surely knew the gory details. Unfortunately this wasn’t an occasion where expectations.

Nor for that matter was a bus journey interrupted by girls who’d evidently sat on springs. Their conversations were interspersed by mock fall outs and moving from one side of the bus to the other to avoid or join one another. Their conversations were suitably mundane but facebook was referenced more than once.

The most recent experiences of facebook are those which have challenged by expectations more. From the random overheards, those noted while in this coffee shop will keep me entertained for a while.

A couple of gentlemen on a neighbouring table were catching up when one of them remarked “I nipped onto iTunes to check out his music. Do you have any idea how many albums he released?” followed by a response of “no, but I popped onto YouTube to see some of his stuff”. The conversation continued and later peels of laughter ensued in response to a comment about facebook posts. These guys were certainly on older side of the facebook generation being well into retirement. While this shouldn’t surprise me it did but with great delight.

I shouldn’t be so cynical though. Facebook has it’s uses above and beyond the normal. I “met” my step-sister’s daughter this week as she was staying with my dad. Dad, the girl told me, was playing fb poker and his wife was watching x factor so the 7 year old had been encouraged to natter to me. Dad explained later that she’d done all the typing herself and would I mind offering to chat again because it helped her learn to spell. I can’t say I’d ever imagined chatting to a 7 year old on facebook – I barely consider doing it *off* facebook!

Horray for those things that open new doors and challenge expectations.

Bibles

Next week should, subject to results, be my final local preachers meeting on Trial. As part of it I will be completing an interview on 2 of John Wesley’s Sermons (The Almost Christian and The Use of Money) as well as doing a follow up interview about progress throughout my training and since I was interviewed last (when I prepared some reflections on the journey so far).

It also means the time has come for me to choose the Bible to request as an accreditation gift. For me this is far more exciting than having a service to mark the occasion or finishing the course etc. It’s been a while since I was given a Bible and I wouldn’t necessary want to use my Adventure Bible or my rainbow covered Good News Bible for preaching from. As such this is a nice opportunity to get something quite good and much more appropriate to a) adulthood and b) my current approach to the Bible.

What would you pick if you could ask for anything, well anything to an upper price limit? For those who have already been at this stage, what did you choose when you were given the opportunity? I quite fancied this one but can’t seem to find it close enough to the upper price limit.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

It must be the middle of August (rant alert)

Every year at this time the news media in the UK seem to be filled with the similar comments about the education system. Take your pick from the following: “standards are falling”; “exams are getting easier”; “the opposition condemn (x element) of the education system”; “the problem with easy(?!) subjects e.g. media studies”.

I would like to stand up and be counted as one who truly hates this annual ritual and thinks it to be incredibly unfair and belittling to both students and teachers. It is not acceptable to undermine the work and commitment of some (even most) striving for the best results possible, and suggest that in some way it is less significant than the work of their predecessors.

Teaching is one of those jobs that I would not do for all the money in the world because it would drive me mad, but (and partly because of that reaction) I have a huge respect for teachers. Many of my friends and several of my family are teachers while my sister amongst others wishes to make it her career. And to make that commitment, even for all the rewards it brings, requires a submission to the education system which is fair political game for point scoring and bickering.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that some of the developments over the last few years have been appreciated while others haven’t. Growing up, however, I was used to curriculum changes (and sometimes very significant ones) occurring as regularly as every other year. No chance to get used to one set of goals and targets before the next is implemented. It is not going to be possible for either students or teachers to be able to fully reach their potential when there is no continuity from one year to the next.

It seems that the continuing and various methods of assessing students and their schools are never viewed as adequate. That may indeed be the case, but why is it that the majority of the discussions are focussed on this particular week/weekend (at least in the media). Every August, in the run up to A Level and GCSE results it seems that all those frustrated with the system or looking to score cheap jibes crawl out of the woodwork.

I would like to say to all those people: If it matters, keep talking about it and working for it throughout the year BUT shut up now! If you want to increase standards and celebrate achievement, do not do all you can to undermine them at the time when students are at their most anxious about results. Let us take the opportunity to celebrate with those who’ve done well, for themselves as well as by objective standards. Let us commiserate and have sympathy and understanding for those who have not achieved what they wanted or hoped for. But whatever you do, do not condemn the same students for the challenges or failings of the system over which they have no control.

Urgent Help Request

If any of you are about and can spare 5 minutes between now and midday today (UK time), please, please, please can you try and assist my sister in her final degree work.

She’s been publishing some of her recent pieces of work on her blog and would really appreciate any comments/critique etc which can be offered.

If you can’t get there by 12, please do pop along and make comments anyway.

Thank you so much.

Socks

A long time ago, I blogged about my first sock, and that inspired me to carry on knitting socks. Well, it inspired me for a few months during which time I made two complete socks from differing patterns and two half socks which matched. That’s the way they stayed until lent. After finishing the baby clothes I thought I’d pick up the unfinished projects and see where that took me.

I am delighted to say that of those three pairs of socks which were started 2 years ago, two have been completed and one completely undone.

These ones ended up with very different heels and I couldn’t remember what I’d done, so I undid them to have another go some time. The yarn is lovely – it’s hand-dyed Blue Faced Leicester yarn. Unfinished Sock
The pink ones have a heart pattern on them, and were themed for Valentines Day. They are now finished after quite some time as they were the first pair of this batch to be started. They are made of lovely hand-dyed Merino yarn.
Pink Sock Pink Sock Detail
The next pair are the nicest I’ve made yet. The yarn is Alpaca which is hand-dyed and it’s so, so soft. The nightmare with it is that it’s very easy to get in a knot, and the mrs spent lots of the weekend painstakingly undoing the mess I’d got the spare yarn into.
Alpaca Sock Detail Alpaca Socks
The final pair of socks were started on holiday after the Knitting Disaster, and are a pattern I made up as I went along. I like it when things work out, and they’re close enough to my size so I’m actually getting a pair. They’re made of Regia Designer Sock yarn, so they are neither hand spun nor dyed like the other socks. While perfectly fine to knit with they weren’t as much fun so I’ve reverted to the nicer yarns for the current project, which I’ll share in good time.

Know Thy Community

A huge amount of the work I’m currently doing is related to the communities of which we’re a part.  Living in an intentional community, my fellow residents and I form one community.  The Mrs and I another.  The church represents a whole series of differing communities, and centre (building) yet more.  But around all of these things is a very sizeable ‘community’ waiting to be explored – the city centre (and within that there are many, many more individual communities).

The problem is that there is no definition or obvious boundary for the city centre, and this has been affecting me since moving to do this job as I am challenged to respond to the needs found within it.  I set myself the challenge to map the Christian contacts within the city centre, but postcode areas was not sufficient help.  The Inner ring road left the area too small, and the question was whether the middle ring road (and inner circle bus route) was too far out.  In the end, the middle ring road was used for guidance but where churches fell into other ‘churches together’ groups they were omitted from the list.

I point this out not so much because it, in it’s own right, is interesting but it led me to have an interesting Tuesday.  I decided that to complete the project, I wanted a photograph of each of the places on my list and so I set off… on foot and carrying my local preacher studies in one hand but not having brought my A to Z.  I don’t think I’d entirely thought this through beforehand.

Despite looking something of a picture with a big blue folder in one hand, I started walking.  In the back of my mind I knew my trusty bus pass would be some help and I could travel that way to some of the places. 

The walk was really interesting as it gave me the opportunity not only to see where places were, but also to realise that they weren’t far from one another.  Having set of with the aim of using the bus, a quick check of the map on my ipod at lunch time reassured me it would be far simpler to walk to the next destination, and the next, and so on rather than walk to the bus stop.

In the course of my travels I found that it was highly interesting to not only see what was going on but also to listen for it.  I opted for a music-less walk, and found to my great surprise almost complete silence behind the National Indoor Arena.  This was greatly contrasted with an area I’d found myself in only 5 minutes before.  Despite going through areas of great deprivation, the worst affected area was lost in the unseen bits of the Jewellery Quarter, not too far from the rather stunning Orthodox Cathedral.  There were also signs of great wealth and very expensive city-centre accommodation blocks as well as signs of the industrial heritage – much of the walk was around the canals.  Signs of the recession were as present as those of hopes for the future.  The signs of companionship and isolation associated with city life were there too.  At some points on the walk, I was the only person around yet at others I was having to fight my way through bustling crowds or walk between gridlocked cars.

The distribution of churches and other christian organisations was also rather strange – it was not related to the number of residences near by and sometimes it was a long walk between them, yet at another point there were about 4 in the space of 5 buildings on the same stretch of road.  The most remote of the churches I reached was in the middle of an industrial estate, and walk back towards the next point I found the most amazing piece of grafitti I’ve seen in Birmingham (picture to follow). 

Another interesting consideration from the walk was the balance of types of churches and organisations.  Sadly both the Welsh congregations seem to have vacated their premises but other newer, international churches have moved in.  A couple of the newer buildings represent churches with many hundreds of years of history, who for various reasons have moved, while their buildings are now used by newer churches.  And then, like the church in the industrial estate, there are those hidden in the depths of anonymous buildings where you have to know they’re there.  Just occasionally, there is a hidden gem – a church or organisation whose service has been long standing yet almost unseen.  With no presence in internet listings, directories or acknowledgment from the ecumenical bodies they quietly and patiently continue their work.

I foudn the whole experience really worth while and not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  All I need to do now is use the photos for something and see where that takes me.  I certainly think I know the city centre a little better than I did.

The route may have looked a little (but not entirely) like this:

View Larger Map

Un/Gendered God

Chris recently wrote a comment about the gender of God, in his post about his parents, which led to Jack remarking that she was going to go away and think about the gender of God. 

I’m fortunate that I had good discussions about similar as part of my baptism classes a few years back.  Since then I’ve also found myself on the periphery of various discussion on gender.  It even ties in with two unrelated strands of my job(s) this year!  

In trying to formulate my thoughts, it has been something of a challenge to think of the most appropriate ways of phrasing what I think, so I hope this makes some sort of sense.

For me the balance of gender across the Trinity is important but each element has, I believe, a predominant gender.  The Spirit is most strongly associated with feminine traits (i.e. old testament Wisdom in Proverbs and the Spirit brooding like a mother at creation).  Jesus, partly through incarnational gender, is as masculine as the Spirit feminine.  The Godhead/father, therefore, is not gendered.  This, for me, is neither a statement of too much nor not enough gender, but represents a balance whereby gender is not of key significance to the being that is God.  Lots of the biblical descriptions of God offer imagery which is prominently masculine, then on other occasions feminine.  I believe that, each part of the Trinity can transcend the human associations of gender attributed to each, and that is why, for me, the presence of this perceived balance is essential to my understanding of God.  I think this language of gender sometimes is a distraction from a God for whom gender is not essential.

A Knitting Disaster

As mentioned in my last blog post, I’m notoriously bad at finishing knitting but as part of my lenten discipline of doing something unrelated to work for half an hour (at least) each day, I packed some of my older projects with me to do on my holiday.

I opted to complete a pair of socks I knitted the first of over two years ago and merrily undertook the work.  Having established that the needles I’d (relatively) recently bought were the size I thought was right, I started.  After only a short while I realised the gauge was too small, so on a visit to a knitting shop bought the next size up, and restarted.  The sock was duly knitted each day, with me reaching the last 2 inches before the toe earlier today.  I was delighted, as was the Mrs who was looking forward to her socks – both of them.

Then, having had this nagging feeling throughout that the sizing was wrong, I checked the size of the three different needles I had to see whether I was using the right ones.

The 2.5mm fitted perfectly into their marker on my measure, as did the first of the 2.25mm ones (I had an odd needle with me).  When I came to put the final set of 2.25mm needles into the marker I discovered quite why the gauge was wrong on my knitted work – they were only 2mm needles.  While that difference might seem very tiny, I compared the socks and established that the second one was significantly bigger than the first. 

It meant to my great frustration that I had to undo 5 days worth of knitting and an almost complete sock.  Gutting!

Clatter of tiny knitting needles

It appears I’ve got to that point in life where there are a good number of friends and close acquaintences having kids.  This knowledge has been combined with one of my lenten tasks of doing something creative each day to produce the first batch of baby things.

My knitting is rarely ever completed, let alone sewn together so this marks the first complete thing which wasn’t made all in one!  May I present the fruits of my labour: