Tag Archives: worship

Oops to the lack of blogging

As the regular(!) reader will notice, there isn’t so much to read on my blog these days. I so rarely log in, let alone think of anything to write about but as I log in today I discover something in my ‘draft posts’ folder from March. Being so efficient, and with that as such recent news I’ll have a go at finishing that post before starting the one I’ve actually logged in to write.

So… Local Preacher Training (originally dated 9 March 2010!)

I’ve been chronicling my journey throughout my Local Preacher Training and it wouldn’t seem appropriate to let Sunday go unmarked. It was my service of recognition so I’ve officially finished (even if I do have to present my project still)! (Come September, strangely it has now been completed and was accepted – I’ll stick a note on about that too).

A group of friends gathered to share in the special evening – someone from university who has journeyed with me throughout; friends from SCM who have challenged, critiqued, encouraged and supported; local friends as well as a good collection of people from the local church, and the circuit. It was a really special occasion. The sermon was something to be beheld, by virtue of the length and the enthusiasm and exuberance of the preacher.

It was a really lovely way to celebrate the end of, at times, a gruelling course. It felt like a fair end to the journey through my time in Birmingham – I started the course within 6 months of starting my permanent job in Brum and was accredited during my period of notice as I prepared to move out of the area.

After the service, we gathered back at the Community Flat (and finished the feast we started before heading to church). A few celebratory drinks were shared before people headed homewards – all except one good friend and the Mrs. It led to the most fun conversations, and entirely unrelated to local preaching. This friend wins the award for most laid back bride to be: “Well, it took a while for me to work out why there aren’t more 11am wedding ceremonies. The other brides faff on with things like hair and make up… well, I *might* brush my hair!”

(Well, come September it’s hard to keep much more of a focus on the event than has now been reflected on. Eh, well…)

Since the service of recognition in March, a couple of noteworthy things have happened. My presentation on my project went well, even though I was 45 minutes late (horray for buses). I reflected on the things we, as preachers, can learn from artists who use words to make and form their art. Whether poets, creative writers, sculptors or painters, artists use words to form things beyond what is immediately expected. My sister’s artwork inspired me to consider this, and her work can be seen on her website. I reflected that, as wordsmiths, we should be encouraged to practise, to seek new and unexpected inspiration, to seek to improve skills and undertake training. I can’t remember what else I reflected upon, but I got some good feedback and provoked some interesting responses. The Local Preachers Meeting formed the final of my preaching duties in Brum and it seemed a nice exit. My final services were led jointly with a good friend and colleague, at work. Again, it was a nice place to share the goodbyes.

As my job changed (in July/August) I started exploring getting my local preaching fully recognised within my new home denomination. That led to a fascinating series of reading and essays but I now (still, in September) am awaiting a(nother) assessed service. Hopefully once that is done, all the assessed services will be done for the time being. So preaching is very much a ticked box for now and it’s nice to have all the written work out of the way.

So now those studies are done, what shall I do next?

Notes on my Spiritual Journey 6 – Current Job

After leaving SCM, I found myself increasingly drawn to community-focussed lay ministry. After applying to run a residential community which subsequently didn’t feel right enough (and I withdrew), I was delighted to discover a community being created on my own doorstep. Drawing from the experiences of growing the sense of community within SCM, I came to my current role and have had a very special opportunity to set up a residential Christian community. With a shared ethos, commitment to sharing in worship and a desire to serve Birmingham through volunteering, four of us now live together. In engaging with this community I continue to share in the corporate development of faith I valued from SCM and the convent. In the leadership of the group, I find myself being constantly challenged, and rewarded, in the way I am called to serve as well as manage the residents.

Some of my work time was left free to pursue projects of interest to me. This gave me the opportunity to think big and outside the box. While the initial dreams stood aside for the more functional and necessary, I found work as one of a team of volunteer chaplains to a local University. The projects which have been of particular interest in this role are in producing a prayer resource to be shared with all the churches in the city centre, regardless of doctrine or denomination. This required a partner project mapping all the relevant contacts, and in this way I have been able to get to know the central Birmingham communities in a unique and highly invaluable way. The understanding and observance of the changing life within this area affects the whole city, regardless of where each resident lives.

The nature of a community orientated project like the one I lead focuses on living out the faith we all proclaim. It balances elements of worship (as I also preach in addition to running the prayer ministry for the centre and organising community prayers), action, service and fellowship.

Note: this was written several months ago and some of the reflections have changed but I need to do a final reflection prior to my last interview as part of my training.

Back in Time

The weekend was spent in a long planned and much anticipated break with some friends. We availed ourselves of a company perk of v cheap accommodation which turned out to be fantastically welcoming and well equipped but somewhat behind the times.

The weekend presented a great opportunity to catch up and enjoy company and scenery alike. We shared cheese and stories, cheese and wine, cheese and mead (yay) and cheese and cheese. Spot a theme? On Sunday we, like the good Christian children we aren’t, went to the local church service. Never have I wanted to wretch the poor limp, lifeless body of the service out of the preacher’s hands so soon into a service! Technically I don’t even think it had started!

It’s probably worth clarifying before going any further that this was a guest preacher who’d never been invited before and I strongly doubt will get a return invite.

On appearing at the pulpit she had the normal time for notices to sort her papers but she evidently didn’t as when she arose she then explained she needed to find the right pages so we’d start with ‘a half minute of silence… Amen’. I can’t honestly say it was any the more obvious she’d found them when she carried on but I guess she must have!

A time of praise would also have given her the opportunity to get sorted and for us it presented what in hindsight was the best of the time. During it, however, our concern and disapproval was clear amongst the five of us. A very formidable school marm-esque lady (of uncertain name) led the singing. At one point she informed us our singing wasn’t good enough so we’d have to do it again better. On another she apparently told off the choir and the computer in the same breathe for apparently not using the right words to a hymn (the computer had spelling errors apparently… It didn’t. It had the wrong words spelled correctly). The finest moment, however, was suggesting all cold callers should be met with bible in one hand and tea in the other to be invited in for discussion. It turned out she only meant religious door salespeople e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses. She made it perfectly clear that she wanted them to be banned from proselytising but that opportunities for us to convert the heathens were important for us. Kinda worrying for these 5 hellbound liberals when that’s the lightness.

As we returned to the main ‘preacher’ she continued in her dithery way through a kids address which would have been effective in anyone else’s hands. Well, almost anyone. Praise lady had a go in a way which only managed to further condemn this failing activity. Afterwards the kids were removed to a safe distance for junior church. The mrs wanted to know if she could be a child on this occasion.

On their departure we were introduced to the hymn with the immortal imagery that our walk with Jesus is like walking a dog (for him or us, we wondered? I also wanted to know whether if I clicked my heels together three times Jesus and I could go home). The Mrs finally gave in at this point and cracked up in tears and laughter. We weren’t sure whether the looks from the woman in the row in front were of sympathy or solidarity, or both.

The prayers, all of them in one go, were shared in appropriate style: wittery, incoherent and unpc. They included little direction but many uncertain uses of the words please and ‘Jesus I just erm’. Highlights included ‘the dark parts of Africa’ and only prayers for the Christians. Even the lords prayer was introduced with something like ‘i wonder if we could now say the lords prayer, erm, please?’

Our one reading was shared, despite two being listed (and the second being more interesting) and the sermon began. Well, you could say it was a sermon, or you could say it was the incoherent, disorganised, inappropriate ramblings of an ill-informed, ungifted and otherwise hopeless person trapped in 1930’s levels of political correctness and who represented not only an affront to my denomination or faith but to all even nominally religious everywhere. On this occasion perhaps I should call it the ‘sermon’!

After declaring her position as one who was pleased that the church followed the lectionary because it challenged her and others to look for something from the readings rather than just decide what to say and find scripture to back it up. If she’d managed to do this we’d have all found it more palatable. She didn’t. She didn’t even seem to have a theme through what she’d said, despite having proposed one at the beginning. What we did learn from her was that she couldn’t work from the lectionary and the whole of Mark was appropriately bastardised and yet she still failed to make a credible point. The only memorable point, however, was that Jesus is a voyeur but only of Christians. Apparently he doesn’t watch other peoples lives. If that’s not an advert for defection nothing is! She also clarified that Jesus hears everything we say and sometimes we should hold onto that and be quiet. We all wanted to suggest that this was one such occasion. She didn’t, however, say anything about the reading we’d heard.

As the ‘service’ drew to an end we had to sing the wrong hymn, thus confirming we were not singing from the same hymn (book) sheet. As we joined hands with those around us for the grace out eyes were met by pleading apologetic eyes who also were uncertain about which of our many sins had led to such punishment.

As we turned to leave the sympathy continued with an invite to the next service with the very obvious subtext that it could in no way be that bad, and should we be brave enough to return on that occasion we could even get an apple for our troubles. Bribery is always the way forward. 😉 More covert apologies were offered and we made the swiftest exit we could get away with. On our return to our own space all 5 of us cracked up in equal measure of tears and laughter. Never have any of us been to a service which has led to such levels of disbelief, anger, frustration and entertainment. The people seemed lovely and welcoming but the service really was an experience to be beheld but certainly not one to ever be repeated!

(aside: is it inappropriate to tag this in the ‘worship’ category?!)

Sermon – First in a long time

I was asked to consider putting this online 2 years ago when I wrote it, but it’s been used for assessment in the meantime.  As it made a reappearance this morning, I thought I’d stick it online now.

To accompany: 1 Samuel 2: 18 – 20, 26; Colosians 3:12 – 17 and Luke 2: 41 – 52

Dear God, Mary here. Nearly 13 years ago you sent your messenger to me to tell me that I was to bear your child. Your Son, Jesus… you know… Son of God, Messiah, Prince of Peace. So why is he being such a pain today then? You could at least have given me a break when it came to bringing him up? Could you not have made it a little easier? He’s just like all the other kids, noisy, tearful, delicate, wilful, precocious, adorable but insufferable and now this! I can’t take it any more. Why did you pick me? I can’t do this! Your loving servant, well I try.

Hmm… maybe that’s not the best prayer for the day but it kind of sums up how I feel. I’m exhausted, stressed and drained. Why, oh why, has my son inflicted this on me? We come down to Jerusalem for Passover as we have more years than not. He knows the routine, we get here, celebrate the festival with friends and family, then all go home as part of the group. Anyway, the dear child decides that this year it’s not right for him. No! He just stays behind! Not a word to me or to Joseph about it.

Anyway, we got moving, went for a day, set up camp for the night and realised we hadn’t seen him all day. Do you realise how scary and embarrassing it is to lose your son? Why had it taken me so long to realise he was missing? How I had let him down as a mother, why didn’t he tell me? Where was he? What had happened? Was he okay? What was going on? I was so scared – I can’t think of a time I’ve been more worried. Even the thought of motherhood, outside marriage if necessary, being shunned by the family, being exiled in Egypt – they were nothing to having lost my son. Joseph was beside himself too.

It was three days ago when we realised that. It’s such a relief to have him back but it did take so, so long. Jesus was sat in the Temple! He was talking with the teachers – the boy has some nerve. Most of the kids I know wouldn’t dare approach the teachers, but then Jesus always has been a bit special.

It seems only a few days ago that we had trekked to Bethlehem for the census and he had been born. Oh, that was an interesting time. The hassle for a room then giving birth, then the shepherds visiting. I was so tired but it was such a joy to see his little face. Bringing the boy up has been a challenge though. It’s strange to think I was hardly older than he is now – he still seems so young but I was only a couple of years older when I became his mum. Anyway, I’ll go all dewy eyed if I’m not careful.

But I never did feel ready – learning how to be a mother was difficult enough before the wise men popped by. It was really lovely to have them visit, and the reverence they treated our son with was amazing. They did bring bad news to though – and we had to leave home again. We went into exile with a toddler, he was learning to walk and talk while we were learning to live in another land.

Eventually we returned to Nazareth, and it was really nice to get home but was very difficult too. Our families had calmed down a bit – they’d not taken it too well when they discovered I was pregnant with Jesus, but after our exile they realised how important it was to put that behind them. Many of us had heard about all the other boys his age had being killed in Bethlehem– and the family realised how special it was to have him. It was hard on our friends though. We weren’t the only ones to have friends and family hailing from that area. Many of them had lost nephews or friend’s children and they all responded differently to our return. Some were sad or angry because he was a living reminder of the loss those close to them had suffered. Others were delighted to have another boy that age around and spoilt him rotten because he was so special to the community. Others still seemed not bothered either way but it wasn’t the easiest situation for a little boy to return to.

Anyway, with that background you can hardly expect Jesus to be the most well-adjusted and ‘normal’ child ever but that’s where I hoped his father would come in. Not Joseph – God. All those years ago, and I remember it like yesterday, the angel came and told me about being pregnant, I naively thought that God would make things a little easier, or at least not more difficult than it has to be. That hasn’t proven to be the case at all – my eldest son is just like any other child and now he’s hit adolescence things could get more interesting.

Today, as we discovered, he thinks he’s an adult! Engaging with the elders and teachers – he doesn’t seem in the least bothered that he’s a child. I know he’s been through his Bar Mitzvah now and at least ceremonially he’s an adult but he needs to know that he’s not really. The Bar Mitzvah, was a lovely celebration though – all the neighbours came along and we really celebrated his life. He’s my baby, and always will be, but he’s also got to learn that there are ways to do things. I’m worried that this approach to authority is something he’s not going to get past. He seemed so unconcerned that he might end up disregarding all kinds of authority and getting into more trouble. Who knows what will become of him – I worry about that child.

The elders impressed me though – they were so lovely to Joseph and me. They even praised me on what a wonderful boy he is which seemed a bit strange seeing as it had taken us four days, yes, four days to find him. What a terrible mother I am, or at least that’s how I feel.

Standing in the temple looking at him with the elders was an interesting experience – he looked so at ease. It made me wonder if this is what Hannah experienced when she returned to the temple. Hannah – she was an amazing woman, so the stories make her out. She’s been such an inspiration to me.

Like me, Hannah was picked by God to bear a child for him, a son who will lead God’s chosen people. The way he’s going, I’m not sure quite how Jesus is going to do that but I trust God that it will happen somehow. Anyway, I don’t envy Hannah. She had to wait until she was old to have her first child, Samuel. I’m exhausted and drained, and I was only a teenager when I became a mum. Samuel was a special and wanted child, but Hannah had to give him up to God through the temple authorities. I hope Eli and the other temple authorities were as kind and loving to Samuel as the teachers today have been to Jesus. They really have impressed me.

What I struggle with is how Hannah coped – she gave up her desperately wanted son to the temple and only saw him once a year. I can’t imagine how hard that would have been, and even though she had more children it would never have taken away the loss of Samuel. I also wonder how proud she was when she saw what he became. The faith and determination Hannah showed, as well as her grace and patience are such an inspiration. I hope that I can hold onto those things when I’m bringing up my children too.

That said, today I did wonder if it would have been easier to give Jesus to the teachers and they can bring him up. Immediately I felt so bad for even thinking it but I keep thinking I can’t do it. It hurt so much to have lost him. These have been the longest three days of my life and I hope I never have to go through anything like this again. Joseph has been a complete star, he’s tolerated my shouting and crying. And in all fairness to the child, Jesus was a good boy when we found him. I’ve never seen him so upset and anxious for the pain he’d caused us, but he said something that surprised me. He talked about us finding him in ‘his father’s’ house. Joseph took that surprisingly well, as he’d just been slighted rather. Jesus seemed to have a much greater understanding of his role in life than we did and that was hard to hear. He is already beginning to see that he’s got to make a distinction between us and God. I mean, I want him to be a faithful and devout follower of God, but even so! He referred to God as his father, which of course he is, but I’ve not heard him say it or even spoken to him about it in quite such terms. Joseph’s his father, but then again he isn’t really, is he? He’s putting God first which is great but a little bitter from my point of view. He initially seemed so oblivious to the hurt he’d caused us and I’m scared by what else we’ll have to go through – him, me and Joseph, as he lives out his life and does what God wants him to. Still, that’s not a worry for now. He promised that he’ll behave better now, doing what we tell him. He seemed to have enjoyed the experience and learned a lot – it’s so hard to remain being cross with him when my overarching feeling is just relief to have him back. The whole experience just makes me think back to the time when I found out I was pregnant and when he was born. He has changed my life in so many ways and I can’t and wouldn’t take it back but it’s certainly not been easy nor has it been what I expected. The twists and turns my life has taken since becoming Jesus’ mother, since agreeing that I will bear God’s son, have been beyond belief. They’ve been the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but they’ve also been the most rewarding. Seeing the way I’ve grown and developed makes me proud, even if it does make me feel a little old and I’ve not even hit 30 yet! I let God into my life and he turned it upside down and inside out. He may have given me the most amazing gift but it’s not without its challenges too. I still frequently think I can’t do this, but just keep on going. I guess that God may not have made Jesus’ childhood any easier than anyone else’s but we get through it. Maybe what he provides me with is the strength and reassurance that I can get through this. All I need to do is hold onto God, and hold onto those gifts, and I’ll just keep on doing what I do. Maybe I should also try and remember the song I wrote when discovering that God had chosen me to bear his son. It makes me happy to remember that. And with that I’d better go back to my husband and son, or they’ll be worried that I’ve disappeared and we’ll have all the hassles of another search

A question of worship

I very nearly entitled this entry “What do you do in worship, and what does it do in you?” but thought I’d psyche myself up to the question…

To provide a little context, there is a person I know who responds to worship quite differently from those around him, and the way expected by convention. He often arrives in plenty of time before the service, doesn’t rise or noticeably respond to any of the spoken prayers nor hymns, and even (I’m led to believe) will walk out when he feels he’s benefited sufficiently from the time of worship. During the service he draws. He sits there, sketchbook in hand, and responds visually. He produces very challenging and beautiful images which, during a meeting, we were given the opportunity to explore. His images don’t necessarily present the stories in the way you’d expect but can offer very interesting interpretations – far more striking (and debatably more relevant) than many sermons or sermon illustrations.

The group who were looking at these images consisted of many people, like myself, who are familiar with leading worship. We were challenged to think how we’d respond to someone in our own congregations acting in such a manner. I said that I’d like more people to do things like that in the services as it means they’re engaging with, and having a direct response to, what is shared. It harks back to my desire, by choice, to lead services with interactive elements and another preacher said similar in our meeting. We talked about the way people are frequently very passive in traditional style services and what we can do about that. I said I’d like to knit (but then I’d like to knit in most places).

With all these thoughts and discussion in my mind I would like to ask anyone reading this to comment on the initial question – and also what (if any) interactive things they’ve done in worship and valued.

Sermons

I was planning to blog about knitting and sermons for a while. As you will be able to see by the fact that I’ve only blogged once in the last two months (before today), I’m kind of behind in my blogging. Life, it seems, gets rather busy at this time of year. My feet don’t feel like they’ve touched the ground in a while, and it will still be a few months yet before they really do.

Despite feet not touching the ground, Jen and Sarah came to my trial service and this is the sermon from then. I think this is the one but I’m not the most imaginative or sensible when it comes to filenames so who knows…

Readings – Proverbs 9: 1 – 6, John 6: 51 – 58

Sermon
Communion! Bread rolls and grape juice or port and wafers. Communion! That’s what sprung to mind the first, and every, time I read through today’s Gospel reading! It’s something familiar to Christians throughout the world, continues in a legacy started by the first Christians and follows a commandment from Jesus. While different churches have their different approaches and different styles, sharing bread and wine together is what many people, even outside the church, associate with Christianity. Communion is something very special to me and I have been fortunate to share in many different celebrations. From everyone sharing their lunch together at a Christian festival like the one I’m going to next weekend, or joining half a dozen elderly nuns and a priest in a convent to an integral part of a friends wedding or on a normal communion service on a Sunday morning, it is always a special experience. I was intrigued to know what, if any, insight could be gained from the readings. How could Proverbs bring understanding to a practice that hadn’t even started, and why is John’s account so different from his fellow Gospel writers? What challenges can we take from the experience and what reassurance, and how can we share this with others?
Proverbs may not seem the first place to turn but it presents many interesting ideas worth exploring when considering communion. We hear of the host preparing a feast and inviting guests – something that echoes the Gospel reading but we’ll come back to that later. The host, Wisdom is a female representation of the Holy Spirit and the poet tells us that:
“She (Wisdom) prepared her meat and mixed her wine.”
as the New International Version translates the verse. This verse is later followed by the invite to the guests saying:
“Come, eat the food and drink the wine mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.”
The Spirit, in the form of Wisdom, has made a feast for all who want to gain in life and knowledge to join. I think it’s fair to say that most, if not all of us, want to live in the ways of understanding and life – and that invite still applies to us! The Spirit invites all of us, from the beginning of time, to share in the feast and that legacy will be passed on to a new generation by us. Through sharing with each other, and with the spirit we will grow and be nourished by it. As we become more familiar with the Spirit we can begin to understand the role it plays in our own understanding and life. It is our ongoing connection to God, and the gift given to us by Jesus to help us.
To come to Wisdom’s table requires us to admit our shortcomings – we will will always be unable to truly comprehend the nature of God. It also requires us to look at what we are being asked to share in – the feast itself. Wisdom has prepared meat and mixed wine. This is where the echo with the Gospel gets a little louder. It is the same flesh and wine we are invited to consume by Jesus. The Holy Spirit is inviting us to eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood. This is the feast prepared by Wisdom and talked about in Proverbs. By sharing in the feast we are entitled to taste the delights she has to offer. We learn more about ourselves and the nature of God through this relationship. It is through the involvement of the Spirit that the feast becomes more than the sum of its parts – it becomes Communion with God.
It is this communion with God that John is talking about. His account of Jesus’ commandment to us is markedly different from those of the other Gospel writers. When Matthew, Mark and Luke offer the Last Supper as the setting, it is worth noting that John does no such thing. John doesn’t actually mention the last supper at all – not in relation to this or any other story in the whole of his Gospel! He emphasises different aspects of Jesus’ commandment and they can add to our understanding but we need to explore why John writes so differently.
The earliest Christians generally came from the regions where Jesus conducted his ministry and were primarily Jewish by background and culture. As the early Christian movement grew, it spread into new areas and reached people of different backgrounds. John, it is believed, was writing from Ephesus in modern-day Turkey around 70 years after the death of Jesus. The community he was living in was so different from those that Jesus visited. The culture, language, religion and lifestyle were completely different and he needed to find a way of getting his message across. He wasn’t writing for people who were seated in Jewish traditions, he was trying to write for everyone. There is nobody who is excluded by the Good News and John tried to write for as many people as possible. As such he wrote with explanations of Jewish tradition for those unfamiliar with it, but also with ideas and images familiar to people from other backgrounds. It is with that in mind that we return to the reading we heard earlier.
John’s exploration of Jesus’ commandment is firmly set in traditions outside Judaism. Many religions of the time held the belief that you could achieve communion with a God by eating some of a sacrifice offered by a priest. The priest would offer the sacrifice and after everything else had been sorted, the believer would be given back a portion of the meat. It was believed that the sacrificed meat was transformed into the God. By eating the flesh, the believer was bringing the God into themselves and would become one with them. The consumption of any food, including meat, is a very intimate process. The food is taken in, absorbed, and becomes part of us. You are bringing something from the outside into you. If it is good, it will feed and sustain you. It will lead to growth and keep you going. The meat from the sacrifice nourished the person not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally – just as communion can and does for us.
By explaining Jesus’ instructions in the way he did, John is giving people an understanding of the importance of Jesus. He is emphasising the Divinity of Christ. It says to the readers of the time, This man is God. By sharing in the feast, we are sharing with a man, but a man who is equally God and equally human. For us, he is our living sacrifice!
John makes it even clearer when he reports Jesus saying:
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. Just as the living father sent me and I live because of the father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.”
By eating the bread of life, the flesh of Jesus, he is with and in us and each of us is in him. That’s what communion is for us. A celebration of the eternal link between Jesus and each of us. But how is it that the bread and wine that we share become the spiritual foods spoken about by John, or hold the promise mentioned earlier by the poet in Proverbs? The answer is in the involvement of the Holy Spirit. If we were to carry on reading from where we left off in John’s Gospel we would come to a passage about the importance of the Spirit. Jesus talks about the role of Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, when he says:
“The words I have spoken to you bring God’s life-giving spirit.”
This refers back to the promise spoken about in Proverbs where Wisdom offers the guests a way to life. The Spirit is transformative. There are many accounts in the new testament of the work of the Spirit and the way it brings life. We are invited to receive guidance for our lives from the spirit, and it is the source of the gifts God gives to share life with those around us. When we share in communion the Spirit is with us and there is a transformation here too. The bread and wine are changed through the Holy Spirit to bring the blessings of life and understanding promised by Jesus and to which we were invited by Wisdom. In the moment of joining in communion we are united with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and by this union we are transformed. We may not always be aware of it but we will have been nourished. Through this small action on our part, we bring Jesus into our bodies and into our lives. Is is with us in all that we are all that we do. Sometimes that knowledge can be really unsettling but that is a good thing. We can be reassured and know that Jesus is alongside us and we are never alone. This is also where the challenge comes.
Jesus is with us in all that we say and all that we do, which means he is with us every time things go well, but also when things go badly. With that in mind, we should try our hardest to be faithful on all occasions. Through the guidance of the Spirit and the teachings of Jesus we can learn how best to act in each situation. We know that we are growing in life and understanding but how are we dealing with that responsibility? Wisdom tells us to leave foolishness behind as we feast and we need to live that out in our daily lives. Jesus tells us that he is the bread for the life world, but we know of so many parts of the world where life is restricted. With the transformative Spirit, we can take this challenge and embrace it. We can each play a part, however small, in the lives of those around us. Whether it’s making a cup of tea, doing a night of babysitting, volunteering for a project or something entirely different we can share with those our lives touch. Maybe our actions will be as small as the pieces of bread we eat, or as short lived as the taste in our mouths but through the Spirit of God they may be changed into something amazing. When we share in or remember the sacrament of Holy Communion, may we feel encouraged to use our lives to share understanding and life with the people we meet.

Oops I forgotted to blog again

I think I meant to write something before now. Oh well, that’s the problem when life gets in the way. It’s been something of a busy month and I don’t intend to go through it all but it’s been good.

In my last post I threatened to tell you a little more about when Jen and Sarah came to stay. They came to stay about 5 weeks ago now and the date of the Sunday is somewhat imprinted on my brain. Jen recounts the weekend in this post. As she said, we had a good weekend and went to the science museum. She was suitably entertained that I could do about as well with the mechanical digger as my reputation (at times) would suggest. Digging is certainly one of those things in life that I’m quite good at, at times. It also appears that i’m not to bad at mending & fixing either at times but I’ll come on to that.

The reason that the Sunday 20 August 2006 was somewhat imprinted in my brain was that it was the date of my trial service to go from ‘on note’ to ‘on trial’ as a local preacher, should I be successful. Those are the first two stages of training and I had to do the whole service myself. It was a challenging weekend because I was so nervous and was so grateful to Sarah and Jen for keeping me sane. When we got as far as Sunday morning, we went to leave my flat but couldn’t get through the gate. It took 5-10 minutes before we could get the padlock to open. That didn’t exactly help with nerves and when we got to the church I realised I’d not printed the order of service for the organist, then she wasn’t up to playing so one of my assessors ended up doubling up to do that too! I was so grateful to her too. My mentor introduced me at the start of the service and was really lovely about it all. He said a few words to the congregation and I could feel the tears just welling up inside me. I decided that the start of the service wasn’t the best time to burst into tears and fortunately managed to hold onto them but I was so, so nervous. I think it’s probably fair to say that the feedback was rather good for the service and I am now ‘on trial’ following the local preachers meeting. Now I have to do lots of study. It was really great to have Jen and Sarah around though to give me lots of hugs. I think that’s probably enough said about that really.

The week after that something rather exciting happened at work. Richard has already discovered what I’m talking about and Wood wrote for it (as did I, a little bit). We made a book and it’s great. Check out Richard’s review if you don’t believe me but it really is fantastic. It’s so amazing to have been involved with it since the beginning, before I joined the staff, and now it’s real. It’s so exciting.

I went to Greenbelt too and it was great to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I went to my first wibmeet despite being on here for nearly 3 years now. Doesn’t time go fast. Greenbelt was great and I think that it has been suitably reviewed by everyone else so I’ll leave them to it. 😉

So eventually we get to this month and things are as busy as ever – hence the lack of blogging. I went to a brilliant conference and it was great to catch up with people I’ve met over the last couple of years. I also got to spend some quality time with a good friend during the week and we agreed to teach each other new skills. Scary eh?

Speaking of teaching. I understand from Jen that my teaching of relaxation techniques has been quite successful. It’s really reassuring to know that it’s been successful and now I think I probably want to take some of my own advice. This is where the fixing (of Jen, a little bit) has been coming in.

The mending is in relation to my teaching. I’ve been teaching a friend to knit, and she’s teaching me guitar. This is a rather scary concept but exciting too. I’ve never tried teaching knitting before and it was a little daunting but my friend did very well. I was dead impressed and she learned to knit and purl, and cast on. She did really well and put me to complete shame because it took me about 15 years (not continuously, I hasten to add) to learn to purl. :$ At one point, as is perfectly understandable with newbie knitters she went wrong a little bit and I managed to fix it. It’s the first time I’ve tried actually fixing it properly. Normally I’d just unpull it if it was mine, but it wasn’t my knitting which meant I got to learn a new skill too. The guitar playing is a little more interesting. I’m not a very good student at all and I’m very nervous about it. She taught me 8 different chords and I need to practice them but the guitar went out of tune over night so I need to learn how to tune it too. My friend left me a tuner so it shouldn’t be too hard but I’ll give it a go when I get home. I need to practise more but hope to get there eventually. I’ve never been very musical so this is quite an undertaking! Oh well… if she’s going to be doing so well with her knitting, maybe it’s the incentive I need to practice my guitar playing. Wish me all the best with it.

Finally I should provide a little update on my knitting. I went to a knitting and stitching exhibition at the weekend. It was very good and I found some cool yarns made out of such exotic things as Bananas or at least their leaves and stems, Hemp and containing Soy Beans. It was very cool. I also got complimented on my knitting which was fantastic. The people who complimented me do the most exciting things and I’ve decided I want to go off and join them. They do giant knitting and recycling and it’s so, so cool. I texted a friend saying that I’d fallen in love after seeing that stall – she seemed suitably entertained by the concept! I’m still going on with my second sock. I’ll be done before I retire. I had a good crack at it last night but I think the tension might be a little tighter on this one. I’ll have to have a look later and see whether it’s too tight but it’s good to be making progress. Hmmm… maybe I should be counting rows though. I’ll show you a picture of my new bag (which was what the compliment was about) and my sock progress if I can.

Anyway, having not blogged for ages I think I’ve now written an essay so should call it a day. I’ll try and write slightly more frequently, but I do say that worryingly often.

Finding a little Joy

A silly story for you.

Once upon a time, I was planning worship and decided that it would be really nice to finish with ‘You shall go out with joy‘ which led to a little merriment amongst some of my friends, and some not entirely serious singing. This started a little joke about Joy.

Several months after, I was chatting to one of these friends and she said she’d found the service sheets and was remembering the jokes. Thus, the joy jokes were confirmed. We were now searching for Joy.

Some time later, I was planning worship (spot a pattern here…) and I was going through the hymnbook. For all sorts of reasons I was having terrible problems with it. I have to confess that my brain is, on occasion, to be found in the gutter and as I was reading through I ended up thinking about hymns in ways I’m sure weren’t intended. :angelic: It wasn’t intentional, honest. Anyway, I confessed to several of my friends, now in on the joke, that I’d found more ‘interesting’ songs, especially about joy. One weekend we all got together, added alcohol to the mix and the joke, by this time, was running along quite nicely.

From time to time we (different members of the group) joke about joy but we had yet to find her. Until this morning…
I went to church, as normal (or as normal as it ever is). My mentor and I were jointly doing the service and it was in a quiet time so I was merrily reading away when I noticed something a little strange. The sheet said all the usual information… X church, service times etc… then it added…
10.45am… Mr LP Mentor and Miss Joy Conforming (on note).
I have joked that being a Jo, I’m the closest to Joy out of the lot of us but seeing someone print it on a piece of paper was hilarious. It’s really quite funny (and very bad) being sat in a service splitting with laughter on the inside and needing to keep quiet about it. I decided not to tell anyone at the time but it did warrant a few phone calls when I got home. I’d found Joy in church! I’m led to believe it’s caused a little laughter in other parts of the country today too, and all we need to do is find a real Joy not a pretend one.

All we need once we’ve done that is to pair her up with a friend…

Something I’m definitely not telling you

I’m certainly not telling you that I’m still procrastinating about tomorrow’s service. It’s the first one I’m doing on my own and I’d completely forgotten that ’til Thursday. I will get there but it’s almost tomorrow and I still have a long way to go. Thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.

It’s on trust and I’m gong to pinch the reflection from our very own Sarah. But then I still have a long way to go….