Friday, November 05, 2010

Apologies for my silence. This has been caused by the sheer busyness of life as a curate in a three parish benefice and not through lack of interest.

It is sufficient to say that I am loving my curacy and can't quite believe that I get to do this job every day. The work is varied and exciting, the people lovely and supportive and the surrounding are beautiful.

However, being a deacon is most definitely not just a 'job'; it is a calling. All of the stuff I wrestled with during discernment about 'being' and not just 'doing' is becoming clearer and is making more sense every day.

The fact is that as an Ordained person, you are there to 'be there' for people. You are there to help them to develop in their relationship with God and you are there to help them pick up the pieces when things go wrong. Sometimes it is enough to just be at an event, to show your presence. At other times we are called to celebrate and rejoice with those we meet. Sometimes it is necessary to be present prayerfully, physically and verbally at the most difficult and emotional times such as when a loved one has died. These can be both the most special times and in a way the most awkward, just because in our British culture one would normally not gate-crash into peoples lives as a stranger at such a time. This is also why it is such a privilege; to be welcomed with open arms by strangers and given the opportunity to minister to them at such a turning point in their experience.

Of course Jesus is our blueprint. He shows us how to just 'be'. That doesn't mean he didn't 'do' anything, but he was a presence, a light and a pointer to the Father and his love. Jesus was available to others...sometimes it was enough for him just to be there, at others he made the celebration even more exciting - like at the wedding in Cana. At other times he went out of his way to actively teach the people about God and at others he became involved with the most private and painful moments in the lives of those who would let him.

More and more I am aware that he is my Lord, my role model, my friend....I want to be like him. I have a long, long way to go, but I hope that I continue to love the calling he has given me, the people he has sent me to and that I can be a help to those I serve.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

I thought I'd better update my blog as the last few weeks have been very busy. I have started my curacy and am really enjoying it so far. I love the variety of what I am doing, the people I am meeting and the new challenges which are being thrown my way.
It is no secret that I love to be busy, I love to be around people socialising and having fun and also to talk about God and how he works in individuals lives. Sharing spiritual insight with others is one of the main ways in which I grow.

However, as we are now into the school summer holidays, things have gone fairly quiet. Less services, less events, less stuff to DO. Whilst I am really looking forward to the inevitable busyness that September will bring I am becoming aware that I need to use this time to connect more closely with God, to establish greater discipline in my one to one time with him and to pray for the needs of the parish...
This is what I need to is also what I need to BE...a person of prayer.

Please pray that I will be able to focus and develop spiritually over the coming months...that God will fully equip me to take on whatever he has in store.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I love this Blog...
It has shades of some of the more fundamentalist of Adrian Plass characters and is often scarily accurate!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I am off on retreat tomorrow. The next time I blog I will be a Deacon...which for me is a scary yet exciting thought. I'm not going to say much more here and now, just that I would value your prayers both over the next few days and in the weeks to come. When God takes control of your life my advice is to hang on tight, because you're in for a rollercoaster ride which is like nothing else you have ever experienced before!! But the upside is...the view from the top is spectacular...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Less than two weeks now and I will be sporting a dog collar... The last couple of weeks have continued to be lovely with so many good wishes from friends and aquaintances. I don't think I have ever had so many parties before.. it has all been quite overwhelming. To put the icing on the cake, all those being ordained this year were invited to Lambeth Palace to mee tthe Archbishop of Canterbury. We had a wonderful, weekend of fun, friendship and thoroughly enjoyed our time at Lambeth...Some of us are pictured above in the gardens...Thanks Rowan!

A week on Thursday I go on my pre ordination retreat. We are fortunate enough to have David Runcorn as retreat leader, whose books have been used on the course and who I am told is very good. It is all very exciting.

But am I ready for this? Well; my robes are bought and hanging in the wardrobe, my course is finished and I have passed, I am assigned to a church as curate...but all of these things are outward trappings of what is actually an inner less tangible thing. Ministry is all about my strong vocation, calling and very necessary equipping by God. I need so much help to do this but I know that because He has called me to it, He will provide all I need.

The whole thing is quite unreal and rather mind blowing..Why me? I still wake up and pinch myself sometimes...

If you are reading this, please pray for me...I have come to realise that prayer will be vital to my ministry if I am to keep going, both my own prayer life and the prayers of others...So please if you have a moment pray that I will be equipped, that I will know the closeness of God and that I will be a blessing to others.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Well!! What a HECTIC few months it has been. I really haven't had the time or the energy to blog at all since Easter and no wonder! The end of the course with a big glut of assignments (all due at once) coincided with the end of year Drama exams and me finishing teaching for good. Immediately after all of this we were to move house - half an hour away into deepest darkest rural Cheshire.

I am pleased to say that all of these things have happened and have happened well.

The last course weekend ever was an emotional affair not least because of the lovely Valedictory service we all attended. The assignment marks were not as bad as I feared (in fact some were a pleasant surprise!)

Work were lovely both pupils and staff. Amongst other stuff, one of my Speech and Drama pupils made me a fabulous cake (see picture above)and I had a fabulous lunch out at a posh hotel with the girlies from the drama dept who made me feel very spoiled.

We have moved house and I am thrilled with the new place. The living room is enormous ans our new sofas look amazing.

All in all it has been an exciting few months and it isn't over yet. In the next three weeks I preach my final sermon at my sending church, attend a garden party at Lambeth Palace...Rowan watch out...have one leaving do and one pre ordinaton party, watch some of my friends get ordained in Manchester, go on retreat, get ordained and start my curacy...phew!

In all of this God has been faithful and his goodness and blessings have been so apparent. I am completely thankful to him and really looking forward to the next step on this exciting journey.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

CEN FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2010 No: 6014

As a female who enjoys Bible study, academic theological debate and who responds well to a doctrinally led, reasoned approach to the bones of my faith; I was somewhat perplexed by Mr Alan Bartley’s letter, 12 March 2010. This is due to the fact that he seems under the impression that all men are rational, intellectual and level headed beings and that conversely, all women are emotional, silly and suggestible and by implication, lack sound judgement. He quotes research by an Edwin Starbuck (conducted as recently as 100 years ago); citing it as proof of his theories about women and men and the state of the church today.
“Edwin Starbuck, a student of the famous William James, noted a number of differences as to how the sexes differed in coming to faith. Among them that women tended to be “more suggestible, hence yield more readily to ordinary influences” while with men intellect [is] more prominent;”
Quite apart from the fact that this research was conducted on Edwardian women who wouldn’t have had much in the way of formal education and would therefore have had little experience, opportunity or expectation of being asked to think academically; it is also well out of date in that the men who did the research would have had a whole range of prejudices that few in this day and age would share, (mostly because they have been disproved: i.e. women brains are smaller and therefore less intelligent etc.)
In addition, Mr. Bartley states that anyone who disagrees with his suggestion that gender stereotypes are true are apparently ‘mad’.
“we would be mad to deny that the stereotypes are true of how the bulk of men and women approach life and life decisions.”
This statement is one way to stifle opposition I suppose, but hardly an intellectual one. In fact it seems to my female mind that this would seem to be a more emotive argument, based on dubious experience and opinion.
Mr. Bartley goes on to tell us that women are apparently attracted to Christianity because the church has failed to ‘argue the credibility of Christianity’; but has relied on emotional appeal not reason, which (according to Mr Bartley) is what ‘lights our candle’. As an evangelical woman about to be ordained, I know how much importance Evangelicals put on sound biblical exegesis and argument. Mr. Bartley clearly doesn’t spend much time in evangelical circles if he thinks our whole approach is experiential. Maybe the reason he hasn’t come across women of intellect is because they are not tolerated in his church? I praise God that Jesus encouraged Mary to learn at his feet, the attitude of a disciple and rabbinical trainee, that St Paul commended the teaching abilities of Priscilla and Timothy’s mother and grandmother and that Deborah led Israel and was blessed by God for her sound judgement and spiritual advice. Having said all of this, to deny the relevance of spiritual experience as Mr. Bartley seems to do, is to deny vast swathes of the biblical account. Jesus didn’t spend the whole of his ministry in the synagogue using his reason and intellect, he went out and healed the sick, raised the dead and was moved to tears by the death of a friend. He gave his friends supernatural experiences - Peter walked on water, met Elijah and Moses etc. He encouraged his followers to pray, believing that answers would come and appeared not to despise leaps of faith alongside doctrinal reasoned argument - the thief on the cross springs to mind.
Mr. Bartley seems to think that the less academic approach of the Post Modern world is down to feminisation. I have studied Post Modernism as part of my course. I was under the impression that Post Modernist thought was more down to the rejection of a Modernist reasoned hypothesis which stated that humanity would continue to improve and develop and reach an eventual utopia. This was a humanist doctrine: biblically incorrect, dangerous and against the truth of the gospel. Thus I would respectfully argue that reason can be just as damaging as emotion and can serve to promote untruth and unbelief. People have rejected it because it has been shown to be untrue in this context. If we want a balanced approach to faith then we need both reason and experience. Doctrinal understanding is essential and a good grasp of theology necessary, but so too is an appreciation of the mystery and majesty of God. The understanding that we are human and that he is so much more than we can ever fully understand. You don’t have to be a woman to grasp that, you just have to have spent some time in his company.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Rocky Climb?

Today I am going off on our penultimate course weekend. In fact this will be the last 'normal' weekend away together as the last will be a sort of formalised farewell event. This thought has brought home to me just how close to Ordination we all are. In three and a half months all of us will no longer be Ordinands but Curates. Whilst that thought is daunting, it is still very exciting.

God has been amazingly close throughout this experience. I feel so honoured to have been called into this particular ministry; not because it is somehow 'better' or 'special', but because of the privilege that ordination gives in terms of access into peoples lives, the automatic trust they give you and the task of helping them at some of lives most significant times and events.

My thoughts on all of this are many. I hope I am up to the 'job'. I hope that I develop more wisdom, sensitivity and intuition for others. I hope that I have the strength, time management and stamina to carry on when things get tough. My faith and experience of the Lord tells me that he will equip me for all that he asks me to do and that whether I am up to things is his department not mine. I am not to worry..full stop!

Trust is a big part of this whole process. I had to trust that God called me to do this four years ago. I have had to trust that the church will discern God's will for me from the beginning of the Ordination process and into the selection of my Title Post. This trust has to continue as I step out on the next big part of the journey. I don't know what God has in store, what rocky trails there are to climb, what obstacles I will have to navigate my way over/round or through. Who knows what will be along the way? What I do know is that the view from the top will be thank you Lord...bring it on!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Good Soil.

I've been thinking quite a bit over the past year about the way in which we as Christians tend to want to push each other into particular ways of worship. Even the most Liberal of my college friends can have incredibly firm ideas about what is the RIGHT way to conduct a church service. In fact it is often the most Liberal docrinally who (I have observed) can be the narrowest in this regard...

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talks about good and bad soil...Some of us land in good soil and grow. But we are not told any more about this good soil. Have we perhaps come to a point where we believe that the same soil is good for everyone?

Returning to the root of the analogy (sorry, bad pun), are we assuming that all plants do well in the same kind of conditions? Clearly looking at nature we see that this isn't the case. Plants need very different conditions to stay healthy. Plant a cactus in a swamp and it wouldn't get far and would probably be extremely sick - if not dead. Growth would be non existant. Plant a cactus in a hot dry and sunny place and bingo - it thrives. The opposite could be said of ivy which prefers dark, wetter, forested environments. Many plants need something strong and rigid to grow up. without that rigidity they would be unable to grow up towards the light. Others are quite capable of growing and supporting themselves amongst a variety of other plants...You get my drift.

The point is this:- we are just as differnet spiritually as a plant. Note: I am NOT talking about doctrine here but worship practice. Why do we assume that because a particular way of prayer or form of music works for us personally, that it will work for someone else? Why do we think for example, that all will love the structure of liturgical worship because we find God within the familiar language and practice or conversely, all will find it's rigidity dictatorial and oppressive just because we do?

My musings may explain why I have know a number of people who have thrived in one church which had a range of services and a variety of sorts of people present, whilst other people found it extremely hard to cope in a place where everyone didn't do things in the same way as one another. In the latter kind of situation, spiritual growth can be stunted because the environment is wrong for that person. Put the person into an environment suited to them and growth begins...and is often startlingly quick too!

I too have experienced others trying to squeeze me into a box which I just don't fit into and to try to force a type of spirituality upon me which doesn't help my growth but actually stunts it. It hasn't been a particularly helpful experience. Let's be less keen to assume that out way is the best for all and more willing to accept that practices which work to put people in touch with God can be extremely different.

As an about to be ordained priest it will be my role to find the ways in which my congregation can get in touch with God...these ways may be incredibly varied and may not suit me...but I must be prepared to try both old and new for the sake of the spiritual growth of the people.

I thank God that the Church of England in 2010 is becoming more and more varied in her worship practices...let's celebrate that and encourage it...after all, if it leads to spiritual growth, why would we want to stop it?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

It became clear to me the other day just how close I now am to my Ordination and all of the changes that that will bring. I am now in the last three months of my Ordination course and will be handing in my last piece of work on the 19th of May. My curacy is arranged and we plan to move in early June. I will be ordained on July 4th in Chester Cathedral at 10am.
The whole family will be very sad to leave our current church. It is a place where we have made many good friends and have grown as Christians. It is also the place where the possibility of Ordained ministry was first suggested to me by the Rector and encouraged by others. I have felt supported and cared for over the 6 years. I have had the privilege to work with some fantastic people, not least through the two pantomimes I have had the privilege to lead.
We are also excited about what the future holds. Whilst the huge learning curve I have been on for some time now seems set to continue, it is exciting, challenging and wonderful to see what God has planned....The theme of trust was a big part of the recent church production of Moses. Putting your trust in God can be a scary thing to do but he has taught me that it really is the very best that you can do, especially when things seem hard or confusing...I hold on to that thought as we prepare to move on to pastures new...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rod Thomas and the Reform statement on Women Bishops.

The recent Reform statement on the controversy over Women Bishops seems to have further fuelled the feelings of division between Evangelicals of differing viewpoints. An attempt to take the 'biblical high ground' (something that Reform appear increasingly keen to do) is the main thrust of his argument in which he tries to claim more faithful scriptural study than less extreme evangelical opinion.

"Our concern is derived from Scripture. It seems to us that the Apostolic teaching on male headship in church and family (as in 1 Corinthians 11-14, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3) is clear enough in its principles: overall leadership in the church is to be exercised by men. The fierce debates that have surrounded the gender issue over the last twenty years or so have stimulated much careful analysis of these texts, and have only served to show that mainstream translations such as NRSV, NIV, REB and ESV are correct in their translation and may (and should) be taken as they stand."

Rod Thomas then argues that to study a passage with close reference to the culture in which it is set (as many open evangelicals do), is to somehow imprison it, making it ineffectual and an attack on scripture's authority.

"It is, of course, right to say that these passages in Paul and Peter have a particular cultural setting; but to make them prisoners of that culture and thus unable to challenge our culture, seems to us implicitly to deny the authority of Scripture."

In response to this I would like to make a few points...
1. I have always found it perplexing how most Conservative Evangelical women, (who uphold complementarian teachings) are happy to dispense with Paul's instructions not to leave their heads uncovered during worship, who shamelessly wear pearls and braid their hear without guilt. Their reasoning is that Paul's instructions are to be interpreted against the culture within which they were written and only suggest broad ideals to be extrapolated in a culturally relevant way by us today.
2. Many cessationist Evangelicals frown upon the practice of raising ones hands in prayer, seeing it as 'charismatic' and yet Paul specifically tells men to do it. Why then aren't all faithful christian men doing so regularly?
3. I know of Anglican Conservative Evangelical clergy who have children who are exceptionally badly behaved; yet these men have not been demoted from a position of leadership, despite Paul's explicit instructions in Titus 1:6. Why are they allowed to continue as leaders if the Bible forbids it and is always to be read and obeyed without any interpretation or contextual study at all?

Rod Thomas continues:
"It is surely the genius of the New Testament that what was spoken in a particular context is at one and the same time also God’s word to us. Far from being a prisoner of his culture, Paul is not afraid to challenge it, warning his readers “not to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Eph 4:17). Why, then, is it assumed he will uncritically reflect their values on this issue of gender?"

Rod Thomas is here arguing against himself. No-one except him has said that studying the bible with reference to context and culture is imprisoning the meaning, rather it is felt that studying context sheds greater light and insight on what was meant by the New Testament writers. No-one 'assumes' anything if they take the Bible's message seriously and God breathed. I have read some excellent egalitarian studies of the passages he speaks about which are some of the most serious and respectful biblical exegesis out there. The reason that many evangelicals believe wholeheartedly in women's ordination and women holding the office of a bishop is BECAUSE they have studied these passages in depth. In addition they also look at other passages which Reform seem to spend very little time explaining their less plain interpretation of: e.g. the story of Deborah leader of Israel, Huldah the Prophetess who advised the advisors or the King, Junia the apostle etc.) The reason we think Paul supports an egalitarian view is because of the scriptures and his acceptance of women within a culture which rejected their authority.

Lastly, Rod Thomas' appeal to reason seems odd against his 'sola scriptura' position above.

"If reasoned reflection of Christians down the ages (including the historic position of the Church of England) has been correct; we fear that the current pressure to overturn it comes not for biblical reasons but because we are losing our nerve in the face of pressure from society."

This reasoned reflection and the historic position of the C of E, was actually based upon a basic theology that women were inferior to men and somehow lacking mentally! I recognise that Reform are not making this point, but their forebears believed it. Therefore if it is possible to reinterpret one's theological position in one regard, why not in others? To assume that Open Evangelicals are somehow 'losing their nerve'in the face of cultural pressures; are lacking 'biblical reasons' and by inference, that they care less for the true will of God and more about what people think is at best severely misguided and at worst, insulting. A little more respect for Evangelicals who disagree with Reforms interpretation of scripture and their doctrine of headship would be welcome. In addition, an appreciation of open Evangelical integrity and faithful reference to scripture in coming to their position would also be welcome...and long overdue!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Moses: The Panto!

My home church, St. Michael’s and All Angels, Middlewich will be performing ‘Moses – The Panto’ in a few weeks. I have written it and it has a cast of 30+ with an age range from 7 to 70 including the Rector as Pharaoh. The whole church has got behind this event...with the cast taken from four very different worshipping congregations within the same church, it's a great example of a church community really working together.

Those involved have been busy rehearsing, set building, designing publicity and generally working together to pull this off in time. The sense of community which has been felt is palpable and it is without doubt that much fun and many good relationships have been built along the way.

All proceeds will go to the refurbishment of ‘Number 28’, our new parish centre which will be key resource for the church and the wider community in Middlewich.

Moses performs from Wed 24th February until Saturday 27th February at Byley Village Hall in Cheshire. Evening performances start at 7.30pm and there is a matinee at 1.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are £5 each (concessions £2.50). Family Ticket: £10. There are also special large group rates.

For Tickets please phone: 01606 834471.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I have felt for a long time that we have somehow lost the plot when it comes to how we are as a Church. This article really struck a chord with me; here are a few lines from it:

"Take the spiritual temperature of your church. Are your small groups well attended?Do your people eat together often?Do the men talk about sports and the women arrange to go out together?Do your people waste time together?If they don ’t your church is sick."
Read the rest here: Is Evangelicalism dying?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

From Hebridean Altars

Seven times a day, as I work upon this hungry farm,I say to Thee,
'Lord, why am I here?
What is there here to stir my gifts to growth?
What great thing can I do for others - I who am captive to this dreary toil?'

And seven times a day Thou answerest,
'I cannot do without thee.
Once did My Son live thy life,
and by His faithfulness did show My mind,
My kindness, and My truth to men.
But now He is come to My side, and thou must take His place.'

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hospitality is something which the early church were asked to practice. Both St Paul and St Peter instructed the early church to be hospitable:

'Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.' 1 Peter 4: 7-9


'Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.' Romans 12: 12-13

Have you ever noticed that church meetings are much better attended if they:
a)Serve food
b)Take place in a home

Why is this? Both of these ingredients make people feel welcome, comfortable and wanted. They have the effect of making someone new to church life feel part of the group. In our current society genuine hopsitality is usually only offered to close family and friends. If Christians open up their homes unconditionally, then surely their hospitable attitude will be received well and with pleasure, despite being counter cultural. However, in our private and inward looking society, Christians today often seem to ignore this important outward sign of Christ's love and practice hospitality rarely. I find this perplexing and worry about its effect on our witness as the body of Christ.

When I was a student, Christians from my church regularly used to invite people from the congregation around for Sunday lunch. They saw it as a time when they could get to know individuals and bond with them. We appreciate the invitation and felt a real sense of family...something we talk about a lot within the church. How many loving, close families do you know who never eat together or meet up just to spend time with one another? Very few I would imagine. And yet we so often think we can be the family of God without this important factor!

Building community then, is one of the most important building blocks if we want a healthy church. Without it, our effectiveness as the body of Christ is curbed and opportunities for showing the world the uniqueness of a Christ centred community are lost.

Paul and Peter had their reasons for encouraging Christians to be hospitable. The word is often mentioned in conjunction with the importance of loving one another: and love is so much better when it is shown tangibly.

In 3 John Gaius is asked to practice hospitalty. In Romans 16, Paul mentions the hospitality that Gaius has shown him. Clearly Gaius took the instruction seriously...why shouldn't we?

Friday, January 08, 2010

One of the positive angles that has been hi-lighted in news reports on the winter snow and ice, is the way in which rural communities seem to be looking after one another during the extreme weather.
Community is a subject I have blogged abut before and it is as an area I care about very much, particularly as localised community seems to be non existent in bigger towns and cities. Even in my smaller town, my neighbours rarely speak to one really is quite alarming how insular and 'private' we have become.
Community deos still exst of course, but the preference today is for scattered communities drawn together by leisure or work. The problem with this approach is that the people you mix with are likely to be of a similar educational level, age group and set of interests as yourself. At first glance that may seem to be an advantage; but is it really a good thing to be so similar to those you mix with? In this restricted world of sameness, when are your ideas and preconceptions challenged? When do you benefit from the wisdom of your elders or from the freshness and enthusiasm of those younger than you if you are older yourself?
The eclecticism of the traditional village community just isn't present in most scattered community groups. Town churches are one of the few places that can still reflect a healthy wide ranging community in these places, as long as they resist the temptation to become a sort of club which appeals to a specific type of person. Then, (and this happens all too often) they become grey and uninteresting, places which exist for the benefit of those within and not those outside. They are in these situations unlikely to attract anyoone other than the type of person already represented..another interest led community like all the others. No wonder the church is said to be in decline!
Jesus commands us to go and take the gospel to others. It is therefore crucial that we as Christians become a part of our local community, wherever it is, become known, enter into the hub of local life and take an interest in the people around us who are not just like us. Maybe when they see the church as an inclusive place where people of different interests, ages and approaches to worship, exist together in a caring and supportive environment, then our churches may begin to grow.
A relational approach to evangelism is the most effective way in which people can see Christ. I am really looking forward to living in rural parish from the summer. I want to involve myself in the lives of the villages and make the effort to get to know people through my day to day contact with a real, localised community.