Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Standing in

Today I had to go to Cumnor near Oxford to learn how to be a surragate. No, it's got nothing to do with giving birth! It's about standing in for the Archdeacon, etc... so that couple's can swear at you - that they are free to mary. It's all about common licences and legal stuff...
There were eight of us there. A couple were friends of mine. We looked at each other and wondered why we were there:
a) we didn't say "no"
b) we've been around for a while
c) we've not blotted our copy book too badly - yet
All very interesting. I learnt a lot about the other people's wedding registers...

In the evening we had our first joint church council of the new year - St Mary's Church Council and All Saints' Servant Leadership Team. A laid back evening.
It's interesting to watch All Saints' construct a leadership team. It would be good to compare notes between the churches doing similar things - e.g. Water Eaton. There may be some lessons to learn...

(One day to go...)

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Last full day

This was one of those days when meeting followed meeting. I literally had to chase the Minstry Team out the door as the Deanery Leadership Team were arriving... Four hours of meetings were followed by a supervision session with Liz Baker at which we discussed her plans for years 2 and 3...
In the early evening we had a friendly gathering at Becky's house as Alison Dew passed through MK. This was another one of those bizarre gatherings: Becky, Alison and Isla all grew up together in East Malling. Becky now lives just a mile from us, round the corner from the school - so they had this strange opportunity to gather together with their own children... It's a small world... Kent meets MK again...
I had a wedding interview in the evening as Isla finished off her 5000 word essay on the connections between dyslexia and dyspraxia... We celebrated with a bottle of wine and an espisode of Monk.
(two days to go...)

Monday, 28 April 2008

Getting on with it...

Jessie's interment was this morning.
The diggers were began to arive as we waited for everyone to arrive. Work seems to be starting on the drains!
This was a day for getting on with all the jobs that need to be done before the sabbatical starts. I made good progress, but probably not enough...
Alastair Wood's support group this evening...
(Three days left!)

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Exit Strategy

This afternoon I popped out to to see Jean Potter (Chair of Governors at Christ the Sower School). She was doing much better and seemed very chirpy after her emergency operation.
We had our quarterly Service Planning Meeting at which we planned Christmas Services, and then it was time for the AGM.
We did a tribute to Ken Moore at the start. I had been struggling to find a good photo for this, but hadn't got very far. I have a great video of Ken flapping his ears, but this didn't seem very appropriate. At last minute Steve Nelsey came in with a memory stick which contained the following picture. It was only after I'd inserted it into the presentation that we all noticed Jessie, tucked away in the background... This was the perfect image of them both... (Note the Marmalade) This AGM was, of course, a day I have been planning for the last five years - since I (unlike Mr Bush) have always had an "exit strategy" in mind. It always seemed to me that finishing well as Team Leader was the most important thing I could do. From the beginning I wanted to have a properly organised handover to someone who would have a clear job to do.
At this point in our history, the Watling Valley is healthy, functional and working well. The members of the Ministry Team are getting on with one another. As a Partenrhip there is a good sense of vision, direction and hope... This is the right time to hand over to someone else...
And so tonight I passed the (soon to be traditional) Team Leader's Bible to Mike - who will have a really good time as Team Leader. The next few years could be really exciting and I wish him and the rest of the Watling Valley well!
Of course, I'd never really thought beyond April 2008 - so it's probably a good time to go on sabbatical and think things through. What am I going to do next?
(Four days to go...)

Whaddon Way

I did the eight O'clock communion this morning - my last Sunday service in Watling Valley for a while... Roger did his duty as church warden and sent me on my way... I preached about Paul in Athens, comparing his experience with that of Izzy in the Greek zone at Parc Asterix.

Then it was off to Whaddon Way church for a pulpit swap with Alan Bird. The theme of the service was taken from the Sermon on the Mount and involved murder, hate, adultery and lust - hard to pick any good hymns on this theme! It was good to be there and see some old friends.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

The Birthday of the Watling Valley

Emails were in circulation this morning about our Joint Council. It's one of those issues that has been circulating for a while so I decided (on my last full day as Team Leader) to sort it out. So off I trotted to Holy Cross where I descovered the Sharing Agreement, which tells me who should be on a Joint Council - job done. All I need to do now is twist some arms and we'll have one by tomorrow evening.
While I was delving into the files I found a copy of the Service of Inauguration for the Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership. I now know that the Watling Valley began on Sunday 21st April 1985 at 10:30am at St Mary's in Shenley Church End. I also have a copy of the words used by our people to declare their unity. This means that the 25th anniversary of the Watling Valley will be in April 2010. We are officially 23.

Beginning and End

Today the web is filled with messages about Zimbabwe. Bishop Alan has blogged - and emailed - about Zimbabwe and reminded us of the need to pray for this country at a very significant time of both hope and fear. The statistics and information about Zimbabwe are deeply concerning and it seems to me this is a time to pray for all the people of that nation.
Ironically, I was called upon to be more celebratory today with a wedding at All Saints' for a couple of African origin. Zimbabwe was mentioned. It was a time of joy with great ululations accompanying every amen.
Tears and laughter can often sit closely together and they do for Zimababwe. As we pray for them we must also find a way to rejoice with them. It is important that they are honoured as people and not treated as vistims. We will pray. We must also hope.

After the wedding I had to join the sons of Ken Moore to plan the service on Friday. They are discovering marmalade everywhere! The latest plan seems to be to dish out marmalade to all those who attend the funeral - a fitting memorial I suspect.
Once again, sorrow and joy are intertwined - there often seems to be an overlap. How can you mourn when God has given so much? How can you laugh when someone you love is taken away?
In the end we laughed because the hope of Christ does make a difference...

Please pray for Zimbabwe this weekend and for all those who live with hope and fear; conflict and peace; beginning and end.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Farewell to the Fish

When I was a child, growing up in Milton Keynes (between the ages of six and thirteen) I remember the city centre being a wide open space with miles and miles of empty car parks. They're not so empty these days. Often when we went into the town centre we would park by the fish at the garden centre. It was all free in those days. This was a great treat and we would often stop to peer into the murky depths. I'm not sure if I ever took myown children to see the fish, but in recent years there have been more bottles and junk in the fish ponds than anything else.
The fish are now gone and the garden centre is a brown field. My past is being demolished to make way for something new. Is this how people in the villages felt when their hedges began to disapear?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Clergy Stress

I've been thinking a bit about clergy stress over the past few days; partly because I've had conversations with or about ministers who have reached the end of their teather - if not crossed it. It seems to me that we are still imposing incredible pressures on some of our people, often for no more reason than habit. It's like the training incumbent who treats (bullies) the curate in the same way that his incumbent treated him - and every so often I hear a fresh tale of behaviour that is frankly unbelievable and I really can't quote such stories in a blog like this...
Some people might say that I complain too much but it upsets me to think of the top quality ministry that is simply squandered because of the way we treat one another and the stresses we accept as normal. I find it difficult to say "that's just the way it is" - it just shouldn't!
I picked up a book in one of our churches this evening while I was waiting for a wedding couple, "Pressure Points: How to Survive with the World and the Church on your back" by Peter Meadows. The wedding couple were very late so I had quite a thorough skim. It's a good book about stress - fairly familiar to anyone who's looked at these things before, but well written.
I noticed that the sticker in the front identified it as belonging to one of my predecesors - who did leave after life went a bit pear-shaped. It was interesting to think of him reading these words and to ponder how helpful they may have been in his time of crisis.
Of course, I then started thinking about my own stress. I'm responsible for the same church that he was - plus two more - with a number of other responsibilities besides... What's different? Why am I still standing? Am I still standing?
One difference, of course, is that we are more aware of the symptoms and effects of stress these days, so I'm sure we are able to manage it better. I suspect we have also benefited locally from eight years of development in shared ministry - this is not the same place that my predecesor served in. We are not the same people and don't have the same expectations...
And yet we still have a long way to go. There are some big lessons still to learn about letting go and finding a more peace-filled model of ministry - for all of us, ordained and lay alike. As I head towards my sabbatical I am hoping that this time will give me space to reimagine a ministry that is life giving rather than life draining - and I hope that when I return I will remember to live it too - for all our sakes...
(One week left to go...)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Welcome to Anytown

Julian Baggini, journalist and philospher, decided to spend six months in the most "normal" place in Britain as part of a quest to discover more about the English mind. This turned out to be a postcode area in Rotherham - S66 - and the book tells the story of his time there and his reflections afterwards.
It's a great book, particularly when Baggini (who reminds me all too much of people I knew at University) encounters average working class Brits in the places they like to use - pubs, working men's clubs, shopping centres and holiday resourts. He somehow managed to be himself while getting to know ordinary people with genuine emapathy and understanding. You get the feeling he really likes the people he meets. This book can sometimes be a bit like Louis Therou with philosophy.
He concludes that British people like "fair play" but that this doesn't mean playing by the rules. It means getting your due - which may be technically illegal. He thinks that we are "conservative communitarians" who believe that rights are not universal but dependent on our commitment and membership of English society. In other words, we have no real problem with removing those rights for those considered "outsiders". He finds himself liking popular culture and argues that good art does not become good art because you need several degrees to understand it. He thinks we consider food to be fuel and sex to be dirty, and we are too busy thinking about how much we can get - or how little we should be allowed - that we don't really enjoy either. He's stunned by how inflexible gender roles have turned out to be, and he thinks we like to gamble because we like to think the universe is talking to us... The "good life" for the English is defined by comfort, familiarity and niceness. Julian Baggini suprises himself with the observation that this is not neccessarily a bad thing!
The word "heft" is one he finds very helpful. Hefted sheep don't need to be herded or penned, they know where they belong. We are all, he says, "hefted holidaymakers who believe in finding what we like and sticking to it" - and he recognises something of himself in this...
It's a great book and does have a great deal to say about the English mind. Having read Jeremy Paxman's effort, I have to say, I prefer this... but...
Baggini is at his best when he's talking about his own experiences and his own thoughts. The chapter on food is powerfully familiar. I could see myself somewhere in there. He was also at his best when talking about the people he met, the places he visited and the effect this had on his own journey. Occassionally, however, he slips into a more bookish mode. The chapter on sex was little more than a list of facts, and the chapter on gender differences read like a post-feminist essay. I was particulalry disapointed with the chapter on gambling and religion - which actually had a great title "Gambling on Reality". He quickly slipped into accademic philosophy and restated what sounded like a pre-set position. There was a great chapter to be written here about the English approach to faith - but this wasn't it. The title was right and I think there is a great deal of truth in what he says, but it wasn't personal and therefore missed the mark somewhere...
All in all, a great book and well work picking up if you want to find out more about the people who inhabit this place some of us call home.
It's only by accident I publish this on St George's Day - but there you go, perhaps the Universe is talking to me too...

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

End of an Era

Jessie Dundas was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Milton Keynes eight years ago. She was a small scottish lady who for came to our 11 o'clock family service. I wondered to start off with why she came, until I saw her huge grin. I think she liked coming to that service because it was fun - plus she'd never really acclimatised to this strange English habit of weekly communion...
Jessie had come down with her husband Don, just after the war to make a new life in the village of Loughton. Don's brother Robert had married a local girl, Olive, and the four of them soon became part of village life - although, like many ex-pat scotts, they seemed to bring a bit of Scotland with them. Jessie would often try me out on a Scottish word or phrase that she thought I should know - and luckliy I often did!
Through Jessie I came to meet Don (who was better known in the pubs than the churches) and when I moved to Loughton I got to know Olive and finally Robert (often known locally as Jock) who eventually chose to give up the pub on occassion to share communion with Olve and myself in their flat.
These four people lived through a massive era of change; moving from Scottish mining towns, to agricultural England; finnaly watching that English countryside transformed into a twentieth century city. They held on to the things that were valuable from their past, but also became part of the future. There is now a huge familly who can trace their beginnings back to those brave poineers... (And I've come to know many of them too.)
During the past few years, I've had the strange privilege of celebrating the end of their journies. One by one I have said goodbye to each of them; first Olive, then Robert, last year Don and five months later, Jessie - who clearly didn't want to go on without him... They were all different, but all much loved. Jessie, who we morn this week, has been called one of the "nicest" people you could know - and that word is appropriate on this occassion. I will remember her smile.
It is the end of an era - but it has been a good one. Farewell and God's speed to them all.

Monday, 21 April 2008

A New Day

And so the normal term began...
I popped into school this morning and then dropped a memory stick off at the printers. Voices is ready to go!
This was a day for hard work and I powered through the emails, phone messages and small jobs that were sitting on my desk. I had some very intriguing messages, which may lead in interesting directions... One example is a message from Trish who I prepared for marriage in Tasmania in February. I've just had a message from her to say that the man who set up a Local Shared Ministry Project where her mum is a local priest is now living in the UK and she gave me his email address. I dropped him a line right away.
In the afternoon Paul and I went to Oxford for a meeting about one of our churches. This seemed to go very well, and then we drove back again. It was good to chat in the car and catch up. We both felt very positive about where things are going in MK at the moment. It feels like things are beginning to change...
I got home and had a quick bite to eat before the All Saints' Worship Team meeting. We reviewed Easter and discussed preaching.
I'm coming down with a cold...

Ken Moore

A Tribute for Ken Moore
by Phyllis Bunnett

I remember Ken as he was when he first came to a Sunday Service; his smart appearance, the spring in his step, his benign smile. He was so polite, patient, painstaking and paternal.
While all this was obvious, it was only gradually that we came to experience the hidden depths. He had, we learned, come from a very warm Christian home, he was well educated and loved projects to research; these gave him an excuse to spend hours delving into his amazing library, writing letters to authorities both church and secular, and organising his material for presentation.
But deeper than that was his love and care for people, especially young people down on their luck. He had, over the years, helped to put some people back on their feet, with great self-sacrifice, and some of his neighbours will remember him with gratitude. He was proud of being our church warden—and made a real job of it.
But in spite of these onerous and time consuming labours, I think he will be remembered by many as “The Marmalade Man” - he also excelled at jam making and many other culinary arts. All his jars and goods were labelled very precisely, even to the extent of times and natures of our services. Whilst he didn’t reach the height of “by Royal Appointment” he certainly could say “Purveyor to the Bishop” - and he did! - very proudly.
There was no aspect of Church Life in which he was not actively involved, Toddlers, Lunch Club and catering, Prayers, Lent Groups, etc, etc…
Physically he had suffered a great deal in recent years; on two occasions through accidents on his boat, which he regretfully had to relinquish.
Just a fortnight ago he chaired our AGM but he was really very unwell, he had been laid low by a severe cold and cough, but true to form, refused to give up.
However he was taken into hospital, the following day, his condition worsened and he died in the Critical Care Unit on Friday 18th April at 2:30pm.
Already today - Sunday 20th - he is much missed, there are so many gaps to fill… and although I know he suffered some disappointments due to our stubbornness, and his too, I think relationships were strengthened by the outcomes - he bore no grudges.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his three sons and their families; to Simon and Louise, and their three daughters, to Andrew and Sarah and their two little ones and to Michael.
We would like you to know how much we appreciated him and also how proud he was of you all.
We are thankful that the end came gently and peacefully.
In loving memory,
Phyllis

Voices sprint

This month's Voices was never going to be easy, coming as it did at the end of the Easter Holidays... All three editors were due to be away which doesn't make editing very easy...
I had a short window between a busy Sunday and a busy Monday during which I could edit the magazine. I warned people about this before hand, but it was still a risk; there would be no time for chasing articles or commisioning new ones. Whatever was in my inbox by 10:00pm on Sunday night would be the magazine!
It took five hours, and a lot of juggling, and a bit of space filling, but I got there! Voices on ice! - whoosh... All done.
Not shore it's any good, but I will get it to the printers in the morning.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Back to Work

Today was my first day back after the Easter Holiday. I hope to insert some missing days soon to fill in some of the gaps...

I had to get up early for the 8 o'clock service, which turned out to be a good thing since I picked up a notice sheet which informed me that Ken had died on Friday. He will be greatly missed. It was certainly useful to know this before going to Holy Cross where he had served as church warden.

The mood was quiet and reflective at Holy Cross. I presided at the 9 o'clock communion and then preached at the 9:45. The hymns were strangely appropriate even though I'd picked them over a week ago, and the story of Stephen had wonderful resonance. Both Ken and Stephen were people who sought to serve in practical ways, reaching out to people on the edge - often with food. We gave thanks for Ken this morning.

It was a bit of a shock to the system to leave Holy Cross and go to St Mary's at 11am for a big baptism service - a high energy show! The church was packed with visitors who needed to be given a real celebration - which we seemed to deliver. At 2pm I had to do the same at All Saints - three families, four children. It was important to deliver a BIG event for the five baptism families and their friends - but a bit of an emotional rollercoaster after the two services at Holy Cross...

I had three hours at home this afternoon. We all sat down for dinner and I watched last night's Doctor Who with the girls. It was a fairly blatant story about the very human habit of slavery - in one form or another - but it worked pretty well. After all, you can't go wrong if the episode has Ood in it. We learnt today that Ood have three brains: one in their head, one in their hands and one that they share in a collective consciousness. This is a great image to play with! They must cooperate and trust each other because if you are holding your brain in your hands you are pretty vulnerable... To what extent are we like Ood? There's a question to think about...

Growing Disciples was at 6:30pm. Mike's away so I had to lead it by myself. We all missed Ken's presence. He had been really enjoying this course. We had a good discussion about the cost of discipleship and went home. It's now 10pm and I am starting work on Voices. I must finish by tomorrow morning...

Oh I am glad to be back...
(And my sabbatical starts in 11 days...)

Friday, 18 April 2008

The Lourve

Day Five: Trip to the Louvre which included the obligatory visit to that Da Vinci painting.

From a personal point of view, I was able to visit the Moabite Stone which I spent a term studying at University. It basically marks the victory of Mesha of Moab over the Israelites...

... and some of the tablets from Ugarit which contain the Baal myth. (I also studied Ugaritic for a year which was great fun).
And so it was time to go home...

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Parc Asterix

Day Four: Family trip to Parc Asterix. A great day out. It was actually fairly quiet with very few brits arround (They're all in Disney I guess). The girls had a wonderful time. Isla and Iona went on all the big rides - although Isla considered eight loop-the-loops less terrifying than the Paris ringroad... The big highlight for me was a live show with legionnaries recruiting the gaulish spy, Nitro Gliserene. All good fun.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Versailles

Day Three: Trip to Versailles. More struggles with Paris ringroad! Parking a nightmare!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Paris

Day two of the holiday. Trip into Paris. We visited the Eifel Tower and the Muse D'Orse. (Sorry, can't work out how to add accents...)

Monday, 14 April 2008

Off to France

We set off bright and eary for France, catching an early ferry. The drive down was OK but a little wet. We arrived in Maisons Lafitte by mid afternoon which gave us time to check out the local shops (expensive) and settle into our caravan, on an island in the Siene. Here's the view from our bedroom window...

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Annual Meeting and Away...

Today was an interesting day. I attended the AGM at All Saints' which included a discussion of the new Servant Leadership Team and the buidling plans... All we need is 100K and we're there.

After church we headed up the road to Kent to stay overnight at grandma's.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Thursday

Worked during the morning while girls were at a fun day.
Went to see Jessie's family this afternoon. We reflected on the changes that she had seen in her long life, particularly in Shenley. It feels like the end of an era.
Stewart rang this evening to say that Ken had been taken ill. Went to see him in hospital.
Am having an interesting break...

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Oxford

Took girls to Oxford. We did the Ashmolean and the History of Science Museums.
Worked in the evening.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Easter Holiday

And finally the actual Easter holiday starts...
Iona and Izzy are on holiday. Isla is still at work. I'm (officially) taking my post Easter break-ish - but will probably do some quiet catching up...

We went to see Nanny and Grandad in Nottingham today. Grandad has been doing some research for me in New Zealand where he had a meeting with Barbara Weseldene, who is the coordinator of Local Shared Ministry in Auckland Diocese. It was good to get his feedback from this visit, since it confirmed some of our observations in the Project Group.

Went to see Jessie Dundas this evening.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Sunday

Another Sunday in the snow! The world was completely white when we got up but began to melt later.
I was at Holy Cross for communion first, followed by their AGM. Zipped across the St Mary's to lead them in communion after their AGM. Finished the morning (at 2:00pm) with a lunch time meeting with the St Mary's 11 O'clock team...
Took girls for an afternoon walk...
Managed to finish the Watling Valley AGM video in the evening...

Recognition

Jeff preached a great sermon at Holy Cross today. He spoke about the disciples on the road to Emmaus and about how they failed to recognise Jesus until he did his thing... To demonstrate this he preached with a paper bag on his head - we knew it was him!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Saturday

Spent most of the day working on my fees and expenses. I need to tie these off for the end of the financial year. Various people hastling me for information. I'm hastling various others. I'll be glad when it's done...
Lunch with the Solloways - good pie!
Wedding in the afternoon. We had the reading from the Song of Solomon about the rain being past - and it was by the time the bride left the church. "Many waters cannot quench love, nor the floods drown it" - never have these words felt more true!
Family treat in the evening: Doctor Who is back!

Friday, 4 April 2008

Friday

Very long day! We had an informal visit from a potential URC SCM minister for Christ the Sower. By "informal" read "significant discernment process".
It seemed to go very well and I'm greatly encouraged.
(Went for short run with Isla)
I didn't get back until quite late. Izzy didn't want to settle down until half way through the final episode of Torchwood. The beer was alcohol free - and someone rang for pastoral advice. All on my day off... I'm not popular. The pile of work to be finished before my sabatical starts continues to grow...

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Thursday

Plans for the morning had changed serveral times during the week, so a number of potential events were cancelled. I went for a short run with Isla and then strated tackling some of my big jobs...
We had a very good Local Shared Ministry Project Group session in the afternoon as which we reflected on some of the things going on and (I think) made some really significant steps forward in thinking about how a process-based approach could work. I think I'm finally beginning to see how we could move beyond the highly structural approach offered to us from Auckland.
In the evening I managed to see half an hour of Izzy's ballet lesson before rushing off to the two-for to get a table for our evening session with a potential candidate for the URC chaplain at Christ the Sower. Good evening.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Interview Day One

The first big day long interview of the week: deputy head at Christ the Sower. Long day. Sadly no appointment was made.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

How to be in three places at once

9:00am Team Meeting (Two Hours)
10:00am Ecumenical Oversight Group (Hour and a half)
11:15am Ministers West (Hour and a half)
1:00pm off to shops to get lunch and tea for Isla (ill) and girls...
2:15pm Start my work for the day...
2:30pm Finish work. Go get girls...
4:00pm Music Centre Concert at Cornerstone
6:00pm Iona due at school for Gospel Show
6:16pm Left Cornerstone (with 20 minutes still to go) to Iona to School for the Gospel Show...
6:30pm Dropped Iona at school
6:45pm Got to St Mary's for Wedding Rehersal
7:00pm Wedding family arrived for rehersal
7:30pm Finished rehearsing procession... WVEC members begin to arrive...
7:45pm Finish rehersal...
8:00pm Ecumenical Council
11:00pm Tea...

Am I an April fool?