Sweet-talking daughter of a Preacher woman

I always sing this version when I hear the lyrics to Preacher Man, originally by Dusty Springfield and brought to fame by Aretha Franklin…it doesn’t scan as well to the music but it always brings to being a teenager, and the sheer joy and naughtiness possible if your mum is a  religious leader, from getting away with something you weren’t supposed to be up to, without anyone in the wider community hearing about it! I don’t think I was a particularly rebellious child but when I left home I lost my way a bit, through the sheer freedom available in comparison to living with christian parents in a visible way in a village community.

It was really weird for me to see mum going through the changes that happened to her as she became a preacher when I was in my teens, and at that stage of life I guess I wasn’t really all that interested in religion. I did find it embaressing at times that mum was up the front talking, but if I’m honest  I was also secretly really proud. Certainly my friends mums didn’t seem to have so many opportunities to share their point of view in public!

I did what my children do now which is sort of get jealous if i felt that mum’s work was taking over time when she’d normally have been around, but at that stage of my life I was much more interested in my friends than my family anyway!

Since I’ve started ordination training myself, me and mum have become really close as it’s been amazing to be able to swap notes, and she’s been able to tell me – this is normal- you are doing great- don’t worry it won’t be like this forever- with some confidence!

It’s also made us reflect on how things have changed. Some of the barriers mum faced just aren’t there anymore, but some really are the same!

I’m still not quite sure how listening to mum preach or seeing her wearing robes in church affected me, I don’t think I remember alot to be honest. Of course becoming a vicar didn’t happen overnight and before she was ordained church had become a big part of our lives. I definitely remember when I was still at primary school spending alot of time playing in the graveyard with other church children, whilst mum did lots of boring chatting!

Anyway… if you are the daughter of a preacher-woman, sweet-talking or otherwise, we would really love to hear from you. We are thinking about gathering together some of these experiences to help us reflect on women’s ministry in the church today.

Following a letter in the church times, mum a retired non-stipendary priest in the York Diocese, has had around 15 people get in touch, so we are off to a good start. Please do pass on her contact details if you know someone else who may be interested suenightingale3@gmail.com

2 Timothy 1 v5 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Guest blogger Naomi shares about belonging to church small groups

When I look back on my journey as a Christian, something that really strikes me is how essential being part of a church small group has been for my own development. Yes, of course, there’s the growing I did in my own individual prayer life, my Bible study and my faith. There’s the teaching I received and the activities I was part of as part of a big church. But central to both of those aspects, and critical for me, was the part I played in a small group.

 

A small group usually meets midweek. It is usually has 5-15 members, who commit to studying the Bible and praying together. Almost all churches have them, and I highly recommend getting involved in one.

 

My first small group was a mixed group of us in our early twenties. We were all in a similar position: starting out in our careers, navigating that difficult path of working out who our ‘adult’ selves were. Most of us were looking for ‘the one’ (although no marriages actually resulted from that group!), and all of us were looking to grow in our faith.

 

For many of us – myself included – it was the first time that we’d led a Bible study session, or actually gone out to serve others. Having very few commitments, our attendance was good. We had our highs and our lows, but there were some really strong friendships formed.

 

After a few years, our small groups in our big church were shuffled around. I found myself co-leading an all-girls group. Again, this was an amazing time of growth and deepening for me in my faith. We explored the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I was amazed by the wisdom and maturity of women my own age. Once again, really close friendships were formed, and some of these women are my closest friends today.

 

When Tim and I got engaged, we started attending a small group together. This was a different group altogether – several couples and some single people, ranging in age from early twenties to early eighties. This group was really lovely, and supported us hugely as we stepped into married life together.

 

Again, after a few years, we were shuffled around. We joined – and eventually came to lead – another small group. This was another mixed group, some single, some married, some dating, and again, these people became some of our closest friends. They supported us through Ben’s birth and the transition into parenthood – and didn’t complain too much when he threw up all over them.

 

When we moved away from our city, I felt the loss of our small group keenly. Even more so than the wider church – perhaps because our church was so big – they were my community. As a Southerner up North, they were my family. They were the ones I could pray with, laugh with, hang out with and learn with. That’s where I grew the most.

 

We have a brilliant small group now. It’s taken a while to settle in. It always does. You have to be vulnerable and open with people, and that’s hard. We’re learning and growing together. That’s the way it should be.

 

If you’re looking to get the most out of a small group, here are my recommendations:

 

Commit. Be consistent with your attendance. Reply to emails. Show up.

 

Offer to lead. Even if it’s scary, have a go. You will get so much out of it.

 

Offer to host. People feel they know you better once they’ve seen you in your home.

 

If you can, ‘shop’ around. Try a few different groups and find out what works for you.

 

Be open and honest as soon as you feel able.

 

Connect in between group meetings – a group What’sApp is great for this.

 

Remember, you get out what you put in. If you put the effort in, God will show up.

To find out more about Christian Blogger Naomi visit http://lifebynaomi.com

 

Vomitorium in the Sanctuary

Thanks to Guest blogger Mayowa Adebiyi

for more go to https://mayowaadebiyi.wordpress.com/
– we are blog-swapping this week!
As annoying as Stephen Fry is to me as an average religious person, not as a person in terms of personality, though his know-it-all demeanour when presenting QI sure could grate on anyone in real life. I speak instead of his disdain for God albeit a non-existent god. However, this post isn’t about Fry but one of Fry’s many corrections on commonly held historical facts, you know, the type that Alan Davies mentions and Fry’s buzzer goes off to tell Davies he’s wrong (again).

It is commonly (wrongfully) held that the Vomitorium can be found in the average Roman Banquet Hall. After guests have sufficiently gorged themselves and could no more, they had the opportunity to purge their stomach contents, in order to create space for more. This is in fact pure fiction ! The Vomitorium was actually an exit to a Stadium or Amphitheatre.

The myth continues because most are aware of Roman decadence. The idea that they gathered at a particular time and place to feast to their hearts content, eating so much that they need to purge in order to return to their binging not hard to at all imagine. Removing the image of excess from this picture, I’d like to argue that our Sunday mornings should feel like a Banquet, a feast for the senses.

Depending on your personality or church background, your Sunday experience could either be categorised as feeling like a Concert or Lecture. Though these are broad brush strokes and these categorisations by Isaac Wardell isn’t meant to capture which part of the service plays a bigger part, the singing or preaching. Although it could be this, it is but much more.

Identity being such a huge modern day issue and with most modern day issues, the instinct is right, the direction horribly muddled. The orientation of identity formation in the modern day is radically inwards, the world is currently about the self.

The Church is about something and she knows she is, the Sunday gathering points her as a body towards Jesus rather than apart when aimed individually inwards.

One of the themes in the book Eccelesiastes, is the disjointedness of time in a fallen world, the incoherence of past, present and future is acutely felt in a life of hardship bound for eventual demise. Nothing in this post-everything world makes any sense, the past is past, the present is precarious and the future is uncertain. It is in this very time that Jesus enters to offer what he calls eternal life, not as a length of existence but as an infinite improvement of the quality of time in all of its experiential form. The past is redeemed, the present is pregnant with possibilities and the future is sure to burst forth in all kinds of hope.

It is this kind of coherence that a Sunday service should aim for and should do it richly by telling a coherent story in present time. Not just in music, not merely intellectually but richly and decadently. In song, reflection, eating, noise, silence, reading, drinking, we binge on the saviour till we can’t no more.

Listen without Prejudice

I’m feeling so sad, my childhood hero  George Michael has died. Those of us who grew up in the 80’s and happened to have a huge crush on him, were devastated this Christmas. I remember being at my friend’s house in 1987 when his first solo album came out, and how amazed we were by the quality. Life after Wham! We couldn’t imagine that was possible straight off the bat. With his stylish clothing, dancing and general soulful good looks, we thought he was amazing anyway… but songs like Father Figure and Faith, made it impossible to think of him as anything but wonderful.

I can also remember where I was when someone told me he was gay. I was sitting on a bank outside school and one of the older kids described someone as a bit “George Michael”, meaning he was a bit “gay”, as an insult. I was amazed that firstly being “gay” was bad and secondly George was gay .. how could that be, what about the girls in Wham!?

It’s hard to imagine now that he was so brave in coming out and losing the straight “garb” to the horror of the record producers. Even producing “Outside” after being caught having gay sex illegally was pretty brave I thought, even if he was being promiscuous.

I hope “gay” is no longer an insult that all schoolkids use, but I am sure it is. There are certainly many hazards. The sorrow that George felt at not being able to be honest with his mum about who he was is, having to play certain roles to succeed, losing friends to HIV were part of his life. Unfortunately, it’s still the case for many young people that they will face discrimination and prejudice in life. Not many civil partnerships or gay marriages are celebrated with the complete extended family present, which must be a huge sadness for all concerned. For some it can feel like being chucked out of the nuclear family they grew up in.

I know this is a difficult for many Christians, who feel gay rights isn’t an issue we can even discuss positively, due to the explicit references to it as a sin in Paul’s gospels. I am not sufficiently confident as a theologian to challenge this view in my understanding of the bible, but I believe we are called to love each other as equal citizens of God’s redeeming love, regardless of our sexuality and we could do with showing some bravery and faith in God on this issue.

I can identify with the feeling of being an outsider.An incident of sexual abuse growing up, made me feel like the church was no longer either a safe place, or one that I could call home. It didn’t lead me to become gay, and I don’t think sexual abuse can really change someone’s sexual orientation overnight. Any kind of childhood trauma such as bereavement or loss can influence how we develop as people. It left me thinking though that sex wasn’t OK with God. It was a secret, a shameful thing. This is especially difficult when you are growing up in a Christian family if these things aren’t really discussed. I would now refer anyone who asked to the Song of Songs for evidence to the contrary!

Until not long ago, being gay was a psychiatric condition, along with being a teenage mum. We know now in medicine that this isn’t the case, and I pray that this issue won’t split the church. We have alot of work to do in 2017, working to make God’s kingdom come, working to bring in the harvest for God, irrespective of difference.We do this best when we are working to the same goals and being tolerant with one another, respecting each other’s rights and freedoms.

I hope now that George’s battles with addiction are over and he can rest in peace.It’s been so lovely to hear about his quiet philanthropy, I hope others are inspired by this to share their wealth.

Here’s a prayer for our LGBT community..

Gracious God, you love all that you have created, and you celebrate the diversity of your creation. Throughout your history with your people, you have reminded us that those whom the world sees as the least are the greatest in your eyes. We ask that you give us the grace to celebrate with our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers as they choose to live authentically in the world. Teach us to honor and celebrate their gifts, and help us to create a world in which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers and adults are loved, accepted and celebrated. We ask this in your many names. Amen.

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Caring at Christmas

The closer we get the more emotional I am feeling this year about Christmas. it’s too much build up I think! The gap between the reality of our world and how we’d all like it to be is just getting bigger it seems. We can all help do something though however tiny if we want to. Often it’s the little things that grind you down….

My husband is a paid carer and like alot of people in the helping professions, is working this Christmas. He was fed up last night, not because he’s going to miss some of the party, but because his client had been served a half defrosted meal for lunch by other paid carers, and noone had remembered to stock up on dog food.

Because he’s working this year,  Christmas is being reordered.  Instead of normally going to church and then on to my parents, we are going to spend the morning at home for a change, and the kids are having a sleepover at my parents with extended family on christmas day, and I’m coming home in the evening to celebrate with husband when he gets back from work.

This has been preying on my mind, as we all get set in our ways and I’m also in a new context and was nervous about how to present this to people in the congregation. While I’m not yet a vicar or a curate, I responded to an article in the Church Times about vicars slacking on Christmas day. My response was published. The article was by an eminent theologian, Angela Tilby, and discussed familoraty- another eminent theologian Ian Paul has since commented on the article and it’s published responses here http://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/should-clergy-have-christmas-day-off

I know there was a large mailbag as it touched alot of nerves, not just those of women in ministry but all of us who give up regular chunks of our weekends to serve in church settings at the cost of nuclear or extended family time.

It’s been a roller-coaster year 2016, and I’m relieved to have just scraped a pass on Ian Paul’s module at St Barnabus. It all seemed unimaginably strange when I started in September. The thing I’m learning about theology is it’s full of different opinions, positions, perspectives and all have nuanced rationales behind them. I am finding my feet but it’s quite odd being asked my own response to people’s perspectives who have given it considerable thought.

In previous commissioning and strategic planning roles my own opinion hasn’t been that key, as a team in the NHS or social care we relied instead on the consensus of stakeholders involved, political drivers, finance available, research evidence and it’s been my role to combine these perspectives into a set of options that someone else would then make a final decision on, having weighed up the risks and issues.

I keep thinking that at some point it will become clear whose the correct, common sense answer is. However this doesn’t really seem to be how it works! God speaks to us all in a myriad of ways in a world of multiple languages, contexts, cultures and conditions. We can all hear God’s voice and bring our own perspective, this is called hermeneutics. It doesn’t mean though that any one of us is not “on message” if we are sincerely expressing a theological view. There are restrictions of course, but within the parameters of the discussion there is more blue sea than horizon.

I took the kids to see the Disney film Moana and found it really inspiring. Like Moana, the ability of God to direct my travel plans is becoming more and more central to my life and it’s now impossible to stay in the comfort of “what we’ve all always done”.

Theology is basically talking about God, and I can happily do that all day long, I am hoping by the end of the training I’ll have more of an understanding of the debates and issues that are in the sea with me and the history and previous journeys people have made to navigate it all.Hopefully this will help me understand more about the Bible, but I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion there are no shortcuts, only my ancestors and culture behind me!

 

Being different

We’ve just formally had a diagnosis for our son that he has Developmental Delay Disorder (previously known as dyspraxia)

Ive known he was different to other kids his age from pretty early on but we didn’t know why. Having the diagnosis makes it official and will help us support him in getting the right help. It’s already opened up ways in which we can work with school to support him.

If I’m honest though I don’t feel happy about it right now as it’s like finding out that the world is going to be tougher for him in certain ways forever.

I’m  from a family of people who find physical coordination difficult and when I’m tired and emotional I do really struggle with practical jobs and I rely on others for a lot of help. It can look like I’m really not trying as well when I’m just not processing anything very fast!

With routine jobs I can really struggle to see the wood for the trees. I can  learn new tasks but it doesn’t sink in as quickly as it does for other people- both my son and I also get frustrated as we are both quite bright and pick up other things more easily.

This morning my fears about this impacting at church in a practical way came to the fore and I had to ask people to pray for me not to trip up or sneeze with the incense or drop a book etc. This probably sounds quite normal but it’s really annoying!!

We are all different and I often get along well with people who don’t fit into a “normal” mould.

A big learning point for me this term at college has been that god created me and thinks I’m perfect not just in mind or soul but in my physical body as well. He might not want us to suffer but I know of many people with physical difficulties who wouldn’t want a “cure” and I can relate to this now. Our son might be different but that is a great thing in many ways and we can support him to overcome obstacles and pick his battles. This matters because for all of us our physical body is a home for gods work

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;” 1 Corinthians 6 v19

 

 

 

Living in a bubble

Nov 9th date is significant in our house as it’s our son’s birthday, but now it’s got another reason as it’s the day we found out Donald Trump will be president of the US. With Brexit earlier in the year, and David Bowie and a host of others dying, for many of us left wing liberal thinkers this year’s been really tough.

It’s hard to understand why the US would reject the legacy Obama has established, why wouldn’t you want free healthcare for those who can’t afford it otherwise?

Why would you want to exclude Britain from a range of amazing benefits shared by the EU?

Why criticise someone you’ve never met to make your own situation seem better?

Why boast about sexually assaulting women or punish women who’ve had an abortion?

Why play into people’s fears about immigration when you can’t actually change the fact that we live in a world economy?

I guess I live in a bubble, because it doesn’t resonate with my reality. The bubble I live in has some good points, we have a roof over our heads, we don’t need to worry about food, we have free education in a decent school for our kids, and the prospects for the future look good. I care about the community I live in because that’s what I was brought up to believe, I don’t want my kids to be greedy, rude or put themselves above other people, and I hang around with other people who are similarly inclined. Many of us had the privilege of further education, and have white collar jobs. This doesn’t make us perfect.Most of the time we take for granted the blessings we have, and expect more to come. We see them as our achievements not gifts from god.

I know I am loved completely and fully by the most important person in the world and I have to accept that on that basis my life is important as well. He will listen if I pray, and ask him for help to understand what is going on around me.

So if you are feeling blue today because of the changes happening, my only comfort is that bad things do happen to good people, and how we respond to that will really make a difference. People who are oppressed will often rebel and rise up against the establishment and we need to be responsible citizens who listen to our neighbours

This is from Job who had a great life, and then lost everything and his friends are trying to cheer him up, and fail and in the end God comes and has a word with Job to explain his position in the universe…it’s a great book of the Bible to read for those of us in our bubble, and shows the God described in the Old Testament in all his glory!

Job 40 vv8-14

 

Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
    and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
    and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
    look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
    crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
    shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
    that your own right hand can save you.

Pumpkins and eschatology

My homework today has been to read up on christian theology about the afterlife, at the same I’ve been scraping out pumpkins ready for Halloween. This seems like an unholy coincidence, however I think there is a blog in this! Firstly I’ve been trick or treating with my kids, as a guilty pleasure for a few years now. It’s probably not a very christian thing to do, but it’s the one of the only times I meet up with neighbours and quite a few families on our street make a big effort to decorate their houses, and welcome in children. We don’t visit houses beyond our couple of streets, and we are usually out for less than an hour. We don’t knock on doors unless the owners have signalled in some way they are up for being disturbed. This varies from lots of decorations, to a simple pumpkin. Some people put a bowl out of sweets to avoid being disturbed. If there was a decent alternative for christian families locally I think we’d support that, for example our youngest is at a light party with her Rainbows group tomorrow.

So secondly, why are Christians not keen on the concept of Halloween? Well it actually comes from the Eve of All Hallows day (All Saints Day) on the 1st November known in some catholic countries as the day of the dead. The pumpkins and lights are said to ward off evil spirits the night before. The fundamental issue with this, is that Christians (this is new to me too) don’t actually believe that when we die there is a spirit that lives on. We don’t distinguish between someone’s body, mind or soul and see them as one being. We hope for resurrection of all three, in the same way we believe Jesus came back from the dead in an actual body rather than as a ghost. Thomas put his hand in the wound before he believed it really was Jesus.

Thirdly today I was at the church where I became a christian and I became really conscious that “Saints” or those who used to worship at the church were around. I had a sense that two ladies in particular who have recently died of cancer, were really pleased to see me there. It wasn’t in a sense of them being ghosts or haunting the church, just that in the universe their presence was part of God’s glory. As a charismatic christian I often sense the Holy Spirit visiting a group of Christians in prayer this is the only spirit we do actually believe in. It’s like a presence or warm feeling, and often makes me want to cry. It’s part of who God is and can be a real blessing. Today I received a picture of some stars that joined to form a string of beautiful glowing pearls that then formed part of God’s crown. This represented to us the people we’d lost to cancer, now being part of God’s glory.

Every time we go to church we pray the Lord’s prayer and we ask that “his kingdom comes”, this is to say we want heaven on earth, we want an end to poverty and suffering and we want to see our loved ones restored in full resurrection. We also say “for yours is the power”, and this is key to Halloween, all the ghosts, demons and imaginary spooks in the world are not as powerful as God, but dabbling in the dark side can be dangerous, if you get into things like the paranormal, you may be inviting in the demons that will surely want to keep you from knowing God as fully as you might otherwise like to do. There is of course sadly bad to every good in the world but  how much power we give to the dark depends on how brightly our own lights shine out.

So tomorrow as I visit my neighbours I will be praying for them and thanking god for the community we live in, and probably binning like last year a great quantity of sweets which get really sticky and gooey in a plastic tub! I might even hand out some prayers with the sweets at home..

Here’s a couple of prayers that you may like to use yourself…

Father,
All-Powerful and Ever-Living God,
Today we rejoice in the holy men and women
of every time and place
May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

AMEN

 

 

Knitting

So month number 2 in the process of ordination, and  life is busy as normal. School trips, parents evenings, beavers, rainbows, swimming, study, work, and play are all happening at once, as per normal, plus I’m being re-ordered through the “ordination” process. It’s fantastic and like being rebooted at the same time. I’m learning a new vocabulary of theology, meeting lots of new people, and my ability to remember simple things, or plan ahead seems to have vanished! St Luke’s in York my new church home is different and familiar, and unexpected and traditional, all at once. I’m simultaneously amazed by powerfully meeting with the Holy Spirit, and stunned by how long traditions have been maintained by people in prayerful service.

I’ve been reflecting on this and decided that God’s using different strands of my life and my experience in a new way. Isiah 43 v19 “See, I am doing a new thing!”

I’ve not seen these strands as particularly connected and he’s got some kind of overall wonderful pattern in which it’s being knitted. In January we are planning a new adventure for people with dementia, in church. I’m really excited about progressing this, as I think it will draw on my experience and connections in the statutory world and link this to my desire to share my faith. It’s quite daunting though, as normally I like to compartmentalise my life, so work is about one thing, church is about another. Now church is work, it’s all a bit odd!

I guess this is the best thing though too, because when you are in a state of “flow” as athletes and artists describe their best work, it’s generally when things are aligned and the normal barriers have been swept away. Psalm 139 always reminds me of how well God knows us, much better than we ever realise…

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.