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!

 

Camping

When I’ve prayed, I’ve been recently presented with an image of  a tent. It appears randomly seemingly unconnected to the rest of the things I’ve been asking God about. So this weekend on a camping trip with some friends, I was looking out for what camping is about.

The first thing seemed to be about getting the right equipment, so having a tent and a sleeping bag, are kind of important.

Secondly you need to work out how to put the tent up and keep it up, so that you stay warm and dry all night.

Thirdly you need some good company to enjoy the experience with, my intrepid friends and our kids had a fantastic meal together followed by a glorious yellow sunset and lots of singing curlews.

Fourthly you are open to the elements, not just the wind and rain, but the neighbours. Ours were out to party and went to bed about 5am. Along with the dawn chorus and lots of toilet trips, so we didn’t get much sleep.

Fifth you are doing without home comforts- that’s kind of the point, so the little things really matter. Nice chilled glass of white wine, posh chocs on Saturday night, and the best muesli I’d ever eaten when we had our breakfast outside the tent, as we’d been awake since the early hours and I was starving!

So I think my life going forwards is likely to involve some more of – building new homes, building new groups of friends, and living with the elements! People tell me in church terms I’m a “pioneer”, this is about building new church in the UK. If you already have a lovely church building I guess that’s already home, so building new ones, is likely to start with some camping out, and trying on for size new venues, and new neighbours.

In the Old testament, God explains to the Jews, how to build him a tent, called a tabernacle, which has huge symbolism and opulence for the Jews, but wasn’t an actual building, more of a movable palace.

Exodus 25 v8 “have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.”

Overall though camping was at times a real hassle, and I could have happily killed said curlews and/or neighbours in no particular order, and will definitely be taking pull-ups next time, and needed more blankets, I came home from camping, feeling energised and full of fresh air and happy memories, and slept like a baby on Sunday night!