extraordinary encounters

DSC_0691 copyI often find being a priest in the Church of England requires you to be open to the unexpected. Over the last few years I have had a number of  unusual and extraordinary encounters. Interestingly a number of these have come when I am feeling weak and not at my best.

Today was one such day.
Today was a day that I did not feel ‘together’ for a number of reasons.
I usually always feel a fraud as a priest; but today was a day that I felt it more than usual.
This day was a day when I was not feeling particularly ‘priestly’ or useable by God or of any use to anyone.  Things did not seem to be in the right place.
It’s fair to say that I started my day on auto-pilot and was just sticking to my timetable.

This morning I arrived and left my first school that I am chaplain of as normal. This school is next to a major building site. The size of building site where workers are permanently in place to divert or stop pedestrians and traffic. As I was walking past the entrance to the building site the worker standing the gate asked if I was a pastor.

Now as I always where my dog collar when ‘on duty’ I think it is pretty obvious that I am a ‘pastor’ and often I make some semi sarcastic joke like, ‘No … actually I’m on my way to a fancy dress party …. ‘

Today I did not make a sarcastic quip.
Today I could see in this man’s eye’s a seriousness. A deepness.
He held my hand … for longer than feels acceptable … and he kept holding it as he asked me to pray for him for a variety of stuff.
So … there … on the street …. holding hands with this guy … I prayed … and … then …. he blessed me.

It was such a gracious and powerful moment and I don’t mind admitting I was moved to tears as I wandered on my way to the bus stop to get to my next school.

On the bus I reflected and wondered …. why …. why is it that when I feel at our worst … that it is then that I see God doing something …

I spoke to some people later who said I must have been in the right place at the right time to help this guy.

Actually …. I think this man was in the right place, and at the right time, to help me. That’s pretty cool.
Sometimes it is a real privilege to do what I do.

slithers of hope

dp1783759It’s been a long time
A very long time
So long that I forgot that I used to have
A blog

I guess it is fair to say the year has been
tough
interesting
hard work … yes …
with ideas not germinating
and dreams not blooming
and yet

yet

I know I am here
I know I am supposed to be here
I know God has called me here
for now
for such a moment as this
to be a blessing
and
I hope
to be blessed

the last few days have seen
excitement
interesting slithers of light
all radiating suddenly at once
standing to attention
and scooting out hastily from dark crevasses
like Attenborough’s racer snakes
or maybe a shooting star
or even the insuppressible sunrise
always there
FULL of potential
but waiting
and holding breath
until the right time to appear

Is now that time?

I have now been here for 16 months and now, only now, after 16 months of listening and hearing what people are saying and building trust with people are we boldly but carefully moving forward with some ideas.

Our survey shows that loneliness, stress and  community feel are real and live issues for people here … and so we need to ask the question … how can we respond to that …. is there anything we can do to help with community feel, to help dispel loneliness and to help people with stress levels.

Early in the New Year we will be offering free Mindfulness Meditation classes and a great wellbeing course called The Happiness Course.

Sound intriguing or interested …?
If so give us / me a shout!

9 months ….

The last time I blogged was 9 months ago.
Christmas Eve.
So today, the 24th of the 9th, seemed to me to be  good day to start here again.

9 months as a time of incubation.
9 months as a time of contemplation.
9 months of space

9 months gone in a flash.
but a habit of ‘no writing’
has seemed to set quite fast

IMG_0020In the last 9 months I have moved, started a new role in a new diocese, and feel excited with a new challenge ahead of me. I also feel quite privileged to be part of a diverse and great team and live in an awesome ‘vicarage’ flat in the Greenwich Millennium Village with the photo being the view from my study desk.

I am team vicar of Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula which is part of the East Greenwich Team Ministry and the Chaplain for the Koinonia Federation of Christ Church and St. Mary Magdalene CE Schools. Try saying that after a few rums!

So … my role is to establish chaplaincy in the schools and to grow ‘church’ with the community of Holy Trinity here on the Greenwich Peninsula …. that bit with the O2 dome at the end of it! The area is constantly changing and the constant challenge will be how we serve a diverse growing and hidden population. (I live in an apartment block and have only seen 3 other residents in the 4 weeks I have been here!) An exciting thing, though, is that the bishop is encouraging us to create … so create we will!

I don’t have a lot more to add at the moment apart from feeling amazingly welcomed and loved by both the church and school communities …. so if any of my ‘new’ friends are reading … thank you! … I can honestly say I think I am going to like living here!

As in the past I will blog my story …. so I guess … if you are interested … watch this space!

going where you fit

Last night I was involved in the last teaching session for this years MSM course which we ran in the Bluewater Management Suite.

The group have been great to work with and the last session always has a lot about reflection on what we have learnt and looking forward, and being commissioned, for the future.

msm learnI was encouraged last night with stuff that the students shared. You can read from the image what this years students felt were some of the important things that they learned.

I love reading them all … but I am particularly struck and challenged by the last comment on that flip chart … ‘going where you fit’.

For me … that kind of sums up Christian life and mission. Rather than trying to engineer or manipulate things … mission, and by that I mean ‘serving and loving people Jesus Style’, can only happen out of a context where one feels ‘at home’. By that I mean a place where you feel accepted, where you can see you are growing to love the people that inhabit that space and where you are welcomed by those that already make up that community.

Sometimes that acceptance can take a little while to appear, and I remember it took around 6 – 8 months to start to feel accepted in Wetherspoons at the start of my curacy. Before this acceptance, however, it was clear to me that I resonated with these people in some way. For a time that was enough. The same has been true of the locations and spaces I inhabit now.

So …. I often get asked by others starting or changing their ministry ‘how do I discern my calling?’, or ‘how do I know what God wants me to do in this town?’ …. my answer has now been simplified by these inspired words ….

simply go where you fit

I’m happy with that!

 

amazing intern opportunities in Stepney

stepThis is an excellent opportunity in Stepney. Bishop Adrian is an amazing guy and I’d love to have the opportunity to work with him again. So .. below is a great opportunity to work in a creative and diverse part of London under the leadership of an amazing bishop … I have cut and paste this from an email:

The Stepney Area is looking to appoint up to eight Interns from September 2014. The scheme is a year’s opportunity to serve God in parishes in Islington, Hackney or Tower Hamlets, and has been running as part of the Church of England’s Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES). If you are aged 18-29 and interested in living out your discipleship in an urban context and exploring a vocation to ministry, lay or ordained, this may be for you.

The scheme will include parish ministry, community living, and time for study and vocational discernment. By serving with others in places of need and opportunity in London, you will be challenged to think about God’s call to work for his kingdom in areas of poverty, unemployment and social inequality.

The Stepney Area The Stepney Area is part of the London Diocese, and is diverse, vibrant and multi-cultural, with rich and poor living side-by-side. It includes some of the most deprived wards in the country, but is also home to some of the most vibrant creative industries in Europe, and to Canary Wharf and the City Fringe. The popular destinations of Hoxton, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Dalston and Islington are part of the Area, as are the Spitalfields, Columbia Road and Broadway markets. It’s this challenging and changing urban mix which makes Stepney an exciting place to minister, and to explore what it means to be the church for the 21st century.

The Intern Scheme

The Intern Scheme will provide a range of opportunities for you to explore parish ministry. These might include leading worship, preaching and teaching, pastoral work, mission and evangelism, youth work, schools work, social transformation projects, and community engagement with other partners.

The work you will be involved with will depend on the parish you are placed with and your gifts for ministry. You will be encouraged to develop your own particular strengths and interests, and the roles have flexibility to allow them to grow and develop around the individual.

As an Intern you will be allocated a clergy supervisor in your parish. There is also an opportunity for study, and for ongoing vocational discernment, including for those already exploring a vocation to ordained ministry. Accommodation will be provided where Interns will live together in community, though serving in different parishes. There will be a chaplain to serve the pastoral needs of the house community. During the year you will be encouraged to go on retreat, and the costs for this will also be paid for.

As part of the scheme, a subsistence allowance will be provided, and your accommodation, travel, training costs and parish expenses met. As a sign of your commitment to the scheme you will be asked to contribute £500 towards it. We can help you think of ways to raise this money, and a bursary fund is available.

Who we are looking for

We are looking for energetic, enthusiastic individuals who are flexible, able to take initiative and wanting to grow in faith and in the ability to communicate it. We are looking for people wanting to explore a call to urban inner-city ministry, at home with people from diverse backgrounds and other church traditions, seeking to serve God among some of London’s most vulnerable people, and wanting to experience the adventure of community living.

If you are interested, please contact Revd Fiona Green, The Intern Director, for an application form, or to discuss the opportunity further. 07786 541559. fiona.green@london.anglican.org.

Application deadline: Monday 31st March 2014. Interviews: Saturday 12th April 2014.

everyday vulnerabilty

vulnerable spiderLast night my good friend, Terry, preached a blinder at St Mark’s on friendship … and drew out that friendship cannot happen without vulnerability. (I guess you will be able to listen for yourself soon from this link)

Terry used the friendship of Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18 as one illustration. Jonathan hands over his robe, belt, sword and bow … in both an act of trust/friendship but also one of great vulnerability. From such vulnerability comes a strong relationship.

I think last nights sermon hit on the crux of friendship … but maybe even on the whole of Christian life … friendship, relationships, work, ministry. As I have thought over night I have realised this should come as no surprise really if we consider the Christ child.

The incarnation, the God taking on flesh stuff and moving into the neighbourhood, is an image of total and complete vulnerability. The creator of the universe becoming a foetus in the womb of a teenage girl in a pretty rough end of the world, growing as a child in society totally dependant on a successful harvest and at the mercy of pretty primitive medical facilities if things started to go wrong. There were 30 years of that normal everyday vulnerability before Jesus starts his work and moves into that last week leding to that Friday where we see vulnerability at it’s most raw!

As I look at my week ahead, and my weeks gone past, I think vulnerability is key to what I do. I think it is key to what everyone does in reality. We all live a daily life of everyday vulnerability …. whether we walk a high street with a dog collar on, or whether we stand in front of a class of students, or whether we run a bank, or whether we keep a home going …. each role entails us giving something of ourselves, being vulnerable. Interestingly in places I have worked it is those who pretend and give nothing of themselves, those who refuse to accept or give their vulnerability,  who are the bullies or the people that people don’t wish to work with very much.

Terry is totally correct that friendship, real friendship, cannot develop without vulnerability. I would add that Christian mission, or life, also cannot genuinely happen without being vulnerable. It is in our vulnerability that people see that we value, care and love them for who they are. As an aside some Christians in our country complain about Christian rights … that has always jarred with me. I follow a Christ who made himself totally vulnerable …. to be vulnerable means you give up your rights and rely on God. How can we campaign for ‘Christian rights’ when we follow the Christ of Good Friday?

In today’s thought from Richard Rohr we read: When vulnerable exchange happens, there is always a broadening of being on both sides. We are bigger and better people afterward.

Without vulnerability I don’t think we have much. It is something unique about humanity. It was something unique about Christ.

I wonder …. being made in the image of God … maybe there is something there about sharing in the vulnerability of our creator … as he made himself vulnerable … so maybe we are to do so as well …

And then .. by our vulnerability we become more the person we are created to be.

space for questions

consumed by truthI attended a really great training day today run by Su Blanch from 3D Coaching. I have to ad

mit that I do have a tendency to be a bit critical when it comes to adult trainers (maybe that comes with doing some training myself?). Today, however, but right from the start I was focussed due Su’s method of delivery, content and style which were simply amazing.

We covered a lot of ground in quite a light but deep way. At the start of the day we were asked what would we need to have today so that we saw the day as a ‘success’. I don’t think that was Su’s language but it is my interpretation. I responded with something like, ‘at least one task for me to go away and me motivated to carry out as I could see the outcome would be for me to be more effective at what I do.’ I guess I have just been to too many training days where the stuff is inspiring but when I ask ‘so what’ there is nothing there.

Today was not like that, it was inspiring, and I have a ‘so what’ task so I am happy.

I was struck today by lots, but 3 questions in particular that Su threw out there. One was the question of what season is our church in. I considered this as the gathering and was surprised at where I ended up. Another was’ for this moment in time, what role do I need to take on?’ That’s a question that depends on context and is different in each one, but it is a question that until today I had not really focussed in on needing to be asked of myself regularly.

The final question that struck me was the ‘what will be different?’ question. After this conversation, action, experience, what will be different? The ‘so what’ of the day that I was so looking forward to.

What I have really loved about today is that I have come away with lots of questions. Helpful questions that I now need to give space to explore. First task from today … block out space in that diary to consider those questions.

For the time being … thanks Su and 3D coaching for a great day!