Preaching

I do miss preaching.

Well: not all of it. Standing up in front of people, whilst exhilarating can be draining and not always healthy to the ego (eventually I turned off and stopped listening when hearing others say how ‘well’they had preached or seeing facebook profiles where the person had chosen an action shot of them preaching….please: stay humble). Given that, it is sometimes healthy to ‘lie fallow’ for a while.  Also, being in a job that involves a lot of listening and picking up cues,  I realise that I may have used too many words.

What I miss was the patient work, Monday-Friday of having space to read over and over again, reflect and write on a passage. Trying to get ‘inside’ it instead of skimming the easiest pious platitude off the top of it. Also, working out how this text relates to this community at this time.

I miss it, but not enough yet- maybe one day….

A community

I wanted to say that one thing I miss about not being ‘a minister in pastoral charge’ (jargon loaded, but much better psychologically than ‘having my own church’…. if anything as a minister is ‘my’ church, think about resigning or at least seeing a good psychiatrist- it was never ‘yours‘) is ‘community’.

However, I still have ‘community’- I live in the same place, have the same friends etc etc. Also, the main church that I was minister of has rebuilt and re imagined itself as a ‘community hub’- I sometimes visit the hub and I like it and I have been to services there.

But I am not ‘in the centre’ any more. I used to like that, but I don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would. I am also quite happy to be a ‘normal’ Christian & don’t feel any desire to be at the front; yet, or maybe ever.

So, maybe at the moment, I don’t miss ‘community’ in the same way- maybe’the new’ has been so earth shattering (change in vocation, move house etc etc) that I have still not refocussed, maybe the summer and the cricket season has provided enough distraction.

Maybe…but I am not sure….

What shall we do today?

One of the great things about being a ‘regular’ minister was that sense of ‘what shall we do today?’ You generally have great flexibility: no 2 days are ever the same &  once the basics are done you have tremendous freedom of what to do and what to develop. Whilst your work is all encompassing and you have one day off a week (and ministry can flow into that 7th day), in theory you can stop and start when you want, you don’t have to watch the clock and if things are too intense, you can take yourself off for a walk.

In practice, I didn’t use that freedom to its full extent; there was always something ‘more’ to do or something that ‘had’ to be done. If I had had my time again (and who know where the future will go), I would have attempted more balance and flexibility. But still, the times that I managed to do that were very precious.

Maybe memory does that- after a while you hold onto the good times, when it was sunny and you had hollowed out enough space for a long walk or a long run (yes, I used to view long runs as a ‘treat’...). However, this is something I miss in principle, but often did not happen in actual practice…

Thinking about what I did…

It is around 5 months ago that I stopped being a ‘regular minister’. I have some time away and time to think about what I miss. In a sense I don’t miss much- everything is still new and I guess I was ‘ready’ to move, but some things still resonate.

A couple of weeks back, I dropped a leaving gift for a retiring Headteacher into a school I used to go and visit. It was the first time I have been ‘back’ anywhere where I have ‘gulped’ and thought-briefly- ‘I miss this’.

Over 15 years, I grew to like and then really love schools and school assemblies. Being in front of an assembly with an idea of what I wanted to get across, but then reacting to where the children were at was exhilarating; I learned so much. I grew to learn what the phrase ‘a wing and a prayer’ meant. Even at the end, I was still learning and still getting a huge buzz.

I can see the results in what I am doing now: building relationships with places I visit regularly but not daily, being able to react in front of groups of people, learning to ‘read’ a room and learning to live with-and enjoy- situations where it is not clear what will happen.

The experience is still fresh, so I can still ‘live’ on it. Over time, I wonder if I will still feel this way or whether I will consign it to the past. In the meantime, for the next couple of years, there is still Beaver Scouts…

A collect for Grace

I am still using the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ to provide a framework for a very mobile job.

The language, though sometimes puzzling, I find very comforting. Maybe it is after years of extempore prayer when you become aware of how easily and disposably (that should be a word) you have used words, you value those words that have been formed carefully over centuries.

I read this, this week and it moved me. It is titled ‘The third collect, for grace’:-

O Lord, our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day; Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings, being ordered by thy governance, may be righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sing

‘Let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten your labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going’.

If that quote by St Augustine of Hippo from the 5th century does nothing else, it justifies me taking a guitar on holiday. Yes, I haven’t played a guitar properly for a while due to the vagaries of moving, shifting GCSE contracts and I want to get back to being poor/appalling from merely incompetent. But I also want to sing/feel music again.

It’s been too long…

Friday Music

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I ‘found’ this, or more accurately I became aware once more that I had this CD- a collection of Americana by artists of faith or sympathetic to faith that sought to liberate music from the blandness of much Christian CCM music.

I like this track- not least for the mean slide guitar and gravelly voice. Thinking back over the last few months, I must have given God the blues…

Loose ends

Why is it that every time you go on holiday you end up with a long list that gets bigger and bigger and bigger?

Why is it that you discover or manufacture an inordinately long ‘to do’ list?

Why is it, that faced with a magnitude of loose ends, you just end up prevaricating.

And, why, thinking these ‘first world questions’ do you never just stop, look up and say ‘thanks’?

I don’t know, but I fall into that trap every year….

Guilt free evenings

I spent some time at the cricket nets with my youngest son last night. He is learning to bowl leg break and goodly (quite effectively- I misread a googly and got bruised) and last night he also managed, after ages practising, to bowl a top spinner and a flipper. If you don’t like cricket, that will be very puzzling. If you do, from an 11 year old, well I think that is amazing.

This post is not really about cricket though. It is about life- more specifically evenings. Since I finished being a Methodist Minister in a church in mid February, I have had every evening ‘off’: I haven’t been to any meeting. It is amazing how fast that time has passed and how quickly I have adapted: I like it. I like it so much, then when I realised I have a scouting leaders’ meeting in September, I experienced something like resentment- I am losing an evening.

There is something deeper though. My evenings have become ‘guilt free’. I never felt that I could talk about ‘free’ evenings when I was a minister for fear of the internal (and sometimes external) voice of ‘you are not working hard enough’. I can see that voice now: I see it sometimes in egroup and facebook posts from those in full time work who want to talk- sometimes out of guilt, sometimes to boast- about how hard they work.

Except this time I can ignore that voice.

And that feels so good…