About 3 years ago I accidentally started booking gigs in this Village. It came from seeing one of my musical idols at The Sage & musing to a friend that I reckoned we had a good venue & networks in this village and that we could host him. The friend said ‘Well; why don’t you ask?’ and I did.
That was the first one and 2 or 3 have followed since. But since I started my new role, I haven’t had the energy or the time to do so: free time and space during the day has been at a premium. However, a fortnight tomorrow (Thursday 15th October), the village hall host another gig; this time by Willy Porter (details here http://www.wegottickets.com/event/325101 Tickets only £10….)
Always at this time it is the same set of feelings:-
- When will people buy (most people here only buy in the last 10 days- week. This makes me nervous)?
- Have I made people fed up by repeated batch texts/facebook posts?
- Can I think of anyone else to tweet/or any press to carry stories?
- Why on earth do I do this?
I like music- music is meant to be communal- music is meant to be local and not corporate…still: sometimes I wish someone else would take the plunge….
I guess I could call this the ‘power of community’, but it struck me that all of the leaders of the Scouting movement in this village and a good proportion of the assistants are part of the group of us who drink every Friday in ‘The Bay Horse’ (one of the incredibly good watering holes in this village). As far as I know, only one of us had been active in the Scouting movement at any time before the first few of us began to meet up on an ad hoc basis over 7 years ago.
Scouting was never preached about when we met, nor do I recall anyone preaching ‘you should do this- we need leaders’; it just seemed to happen.
Maybe if it something you like doing, that you get a lot out of, that is visible and seems to involve giving to others you don’t really need to preach to others to get involved: they see it as something that is possible. Of course, you’d have to get close to those ‘others’ so they didn’t seem like ‘others’ any more.
Next up: submit my bar bills for the last 7 years to Group Scout HQ…
Normally on Monday nights I help to lead Beaver Scouts in our village.
6pm-7pm in ‘church house’; 18 boys aged 6-8 running around, being noisy and having fun. Exhausting, but I love it.
‘Help to lead’ is partly true: we are a team. However, this year I am the leader after 5 years of being the assistant. I did think of stepping down: finished being a minister in the village, new job, moving house, kids left scouting movement etc etc Plus all our life changes have left me tired.
However, I continued: partly because I love it, partly because the former leader is moving on and partly as I love kids work and I don’t get to do it in my current role. Maybe also…well this sounds sanctimonious….I believe that if you live in a place you have to give something back & a ‘busy middle class life’ isn’t all about just ferrying your kids to different places and basically just ‘using’ and not giving (gosh that sounds preachy and judgemental).
I do love it…but that doesn’t stop me collapsing and wanting a large gin afterwards.
I was sat there in a hospital canteen; plans for the day and reports to read scattered around me. Then I remembered: I am a chaplain; at the centre of what I do is supposed to be prayer and stillness. I grabbed my ‘Book of Common Prayer’ (which I only started looking at as I thought it would reach some people. At first I was driven away by its old English; now I am attracted to it) and there it was in the middle of the Psalm I was reading that day:-
‘Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture’.
I know I am not self-made, but it is tempting to live as I am: the carefully curated social media image, the red Converse boots (really...), using purchased music as a way to define myself etc etc. Perhaps the one thing I value most about being a Christian is this constant reminder that you are not your own: you are dependent.
On good days, I find that incredibly humbling as well as well as anxiety reducing…I am freer to be open to and connect to others.
And on bad days…maybe I don’t have to try so hard…
No further comment, apart from ‘Yes’…
LOVE AFTER LOVE
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984,
New York, Farrar Strauss Giruox, 1986.
I may have featured this before.
Since we have moved and I have refiled my cds (and-painfully- got rid of some), I have found many that I haven’t listened to for a while. This has been a very pleasant experience: it has cost nothing and requires no spending to acquire ‘must haves’ ‘because I deserve it’. In fact, I am determined to cut down the cds I buy: I have lost count of the charity shop purchases I have never listened to.
Anyway-sermonising over- I rediscovered this album and have replayed it and will continue to do so: I don;t normally go for folk music, but it is excellent. Plus, I saw the bloke on the guitar (Martin Carthy) in Whitby Sainsburys when I was on the way home from work…
I have long given up trying to pontificate on politics- I am too much of a hypocritical inconsistency- and I loathe those political animals that don’t listen and caricature: ‘You say you want to nationalise the railways, well Stalin did that- communist!’, ‘You have reservations about same sex marriage: you fascist homophobe- you are just like Hitler’ etc. Boring. And annoying.
I confess to being excited by Jeremy Corbyn’s election (‘so you support his views on Nicaragua, you communist’…. boring...). It is refreshing to see someone challenge the dominant political consensus in such a way and make the ‘have nots’ a centre part of their message. Also, as someone noted in the Observer:-
‘It was the first time many of our young readers felt anything like relevance to, let alone empowerment within, a political system that has alienated them utterly’.
I don’t claim he is the Messiah (or a very naughty boy) and I want to watch and see. It is good to see Government faced with real opposition.
I wish certain sections of the media would also do so rather than rushing to fill column inches with froth and bile. It has struck me that the attraction of Jeremy Corbyn to many is close to the attraction that many have to the current Pope:-
- He seems to live by what he believes in: not just parrot the right words.
- He has not deviated from his principles.
- The underdog/those who haven’t have centre position in his philosophy. I am sure that somewhere in scripture we have something about the hungry being fed, the humble being lifted high and the stranger and refugee being welcomed.
- He is graceful to his opponents and does not seem to stoop to the depth of the worst of them.
- Dissent to the established order/way of seeing things with an attempt to present a radically different way of seeing things.
I am not claiming he is godlike (or even consistent)- just different. I hope…almost against hope… that British politics may change….
I spoke with another experienced chaplain. They had been a full time and then part time church minister in a mainstream denomination for over 25 years. ‘But the thought of standing up to preach in a church of that denomination now makes me feel ill’ they said. A story poured from their lips of something going wrong: procedure being breached and them facing a move. They got up their courage and went to see a denominational leader…who just shrugged and wondered what he could do. And did nothing.
Happily, they were preaching and involved in another denomination.
I met a lot of people like that and their stories-although very different- followed a similar pattern: something had happened, often to do with ’employment rights’ (there are none in most denominations and any attempt to get them is generally resisted) , the minister had felt that the denomination had failed to act in any consistent or just manner, had felt unsupported/not listened to and had eventually left.
I didn’t find this surprising, but I did find this really sad. In most cases what had happened did not need to happen in that way; many ministers there had been ‘lost’ to church work.
Then I realised that most of us who are chaplains are ‘casualties’. I found that to be hopeful and affirming: even more hopeful when many spoke that their ‘wounds’ had become the very thing that enabled them to connect better with people going through mental ill health.
There is hope..
I am still a new chaplain. I have only been doing the role for just over 6 months. I love it: it makes me feel ‘me’ and I am still learning.
However, there is something I just cannot shake and it is that feeling of ‘Help: what do I do now?’ as I walk into a ward. I do not know what is behind the door, who I will see, what they will say, how they will react. Will I be told to ‘go away’? Will I be just sat there: ‘loitering with intent’ waiting?
It all feels so confusing sometimes.
It was helpful to talk to experienced people and realise that this is normal: it comes with the territory. It may, in fact, give you your strength.
..and no one at the conference put an arm round my shoulder, patronised me and said ‘let me give you some advice sonny’.
I liked that.
I ain’t never been on no conference for years sir…
But I did a couple of weeks ago: the College of Healthcare Chaplains’ annual conference. It sounds absolutely riveting, doesn’t it….
However, I learned a lot, made some good contacts, networked (sometimes selflessly late into the night in the bar) and felt connected.
Three thoughts for 3 days then…
The conference was held in a venue down South (once I go past Wakefield these days I get a nosebleed) which I thought was new to me.
After a while I remembered that I had been there before: 8 years ago on a Methodist Superintendents’ course. I was excited then: this was a new thing: perhaps something that I would do for many years – guiding and leading churches. I knew it would be hard, but where I worked we were trying new things.
For a while I liked it, but slowly the doubts began to grow- the admin grew and grew & I reached the point of thinking that the system I worked in was ‘unsafe’. I stopped enjoying it and realised that whilst I may be able to do it, it was gradually sucking the life out of me…. and then my ‘crash’ of last year happened and I changed tack.
I had forgotten that course. But now I remembered it. Briefly the memory was bittersweet; a kind of ‘what if?’ But that only lasted a short while and then I saw the sunlight and the people and thought ‘This is the new direction: this, for the moment is ‘home’.