Tempus fugit. A lot.

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There is a line from Dark Side of the Moon’ that goes: ‘Then one day you find, 10 years have got behind you’.

I’ve just realised that it is around 3 years this week since I had my leaving service from being a Methodist minister in a regular church appointment. My local friends tell me I am ‘defrocked’; I’m still very much ‘frocked’ (although mostly in pantomime).

I don’t know what I imagined on that day: we still had nowhere to live (that is a long and painful story & one reason why I still don’t preach regularly), I had no model of what the future looked like, it was nearly 20 years since I last had a contract of employment and I had no live model of what spirituality looked like outside of being a rev within a church.

3 years later and I’m still standing: sometimes that has been ‘just standing’ and sometimes it has been ‘thriving’. Mostly it has been somewhere in the middle; often a mix during the same day.

In the next few days, I’m going to do a bit of thinking out loud about what these 3 years have meant. Once thing I have learned, however, is that change, huge change is possible and I never thought it would be for me. Most of us spend a huge amount of time, energy and money trying to fight it off and ultimately we can’t. At best, it makes you feel more ‘alive’: the highs are higher and the lows are lower than you’ve ever felt.

Nothing is sacred. Perhaps because of that; everything is sacred- even the bits that you’d prefer to skip.

A story about a chaplain

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I’ve kept this story for a while; since I last regularly blogged over a year ago. It had an impact on me then and still has an impact on me now. Parts of the story have grown ‘shiny’ in the telling, but the central message is good.

It stems from a conference in the USA on prison issues; the kind of conference where there are a lot of prominent people and a lot of loud voices. In the middle of the conference sat a priest who who barely said a word. On the final day of the conf, the leader pointed to this priest and asked him to tell his story about why he was at this conference.

The priest began to share that he hadn’t always been a priest. In fact, this priest had once been one of the hardest of criminals: one who had little respect for authority, and do everything in their power to gain the advantage over others.

While he was in jail, he came across a prison chaplain. This chaplain was a country bumpkin, and seemed very naive. Very quickly in his tenure he became identified as an easy mark, and the priest visited him regularly to see what he could get this chaplain to do. And, without fail, the chaplain would give in to his requests. This always happened, to the point where the priest said he had become angry at the stupidity of this chaplain who he was taking advantage of. Finally, when he had taken something from this chaplain another time, the priest lost it. “Are you really this gullible?” the priest  shouts. “Are you so naive and stupid that you can’t recognise that I’m purposely taking advantage of you?”

The chaplain looked at the convict/priest and replied slowly. “I knew exactly what you were doing,” he told the inmate. “I know that you are probably taking advantage of me. But, in this business there are basically 2 options: to be a cynic, holding your trust close to your heart and never opening up the light of God’s love; or to be a sucker, willing to err on the side of grace. The chaplain looked the priest/convict deep in the eyes. “I’m not willing to be a cynic.”

The priest shared that at that moment, he first looked into the eyes of Christ and led him to consider the place of God in his own life. “Ever since,” the priest said, “I’ve asked myself the question, “Are you a cynic or a sucker,” and I choose the role of cynic.

Original source http://www.onlywonder.com/wordpress/     accessed 24/1/7


Hanging around

Every year since 2008 (and I am still hoping to do it again this year) I have been the ‘official chaplain’ for ‘The Cornshed’ festival in this village. Someone asked me what that meant and I said ‘loitering with intent.’ Sometimes it was (is) like that- large parts hanging around, wondering what on earth you were doing, until that one moment.

Parts of my new role will be like that; ‘hanging around’, loitering, making small talk or being quiet and watching. Moments will come, sometimes whole sequences of them, but there will be days when ‘nothing’ will happen apart from being present.

It has to be like that; waiting like a harpoonist watching for a whale- if he rushes around and does not watch, he will miss the one moment when he could catch something. The waiting and being with is part of the role, So often your ego wants more: ‘I saved that person’, ‘I was useful’, ‘they could not have managed without me’….but you have to learn to be nothing, so that people who want to talk can feel they are becoming something..

An enacted parable

Have you ever had an experience that crystallised what you were thinking or a path you were thinking of taking?

It happened to me recently. I was supposed to start a meeting (it ended up being a good, life filled meeting that left me with Hope) – people were waiting for me. I was still talking to people and listening to two children who wanted to show me how good they were at playing the piano. They were good: it was fantastic to listen to them, but more importantly to be shown something that they valued and which was important to them.

To me this became a kind of parable: who people are- their hopes and dreams, joys and secret fears: in short, their stories has become the most important part of being a minister to me. Leading from the front and ‘sorting churches out’ (don’t even start me on the profound arrogance of using a phrase like that) has become something that I do not feel very gifted or ‘called’ to do.

And I am glad to have this crystallised by that one experience and grateful to be able to move into an area like that.