In the wilderness: but it’s not so bad: part 3

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You were used to running a church. It was never ‘my church’ and you’ve often avoided those who talk in that way of a group of people as their own possession.

Yet all the same, you remember the feeling of never quite being ‘off duty’ and somehow your faith was symbiotically linked to yours in a way that just being part of a church ever was.

And then that goes: you no longer have a church/churches and you are ‘free’. Some in your role rarely if ever go back: the scars hurt too much, but eventually and haltingly you do.

I confess; I went through a few months when I hardly went to church. I liked the space and the bruises (not from the people in the churches that I once led) from the organisation still caused me to wince. Besides, it was lovely to be able to watch my children play cricket and to be around them without feeling that my time was not fully my own. To put it more crudely, the wife of a minister once said to me ‘Other people’s husbands have the right to be a dick: mine doesn’t’.

A new minister came to the church I once led: he was ‘whole’- he didn’t seem to need to display his ego in a destructive way when he stood in front of people and he seemed to have emotional honesty. We got involved again; I was asked to take part in things, but never to the extent that I felt ‘used’. I got to see just how lovely those people in the church were, when I wasn’t in charge, and we fell into going again.

But this new pattern is different; it is not regular. We try to get there every week and we don’t always manage it….but just being there…among people (mainly elderly) and seeing their faith is often enough. The question ‘Is your church a good church?’ has increasingly piqued me: as long as people pray, lean on each other, try and apply sacred truths to life as it is lived, isn’t that ‘good’ enough? Plus; it really helps if they are the people in your community that you normally see; church isn’t a place that you commute to.

For now anyway; one of the many things that this time is teaching me is that nothing is fixed or definite and nothing lasts forever.

A settled community

Three years or so ago someone said to me something like ‘When you get this job; they won’t want you living in this parish- you’ll have to move’. I remember saying something like ‘ ‘they’ have no power over me’ like that’. I can still recall the delicious feeling of freedom that I felt.

‘They’ have no power over me.

Even saying that phrase now, I feel the same sense of freedom. I travelled for years under a false sense of obligation. I’m part of a closed Facebook group for ministers of my denomination; often I can sense that unhealthy feeling of over obligation; mostly it is self perpetuated, but with ‘they’ controlling your accommodation and in some ways your life it is a living reality. In hindsight, it was a reality that was slowly draaining the life out of me.

I’ve realised that part of my make up is to resist; if ‘everyone’ seems to be doing something; I’ll often desire to do the opposite. That wasn’t the reason why we chose to stay in this village that we’d lived in for over 10 years- no one could be that petty- but sometimes it comes back to me; I’ve done something that ‘they’ wouldn’t like.

I guess we stayed in this place because of ‘community’: that feeling that you get where-as the theme to ‘Cheers’ goes- everyone knows your name. If not ‘everyone’, many people. The unforced and random conversations that result in pubs, shops, churches and on the street are lovely: you don’t have to be always working to establish yourself. The impact on my mental health of not changing everything all at once and keeping many of the same friends and community activities has been incalculable; it has given me the basis to make new friends and try new things.

Friends who are ministers have often asked how that is possible: to live in an area where you were a minister. If you have friends outside the Christian bubble (which many full time, paid,  church people seem to struggle to do), it is natural and easy: or at least I have found it to be the case. Some of the same ministers have also wondered if church people can ‘cope’ with that. I think that betrays an unhealthy view of people who attend churches to be almost like children who cannot cope without a change in role of the ‘adult’ minister. I’ve found what I already knew: that view is manifest nonsense, people are ‘adult’ enough.

 

…oh and perhaps ‘they’ never thought that possible: it is.

Pantomime again

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On the 10th day of Christmas…

I said I would only do it once, but I’m involved in the village pantomime again….for the 7th time. Try as I might, I can never get the role that is furthest away from me: the evil baddie- I am sure there is a Freudian thing going on there. When I audition for macho roles, people laugh… & I end up being cast as The Dame. I am not complaining: I love it: for someone who can’t really act, it is an honour.

Each year I do it, I realise how heavily dependent you are on each other: not just the people on stage, but everyone involved. But is it fantastic: you get to be someone else and when it is over, you can walk away. It connects you with others and with your village in a different way.

I’ve written blogs on panto before: essentially I am just repeating myself. However, this year it feels different- as I have let go of so much (see the last few blogs), I don’t feel so much this year that I am ‘juggling’ (apart from the normal juggling of work, home, family life etc); I’ve enjoyed rehearsing more, I seem to know my lines more (but we’ll see once it starts on Friday...), I feel more ‘present’ and I no longer feel like an ignoramus who has no clue as to what is going on.

One big thing I have appreciated since leaving full time church ministry is ‘space’- mental space- and practical space. I no longer have to contemplate 3,4, 5 evenings out before I can contemplate any space for me or my family.

I would struggle to write that even 3 years ago: there, as there are ministers around who indulge in a kind of ‘4 Yorkshireman’ thing: ‘OOO…only 5 evenings, well let me tell you how much I’ve been out in the last 2 months….’ And I am still part of on line groups where some ministers struggle with giving themselves any space.

I am hoping that a break from blogging continues this mood of feeling I have more ‘space’, or when I do something to be able to fully concentrate on it without wondering how I can fit another evening in.

But for now, it is ‘break a leg time:- Friday pm, Sat afternoon and then Wed-Sat evenings (and a Saturday afternoon) next week. After that, it is all over, unless you audition next time of course, if I do….. (ok, when…)

 

back to?

I helped out at a holiday club this week.

I used to do schools work a lot of the time when I was a minister and I used to love holiday clubs. In an alternative future, I would have been running them all of the time. It was something that energised me.

I enjoyed dipping my toes in the water again, but it wasn’t nostalgia:-

-There is something powerful about ‘giving something back’ as a thank you for how your family have befitted from activities like this in the past.

— There is something lovely about doing something that has no payback for ‘you and yours’.

– And I loved the lack of pressure, of not leading or being responsible for the whole thing.

-It is good to be an ‘ordinary everyday’ Christian without the spotlight being on you.

When I tweeted it I hashtagged it as #goodtimes (which is a phrase I do not like too much), but I meant it. I was just glad to be there.

One thing from the end of the season

The season ended yesterday with a friendly match.

The day before we had our last league match, which we won. For the first time the experiment with me opening the batting worked (I am one of nature’s tailenders and that is on a good day). 6 may not sound good, but for me it was a score. I helped put on 37, wound the best bowlers up (the best ones come on at the start), used their overs up so the real players could feast on the lesser ones and quietened down the on field chatter (a sign that the psychological battle is being won).

I was talking with our captain between deliveries (he was umpiring) saying how much I- a below average player had enjoyed the season, but really wan’t that good.

He said something like:

‘You have improved and it is hard to get you out-you have a sound technique. Some more practice and we can use you in this spot’.

From that moment on, I believed that I could do it. Maybe he is right and maybe he isn’t, but it struck me that it is not rocket science, management/leading people. You are honest, affirm people and then give them a goal that might be achievable.

Perhaps I am wrong- but I have worked in so many places where the subtle (and sometimes unsubtle) message is ‘You are no good- I could do better. To even get a tiny improvement, you need to be threatened/told off/belittled/undermined…and then need to overwork, because really you will never be good enough.

If I play next season, maybe the holy grail of double figures is not far away…

Friday Music

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I have had this song before; I think last year.

I could play it every year around this time: today is the last day of the first class cricket season. Tomorrow and Sunday- if the weather holds- will be my last outings this season for Hutton Rudby cricket club.

Even though this has been in effect my first season, who knows? I am 50 & any day there will be younger and better cricketers. I am also carrying injuries and those injuries take longer to heal (this week I have laid off running to allow my leg strain to ease). Plus, my children are getting much better than me and will improve- I merely face a gentle decline.

This song is about cricket, but not really: it is about mortality: John Peel wanted it playing on the radio when he died. Listen, swallow hard and rage against the dying of the light.

Thank you

If the weather holds I will be playing again today. It is possible I might play in the last match of the season next week. I have played more matches this season than I have in any other season in total in the whole of my cricketing life.

I am 50- I have loved cricket for years, but I have no real ability (although I am stubborn and I can keep a straight bat. Occasionally this can be useful). My local club is very friendly; they have inspired my children and they are desperately short of players….so I get my children to play and I make up the numbers.

Yet they stay faithful to me- and once or twice I have been picked when others are available.

I suppose I have got a little better- but not much- during the season. I can read what the bowler is doing; even though I can’t do much about it and I am learning to call correctly when there is a chance of a run. But I am still not good and at 50, I doubt I will even be passable.

However, I have enjoyed myself immensely, found a new community and have had a lot of fun. I’ve also spent more time with my children who are far better (and getting even better) than me.

And I am grateful.

Thank you.

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 15th and last post in another series of 5. 

Bad fielding

You know that your fielding is ‘lower than average’ but you hope that the opposition will not notice. You try several things during the course of a match to conceal this:-

(1) You stretch repeatedly to make the opposition batsmen think you are some youthful tyro ready to sprint and not a 50 year old in his first full season who can only reach max speed after 5 or 6 seconds.

(2) You make athletic leaps at balls that are just too far away: you hope that this deceives the batsman into thinking that if he aims one at you, he is dead.

(3) When a 4 has gone through your hands, you wave at the bowler nonchalantly. The clear message here is ‘I am really very good- this is an unforced error’. You hope that the batsmen does not do it again.

(4) You sprint after a certain 4: see (1)- it looks like you are good and would stop anything else. You never do.

(5) If you are placed at mid off against a mid/low ranking batsman, you creep in closer and closer, hoping to intimidate him. This means that should he hit it past you, you don’t have to run. Also, if he whacks it straight at you, no sane human could ever hope to catch it- you can look brave (and hopefully not die).

NB: I caught my first catch on Saturday. Admittedly, it went through my hands, left a seam imprint on my arm and bruised my chest before I eventually caught it. My teammates were not fooled. However, the batsman was furious, so I guess I did well.

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 14th post in another series of 5. The last one is on Saturday.

Endless reanalysis

You didn’t move your feet, you closed both eyes and made a wild slash at a yorker and you were bowled. You trudge disconsolately back to the pavilion, crestfallen.

By the time you get there it has started in your head: maybe you were just unlucky….perhaps the ball moved a bit in the air…hang on; it must have- in fact you were sure it did. You pick up a bit of gossip from other team mates: ‘He was moving it a bit today’, ‘I heard he once had a trial for Yorkshire’, ‘By ‘eck, he’s fast’. Suddenly you realise you did not sin; you were sinned against.

Then you start to think about what you did: why, your feet moved beautifully. Also the bat was not horizontal, but straight- you were merely late and deceived by the change in pace.

Yes; you actually did ok and you live and learn. And next time you face the same bowler (the captain’s 8 year old grandson) you will master him…

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 13th post in another series of 5.

The scorer

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At the level I play at, the scorer is a pressed man; a member of the batting side who hasn’t been asked to umpire (also pressed, but slightly less so: you have the opportunity to inflict psychic pain on your teammates), has failed to avoid the captain’s piercing eyes (‘Does anyone want to score?’ said in the kind of tone that a Fascist dictator would use for the phrase ‘Does anyone dare oppose me and live?’) or convince said captain that despite a 1st in Mathematics is innumerate.

The scorers- there are always two of them- sit side by side with glazed eyes. If they are below 25,  you will see them smoking heavily or taking frequent calls/texts from a bewildering variety of female acquaintances whilst the despairing umpire tries to get them to acknowledge his flailing arms (often to little avail).

If they are over 25, they will either sit, taciturn, nurturing a deep hatred of the captain and wishing that wickets will fall so they can pad up and stop scoring. Alternatively (like me) they are cricket obsessives and will keep up a monologue that would rival ‘Test Match Special’ of all the matches they have seen, obscure stats they know and how they once saw a county 2nd team player in the pub 3 villages away. They will also nurture a deep hatred of the captain and wish wickets would fall.

Under no account should you pretend to enjoy this task- even if you do.

This perhaps goes part way to explain the accuracy of scorebooks (see yesterday’s post).

 

In June & August I did two separate series of 5 posts on village cricket. This is the 12th post in another series of 5.