Words of change…?

For a few months now, it is almost like there has been nothing to write…actually that has been far from true. There has been so much to write about, to comment on, to realise, to think through, and I have felt verbally paralysed, being unable to find the right words, find any words to express what has been going on and how I am processing it.

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Following my return from Japan, I began to sense a difference, a change, in how I was encountering and developing within ministry and training in my curacy parish. In reality this had begun some time prior to going to Japan, so was not simply brought on by time away. It can be strange how time away sharpens the senses though. The change was, in part, about me, but it was also something I was beginning to sense in prayer. As I delved deeper into these feelings with others, it became clear that my training needs had changed somewhat, and could no longer be met in my current curacy. Over the course of an incredibly painful few weeks, it became apparent that I was to be pushed further out of my comfort zone, and that God was leading me to another opportunity.

Subsequently, it was announced in my diocese a few weeks ago that I am to transfer my curacy from the Parish of Stocking Farm and Beaumont Leys to the Holy Spirit Parish with the two churches of St Andrew and St Nicholas in Leicester city centre. In many ways this is a hugely exciting opportunity, and one that I never envisaged having. I have also been coming to terms with negative feelings around this completely unexpected part of the process though, and perhaps this is where the struggle for words comes.

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This change is not about my failure, and yet there is something about it that feels like a failure. People often refer to this situation as a curacy ‘breaking down’, and there is a lot of pain and stigma associated with that. I have come to realise how much I value the expectations and sentiments of others, particularly as some around me have expressed disappointment and sadness about my departure. One of the church wardens, as she delivered the announcement, said that her ‘heart was breaking’. I noticed a sense of guilt welling up inside; they have warmly welcomed me and I have been greatly blessed by them. Yet, I have failed them because I am not keeping my word – my parish expected me to be with them for three years; instead, I will leave them after a little over 18 months. How often do we make promises, in good faith, that we cannot keep? What words do we use to reassure people, to let them hear that which will offer comfort, without the foresight to truly know that we will be able to keep our word?

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I am a huge fan of the film, The Invention of Lying which explores the power of words. People are unable to say something which is not true, until one individual finds himself doing just that by “saying something…that wasn’t” and baffling his friends when he tries to explain what happened. What would you not have said today if bound by this criteria, if you were unable to offer comfort or care by suggesting something that you believed, but could not be certain of? I was always encouraged not to lie as a child, and I have an aversion to those who lie to me. What about mistruths, though, that we convince ourselves are a kindness rather than an actual lie – how many of those get through our in-built lie detectors completely unnoticed?

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So here I am, eagerly anticipating a new path, a different opportunity, whilst struggling with the guilt of failing those I leave behind…a guilt which may well not be mine to hold. I am beginning to wonder whether this guilt points to something of note: God can work powerfully through each of us when we allow that, perhaps it is our humanity which focuses on the emotion of such an encounter, and less on the encounter itself and what God may have been revealing within that. If you were to savour one sentence or phrase from a memorable encounter, what would it be? What is it about those words that draw you? Do they speak truth, do they comfort, or did they reveal something of the divine in a life-changing way?

Images of Work

If you had to find an image for the work you do – whatever it is that preoccupies most of your time – what would it be?

This is mine:

Sometimes ministry can feel quite lonely so the lone dandelion represents it well. There are a number of other dandelions around, but actually I am often slightly separate from everyone else – you can really stand out in a clergy collar and people react in a variety of ways; I have had some crossing the street to avoid getting too close! There is something wonderful about what I do though, and about being a little on the periphery. Whilst it can be slightly lonely at times, it can also be a real privilege to be alongside people at the happiest and most difficult times of their lives. That is represented in this photograph by the light and vibrant green in the foreground and the darkness looming in the background.

How about you?

God’s Ministry

#636 #ministry – Is it mine or ours or God’s? Like the water rippling in this brook, each drop contributes to the water of the whole, which feeds into the #riverthames and eventually the North Sea – that’s the big picture that each drop is part of, created and sustained by God…#godsministry? 

Organisation

#528 Never before have I had such a lovely diary that it arrived in a box! An essential element of #ministry, and many other walks of life, is #organisation! With this one book my #timekeeping and organisation will be perfect….

Funeral ministry

#399 #day17 of placement involved a funeral preparation visit. Having been involved in a #funeral in the first week of placement, along with this has given me a real sense of the importance and privilege of #funeralministry. It seems to be one huge act of #service to a family, both in getting the preparations right, but also with pastoral care of mourners long after the funeral, when society expects normal life to have resumed. it’s such an important ministry which is a #privilege and comes with a huge #responsibility. 

Home communion


#387 #day5 of #placement involved a #homecommunion visit – it was such a privilege to take communion to a parishioner who had not been able to receive for months and share in that with them. #ministryoflove #ministryofservice 

A new discovery!

#385 The real #highlight of #placement #day3 was a #farmvisit under the guise of #blessingthecombineharvester. The farmer took great time to show us and tell us about all that they grow, and the highs and lows of farming. I really felt like I was getting alongside people and finding out what is important to them, and how I could serve them. The biggest challenge to the church in that particular area is that much of the village, once occupied by farm workers, is now inhabited by commuters who know very little about farming or harvesting. How can a church which was built in between farms, and has served farmers for years, enable the rural and the urban to meet, get to know one another, and flourish together? #ruralministry #sosurprisedwiththisruralenthusiasm

Relaxation of fish

#337 Fish can be wonderfully calming. Over the last few days I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the #nightingalemacmillanunit in the #royalderby and have been so #humbled by the #love and #care that people give to those in the end stages of their lives. The atmosphere there is just lovely and relaxed with a fish tank to watch when things get a bit much! #amazingministry

Summer placement

#334 My #summerplacement has begun! For a month I will be walking alongside the parish of All Saints, observing and taking part in their ministry. It’s both a privilege and daunting…but exciting!