Sally shared an idea on our annual retreat to Holy Island last week. She placed two different types of shells on the table as asked us what type of shell did we need to be, the one that you lived in or lived under. It stimulated the group in some reflective discussion as to what is our default, our “go to” in certain situations etc. My own thoughts were around times when i need to be surrounded, protected and times when I am just holding on, clinging on to the rock, trying not to be washed away. To acknowledge our vulnerability in life and ministry, and equally I was grateful for both sanctuary images of both provisions when I feel I am struggling to cope.
When might you need them?
We came across this on one of our walks this week on Holy Island. The beauty of nature is very apparent there in the rhythm of the tide, the sea, the sky, the amazing flowers, the seals and the birds. I am grateful for the way God speaks to me through creation but also for the skills of artists who mediate that beauty through their own creativity. Holy Island is what people call a thin place and I sometimes imagine how many people have prayed in the places I am praying in since Christians first went to the island in the seventh century.
I am on retreat on Holy Island this week with a wonderful community of people which changes a little each year. It is not a silent retreat – there are plenty of options before that but it is an opportunity to take space, to listen – to God, each other, creation. I can take stock, reflect, look back, see patterns and be reminded that there are sacred places for me where there is a deep well of memories of encounters with God over many years. I am so grateful for all this retreat is and offers.
It was a great privilege to be on Llewela Bailey’s Radio WM Sunday breakfast show this morning in the ‘in conversation’ slot to talk about my work as chaplain at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital. If you click on this link you can listen – it is the last 45 minutes of the show. I was asked to choose three songs and I tried to have very different songs which reflect different dimensions of the work. The first was Jess Glynne’s I’ll be there, which reflects the work of a chaplain. The second was the hymn I cannot tell which speaks of some of the mysteries of our journey and the final one was Good good father, Chris Tomlin’s song. This last song I have also chosen as part of the Songs of Praise I am speaking at on Mawley Town Farm in Cleobury Mortimer tonight. This song speaks to me about who God is in the midst of struggle. The farm is next door to the place Sally and I moved to in January 1986 when Youth for Christ located there for a period of time. It is good to catch up with old friends and to be able tho share something of the ministry I am involved in now. One of the family’s children is a long term patient of the hospital.
Yesterday the BCH chaplaincy team got to take over the birthday marquee for a couple of hours and were able to showcase some of our work. There were tables full of different dimensions of the work – activities we do with children, our multifaith resources, our staff support opportunities, blob trees and lots more.
This table shows some of the activities. Often more is shared as chaplains companionably encourage patients and sometimes their families to engage in spiritual play where through activities some of their spiritual needs are explored. It is a great privilege to be part of the team and to work at disseminating some of our good practice through our blog and newsletter and webpages.
I rarely travel with a dog collar on. On Sunday I was travelling back from an ordination service wearing one of my brighter clergy shirts! There was a group returning home from a stag party on the train and one of them engaged me in conversation quite regularly, largely apologising if they were disturbing me. It was a little bit noisy but nothing offensive. At one point one of his friends came and sat down and started sharing some of his recent life story. I was very deeply moved and got a tiny glimpse into the work Paul does. They were saying how sometimes it is so much easier to talk to strangers than people you know and I was glad I was that stranger that day. But I don’t think they would have been talking to me if I wasn’t wearing a dog collar and it made me reflect on whether I should do it more often. I was then wearing one on Monday on a different train journey – not a word or a comment from anyone! I wonder what will happen next time I travel in my priestly garb.
Reflecting on this at the moment, lots of resonances in my job as paediatric hospital chaplain…
Grant then Lord, that I may conform to thy will, just as I am, that, being sick as I am, I may glorify thee in my sufferings. Without them I cannot attain to glory, without them, my saviour, even thou wouldst not have risen to glory. By the marks of thy suffering thou wert recognised by thy disciples, and like wise by their sufferings thou dost recognise those who are thy disciples.