Covid-19 Going the Distance: new level of resourcefulness needed

Like many, my (Paul’s) heart sank at the need and the news for a further month of lockdown in England. The financial, emotional, stability, wellbeing, disruption implications are enormous. Many of us only just made it through the first lockdown and we’re just beginning to replenish our deeply drawn reserves. What do we need to go through this again? Some will say to become more resilient. We have had our suspicions proven, that resilience, is a natural outcome, not the means to the end.

The following quote from Frances Ward has voiced our refined objectives.

“I’m using the word ‘resourcefulness’ instead of the more current ‘resilience’, because I think it brings different things to the table. Resilience training is widespread today – in schools, and in the military – seeking to enable young people and adults to cope or survive in adverse circumstances.
Resourcefulness though, suggests more than the reactive ability to cope. The resourceful person will bring resources to the situation, not only to cope with challenge and failure but also to turn things around for the benefits of all concerned. Resilience enables survival; resourcefulness brings more: self control, and the emotional and psychological strength to give of self to enable others to survive and flourish. Resilience is a survival mode; resourcefulness a flourishing mode”.

It is a challenge to imagine flourishing during lockdown but we can remind ourselves of all the resources we have available to us. We have applied what many of us have taught about being asset based in our treatment of others, but this applies to ourselves as well. God has not left us resourceless.

We have learnt to think, plan and act differently. We have learnt that deferred hope is still hope. We found out, perhaps for the first time, speaking to others about our fears and vulnerabilities, made us more human, not less. We have realised others are looking out for us. We have been reminded that it is “We” not “I” as we act out our mutual rights and responsibilities. We recall that we did it before and with some readjustments, we can do it again. We have learnt that we have needed and are entitled to be more gentle with ourselves. Even when we have struggled, we have surprised ourselves, and perhaps others, that we are stronger than we thought or knew. We have learnt new hobbies to sustain us, even flourish in times of restrictions.

So going forward, like our picture, let’s realise we have some cliff erosion resources put in place. Like the scene in Cornwall, before the recent storms, the boulders were at the bottom of the cliff. Even these huge boulders have been moved by the power of the sea. Sobering! Let’s revisit and if necessary, replace our well-being erosion resources for the next stage of covid-19 and political news.

Reference: Frances Ward, Full of Character.  London:  Jessica Kingsley, 2019, p128-9.


Going the Distance: Principles for Kingdom teams 1 – Seek corporate wisdom

I (Paul) thought it was time to start a new series. The title I am playing with is principles for kingdom teams.

I am a big fan of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people and I will have one of his list in mine. In that flow, some of mine are not original (what really is) to me, but the refined thinking of others that I have found helpful or rung true over nearly 40 years in ministry. I am writing about team life as this is a given for me in ministry. These should apply for either a team leader or member.

1. Seek corporate wisdom is a phrase I heard many years ago. It struck true then, and even more so over the years. Godly wisdom is found, discovered and applied together gaining multi perspectives from our teams and community, from those in our sphere of our service. Facilitation needs to work for the opinions to be voiced from the obvious and the background, leadership and participants. Invite insights from the diversity of our communities; culture, age, gender, class etc. Asking those who are carrying wounds what they think.

For those in leadership to be humble enough to know and value we do not have an exclusive access to the spirit of discernment of what to do, understand, plan.

In our team, we have far more team meetings than staff meetings, we create space after all of our activities from all involved, about how they think it went and how we might improve it. We have a vicar who asks if people feel safe with covid-19 and local lockdown returning to Church. A CEO who spends time listening with teams on the ground. In a memorial picnic review, insights were shared that precipitated “yes, that’s it”.

When we invite, ask, listen, facilitate, empower, hear and understand 360 degree perspectives, then perhaps we give ourselves the best opportunity to discern the mind of Christ and the heart and will of God. These are some of the reasons why I value and facilitate corporate wisdom.

Going the Distance: finding a place to be yourself

It was our curate’s final Sunday today. As you can imagine it was a little hard saying goodbye over zoom. I have to say, the clergy and church did a great job to communicate thankfulness towards Jenni and God.

It became very clear during the thanksgiving time that her as a person and her ministry have been very appreciated over the last 3 years. It also became clear that Jenni had very much been herself during her time with us. Perhaps that’s why her time with us has been such a good one, because she had been able to be so authentic. It is also credit to the Church that we encouraged her to be herself. Who she is and what her gifts are, her attitudes etc have been such a great fit for our Church. Both have appreciated each other.

Perhaps this should be our prayer, aspiration and hope for all of us. To be in roles, jobs, vocations, relationships etc where we can be ourselves. Not in spite of our gender, the colour of our skin, ability etc but because of it.

Covid 19 Going the distance: hope deferred is still hope

This is a picture I took in the garden this week of one of our apple trees. We have been enjoying the beautiful blossom for the last few weeks but now the trees look very bland. We have been doing so much work in the garden including cutting down the tops of the surrounding trees on to the apple trees, I had begun to wonder was there anything left on them.

From a distance it just looks like there are lots of leaves and branches, but as you can see close up there are are signs of fruit where the blossom once was. They won’t grow very big for a while, but grow they will, ripe and big enough to eat in summer.

Hope deferred is still hope. waiting for the inevitable is still waiting, and not having yet, but there are signs, little glimpses of what is to come.

But the summer is a long time away, what about if I want an apple now? Just like I want to be in Cornwall right now on holiday, but instead Sally and I have a week in the Costa del Brum! So instead, as I reflected last week, we find new ways to rest, to recreate, to regenerate, to be restored.

So, I will just have to wait for the apples to grow, to ripen and be ready to pick. I could of course just go down the shop and buy some, but hey, these ones will taste better for being home grown and free and worth the wait!

Stay safe everyone.

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Covid 19 Going the distance – more than distractions

One the challenges of lockdown is to find distractions from the boredom. Even though I am in the hospitals, I have still needed something to occupy me instead of going out for the day on the weekends, evenings etc.

One of my redemptions of the covid-19 lockdown is that our over grown garden for the past 4-5 years has been brought back under control. The patio had actually disappeared! It has been hard work, I have cut down 10 plus trees plus cutting all the bushes, plants back etc. We have 3 x 5′ high and wide pruning piles to recycle or compost as well as some telegraph poles!

It has kept me very busy and distracted. What I have realised is, I need more than to pass the time.

My covid-19 reflection is that I need more than distraction away from my struggles, difficulties. Distraction only goes so far, just because we fill our time, not thinking about issues, troubles, sadness, does not mean they have gone away. Yes, I have not spent time or energy thinking about them, but they have not gone they are still there.

I need and want, joy, pleasure, achievement, God’s perspective. I need to recharge, regenerate, slow down, find reflective space. Gardening gives me most of these things. The hard physical work has taken me out of myself.

But let’s not pretend this is all we need. Sometimes we need to face up to our fears, anxieties, to get support to process them. We continue to creativity access and need each other and God as we move forward during covid-19 alerts and restrictions. As helpful as they are as a part of our support mechanism, we need more than distractions, we need tangible space and opportunities to love and be loved, care and be cared for by each other and our God. 

Covid-19 Go the distance: What a bizarre Easter

Paul’s Easter message (take 3)

What a strange Easter day this has been. Paschal candle at the front gate, virtual Church, not seeing family and friends. No shopping was the only normal thing about the day! Small mercies.

Hearing news about friend’s family dying did not seem to reinforce a resurrection feel to the start of the day. Heart ache of loved ones is our Good Friday message not Easter Sunday. How tragically common but always individually personal death has become to us in this pandemic. But we all tried to celebrate as best we could. Seriously tasty roast lamb for lunch, 5th chick being released from the incubator to join their friends in the cage in the hospital chapel. We should have had a queue of patients, families and staff lining down the corridor. Except this year, the chapel is on lockdown, very few visitors to the hospital. No one to have a service for, no Easter egg hunt, no holding chicks and seeing, feeling, Lifting Spirits.

The video is one of the takes for the hospital’s Easter message. My written part majored on how I have been struck by how many people have been making positive insights from the lockdown. Finding new ways to hope, appreciating the little simple things in life, noticing the familiar in new ways and being thankful and inspired by the sacrifice of others. Realising that we are connected after all, and our wellbeings and safety are interlinked. This is our Easter gift this year, to ourselves and others. As Pope Francis reminded us today, not to be overcome with fear, but hope. Our Covid-19 strategy is inspired by our Easter story and imitation of our Lord Jesus. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

Some of our other chick videos are on our YouTube channel, Lifting Spirits          

Go the Distance: How to deal with a poor selfie

I am away on my annual weekend retreat with one of my oldest best friends. This is the poor selfie of us on 3 Cliffs Bay on the Gower,  South Wales staying at a friend’s mobile home.

I have blogged about the benefits of this time in and of its self and as a part of my “Marker Posts and Shelters” Rule and Rythm of life and ministry. What struck me in this time away was how spending time with people who know you very well and where there is relationship and permission to speak in to each other’s lives, is that there becomes very little room for a delusional self image. The possibility to tell each other honest, edgy stuff about the past year and have it just have it slide by without comment, just does not happen. Dave even described our weekend away at a local Church this morning as our “accountability weekend”!

We spend much of our time reflecting on the past year, praying and blessing each other, and definitely, pushing back to clarify that is how it feels and looks and it really is. A time to refocus and try a different angle.

I am thankful to God and them, for having a few people I trust and who love me, to have this type of relationship with.

Go the Distance: we control the weather!

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This title sounds like a sci-fi film, some futuristic good news then all goes terribly wrong story line. Of course, some might say we are already controlling our weather, if not in control, at the very least responsible for some of it due to our conduct and treatment of our planet and its resources.

Our image gives us another element of controlling the weather, the way we can set the tone in our contexts. I have done a previous blog about us being thermostats not thermometers. By our actions, our attitudes we can create an environment for positive or negativeness. We are no longer comfortable saying we should take, have control over others, this is normally understood as an oppressive manner. But I think our image suggests another aspect.

We can decide tomorrow if it is gloomy and rainy for lots of people or sunny and feel good. Let’s choose sunny to lift the spirits of those who we have no idea of what the weather has been for yesterday.

Go the distance: whatever it takes

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I have heard this phrase used several times in the past few weeks Mostly in a sports contexts, a little in politics, occasionally in business. In what ever context, it seems to mean, go win, be first, make it happen It is used to motivate achievement, encourage focus and often sacrifice.

This can be interpreted in mostly two ways. Firstly positively, take the pain, inconvenience, sacrifice, pay the cost, focus, energy, what ever it takes, make it happen. This is commendable, giving your task all you have, to succeed. To people who dedicate their lives for a cause, focus, standard, achievement it is inspiring. But is there more to it than that. It can also mean, go cheat, steal, use iffy ethics. The ends justify the means. What ever it takes, win, make it happen, who ever gets hurt is irrelevant. Sadly, it seems achievement, to be first, win, is sacrificed to other values.

It is many times difficult to discern which one is meant or interpreted. But surely, this is all important. Many of us are all for achievement, but not at any cost. Not all means justify the ends. “Don’t get caught” seems to be the 11th commandment, but also getting caught seems to be a cost worth paying, if you win, get what you want, whatever it takes.

I hope I give my service to God, the bringing in of the Kingdom, my marriage, even my golf, my utmost, sacrifice, but not at any cost. To do this with transparent values, of fairness, justice, integrity, honesty, well being of others. When we give a task, objective these values and focus, then sure let’s do whatever it takes to be and achieve our very best.

Go the distance: lessons to learn

I am reading a book written by a friend, Ray Simpson, it is called Aidan of Lindisfarne. Ray had been hoping to write a Celtic novel for many years and it was finally published a few years ago.

It is about one of the early Celtic missionaries from Iona to England. In the book Ray retells and imagines Aidan picking a team and getting ready to reach out to people of Northumbria. I am really enjoying the joining and engagement of the historical story with Ray’s knowledge and values of the times. This is one part that particularly struck me:
Spiritual reasons for choosing this different route came more from intuition than logic. Aidan recognised the warriors lost battles because they did not know the enemy, or did not prepare thoroughly, or were outnumbered, outmaneuvered or divided amongst themselves. Was it like this with spiritual initiatives? From his childhood days a new that those who became monks were also known as soldiers of Christ, and that all Christians were supposed to overcome evil with good. But no one… had explained the skills of a spiritual warrior. [Two of them] went off to train as warriors: how did soldiers of Christ train? The brothers did learnt disciplines of body, mind and soul. They learn to pray, to think, to befriend, to create – but was there something more to do with the unseen forces of good and evil? p. 90

This week I am teaching on ministerial formation and hope to share and explore some of these concepts, practical ideas of how we can be God’s skilled servants, to fulfill the tasks and roles God has for us. What can we learn to do, skills, knowledge etc, to build upon what God has already given and made us to be?

Aidan of Lindisfarne, Ray Simpson, Resource Publications 2014