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?
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.
I was introduced to a framework similar to this by a fellow Chaplain, Mia Hilborn, on our last Paediatric Chaplaincy day. The fact I still remember 6 plus months later what she said suggests something resonated and stuck and she explained the need and difference to first recover before recreating after difficult crisis situations. This week I am trying to take them in some kind of order and not expect too much of myself early in the holiday as I take an afternoon nap.
If you are on holiday this week or shortly, I pray you find time for all these aspects. And be gentle with yourself in the mean time.
I came across this term at a conference I was at last week. This slide I think captures the essence of what it means. Being present and absent simultaneously. This struck me as being insightful in my professional and personal life.
It resonates and rings true as to how we can be this with each other. I think I have seen it myself and in others. It might be subconscious or intentional, in both issues. We might use it to for self preservation, protection, in exhaustion, pain, anger etc. It helps explain how one can feel all the feelings of grief and loss while another is still alive or fulfilling a role. I think we have all known what it has been like to be with someone who is not really present. If seeking to be incarnational teaches us anything, it gives us a model and mandate to be intentionally fully present to our families, those we work and worship with.
I hope this is helpful to you as you seek to explain why you might sometimes feel confusion about another or yourself or our feelings of discouragement or despair. We can feel loss and be lost to others in all sorts of ways. Hopefully this is now less ambiguous!
Some holiday thoughts from the cafe at Charlecote! Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the obvious.
Today Sally and I went to the 100th birthday celebration for St Germain’s church. This was the church that we first went to when we arrived in Birmingham almost 30 years ago. It was where I (reluctantly) explored ordination. It was encouraging to hear how the church was the only one to be built and finished during WWI and replanted by our next door neighbour parish in the 80s.
We were only there a few years, we brought Youth for Christ volunteers to the church, helped start detached youth work and Birmingham YFC. It was lovely to catch up with those who looked after us and those we developed projects with. It was inspiring to hear how the church has sought to change and serve their local community with a place of welcome, stay and play and food projects. It has never been a large church but it has a long list of those it has sent out in ministry and service. It was formative in our lives and the number of people who had travelled miles to come back to celebrate too suggested it was formative for many. It was encouraging hearing stories over the wonderful refreshments of what God had been doing in people’s lives and in the church and to see so many clergy who had started their journey there. We were very blessed to be a a part of it.
We have both been immensely blessed by being able to travel to the USA to gatherings of the Pediatric Chaplains’ Network. To be able to be part of such a supportive community of practice is something I don’t take lightly. As different tragedies have taken place so messages are sent and prayers mobilized and you know that you are not alone in whatever it is you are facing. I joined those responding and we are praying particularly for Jessica and James, the local chaplains we know best, but also for all the emergency responders along with some family friends of Sally’s. This is the prayer that one of the chaplains forwarded for those facing Hurricane Harvey:
In times such as these it is hard to know exactly what to pray – but being aware of God’s presence and peace is one I use a lot.