Honest Christianity – known by the scars

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.
Blaise Pascal

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Honest Chrisitianity – things I should have known

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I grew up in South Essex in an area called Thurrock, or more locally pronounced “Furrock”. I never remember it being explained for being famous for anything particular, it has some historical forts by the river Thames and since has been the setting for a few film. My favorite would be the funeral church in 4 weddings and a funeral. What has amused me over the past few years is to see adverts for cruises arriving and departing from Tilbuy, London!! You might be more than a bit disappointed not being able to see Tower Bridge as you dock (25 miles away). Tilbury did not have a travel destination reputation when I grew up next door. It was rough when i grew up near by, is not a place I have ever been proud to be associated with.

This was until this year, I have no recollection growing up that the Emoure Windrush docked at Tilbury, 21 June 1948, 70 years ago. Now best remembered for bringing one of the first large groups of post-war West Indian immigrants to the UK. One can speculate why I didn’t know, no one interested, something not to be proud of, I am not sure who I can ask. I would not say the area I grew up in was welcoming of perceived outsiders.

Recent news would suggest we still have not got a 100% grateful attitude to those who cam to help the “motherland”. I understand there is now a plaque commemorating the event. Perhaps and hopefully things will continue to change. Personally, I plan to make it my new introduction…”oh I come from near where the Windrush landed”, proud indeed.

Honest Christianity: What is holiness?

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“God has not promised to take away our trials, but to help us change our attitudes towards them. This is what holiness really is. In this life, happiness is rooted in our basic attitude towards reality.”

I was struck by this reading this week, firstly that it linked trials and holiness and secondly it also linked it to happiness as well. It resonated with me because if we feel illness is a punishment, or a withdrawal of God’s blessing, then when we are ill, where does that leave our attitude towards a loving God. Our attitudes towards being ill, hassled, bullied etc is caught up in how we view God. God does not have to will these things for us for them to happen, crap just happens. God promises to be with us, help us, resource us. This is how I view hardships, it helps me be more resilient and healthier in my view of God. Crap happens, but God is for me!

I am sure this is unrelated to it being on our 32nd wedding anniversary!! High maintenance, little easy going me!!

Reference: The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living Father Thomas Keating p165

Honest Christianity – chaplaincy as hospitality

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Last Thursday we had the privilege of launching an edited book on paediatric chaplaincy. One of the models that was shared was Hospitality. The practice of welcoming visitors to our hospital, our chapel. In many ways it seems an obvious principle, but depending on your definition of hospitality, the model comes sharper into focus. It seems logical that our welcome is inclusive of everyone, regardless of actions, beliefs, attitudes, values . All welcomed. Hospitality is for my friends and my enemies, for those who appreciate it and for those who take it for granted or even abuse it. All are offered a warm, kind, generous
support. Perhaps then in some circumstances or situations this unconditional affirmational belonging is for those who have done or said something that is unbelievably offensive.

My practice has been that all who need support, regardless, are offered kindness. Self inflicted, harming others, guilty, not known, innocent, all need help. It is non-judgemental, that is not my job. Hospitality is not a matter of condoning or reward, it is just the right way to be with other human beings. As we continue to live in a growing diverse world and local communities, agreeing cannot be the criteria for welcome. This I hope is the imitation of the Bible, Gospel, kingdom and God. Hospitality cannot be conditional and continue to be
hospitality.

Honest Christianity: Is there such a thing as Ordinary Time?

ordinary timeIn the liturgical calendar that many of our denominations follow, the season between Trinity Sunday and Advent is called Ordinary Time. We have Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Pentecost in fairly quick succession, and Ordinary time represents a time in the church year where there are no special celebrations, no key festivals (apart from Harvest for some) or events in the life of our faith. A time of pause, in between major events in the church year.  This was a thought triggered by today’s sermon at Hodge Hill Church.

It begs the question, is there such a thing as Ordinary time for Christians?   Is it that we should always be going full pelt, always on an up, celebrating the highs or are there times when our lives can just be ok, a bit plodding, ordinary?

If we were to link this to last week’s blog, our need for the spectrum of different times; recovery time, rest time, re-creation time, restorative time is after and during celebration times, activity times, busy times, hectic times. There is sometimes peer and social pressure for all our times to be photo posting worthy, spectacular, alongside this there is posting the ordinary, the normal, the everyday.  Some commentators would suggest that this is bland and mundane but perhaps it is helpful to remind each other, sometimes are lives are rightly ordinary.

Perhaps then a time for everything.

Honest Christianity: Is there ever a time when praying is not enough?

HeavenThis cartoon is doing the rounds this weekend. It is a sad theological reflection upon another school shooting in the USA. Personally, I think this is an insightful comment upon what can be perceived as an offering of prayer and support when perhaps action, policy, legislation is also needed. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I do not believe in the power or necessity of prayer, but sometimes, perhaps many times in the face of injustice, oppression, local and national government are obliged to respond. When the system is broken, yes, pray it gets fixed, but peaceful protest is also required when systemic response to address the issue is slow, or reluctant.  Could it be assurance of praying for someone or a situation from a position of power, is not enough or even trite and insulting?  I am not just just referring to the US in this blog, this is is at the door of any government’s policy that can change the safety of any demographic.

Is it going too far to say, “guns don’t kill people, lack of Governmental intervention does”?  Don’t just pray, do something!

Honest Christianity –

Diamond 2

I am writing this after leading another annual memorial service for the hospital. I never cease to be impressed by the generosity and graciousness of bereaved parents. Year after year we see so much beauty come out of brokenness and I am continually humbled by their ability to find a new way of living that honours their child and their grief and pain. These families really are a thing of beauty and treasure. We continually thank them for their inspiration of who they have become.