Friday photo – autumn prayers


Yesterday I presided at the lunchtime communion at the Children’s hospital – I am last reserve so only get to do it very occasionally!  As soon as I walked in these amazing pumpkin prayers caught my eye – what a wonderful way for the chaplaincy team of celebrating a cultural festival (I will not get into the what should Christians do about Halloween debate) in a child and young person friendly way. They looked good around the autumn coloured leaves prayer tree. Looking closer each strip had a different prayer or statement on. This was the work of our wonderful CYM student Jodie. I work with lots of creative people and am very blessed by the different ways we can make connections between our faith and everyday life.


Wondering Wednesdays – it is finished part 1

Just before 9pm last night I sent off the manuscript of our edited book on paediatric chaplaincy to our editor at Jessica Kingsley. I had promised it by the end of October – I had a whole three hours left! Those of us who have been in one of the Myers Briggs sessions that Paul and I run will know that this is much too close to comfort for me! Earlier in the evening I had been doing the last few tweaks that were needed which involved finding more references, typing out the wording on the back of a t shirt and a couple of other things!

It has been an immense privilege to help edit this book. There are so many practice examples in it and one or two stories haunt me, this is one of them: It is from an activity done by a teacher in a school but makes a powerful point about family systems and metaphors (one of my favourite ways of communicating):
My family is the Solar System.
My younger sister is the sun.
She is very bright, but everything always has to revolve around her.
My stepdad is the moon.
He comes out at night to do his job, but come day he is nowhere to be found.
My mom is the stars.
She is always everywhere; she knows your business front and back.
She also lights up the sky whenever the moon has gone into hiding.
My oldest sister is Pluto.
She stayed around and put up with the other planets for a while, and then she just left.
I, well, I am Neptune.
I am farthest from everyone, and I am usually the little planet who is cold and alone.

This blog is called part 1 not because part 2 will follow shortly but reflects that I am not finished yet – there will be editorial queries, proofs and lots of bits and pieces to sort before the book is published, hopefully in May next year.

Honest Christianity – what did you expect to hear?


Matthew 11.8-10, talking about John the Baptist asks – what kind of person were you expecting to see? This verse resonates with my experience this weekend.
This is my reflection of going to two intimate concert venues this weekend. They were the far end of the spectrum, and both at the twilight of their careers. Friday night was folk singer and storyteller Richard Digance and last night, was classical guitarist John Williams. Both have well known songs and tunes and we were looking forward to some familiar, well known, even famous tunes. We had two wonderful enjoyable evenings but not a familiar song in sight, until… (I will come to this shortly)

Richard Digance, on a 50th anniversary of being in the business tour, was very funny, entertaining but did not play one song from his first handful of albums. John Williams, who is beyond words as a skilled guitarist , did not play his unarguable most famous tune, Cavatina, the theme tune to the fantastic and sad film, Deerhunter.

So with the observers of Jesus, we did not get what we expected. Were we disappointed, yes , were we impressed, yes. I wonder when this is ok? People going to church or meeting a Christian for the first time? Are there expectations that we meet or don’t meet and should we even think about that?

The rider with Richard Digance was I asked him at the interval if he was going to sing Backstreet International? He said he had not sung it in concert for 20 years and probably could not remember all the words, and if I had asked him before the concert, he might have been able to prepare and recall it… Disappointed but understanding the second half started. He continued to play newer songs, then explained to the audience there had been a request and he was going to have a go! He sung and played (perfectly) my request about an 11 year old realising he would never be good enough to play football for England, but he could pretend while playing in his garden that he was playing at Wembley. My night was made, especially when he invited me up on to the stage to sing it with him. What did i expect, not that, it was even better.

Wondering Wednesdays – in praise of good bread

Last time I was teaching research methods with MCYM’s wonderful third year students we had a discussion about witting and unwitting evidence as a concept to consider. Unwittingly, if you are a Facebook friend you might think I have a thing about food and the sea as I post a lot of pictures of both! Thus you might not be surprised if you come across this blog via social media to see this picture.

I paid £3 for the loaf that was used to make this bacon sandwich. Now there is a bit of me which goes wow, that’s a lot of money to spend on bread. But it is less than a pint of beer and about the same as a large coffee made with decent beans. Now I appreciate that I am at a stage in life where I can afford to spend that amount of money on what may be regarded as an essential but in choosing to do so I am also making choices that are in line with my values. The bread is from the Littlebakehouse in Launceston, they recently won an award from Cornwall Life as best independent retailer – I voted for them. In buying this loaf I am contributing to a local (to our holiday) business, facilitating local employment and eating something which is healthier for me, easier to digest and very tasty. I am becoming more mindful of the choices I make over food and many of them are not as ethical as this and I am being challenged to be more mindful over my food choices and the broader consequences those decisions may have.

Honest Christianity – where and how did i learn about hospitality: difference between applied theology and theological reflection

We hosted some friends from Australia this weekend. We took them to a very nice hotel for afternoon tea and to one of our favourite retreat churches. While we were having afternoon tea we were discussing how difficult many students find it to write about a situation they have theologically reflected within and upon. I shared this spontaneous example of theological reflection and the difference to applied theology.

I reflected upon how we were relating with the hotel staff. I asked our friends how do we think we are treating them and why? They replied they thought and observed we were being polite, respectful, thankful. I suggested the reason why we were doing this was because we were enacting principles of our faith, perhaps even going as far as saying loving our neighbour as ourselves, applied theology, doing Biblical theology. We were not asking the staff’s permission to be nice to them, we just did it. Why, because we held certain Biblical texts as truths to be lived out or applied.

I suggested that before we did theological reflection, it was best to have a clear, simple process to follow. I really like:
Stage 1 What? The experience
Stage 2 So What? Engage process, the experience with faith resources
Stage 3 Now What? Do, learn something etc because of processing the experience.

I then asked our friends what they had experienced, felt, learnt during our afternoon tea (stage 1 what?)? I then asked the two questions which help facilitate theological reflection:

l. What new insight might I learn about our faith, God or the kingdom?
2. What within my faith helps me engage with this experience?

We shared together how we had felt the staff had been – friendly and hospitable. This had made us feel welcomed, comfortable, even though we were not dressed overly smartly and perhaps had signs of having just come from a walk on Bodmin Moor! (Stage 2, so what?). We projected that this is how we could seek to make visitors to church feel (stage 3, Now what?). A quick, simple example, but I am sure you get the idea .

This lesson regarding learning from faith insights from everyday experienced was reinforced when we visited a church the next day. They were getting ready for a service and restriction ropes were being put up and down. In what area of the church the rope has been tied to a pillar and one of our friends walked into the crossing part of the nave to take in the beauty of the breadth, depth, and height of the magnificent building. He was then told off by one of the guides for walking where he shouldn’t have been because it was a holy part of the church. I was glad he was already a Christian!

Friday photo – sun setting on the first half term


Half term is starting, the first part of which will be spent catching up with friends from Sydney – a delight. I need these spaces to catch my breath, catch up with myself even and have time to reflect, recharge and prepare for the challenges of the next half term. I love my job so I don’t long for holidays to get a break from it, I appreciate holidays because I know that without them I wouldn’t be as effective. This first half term of the academic year is always the most challenging but it comes with much joy too – the finalizing of degrees, meeting new students, reflecting on how the continuing students have grown… The old rhyme goes red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, I am grateful there is so much to delight me as I go for a break.