I am always blessed and inspired by the final day of the MCYM Year 3 Leadership and Ministry Module. Our students get to present their vision and foundations for ministry and all of us get to engage with what others have created. There were so many profound insights, creative connections, and so much of who the students were in what they did. We were later encouraged to summarize our vision in a sentence – they did this too. I came away with a great sense of hope and pride in those God is calling into work with children and young people and am so privileged that my calling is to support them in exploring theirs.
Tonight we worshipped here, St Indract’s chapel at Halton Quay, part of a rural benefice in South East Cornwall. For many years there have been four regular services a year here – an evensong on the first sunday of summer months. A newish Vicar led the service tonight and shared a little of the vision for the building – to use it for artists, writers, a place of mission and community building. Unusually for a church building all the glass is clear and you can sit inside and look out at the amazing scenery of a tidal river with a constantly changing view.
It was exciting to hear of a desire to make a chapel which is on a busy river at a place which attracts people to fish and play into a place of mission and ministry too. It would work well as another place of pilgrimage in an area where there are lots of sacred places and historical connections. We look forward to seeing how it develops. Our first hymn was I heard the voice of Jesus say come unto me and rest – this is a good place to do that!
Yesterday was one of my favourite days in the academic year. Our third years spend the day reflecting on their formation and youth/children’s work vision and in the afternoon they put a display on in the Chapel and people get to interact with what they have created. Looking at what they have done is always inspiriational and a blessing. Insights I would never have seen or thought of…
I loved the simplicity of this one by Tom and it gets to the heart of what youth workers do which can look so simple but requires a lot of skill. The question posed using jenga blocks as a resonse, was “Would you rather?” The choices were:
Tell a young person how their life should be built or
Give them the tools to help them make their own decisions…
We talk about young people needing to own their faith for themselves, we talk about transition, we talk about discipleship, we talk about faith development…
I know I am grateful for the tools I have been given which have helped me over the years to make my own decisions drawing on all the resources of faith which has often included those who are older and wiser but rather than telling me how my life should be built they lived out their life so I could see a building with foundations in God. This was such a simple but very profound articulation of a vision for youth work…
I have been thinking a lot about identity as I have been studying over the summer. Shame (my topic of study) is one of those things that can have such an impact on identity. As a theological educator one of the things I am hoping for is to see students develop their own ministerial identity and as I reflect on ministerial practice for my thesis I read a book – nearly 30 years old but full of interesting insights. This is a quotation from it:
Agape requires that no help, however well-intentioned, should stamp out one’s own or another’s individuality. Genuine help must see each person, including the helper, afresh, as a new and separate being, for whom no real parallel exists in prior experience – the unique encountering the unique. Alastair V Campbell
Yesterday I shared on Facebook something from A Mighty Girl (https://www.facebook.com/amightygirl). It included a quotation from Meryl Streep:
“For young women, I would say, don’t worry so much about your weight. Girls spend way too much time thinking about that, and there are better things. For young men, and women, too, what makes you different or weird, that’s your strength. Everyone tries to look a cookie-cutter kind of way, and actually the people who look different are the ones who get picked up. I used to hate my nose. Now, I don’t.”
I have spent a long time working on valuing my uniqueness rather than wishing I was different and I would have loved to have been taught Campbell’s understanding of agape much earlier in my ministerial journey.
Alastair V Campbell Moderated Love A Theology of Professional Care. London: SPCK, 1985, p82-3.
This medal was the pinnacle of my sporting career along with representing English Universities. I haven’t played table tennis seriously or almost at all since my mid 20s and the odd times that I have played I have missed most of the smashes I so enjoyed doing! However, the adorable nephew enjoys playing and visting him this past weekend it seemed like a fun thing to do. My brother dug out his old but good table tennis bats – he was the other half of the medal winning team and is mentioned in Matthew Syed’s book Bounce when he talks about how champions are made and all the amazing table tennis players who lived in and around one road in Earley, near Reading. We played in the hall where my brother and I practiced each Sunday morning for years. What I realised when we started playing was that I hadn’t really forgotten how to play in those few times I had picked up a bat, I had been trying to do what I used to do, yes without enough practice, but mainly without the equipment that enabled me to put the necessary spin on the ball and with a ball that cracked when you hit it too hard!
It reminded me of all the times I try to do things without the right equipment – from the wrong knife in the kitchen to a wireless router that keeps going down. I began thinking about what it means to have the right equipment and all the tensions that are inherent in that in a consumer society like ours. Sometimes we need the right equipment to do the job we need to effectively and efficiently but at other times, the equipment we already have is perfectly okay and at other times we have to improvise with what there is available. Ministry is fascinating in this regard, I have heard criticism for too much money being spent on stuff as well as too little and have certainly been on the receiving end of barbed comments about choices we have made which others have deemed not appropriate for someone in ministry. I have tried hard over the years to do a combination of using my common sense, praying, and arguing for equipment which is honouring of those I am working with. There are rarely easy choices to be made, particularly when money is tight but sometimes it is crazy to struggle on with poor equipment when something takes twice as much time as it might or doesn’t really work at all and less time or resource is then actually available for what our core calling is.
I came across these jigsaw pieces strewn across the pavement probably by a bird or fox trying to find something to eat in the bin bag. I have noticed more and more recently how my life, at times, seems like lots of little jigsaw puzzles with bits that fit together but still the whole picture has not yet been created. I am learning new things about who I am, who God has created me to be alone, with Paul, at work and church and all the other places I inhabit. I had a supervision session with my Vicar this week and one of the things we discussed was the way we inhabit social media and he asked me if I framed my ministry in this way at all and I realized it is another bit of the jigsaw that I am creating and it is another place where some of what I do is ministry.
Today is my (Paul’s) birthday and in the spirit of a new year we thought we would take this opportunity to start a new blog stream having been mulling over what else we might want to blog about. If you have read some of our other blogs, you may know one of our favourite films is Field of dreams and after throwing around a few ideas we have decided to use as a title for this new stream one of the phrases Ray hears in the film – go the distance. In this new stream we hope to explore how life and ministry might best work and I expect to intersperse this with more thoughts on Honest Christianity in my weekend posts.
To go the distance is to value and practice longevity, commitment, perseverance, pursuing well-being and sustainability. At church this morning we were chatting to Graham the URC minister about him starting his 30th year in ministry and we realised that was the case for us too. So what we hope to do is to share a little bit of what we have learned along the way, often painfully ourselves but also through the inspiration of others. When we were first exploring this concept for Sally’s Grove booklet on Sustaining Your Spirituality we came across a great book called Going the Distance by an Australian Bishop Peter Brain. Then by one of those strange co-incidences we met his son Matt at a guest house in Pretoria before a conference we were all going to. On Friday Matt came and stayed with us en route to a conference in Chester and we experienced in practice one of those things which has helped us go the distance over the years – like minded friends you can share honestly and openly with, throwing around ideas and sharing insights and experiences. The challenge for us is making sure that we do this often enough!
Peter Brain Going the Distance Matthias Books 2004.
Sally Nash Sustaining Your Spirituality Grove Books 2006.