Wondering Wednesdays – contemporary roles of spiritual ministry

I occasionally get asked to review books for journals and yesterday was given over to that. One of the things mentioned was a piece of research undertaken at Harvard Divinity School that identified seven contemporary roles that a younger generation are adopting in their engagement in spiritual ministry:

  • Gatherer (who constellates communities of meaning)
  • Seer (who helps us approach the sacred)
  • Maker (who uses imagination and art to offer new rituals and cultural expressions of the spirit)
  • Healer (who helps us move through pain and break cycles of violence)
  • Venturer (who invests resources in new expressions of human flourishing)
  • Steward (who creates new infrastructure for spiritual life)
  • Elder (who connects us to lineage and tradition)

I find this list fascinating when I think about different ways of being and doing church and the sort of thing we talk about in chaplaincy contexts. It is a fascinating reframing of some of the tasks of ministry. You can read more about this in the publication Care of Souls.

The book I reviewed is a collection of stories largely in interview format from a range of faith traditions: Huxley, Justine Afra (editor), 2019, Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change.  London:  Jessica Kingsley, 288pp, £16.99.

Wondering Wednesdays – the pictures we choose

I am always fascinated by the pictures you come across in churches. I assume, quite possibly wrongly, that they are deliberately chosen to communicate a message or offer an insight in to the ethos of that church. I was thus fascinated to find this picture in the rest room at Anaheim Vineyard. I love the reciprocity of it; the lens it gives into the ministry we engage in sometimes. Each time we sing make me a channel of your peace, the line ‘for it is in giving that we receive’ resonates and often at our team prayer times we give thanks to God for the blessing and privilege it is to serve in our context. If you come to our house I wonder what you would make of the postcards we have up in our rest room!

Wondering Wednesdays – inspiring visions

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.

Honest Christianity – making the most of resources

Halton quay 3

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!

Wondering Wednesdays – would you rather?

Tom 1Tom 2

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…

Wondering Wednesdays – exploring agape


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.

Wondering Wednesdays – the right equipment


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.

Friday photo – our jigsaw puzzle lives



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.

Go the distance


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.

Learning from Bettys


My love for Bettys is the same sort of love I have for beach cafes and if you know how much I love being by the sea you will realize that Bettys must be amazing! I went to little Bettys in York yesterday and reflecting on the train on the way home I realised that Bettys had much to teach me about ministry!

I arrived looking a little dishevelled due to the heat and pulling a suitcase.  I was given a choice of tables to sit at, asked if I minded the fan there (now that was a superfluous question) and as I was on my own asked if I wanted a magazine or a newspaper. The Guardian suited me better than Country Life!  I ordered my favourite combination of food and drink at Bettys – a fat rascal, cinnamon toast and tea.  The food was beautifully presented on a three tier stand, the tea came with separate hot water and a tea strainer as it was real tea leaves and there was an abundance.  I sat, savoured, felt welcomed, cared for and went out feeling better than when I came in.  I was also supporting traditional craft baking, valuing superb customer service and supporting a business that as far as I can tell has good ethics.  Bettys teaches me how to be a better priest!