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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Monday, 29 June 2009

Stebbing Sporting Calendar 09: 2 - Running Club

As you may have gathered from yesterday's post I am feeling a little old and doddery at the moment so I was quite pleased with myself for managing to run 3 and a half miles tonight with the running club, which is comprised of a few neighbours from the village. I'd even say it was fun, though I night not say that tomorrow morning!

Glastonbury special SAB

Have you ever seen Jimmy Greaves and David Crosby in the same room at the same time? Could it be that Greavsie's form dipped in the late 60's because he was using up so much energy touring with CSN&Y?

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Time takes its toll, but not on the eyes

A good day today! The tenth anniversary of my priesting.

This morning at Stebbing they sprung a surprise on me, with a cake (yes that is a cake in the shape of a Bible!) and a gift of a new bike from all the churches in the benefice. As we got ready to go over to church, my wife said to me "You know today is a special day, so you will need to let go of the past and press on into the future."
I thought she was being philosophical or at least making reference to the ongoing vision discernment process in Stebbing, but it turned out she just meant get ready to get rid of your old bike!
Also got my blog Rank, but can't get the widget to embed in my layout so you'll just have to have it in here.

Friday, 26 June 2009

They're out to get you, better leave while you can

There were 65,500,000 hits on google for Michael Jackson this morning. The entire Internet will soon be overloaded with stuff about his death. It is literally unbelievable, but we said that about Elvis, Lennon, Kurt, Freddie, Bon, the list goes on. I'm sure there will be conspiracy theories hatching even now. It's just a shame that this will distract us from Iran, Afghanistan, Darfur, etc. One death gets lots of attention, other go unnoticed.

I'm not normally one to take celebrity death to heart, and was going to do an "EJ Thribb" for Farah Fawcett today. However, Michael Jackson was such an icon, and he did have quite an influence on me in the early 80's.

I was 16 the year "Thriller" came out. I didn't buy it, but I didn't have to - everywhere you went, every radio station, every TV music show, every disco for most of the 80's would play something by Michael Jackson. At that time I really only listened to rock music played by blokes with long hair wearing denim and leather, and I listened to it very loud. Dance music was not in my repertoire, and I wasn't alone. There were many youth club or school disco's (apostrophe for abbreviation, Lynn Truss fans) at which the girls all danced to one type of music, the boys to another (well, danced is a bit of an exaggeration).
then This happened:

"Beat it" provided dance music for the girls, and rock guitar for the boys. Ironically I guess Michael Jackson is almost solely responsible therefore for my discovery of the opposite sex.

"Thriller" also opened my mind to a much wider variety of music, which enriched my social life no end. It should be an interesting Glastonbury for cover versions.

I was a youth worker in the early 90's when the allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him started, and it was weird to be responding to young people's prayer requests - please pray for Michael Jackson ...

Moving seamlessly from nostalgia to cynicism, like Princess Diana before him, there will now be a sustained period of hysteria, conjecture and then eventually exploitation of the brand name. Poor bloke. At least the suicide rate will dip.

If I shed a tear it is more for my own youth that is past, than for the death of a talented but flawed musician. I should think his funeral will knock Diana's into a cocked hat.

My top 5 Michael Jackson Songs?

Beat it - see above

I want you back - what a bassline
Earth Song even if only because of Jarvis Cocker's moon

Don't stop til you get enough - almost the title of this post.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

And I fall, face down (;-)

Ten years ago this week I was on retreat in Salisbury Cathedral Close in preparation for my ordination as a priest (an event the mechanics of which generated a fair amount of steam in some quarters recently). It was an unusual retreat in that my 2 week old son and his mum came too and we stayed in a flat with a lovely view of the spire, pretty much next door to Mompesson House. I did go to all the addresses and worship though. Strangely enough, three years later my daughter aged 4 months accompanied her mum (with help from her Granny) on my wife's ordination retreat, so don't try to tell me there's no flexibility for families in the C of E ministry machinery! This week I have a friend and former colleague in the same place waiting for the same event on Saturday.

I have recently been given the task of Deanery Warden of Ordinands, and we have also just had a candidate from Stebbing recommended for training for stipendiary ministry on her BAP (:-)). These things together have started me thinking again about the nature of priestly ministry. At college and during my diaconal year there was much rumination about "priestly formation", and stuff was said and things were reflected upon. Probably about ten years ago last Sunday night my rector and I locked ourselves in the church so I could practice presiding at the Eucharist. I have to say that was the most memorable element of any practical priestly formation I had. Namely, don't spill the wine and don't drop the wafers!

You may recall that this blog began as my reflections on a leadership course. That was a good course in the end as it really helped me to get some things (like admin which I hate) sorted out, but it still left me a bit blank in terms of what it is to be a priest today (and yes I have read the book)

Looking back to my own vocational journey and reflecting on the journeys of some others that I am encountering at the moment, both in the blogosphere and in real time and space, I am increasingly of the opinion that vocation to ministry is most genuinely discerned and shaped by people other than those who are called. Other people said to me (and to countless others I know), "you should think about ministry). I did, and look where it got me! Now I am beginning to wonder whether a bolt-on to that is that the very being of a priest is defined by the people and the context in which s/he is ministering. I once had a spiritual director who was very strong on "inhabiting the [Biblical] narrative", but he also very wisely advised me to let the place in which I minister form me as a minister.

On the whole I think this approach has worked for me, mainly because I have always worked in benefices of diverse tradition, so depending on where I am (liturgically or pastorally) on a given day, who I am (or actually, who I am being - not quite acting a role, but not far off sometimes, terrible isn't it!) will vary with the context of the church.

That sounds as though I only regard priesthood as a role rather than a state of being. I don't do ontological change (tempting though it is to imagine the changed status of a baby in the womb of a woman when she is ordained,) but I do think that holy orders are about who you are more than what you do. In fact I believe that about Christianity, about the local church anyway, more and more these days. Its not about programmes and events, its about relationships and "making ourselves available".

Dredging my memory for the aforementioned local ordinand a while back for pictures and metaphors for priesthood, I could only remember the icon - not being God but representing God for someone, pointing onward to Christ, and the periscope mirror - enabling people to see and encounter, communicate with and receive from God, without getting in the way ourselves.

These are really helpful for me to reflect (ha ha) on now, because in daily life theological proactivity is frequently just "What day is it tomorrow?" and theological reflection is usually "what day was it yesterday?"

I have some quiet/reading days scheduled later this month so I might spend a while these things and get back to you.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Bible Books meme

I have been tagged by Sam. This is how it works


1. Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favourite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree. Instead, I want to know what five books have permanently changed the way you think.

2. Tag five others.

My five are not necessarily books specifically about Scripture, but all of them have deeply impacted how I read the Bible, and some go further, having influenced the whole of my life and faith. Significantly they are all books I read during my ordination training, but I wouldn't want you to think I haven't read anything since then.

1. "Truth is Stranger than it used to be"; J Richard Middleton and Brian J Walsh SPCK 1995.

At the time in training when everything was up in the air, this book was one that helped me catch things as they came back down to earth; things like "What is reality and how do I perceive it", as well as introducing me to words like "meta-narrative". The cover carries a quote from Tom Wright; "All thinking Christians should read this book". Of all the books I read at college this was the one I didn't actually mind reading all of, even though I didn't have to! I re-read it every couple of years, though it's getting a bit dated.

2. "The Post Evangelical"; Dave Tomlinson SPCK Triangle 1995. He wrote this when he was pastoring "Holy Joes", a church that met in a pub. My brother was going to it at the time, indeed DT spoke at my brother's wedding. I don't think I am a Post evangelical (if there ever was such a thing outside London), but I remain influenced by Tomlinson's take on atonement theories, and I particularly warm to his IKEA flat-pack vs Meccano metaphor. Now that he's an Anglican minister, I expect he'd describe himself as an Affirming evangelical, but some would just say he's a liberal.

3. "God's Empowering Presence; the Holy Spirit in the letters of Paul"; Gordon Fee 3rd Edition 1995. This is the only one that is purely and specifically about the text, being a systematic and comprehensive treatment of Paul's references to the Spirit. In that sense, it's not really a book you read from cover to cover; it lives next to my copy of Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament, and so is classified really as a reference book or Bible dictionary type thing. Sounds a bit dry, but its impact was that it was the first book from a charismatic perspective that I found that told me there are other authentic, faithful ways of reading Paul on gender roles than what Grudem says.

4. "The Prophetic Imagination"; Walter Brueggemann Fortress 1978. I could have put "Texts under negotiation" or "Biblical perspectives on Evangelism". All had a big impact on the way I studied Scripture academically while also going through big changes in my own life and faith. Best thing about these - they're short!

5."God's Home Page"; Mike Riddell BRF 1998. Less academic, more fun and more relevant to where I found myself the year it came out - about to start in ministry. Next week is the 10th anniversary of my priesthood, so I probably ought to read it again, along with Pete Ward's "Mass Culture."

A lot of influence on how I read the Bible actually came from people and places, not just books. For example the single greatest influence was a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; another huge thing was doing a course based around the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. Naturally also the greatest influence on how I read and interpret Scripture is the place in which I am reading and preaching it. That doesn't mean I am simply recontextualising Biblical Truth, it just means as I seek to understand the Bible here, here is unavoidably a huge influence on how (but not always what) I understand.

So I tag Michael W, Kurt, Malcolm, AnneDroid and Howard.


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

And he's watchin' us all

I had an idea tonight; you know how Terminators (in the film and TV franchise) have this thing that happens in their eye whereby they can look at someone and get from a computer programme information like name, date of birth, address, state of health etc.

I could really do with getting one of those fitted, for those moments in pastoral minsitry when you are talking to someone you have met before, who obviously knows who you are, but you have no recollection of who they are or where you met them.

It would really be a great bolt on, as my own RAM drive is getting rather full these days!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Be a man be a mystery man

Night Jack, the police blogger, has been outed by the Times and disciplined by his force.

I found out about him through the Ugley Vicar, who linked to a pretty scary post (which you won't be able to read now as its all been taken down. I also found the excellent Get out of Jail free through Night Jack, so I owe him thanks for that at least.

Anonymity online is a touchy subject for some; "noms de plume" can enable people to say stuff they wouldn't get away with under their real names. Then again, if they need to hide behind a pseudonym, should they be saying it in public in the first place? It's easy to forget that blogs and discussion forums (?fora) are in fact read by more people than you would expect.

I like the idea of online identity, but it needs to be accessible, thus I know who Elizaphanian, Cranmer's Curate, Revise Reform and Pluralist are, because they do not try to hide, they just have a nickname. You can find them yourself, I can't be bothered to do all those links.

Perhaps Night Jack should have watched Bambi

What do other people think?

Well I love to live so pleasantly

It was my birthday on Sunday. We went to Bustard Green, which is very secluded and lovely, and had a picnic with newts dragonflies horses and butterflies. The perfect getaway.
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Friday, 12 June 2009

I'll never be the same

A lot of people were talking about this BBC Pentecost Service, but being a TOG I hadn't heard Chris Moyles' comments on Radio 1. It's fantastic stuff - When'a the last time you heard anything so positive about Christianity on Radio 1?

Thank you Annedroid

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

I want to stick around a while and get my kicks, let's rock ...

Fulcrum have kindly published online an article I have written called "Why I am still an Anglican", which is an extended version of my first commission. You can comment there or here as you wish.


Friday, 5 June 2009

Thursday, 4 June 2009

In fact it was a little bit frightening

So Farewell then

I used to particularly enjoy

(if that's the right word, not sure)

the bit with the red hot dragon

shaped stone thing,

which you had to carry

with your forearms

thus proving your worth

to the bloke with ping pong ball eyes

whom we all imitated in the playground

mispronouncing his "r"s.

But the most satifying bit

was when you ran out into the snow

To cool off with an (imagined) hiss,

gaining some excellent body art

in the process.

They didn't do that

in Kung Fu Panda,

And I don't like Tarantino.

with apologies to EJ Thribb

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Pie Jesu

This is me and my missus (making her FMH debut) getting pied last Sunday at the Under The Sea Celebration. It was (other than the pie-ing) a brilliant event; nearly150 people, many of whom had never been in the church. A gentle gospel challenge was given, and the kids who came to the Holiday club could share the experience with their parents. We sang the songs they sang, played the games they played and heard the stories they heard. I loved it.

The service was followed by a Barbecue in the sunshine, which deteriorated into a water fight. I had to keep dry-ish as I had a 6pm Evensong (as someone said, from the sublime to the ridiculous!)

In the end, it was a 10 hour non-stop day, as between the two services we essentially stripped all the Pulse scenery from the church and loaded the truck. I was definitely ready for a cold one by 9pm, only to discover I'd given my last Stella to Pete from Pulse!