Tuesday, March 21, 2017

More sabbatical reflections

The last couple of weeks of my sabbatical have been about spending time with family and friends as well as time to read, for reflection and of course time for God.

I spent a happy morning with my mentor, talking about  some of the things I've thought about, what I miss and don't miss about circuit ministry (and how that impacts on my move to Walsall in September) and other things to reflect on further during my sabbatical (and beyond) ...and came away feeling very positive about the future.

The same day, I went with friends into Birmingham for a meal and a see the musical Billy Elliott, which was brilliant. Telling the story of a boy going against everything that was expected of him, and his background to follow his dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Fantastic watching the dynamics of his relationship with family and friends and many a tear was shed, and the audience gave a standing ovation at the end. The below photo is of us enjoying (a non alcoholic) cocktail and meal before the show.

Last week I, along with my dad travelled to Iceland on the hunt for the northern light. We stayed just outside Reykjavik. Although the hotel was lovely, the rooms were standard and very small, there wasn't really anywhere to hang or place clothes and so we had to put stuff on the floor or keep it in the suitcase (which was stowed under the bed), It would have been fine for a night or two but after 5 nights we ended up with cabin fever.

But it was the northern lights we were there to see - and sadly the boat trip we were going on out, was cancelled for the first 3 nights due to the weather conditions, but on Thursday evening we wrapped up warm and headed out and within minutes of us leaving the bay, we say them. My dad was disappointed as he expected to see the lights he had seen on the TV - but in reality they was mainly green clouds with a couple of flashing lights. However it was the best they had seen for a while -the photo's don't really do them justice, but I was a happy girl!

 (view from our hotel)

 (The white line of light appeared occasionally)

Other than that I've dealt with some admin, caught up with a few people and taken the car in for it's first MOT. I've also finished typing up the sketches and poems I have that my mum wrote, and they have now been sent to my sister and brother in law who will proof read them for me. .. next task is to illustrate them with photos (either ones I have or find things to take which will be suitable).

Tomorrow Andrew and I head off for a few days away "down south" along with Paisley, and we look forward to spending some time together, before I head off back to Launde Abbey on Monday for another 2 weeks.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Leaving Launde

In a few hours I will have left Launde and be at home again ...

I have really loved my time at Launde and living in the community - there is something special about this place... and look forward to coming back in 3 weeks for another 2 weeks of volunteering.

I have had some really good conversations this week, with staff and guests. This week we had the Methodist Probationers in from Lincoln & Grimsby, Derby, Norfolk and Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire Districts - although I had chats with many of them, I specifically appreciated the conversations about life, ministry and faith I had with Julian Pursehouse, the chair of the East Anglia District and Roger Walton, the president of conference. It was good to reflect with them about ministry, sabbatical and spending time with God. It was also special to share communion with them on Thursday morning.

As much as I have enjoyed being here, and really looking forward to coming back, I am ready to go home and see Andrew and Paisley again. I know they are both missing me... and it will be good to be back with them.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sabbatical launde Abbey week 1

So my first week at Launde is coming to an end.... and it's been a really good week. I finally feel as if I'm beginning to relax and appreciating the time and space of the sabbatical to rest, reflect and read.

One of the things I love doing when I have a rare evening off, is going to bed early or snuggling on the sofa and reading a book, and I've been able to do a lot of that here, as other than one evening when I helped in the kitchen because they were a member of staff short, I have been free every evening.

I've finished reading the autobiography of Mary Berry, and although overtly Christian, her faith shines through the book and she refers to it on many occasions. I've also read the story of Matt Woodcock diary of his time of training and preparing to become an Anglican priest, whilst also having to cope with the struggles of life, the church and being away from home especially at a time that he and his wife desperately try and have children, and the sadness of failed IVF treatment. It was a really good book, of a man who was not afraid to be real, honest or vulnerable in his writing but also reflected on himself, his attitudes and his approach to life (and eventually fatherhood!)

The willingness and need to be vulnerable is one of the things that as Christians and indeed Ministers need to be and do more off. During my ministry I have heard and indeed been told personally that that it is wrong for me and all ministers to show vulnerability or admit to being ill or having a bad day , as this doesn't give a good impression to others or signifies that we are not available to people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I confess this is a view that I struggle with as clergy are human and are as vulnerable as everyone else. For too long people (and ministers) have put clergy on a pedestal, as being someone who is different from others - maybe even superhuman and therefore we don't need to take time out, we should always be available, and if we are ill or struggling should forget all about it, as others needs are more important.

 I met with a good friend Rachel (an Anglican priest) this week and we had a good chat about this and other things, and decided it would be good for me to reflect on this more, and I will do so - although we both agreed that anything that we can do to break these sort of expectations of others can only be a good thing.

 During the rest of the week at Launde, other than the time spent in the kitchen, washing up  & serving food, I have mainly worked on the reception desk greeting guests and dealing with queries, answering the phone and doing various admin jobs as requested. I was reflecting with one of the wardens this morning, how doing work here is so different, as although much of it is what I do each day at home, there is something about doing here in a place of service.

 I have also made a start on looking through and typing up some of the poems my mum wrote, some are personal, some are about her faith and others that she has written for use in worship. It has made interesting reading and it already looks like there may be enough to publish a booklet when it is completed.  There is still some sorting and typing up to do, then I need to look at illustrating it, and the best way of publishing it.

I’m working on the reception desk tomorrow morning, and so have had today and yesterday off, which have been relaxing and good – I went to morning communion yesterday and to midday prayer today, and have enjoyed the space with God. 

 I’m here for another week still and look forward to my time here, whatever it brings… J



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

sabbatical reflections

I can’t believe you have driven all the way from Stourbridge to stuff envelopes!!! ……

The Methodist church gift to all their ordained ministers a 3 month sabbatical in the 10th year of ministry and then every subsequent 7 years to do something different from their usual ministry, which will inform and perhaps re-enthuse them in their ministry.

For those who don’t know, sabbaticals are not a time to skive or do nothing and I have had to submit a prospectus for agreement by the Methodist district I work in. For this sabbatical, I have chosen (as well as spending time with God, friends and family) to do 2 main things… firstly working through, typing up and if appropriate publishing poems and worship resources that my mum wrote and secondly I will spend 4 weeks at Launde Abbey in Leicestershire, living and working within the community. Launde abbey is a special place for me, having been going there at least once a year since 2004 – it is a place, I have learnt to fall in love with God again, a place that I have learnt a lot about myself and a place that restores my soul.
My sabbatical started on the 30th January and for those first 3 weeks (which included a week’s holiday, so only 2 weeks of sabbatical) it was a time to rest and relax. I slept much more than I usually do and with Andrew and paisley had a holiday in West Burton – our cottage overlooked the waterfall there.

(West Burton waterfall)
We went to visit some of the tourist sights of Wensleydale, took the dog for walks but mainly relaxed. Sadly though we both came back with heavy colds and some of our plans were changed (including missing a 40th birthday party for a friend L ).

Although I still have a cough I feel a lot better than I did, helped by a 3 day retreat at Holland House in Worcestershire
(view from the prayer hut at Holland House
For the majority of time I was the only guest and thus allowed me to rest, sleep and enjoy the peace and quiet in the house and gardens. The 3rd week ended with a trip to Birmingham indoor arena for Athletics with friends, where we say Laura Muir and Mo Farah smash British records, and a quiet Sunday with lunch out at a local pub.
And so into week 4 (or 3 depending on whether you count the holiday or not) – On the 20th February, I arrived at Launde for the first 2 week block of volunteering with them, not quite sure what to expect – although I knew that my main role, would be helping out with admin and reception work. Although being here as a volunteer, rather than a guest, feels a bit strange, I am looking forward to the next 2 weeks and what it has in store for me.

The first job though was to help with the bulk mailing they are doing - about 3000 letters need folding, and together with some publicity material, needs “stuffing” in an envelope to post to those on their mailing list advertising events and retreats that are happening in 2017. Day 1, and about 1000 have been posted – still a few more to go!!! Strangely it was quite therapeutic, made easier of course by the beautiful views out of the window at the front of the house as well as the company of the 2 gardeners who had been persuaded to help as well – one of whom said:  I can’t believe you have driven all the way from Stourbridge to stuff envelopes!!!
The oxford and Cambridge Hermitage - my home for the next 2 weeks - in the grounds of Launde Abbey

The view from the window whilst "stuffing envelopes"

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Reflections from Launde Abbey!

Whilst I was at Launde Abbey a few weeks ago, with some lovely friends... God gave me a very clear message for both myself and the circuit churches... It's been quite scary preaching this, and although it's not gone around the whole circuit (it would be easier in terms of planning if it did ) I felt it was right to stop last weekend, and therefore I can share what God has said to me. You may or may not be in this circuit, but I offer you this sermon and hope that God may wish to speak to you through them as well. 

"A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days at Launde Abbey –the place you can see on the prayer sheet. It’s now a retreat centre in a beautiful area in Leicestershire, which has extensive grounds. It’s a favourite retreat pace of mine, and I go there regularly. And on this occasion, it was a chance to spend time with friends who I trained with, to have time for physical rest but also most important spend time serious quality with God and get the spiritual rest I need.

Whilst I’m there I always try and visit 2 particular areas to help me do this - one is a labyrinth and the other a very small chapel. At the entrance of the labyrinth there is a sign which includes words from psalm 111 which says great are the works of the Lord, who is like God – creator, Lord. In awe we worship you.

 I had been in the labyrinth a few times now, but on one particular occasion, I felt that the further I went in, the closer to God I got. I was determined to get into the middle, but noticed on the way, that there were lots of things to distract me; there was piles of dead leaves and areas that looked that wild; there were stones and tree roots that you could trip over, there were gaps in the stone path outlines where you could escape if things got too difficult, but there was also some beautiful things like flowers to stop at slowing down the journey.

 But I was determined to get to the middle, and apart from taking photos, I managed to avoid the distractions; when I got to the middle there was a large stone plinth with a cross made out of smaller stones on top of it – a reminder for me that Jesus needs be at the centre of my relationship with God. It was really difficult to leave the labyrinth for I felt closer to God than I had in a long time - But as I left that place, there was a reminder at the exit in the words of another psalm – I will bless the lord of all times – and that God’s will is goodness, and loving kindness, and good are his paths he leads us on.

 We are all on a journey, a journey to become closer to God, and a journey on the paths that he leads us on. At times though there are also things that distract us on the journey, for being a Christian isn’t always easy. Like the flowers growing in the labyrinth, there will be times that are good, like the dead leaves and tree roots, there will be things that aren’t so good and things that will trip us up, and then there will be times that we just want to escape!

 And this links with the visit I made this year to the small chapel - which is hidden at the back of the converted stables. I went there one afternoon to be with God. It is a special place – for God has spoken a lot to me whilst I was there, it has made me fall in love with God all over again and given me strength and encouragement in my life. Whilst you are in the chapel, you are encouraged to that reading from Luke 24 – the story of the disciples walking to Emmaus after the resurrection. I read it once and then asked God to speak it me as I read it through again.

What struck me most was that the disciples had got bogged down in their despair – and because of this they missed the obvious – that Jesus was with them. They were so distressed that they had forgotten all that Jesus had said about the purpose of his ministry and death.

 I heard God saying that in order for me to see clearly what he wants for me, I have to put aside the distractions and messiness of life, family, church and the circuit and make decisions based on what is important, on what God wants - not what I or other people think should happen.

 But I was also told that that message wasn’t just for me it was for our circuit and the local churches too. Often we get so bogged down and caught up in what we think is right, and making sure things happen the way we want it to be done, that we end up fighting with each other, with the circuit and the Methodist church thinking that our way is best. We get so caught up in the distractions and problems that we forget the purpose God has for us – to worship and serve him.

 In our lectionary reading a few weeks ago, we heard that Jesus prayed for all believers, including us – he prayed that all might be brought to complete unity – so that the world will know that the love that God through Jesus’ death has for them. Jesus’ great desire for the disciples was that they would become one – he wanted them and us to be unified so we can be a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love.

 I don’t know whether you saw the story about the London Mayor election –Sadiq Kahn gives a speech after winning the election – calling for a unified London – one that puts hope over fear – but as he speaks the British First candidate Paul Golding turns around and faces the back of the stage in protest of Sadiq’s appointment. This action has caused a huge backlash online – with people calling him a sore loser, a small minded pathetic bigot and many more words that I couldn’t possibly mention today. He has already become a laughing stock within London and across the country.

What do our actions and words say about us – about the church – about God? Are you – am I helping to unify the body of the Christ - the church – are we helping to unify the circuit – does our behaviour help us to be a real witness for God, or do we, in our stubbornness, our fight to keep the church as it was when we were growing up and our determination to do things our way help portray the church and Christians as a laughing stock and irrelevant to the world today?

 Jesus prays for us to help unify God’s people and to do this, we need to pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up work, together in humility, give our time and money, exalt Christ and refuse to get side tracked arguing over decisive matters.

 Earlier in John’s gospel – in chapter 8 – whilst in dispute with the Jews, Jesus says "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” God wants you and all of his children to be free – not so we can do what we want – but we are free to follow God, and as we seek to serve him, Jesus’ perfect truth frees us to be all that God meant us to be.  Something that is reflected in that Galatians passage we heard – which goes to tell us that as a free child of God, who walks with the spirit, we are to produce fruits of the spirit.

 I wonder if our lives, and our actions as individuals, as the church, as a circuit, would make others turn to God or be a hindrance to them. We are called to live our lives to reflect the fruits of the spirit - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, so that we are a witness to others and to share God’s story of love, hope and salvation to all we meet, through our prayers, words and actions.

 Last week years 1 & 2 of the local primary school went to New Road, to have a look around the church – and do some activities – those of you who are Facebook friends may have seen my post that says: total chaos but great fun today as we welcomed 80 (ish) 4 - 6 year olds to Church today... the highlight was the excited look on one of the little boy's face (who is a Muslim) as this was his first ever visit to a Christian church.

As part of that visit I told them the story of the lost sheep, and they sang us a song called God loves you and I love you ….. Which they all joined in enthusiastically – they could give us Methodist’s a lesson in singing! But at the end of it I said – and that’s the most important part to remember – that no matter what happens – God loves you.

 It’s simple - but for me the heart of mission – if we can get people to know that God loves them – no matter who they are or what they have done – it’s the best thing we can do – but to do that we cannot just wait until someone comes into church – the different things and groups we do in church are brilliant – but aren’t really mission – it’s more service! Mission is about going out to meet people where they are. I love the church, but get really frustrated by the way its people look inwards and only think about themselves or what they like.

There is a picture that regular goes around on Facebook and the internet – that shows a man standing outside a church – and a member of the church is standing in the church door. The church member says – hey come on in – and the other man says – no you come on out. When God calls us to serve him, he isn’t calling us just to stay in our buildings, and do what pleases us – but to go out and make disciples of all nations.

Are you willing to go out into the world and serve God – are you willing to put your hopes and dreams and the things you appreciate aside for the sake of others - so they can come to know God… for that is what has asked me to do – and what he asks of you ….

If God was sat next to you today – would you honestly be able to say that is what your life is like? Take a few moments, and talk to God now in the silence and ask him to show you where your life needs to change to in order to be the person he created you to be...... "


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

40 Acts

Like many others, I've signed up to 40 acts for lent and day one encourages me to think about generosity.

If you want to read all about it - the link is here....


40 acts, gives you 3 options of how to respond - depending on the time you have available, and I have decided to go with the second option, of writing a journal (well blog) to document all the things you learn over the next 40 days, and especially today to write a list of those you would like to bless during this season of Lent. And so, although I know I'm not very good at sticking to these sort of things, I will attempt to write something each day.

I cannot make a list of the people I would like to bless, as for some of them it's a personal / confidential reason - but this morning, in a short act of communion for Ash Wednesday, I asked God to bless all the funeral directors and Coroners who, at least around here, are incredibly busy at this time. There doesn't seem to be a day in which I do not hear of someone that has died, and of course this brings pressures and sadness for many people - especially as there can be a long delay before the funeral can take place.

I wonder, whether you have signed up for the 40 acts or not, who you would like to bless today??

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

labyrinth revisted,

Back at Launde abbey :-)
Arrived on Monday for an annual retreat with some friends I trained with :-)
but with a stinking cold and felt rather groggy since :-(

However, starting to feel human again now and so decided a walk in the sunshine was called for and headed into the huge gardens they have here.

Wandering around I found myself at the labyrinth that I blogged about 2 years ago - http://isthissomeexciting.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/testimony-i-am-sharing-at-church-this.html

This is the first time I've been back to the labyrinth as I avoided it on my last 2 visits - but today it felt right to enter - and see what God had for me... so I paused at the entrance and prayed that God would speak to me whilst there and headed into the labyrinth...

I remember from last time almost being desperate to get to the middle, whilst not really wanting too and finding many things to distract me... where as this time ... Whilst I was still eager to get to the middle, I took time to slow down and enjoy the quiet (well apart from the squaking bird), ponder and reflect. Although I looked around me, I was constantly drawn to the look at the centre of the labyrith ....

I felt God saying to me ... look around and enjoy everything around you ... but don't forget to come back to the centre and to me the one who created it all. 

This echoes something that I've been pondering the last few weeks - much of the conversations I've had with spiritual directors and others over the years has been about taking time out each day to pray and how I was brought up with the idea that you needed to set a particular time to do this.  To be honest it's something I've struggled always struggled with - feeling more at ease "praying on the go" and at anytime throughout the day ....

More recently though I've realised that it's not that daily commitment that I yearn for - but the opportunity for regular space to ponder reflect and encounter the God who is at the the centre of everything (not just in the stone table at the middle of the labyrinth!!!) ....

Coming to Launde helps me do that each year - but my task now is to find other places in my daily (weekly / monthly) life to do the same... but that can wait a few days...

Until tomorrow - I enjoy the peace, the holiness and the fantastic views that is Launde abbey and of course spending time with God.