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"