Friday, September 30, 2005

A Revelation of...

Courtesy of Tim (congrats on finishing the book!) but belatedly posted! I did the test twice and was STILL the same so I thought it must be acurate!

You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to
you. You're convinced that the world has a
happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that
you're a closet hippie, but you love them

Which Saint Are You?
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Blagging not blogging

A couple of my readers expressed concern that I had not been bloggin much lately. Apologies. I confess that I have been more blagging than blogging lately but I have been distracted by the fact that I had my bestest friend staying for a few days so my usual blogging activities were displaced by much eating of scrummy food and chatting about life, love, God, church, vocations oh ... and of course boys!

I'd love to say that today I will rectify the situation by blogging something deeply insightful but... um... er...

Well I can't really as I'm walking about grinning far too much because of some rather sunshiney moments chatting on MSN last night with someone.

Anyway it's FRIDAY!!!

So to keep you occupied while I think about something serious, here's a link to possibly the world's most pointless and yet curiously pleasing activity!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Cheesy but good

Thanks to a friend for the link to this. here's an online presentation of this with beautiful pictures from nature but I love the words on their own.


I dreamed I had an interview with God.

"So you would like to interview me?" God asked.

"If you have the time" I said.

God smiled. "My time is eternity."
"What questions do you have in mind for me?"

"What surprises you most about humankind?"

God answered...
"That they get bored with childhood,
they rush to grow up, and then
long to be children again."

"That they lose their health to make money...
and then lose their money to restore their health."

"That by thinking anxiously about the future,
they forget the present,
such that they live in neither
the present nor the future."

"That they live as if they will never die,
and die as though they had never lived."

God's hand took mine
and we were silent for a while.

And then I asked...
"As a parent, what are some of life's lessons
you want your children to learn?"

"To learn they cannot make anyone
love them. All they can do
is let themselves be loved."

"To learn that it is not good
to compare themselves to others."

"To learn to forgive
by practicing forgiveness."

"To learn that it only takes a few seconds
to open profound wounds in those they love,
and it can take many years to heal them."

"To learn that a rich person
is not one who has the most,
but is one who needs the least."

"To learn that there are people
who love them dearly,
but simply have not yet learned
how to express or show their feelings."

"To learn that two people can
look at the same thing
and see it differently."

"To learn that it is not enough that they
forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves."

"Thank you for your time," I said humbly.

"Is there anything else
you would like your children to know?"

God smiled and said,
"Just know that I am here... always."

-author unknown

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Daisy Daisy...

All the cool kids were doing it!

Synthetic Artificial Zealous Zoology Android

Youth work or Youth Ministry revisited

Following on from the debate on here about Youth Work vs Youth Ministry, I find myself torn between the various definitions and more debates on Ian (with graphic!) and Tim's sites. Variously, I feel I have either never done YOUTH WORK or I have never done YOUTH MINISTRY depending on which definition I read.

Phil has put up some well-thought out arguments in contrast to my usual ramblings but nevertheless I am undaunted and have decided to ramble just a little more.

Ami and I were discussing the whole work vs ministry thing and it crystallised some of my thinking. I think a lot of what determines our definition does come down to intention (as Tim and others have suggested in comments).

We celebrated the life of Vincent de Paul today and in leading our prayers I found myself seeking that we should all, like Vincent de Paul serve Christ in serving others and serve others as though we serve Christ. That’s what I do, I hope. That is my intention. It just so happens that what I do happens to be working with young people. I guess that makes it ministry.

If we intend to serve God in what we do that could arguably make it ministry whether or not what we do is formal or informal education, worship planning and leading, playing games, chilling or chatting.

I know this definition speaks against quite a lot of all the academic thinking about it but sometimes it’s all much simpler than the complex theories. Well it is to me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Flower Power

So it was my turn to do the flowers in the Lady Chapel again last week. I was only slightly unnerved about how my final creation would be viewed after Dave's cartoon in the Church Times last week about flowers (ok that link points you to one about coffee but I can't find the flowers one now!)

Anyway here are the flowers...

Please interpret as to which Old Testament prophet, concept of salvation or parable story it symbolises for you!!! ;oP

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Chair in History

I had the delight and the pleasure last week of hosting Rowan and our friend Dave (who I met in Taize two years ago and finally got to know kinda nearly properly this summer!) to a coffee in Wycombe. Unfortunately as Rowan wasn't too well she had to go for a Dr's appointment which left me to show Dave the delights of Wycombe!

He records his reactions to our great local attractions. Though I must tell people that it is so much more than "a museum about somewhere the size of a large teapot "! Shocking slur on Wcyombian heritage.

Anyone else wanting to sample the delights of Hamilton Tours round the town, the church (you nearly mentioned it, Dave!!) and the Wycombe Museum (formerly known as The Chair Museum and visited by me as a primary school pupil EVERY YEAR!!!) should make enquiries via the comments section!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Youth work or Youth Ministry

I was at a meeting about being a fieldwork tutor for CYM today and the topic of Youthwork/Youth Minsitry came up. This is a topic that Agent K and I were discussing last night because of some stuff we're writing about women in youth ministry. The question is can we use the phrase youth work as a straight alternative for youth ministry jst to bring some variety to our vocabulary or are the things distinctly and definitely different?

Well we concluded that all youth ministers can be called youth workers but not all youth workers can be called youth ministers as some youth workers do a purely secualr job. However, if a Christian is employed as a youth worker even in a secular setting can their work not still be also their minsitry? I know that when I was a university lecturer my life was my ministry yet it wasn't my JOB to be in ministry. Nevertheless that didn't stop my job being part of my life ministry.

Well today at CYM we were talkng about the placements and competencies and all that kind of stuff and it was made clear that for the additional placement which CYM students undertake (the non-church placement) there was no requirement for the students to o a theological reflection. In fact it was discouraged to demonstrate the difference between the two settings.

Now I know that in statutory youth work, Christians are not there to evangelise and should not do so as if it were part of their job description yet in the very fact of BEING a Christian they are evangelising in part. They are sharing their life and their journey and example with people. I found it difficult that theological reflection only applied to specifically CHURCH MINISTRY. I would encourage all people to reflect theologically about all aspects of their life in whatever they do for a living or for relaxation. Otherwise we're in danger of keping our faith just to Sundays.


This has turned into more of a discussion than I meant from me. I was intending to point peopel to so much more coherent thoughts about the subject from Mr Youthblog and his readers, Tim S, anybody else like to suggest some thoughts?

Box clever

TOTALLY cool site couresy of a link from Ben Bell.

I just love em. Craft section for next youth group SORTED !!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Scary thought

So the new set of teenagers at the Romance Academy were offered a slightly easier deal than the original twelve. They only had to give up sex for the last remaining month of the scheme.

A month that's not so long is it...??

Well how about two months? Could you give it up for two months??

I'm not talking about sex now... I'm talking about blogging.

COULD you NOT BLOG for two months. I know I could really but I also know I wouldn't WANT to.

Well there is a new phenomenon out there which could force you to do JUST THAT...

Check out the Blog Thunderdome which Peter flagged up. Anyone up for defending Christian/Youthwork blogging's honour by stepping up for this???

I know I'm not - yes I AM A WUSS!! This has never been disputed!!!

No sex please _We're_ teenagers... you're not!

Watched the final episode of No Sex please we're teenagers yesterday. Again Richard has a good summary. (Update Chris has thoughts too!)

I thought this last episode showed the youth work side of it all much better than the first two episodes did. There was a brilliant example of empowerment as Dan and Rachel got two of the Romance Academy to introduce a new set of teenagers to the concept to abstinence and invited the new group to make the pledge. The fantastic thing was that, although the young leaders had a bit of a stumbling start, they actually got a much better response from their new group and even went into much deeper discussion about "what is sex" than Dan and Rachel had managed with the first group as the leaders wisely acknowledged themselves.

Brilliantly for those of us who are in youth ministry or youth work and don't look quite as young and trendy as Dan and Rachel, the young people showed last night that it doesn't matter how young you are or how young you look as an adult leader you still are, as the teenagers said, "like two hundred years older than us!"

Nuntii Latini

It is a curious thing when you spend a long time not hearing about something or someone or somewhere and then suddenly you hear about it TWICE in one day.

Yesterday for me this thing was FINLAND.

Firstly Ben and I were talking about youth work in Finland as he's being an international jetsetter. Then, in my regular tour around the blogosphere, I caught this at Barky's blog and it reminded me of the VERY bizarre fact that Finland has a LATIN RADIO STATION (together with Latin website!) because it is the one common language of some of the more remote parts of the country - WEIRDNESS!!

I still imagine it as being Cicero on the brakfast show and Virgil in the chatty afternoon slot... but maybe that's just me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What... me?

Doesn't sound like me at all does it? Thanks to Jo for the link to this

Global Personality Test Results
Stability (50%) medium which suggests you average somewhere in between being calm and resilient and being anxious and reactive.
Orderliness (36%) moderately low which suggests you are, at times, overly flexible, improvised, and fun seeking at the expense of reliability, work ethic, and long term accomplishment.
Extraversion (83%) high which suggests you are overly talkative, outgoing, sociable and interacting at the expense too often of developing your own individual interests and internally based identity.

trait snapshot:
messy, outgoing, open, self revealing, ambivalent about chaos, unpredictable, not good at saving money, social, likes large parties, likes to stand out, risk taker, quick to make friends, does not like to be alone, rash, fame seeking, sarcastic, craves attention, social chameleon, low self control, food lover, not rule conscious, weird, assertive, not a perfectionist, anti-authority, thrill seeker, vain, likes to fit in, reckless, emotionally sensitive, leisurely, trusting

Take Free Global Personality Test
personality tests by

Monday, September 19, 2005

Oxonian youth network

Well the Oxford Diocesan Full Timers network lived up to it's Oxford name today with a gentle bit of elegant punting...

Firstly we all listened to instructions from Mr Macdonald (looking far too much like a Geography teacher leading a field trip in his ever-so-dapper new jacket!)

Now this makes it look like Simo did LOTS of punting... Not so but then he admits that himself!

Fortunately, Yvonne wasn't with us all the way so she didn't get to see any of the following great moments...

Me nearly falling off the punt because they kept making me laugh (especially Kathryn with her non-working watch)

Our punt driving on of the other punts into the bank - oops Sorry!

A perfect 180 degree turn around ... followed by a bit more of a 90 degree turn around!

Our close encounter of the thorny kind with the brambles at the edge... well we were able to pick some LOVELY blackberries but we didn't need our hair combing THAT closely!

Our punt did SO well that Ian had to pay an extra 15 minutes for us... oh dear... and apparently you could hear our giggling quite a long way off!!

Fabulous day.

Great to meet some of the CYM students based in the diocese and to catch up with some old hands too!

When the call comes...

Fantastic moment at Choral envensong last night.

Was it the unnervingly discordant anguish filled kyrie from Clucas' responses?

Was it the fabulous trio in Purcell's Rejoice in the Lord Alway?

Was it singing As Pants the Hart to the folk song tune?


Those were wonderful and spirit filled moments.

No the moment that ALL will remember from last night will be the moment during the reading of the New Testament.

One of our churchwardens (yes, really!) was reading Paul's account before Festus of his conversion on the road to Damascus.

Yet it wasn't only Paul who received THE CALL...

No the churchwarden's mobile went off with the FABULOUSLY inappropriate "Hello Moto" ring tone.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Workers in the Vineyard

The Gospel reading this morning and it reminded me (and one of my young people too - yay) of my talk about it a couple of years ago. First of all we used a sketch called “Workers’ Rights” from (Stephen Deal, Making Waves) which was pretty funny then I talked about the passage.

We’ve chosen this story today because it is one which moves people. I happen to know it is one which moves many people, I’ve spoken to at All Saints and in other churches. It moves us to question God. It’s one of the parables of Jesus that I know makes many people grumble just a little. We don’t feel comfortable with this whole concept of it not being fair.

And the sketch we just saw explores that very well:

It doesn’t seem right: People who do fewer hours work should be paid less than those who do a whole day’s work.

It goes against our human nature to treat people like the vineyard owner treated his labourers. Is it because we feel we’re the labourers who’ve been there since early in the morning. We come to church, maybe every week or every month or even every day and part of us looks to those who come less often and maybe feels a little proud that we go more than they do. And from that pride might come a resentment if we’ve put all this effort in and yet we are still treated as someone who’s only walked into church for the first time this morning.

We are judging God’s decision to love us from our very human perspective. Just as Job was rebuked for questioning God in our first reading so we are rebuked for questioning our concept of what is fair for these labourers and of course therefore what is fair for us.

The message of this parable is simple:

God isn’t fair.

Fairness of this kind is a concept which is of the world not of God.

If God were fair we would get what we deserve.

But God doesn’t give us what we deserve. Through Grace and through his enduring love he gives us everything we need no matter whether we deserve it or not.

God loves us

I think this story was for those followers of Jesus who had become a little bit complacent. Who like the rich young man had ticked off the list of all the good things he was doing and all the bad things he wasn’t doing and thought to himself. Good religious life – sorted.

Some people might say, well if God loves us, why do we have to bother trying to be good? We could just do whatever we want and then convert at the last minute and still be fine. As long as you know when that last minute is of course.

Well the god who loves us would smile at that.

Hopefully we try to be good for our own sakes, for the sake of others not for some kind of reward.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Xp Chillout worship

This evening the chillout worship with young people was inspired by part of the text worship at Greenbelt. The text worship involved all sorts of different things including making an origami dove. Last Sunday, the young people and I decided to use other forms of paper folding as well as part of our worship.

I include my notes for it here. It gives you a taste of what happened though it's tricky to give a full picture. The music is generally played at the same time as the words are read unless stated. I'll try and get some pictures up soon. It's posisble that you might want to use some of the ideas. Please feel free to do so. I only ask that you let me know how it works.

MUSIC: Christophe Goze, About Us (6.22)
Find yourself a comfortable place and prepare to worship.
Jesus invites each one of us to come to him. The invitation is there as it was for the woman at the well.

He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon. A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God
and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water." The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?" Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst - not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life." (John 4:4-26 from The Message)

So I invite you to make that step to make ready to accept Jesus.

In making the cup out of BLUE OR PINK PAPER think about preparing to worship and take a drink from the pool

The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!" …He said, " You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming - it has, in fact, come - when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. God is sheer being itself - Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration." The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story." "I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."

During this track I want you to imagine all the things in your life that are confusing you, the things that stop your life from being smooth, not only outside pressure but all those things that you do that make your life less than God would want them to be.

MUSIC: Evanescence, Bring me to Life (3.57)

These things are storms in our lives. We often feel our lives are blown about by all kinds of things. Jesus offers us that boat to sail through them

Late that day he said to them, "Let's go across to the other side." They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, "Teacher, is it nothing to you that we're going down?"

Write these things on the piece of RED paper.

We make them into a boat and float them in the pool.

Then knowing about it all about all those things Jesus can take them from us, can bring calm to our storm.

MUSIC: Plaza, Beach Drifter (4.00)

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, "Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: "Why are you such cowards? Don't you have any faith at all?" They were in absolute awe, staggered. "Who is this, anyway?" they asked. "Wind and sea at his beck and call!" (from The Message)

Jesus took away the storm from the disciples and can take away our storms. Jesus can be with us through the storms

The early church remembered Jesus with the symbol of the fish because the Greek work icthus could be spelled by the first letters of the Greek words “Jesus Christ Son of God, Saviour.”

What does Jesus say to you.

As we listen to this track, listen for his call as you make the fish out of COLOURED paper

MUSIC: Moby, Down Slow 1.34

We use a prayer for Growth from The Book of Uncommon Prayer

MUSIC: Zero 7 “Up with people” 5.29

When God takes all our troubles away and speaks to us we can dream dreams and ask him to make them true for us

During this track, write your dreams on the piece of a4 WHITE paper and we will let them fly.

MUSIC: Zero 7 When it Falls (5.30)

We then make the pieces of paper into paper planes and fly them across the church

Then asking God to make the dreams fly not just in the human material way but in God’s way, we invite the Holy Spirit to Guide us.

Think about the your dreams the things you want. We ask God for the things WE want but sometimes his answer is not yes but sounds like no. The answer so often is in fact “Why do you ask for that? There is something so much better.” Pray about your dreams and what God wants for you as we listen to this track

MUSIC: Delirious?, Sanctify (4.13)

As we listen to this track
Adiemus, Cantus Iteratus (6.40)

We take the white piece of paper and make it into a dove, remembering the Holy Spirit as a dove:

‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."’
Open your ears, God, to my prayer; don't pretend you don't hear me knocking. Come close and whisper your answer. I really need you. at the mean voice, quail before the evil eye, As they pile on the guilt, stockpile angry slander. My insides are turned inside out; spectres of death have me down. I shake with fear, I shudder from head to foot. "Who will give me wings," I ask - "wings like a dove?" Get me out of here on dove wings; I want some peace and quiet. I want a walk in the country, I want a cabin in the woods. I'm desperate for a change from rage and stormy weather. (Psalm 55:1-8 1 from The Message)

Focussing on the doves we say together

Friday, September 16, 2005

This Never Happened Before

Well I don't think this one speaks to me about my present ... hmmm... but maybe the future?

I'm very sure, this never happened to me before
I met you and now I'm sure
This never happened before

Now I see, this is the way it's supposed to be
I met you and now I see
This is the way it should be

This is the way it should be, for lovers
They shouldn't go it alone
It's not so good when your on your own

So come to me, now we can be what we want to be
I love you and now I see
This is the way it should be
This is the way it should be

This is the way it should be, for lovers
They shouldn't go it alone
It's not so good when your on your own

I'm very sure, this never happened to me before
I met you and now I'm sure
This never happened before (This never happened before)
This never happened before (This never happened before)
This never happened before (This never happened before)
This never happened before

Lyrics provided by

Follow Me

When I first heard this an saw the lyrics it struck me so much. It really speaks of God's call. I know thatis probably a subjective reading of it but iI can only look from where I am!

You lift up my spirits, you shine on my soul
Whenever I'm empty, you make me feel whole
I can rely on you, to guide me through, any situation
You hold up a sign that reads, follow me.

You give me direction, you show me the way
You give me a reason, to face every day
I can depend on you, to send me to, any destination
You hold up a sign that reads, follow me, follow me.

Down the track of lonelines, down the path of love
Through the words of heartache, to the end
On the shores of sorrow, where the waves of hope crash in
The perfect place for me to find a friend. ahh yeah yeah yeah, oh

You lead to places, that I've never been
Uncovering secrets, that I've never seen
I can rely on you, to guide me through, any situation
You hold up a sign that reads, follow me, follow me,
Follow me, follow me,
Follow me, follow me

Lyrics provided by

Too much rain

Should have listened to this one yesterday! There was too much rain in SO many ways!

Laugh, when your eyes are burning
Smile, when your heart is filled with pain

Sigh, as you brush away your sorrow
Make a vow, that's it's not going to happen again

It's not right, in one life
Too much rain

You, know the wheels keep turning
Why, do the tears run down your face

We, use to hide away our feelings
But for now, tell yourself it won't happen again

It's not right, in one life
Too much rain

It's too much for anyone, Too hard for anyone
Who wants a happy and peaceful life
You've gotta learn to laugh

(guitar solo)
Smile, when your spinning round and round
Sigh, as you think about tomorrow
Make a vow, that your gonna be happy again

It's all right, in your life
No more rain

It's too much for anyone, Too hard for anyone
Who wants a happy and peaceful life
You've gotta learn to laugh

Lyrics provided by

At the mercy

This one really speaks to me of our busy rush "oppressed" lives and how we can get support from others through love and of course from God.

At the mercy, at the mercy
At the mercy of a busy road,
Who can handle such a heavy load?

At the mercy, At the mercy
At the mercy of a busy day,
We can think of nothing more to say

If you show me love, I won't refuse
I know you'd never make me choose
Between the love I've got and the love I'd lose

Sometimes I'd rather run and hide,
Then stay and face the fear inside

At the mercy, at the mercy
At the mercy of a busy day,
Who can bear to turn their head away?

At the mercy, at the mercy
At the mercy of a busy road
We can watch the universe explode


If you take me up, I won't say no
I guess you'd rather see me grow
Into a better man than the one you know

Sometimes my head is hanging low
It's time to get on with the show

At the mercy, at the mercy
At the mercy of a busy day
I can think of nothing more to say

Lyrics provided by

Macca my day!

I gave into temptation on Tuesday as I was in Oxford and "just popped" into the HMV store as I walked back to the bus stop after a meeting. This temptation led to the purchase of Paul McCartney's new album. I had hear da few of the tracks and already knew I would love it.

I just have to share with you some of the great lyrics of this great man. I really think he's showing a depth of spirituality on this album.

Fortunately as there are people out there with more time for such things I got these online! You can hear bits of the tracks and see all the lyrics there as well as read an interview with Paul McCartney about the album.

I've selected a few songs and will post these as individual posts.

Finding Neverland

Well as I was down yesterday it gave me the perfect opportunity to watch Finding Neverland which I have been wanting to see for ages but which my friend had BANNED me from seeing because it would upset me too much. Yesterday I thought - well... why not?

It was a fabulous film. Yes TISSUES are now on my shopping list and the overall impression of the film is certainly tinged with much sorrow. Yet it is not a depressing film. It is a weepy film but it retains a positive response to the tragic events which are central to much of the story.

Much like the film MILLIONS which I saw early in the summer, and Big Fish from last year, Finding Neverland demonstrates how the use of imagination and creativity can help deal with difficult things in life like death and grieving.

Johnny Depp is just amazing as the real Peter Pan; a mature writer who just refuses to grow up and pretends his dog is a performing bear and plays pirates with four brothers who have lost their father. Obviously Johnny Depp (with delightful Scottish accent) is a bonus for all the female audience but it is in fact his fantastic performance as J. M. Barrie which makes this film as wonderful as it is.

Great collage here

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rainy Day

"Should I drive to work or just hail a passing gondola?"
- Frasier wisdom for a gloomy day.

Gloomy because of rain (the first autumnal day).

Gloomy because my bestest just flew across the Atlantic for 10 days.

Gloomy because I got up early to see her off and I HATE mornings.


Today the artwork of one of my young people is right:

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

No Sects please

I remembered to tape Episode 2 of No Sex please we're teenagers which followed the continuing development of the Romance Academy. Richard has beaten me to talking about it again but there are still a few things that truck me.

The first was the way that the programme demonstrated how the teenagers themselves came to be really articulate about the impact being part of the academy had on them. They spoke both to a group at Stowe school and also each of them spoke to individuals that they knew (friends and siblings). However the programme demonstrated what can happen when we try to push young people in at the deep end too much with talking about things to a group. Don't get me wrong I think it is great that the academy aims to use young people who ahve been through the academy as leaders of new groups in the academy. Yet I think the young people had not got to a point when they could talk to a group of their own peers. There was that awful moment that anyone who's been in youth work for some time knows only too well. The group just closed down and SAT. They wouldn't speak. I really felt for Dan and Rachel. It's a horrible thing when the group dynamic just clams up.

I just think it was too soon for them and I think we can sometimes do this with young people and faith issues; expect thejm to be able to speak to their friends about their faith when that faith is still just bigger than a mustard seed. Yes that faith has the potential to grow into a great tree but I think it does need more feeding from others mature in the faith before it can encourage growth in others.

I hope that Dan and Rachel were able to look at what the young people from the original Academy said at Stowe and remember THAT instead of the stilted conversation they had with the potential new members. One of the girls spoke so well about how through abstinence she had come to relaise that relationships are about talking and getting to know the person. I would have been SO PROUD if one of my young people had said something like that (actually I WAS really proud of one of my young people who spoke last night to our Mission and Outreach group about what Bible study CAN be like and how it can be relevant - he rocked! I nearly blubbed with pride!)

One part of the programme I particularly like was when Dan and Rachel were talking to someone official (wasn't paying enough attention to work out who the guy was) about why their scheme had show success. He wanted them to say what their PLAN and STRATEGY had been. Rachel explained that thye had been very open to the project being organic and growing with the group rather than following a strict calendar of events. They man responded yes but the scheme has shown some success and we want to know how we can help other schemes learn from it. COuld he not hear it? it was BECAUSE the Romance Academy had allowed for organic growth and NOT stuck to a predeterminded format that it had worked. THAT was the lesson to be learned!

Blogs updated

Two new additions to the blogroll.

The welcome return of that Mad Blonde One who promises to update more regularly now and the new kid on the blog is Dave who I met in Taize and converted to Blogging!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Young at heart

Today I saw someone I haven't seen in 10 years. I had lunch with Mike who used to be curate at my church. A fabulous blast from the past. It felt just like it did when we used to chat before. Even though SO much has happened in our respective lives since we saw each other last it relaly felt like it had only been a few months not TEN YEARS!

This was in fact the third time recently I've seen someone who I haven't seen for that long. It makes me feel rather ancient that there can be ANYONE I haven't seen in that long a time. TEN YEARS!!! I mean it's FOREVER! I must have reached that age where such things are trully possible.

There is a silver lining to this ageing cloud though. Mike said "Goodness, you haven't changed a bit!" and that was also the reaction of Jane (who I was at school with and saw on Sunday!) and Steve (who I was on a youth committee with as a teen and met at Greenbelt).

It's rather gratifying to think that I haven't aged much and that people can't believe I'm 30 and yet it does rather make me wonder JUST how OLD I looked when I was younger!!!

Interestingly Mike had been hearing that morning at his conference about time and relativity and I think we both had real difficulty believing so MUCH time had passed since we last chatted over a glass of wine.

Part of me thinks I have changed a lot from the forthright sixthformer he knew but in fact I have in so many ways become the person I was and am and will be. In growing I seem to become more consolidated as myself. In changing I seem to reinforce the stability of my character.

le plus ca change le plus c'est le meme chose

This is rather reassuring to me as I've been facing a lot of self-evaluation recently as a result of all kinds of things which have happened this summer (some of which I've blogged about, some of which I've not, to be honest!) about where I am, where my spirituaity is, what my concept of church is, what my calling is, what my natural style of worship is. I'd been feeling that many of these have changed because of a broadening experience and yet in so many ways it has consolidated my eclecticism (if that is possible and not too oxymoronic!)

While I'm busy pondering what God has planned for me in the coming days, weeks, months and years, I realise God has been nudging me gently towards things anyway! Instead of looking for the WRITING ON THE WALL or some thunderbolt, I simply need to listen to what is going on inside and what is going on around me and most importantly to wait patiently on the Lord.

Reminds me of one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE bits of Shakespeare from Hamlet:

If it be now, 'tis not to come.
If it be not to come, it will be now.
If it be not now, yet it will come.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sublime:ridiculous ratio

Ok so I blog about deep issues like the spirituality of blogging, the meaning of the Eucharist, the accessibility of worship to young people not used to church and much more and you read with some appreciation. I blog about jaffa cakes and you all go comment crazy!!!

I love you guys!

Nevertheless I am officially a SPIRITUAL PERSON (hehe!) according to a posting that gave me a link to a THESIS on blogging. Think on, eh? Here's what it's all about apparently


This study explores the patterns of blogging, blogging motivations, and the roles of motivations as well as demographics as predictors for blogging behavior. Six aspects of blogging behaviors are examined: 1) how bloggers cover topics in writing; 2) how bloggers manage feedbacks from readers; 3) how bloggers use hyperlinks; 4) how bloggers present themselves; 5) how bloggers expect readership; 6) how bloggers use design elements.

Seven motivations for blogging emerge in this research: self-documentation, improving writing, self-expression, medium appeal, information, passing time, and socialization. Except for passing time, all the other six motivations were highly approved by bloggers. Most of those motivations are moderately correlated.

Overall, certain motivations are found to be related with specific usage of blogs. Self-documentation is a predictor of feedback management, self-presentation, and readership expectation. Improving writing motivation works as a predictor for self-presentation and readership expectation. Self-expression predicts self-presentation, readership expectation, and design elements use. Medium appeal motivation predicts self-presentation. Information motivation predicts feedback management, use of hyperlinks, self-presentation, readership expectation, and design elements. Passing time motivation predicts self-presentation, design elements, and readership expectation. Socialization motivation predicts use of hyperlinks, self-presentation, and readership expectation.

Gender differences were located in many aspects of blogging. Men claim higher approval of information motivation while women endorse self-documentation, self-expression, and passing time more.

Other than gender, age also plays a role in motivating people to blog. Motivations as self-documentation, self-expression, and passing time have a negative relationship with age. Educational level was found no connection with specific blogging motivations.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Oranges are the only fruit

After the less than perfect sermon last week I was pretty pleased with myself yesterday after a good talk to the young people at our youth club. As you know, I'd been wracking my brains about what to do to talk about community but I came up with something pretty special.

Firstly I talked about our community at our youth group and how we would be having a chance to discuss that further with some of the young people talking about their experiences of being in community. I said that the community was about the coming together of individuals and becoming something more. It was about sharing and growing from what we are as individuals to a community together.

Then I asked:

"Who'd like an Orange?" quite a few hands shot up and I gave away around 8 oranges.

Then I asked:

"Apart from those who already have oranges... Who'd like some cake?" Lots of hands shoot up ths time and a few of those with oranges make slight objections along the lines of "I din't know there'd be cake!" Of course there were some who preferred the orange anyway (and some who loudly proclaimed that they did but were probably kicking themselves realy, bless em!)

I looked around the circle of people with cake and grinning faces and some people with oranges with grinning faces and a couple of decidedly grumpy faces of people with oranges.

Then I asked
"Apart from those of you who already have oranges and cake..." slight groan from some of the cake people, slight grins from those who had oranges with a note of "aaaah so u haven't go the best deal after all, hah!"

"Apart from thos people, who'd like some chocolate?" MUCH grinning on the part of those sensile enough to hold out! LOTS of objection from people with oranges and some form people with cake.

So I let them eat what they had and I said:

"The thing is that oranges and cake and chocolate are all great things. Each one of you is like cake or orange or chocolate. You're all great. Yet as great as oranges, cake and chocolate are on their own, when they come together they can be something SO much better..."

A certain hush descends...

I bring out a plain cardboard box and say:
"Just as when each of us come together to form our youth group so when you put together oranges, cake and chocolate you can get: JAFFA CAKES"


"And because Jaffa cakea are what you get when you put together oranges, cake and chocolate... everybody gets one!"


A slight tip of the hat to Wayne Grewcock who suggested the Jaffa cake as a symbol of the Holy Trinity at his session at Greenbelt.

Youth Task group revisited

Well having posted the last "minutes" of our youth task group I got a complaint from the young people that the meeting we had last Tuesday hadn't featured on here yet so here you go.

Again it shows that you can get the business done and still have fun (ok you can get lots of the business done and still have fun!!)

Youth Task group minutes
Meeting Tuesday 6th September!

1. Plan pulse
September 10th : Usual pulse TALK theme?
COMMUNITY: Bens little world
Local : Fresh noise, VIP’s Ben and Oliver come in and talk
Youth holiday
October 8th: Cocktails TALK theme?
November 5th TALK theme?
Hard questions
December 18th TALK theme?
New Begining
No drumming, again may vote at pulse : Drumming =] ;)
Drumming is cool
me me mi mo
Theme park is going to die
Bowling at the us air base
Santa does not live underground
Good ideas of letting people leave when they want to
They do anyway, this is to do with the discussion
Having a discussion afterwards, voluntarily
“you really need to listen to me when im telling you that im Okay now, Trust me, Im NOT Okay….”
Youth doing testimonials, in the Discussion time
Sarah need the kiss of life she cant breathe
2. Finalise film nights
News Flash: Sarah is not just the grinch she is a monster too!
15th October, Hey im going to space that day
This Anomolus guy need a card
9th November :: Sarahs gunna get hitched
10th December
• Kingdom of heaven
• Robots
• Charlie and the chocolate factory
• NOT Madagaska

3. Budget issues
Video Projector
Buy from ebay when we have the money

Omd theres a cockroach walking across the floor
This place is discusting
I mean who is spost to be cleaning this place?
4. Sort Xp Band thing for 22nd October
Names for XP band thingy

Logoable, and funkyable
New XP
XP Update
Bens old band names “against the clock?”

5. Need to find a date for mural painting
22nd October mebe
6. Another Weekend away PLEASE
My eye hurts, gimmi some pot doc
March 3rd - 5th Brandham ??
7. Sounds of salvation
Ska Mass

Friday, September 09, 2005

Come Unity

Ok so I'm trying to work out my talk/godslot for the youthgroup tomorrow. I know I want to talk about community and I have this niggling idea firmly lodged at the back of my mind but it's not coming out yet. It's getting there. In fact it's kinda formulating as I type. However in my searches I found this rather nice reflection:

First Century Christianity

Gibbon concluded that Christianity in the first century flourished for 5 reasons: (1) their intolerant religious zeal, (2) doctrine of immortality of the soul, (3) miraculous power, (4) pure morals, (5) unity and discipline. Justin referred to many who have, "changed their violent and tyrannical disposition, being overcome either by the constancy which they have witnessed in the lives of their Christian neighbors, or by the extraordinary forbearance they have observed in their Christian fellow travelers when defrauded, and by the honesty of those believers with whom they have transacted business."
Source unknown

Rather a challenging view of it all for our own comunities.

Phil has been talking about Mission and how we can be missional by the witness and worship of our communities. Richard has similarly been blogging about the emerging church. I have to admit to being rather humbled by the eloquence and thoroughness of their discussions on it. I know I should read round these things more and then I might get it a bit more but I find myself distracted by many things (Yes I can be too Martha-like!) and don't read as much wisdom on this as I should.

I've been reflecting on it all and thinking about how I can start realising our vision for this year with our youthwork at All Saints':

To empower leaders, especially young leaders and NEW leaders
To focus on discipleship
To be missional in our work

All motherhood and apple pie stuff as a friend of mine would say (and in fact maybe he did!) but I do truly believe this must be at the heart of what we're about in our youth work at All Saints'. In fact I forget it myself all too often and get sucked into STUFF. Particularly relevant as I try and work out how to talk about the importance of community with our young people who come from fairly disparate backgrounds nowadays.

And I've got it. The idea has crystallised and I can't believe I didn't think about it before. JAFFA CAKES! Hurrah!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I am not Dave Gorman

In the rush of the return to the office for the new term I totally forgot to mark the first anniversary of Deep Thought - scary biscuits!

Anyway in honour of the occasion and as I have spotted that quite a few people have recently found the blog by searching for my name (not sure whether to be pleased or freaked by this!) I thought I'd do a quick resume of Deep Thought and its author so far.

My name is Sarah Hamilton.
I am a Christian.
I am a Youth worker.
I am British.
I live in High Wycombe.
I have been in the press because of a Christmas poster the local library wouldn't let us put up. (even in the Korean news!)

I am not
the Sarah Hamilton who works at Exeter University (though from my time in academia we have a few mutual friends and I understand she is a lovely person... just not me!)

I am not
the Sarah Hamilton who has a mathematics website. Scary thought!

I am not
the Sarah Hamilton who was a great coach at a recent holiday camp though I have worked on holiday camps and they never gave me coach of the week. I'm not bitter. Me? No! (hehe!)

I am not
the Sarah Hamilton who plays water polo at college level. ok I can jump around vaguely convincingly (and more often amusingly badly!) in a pool at Yellow Braces and on our youth holiday but... no really??? ... come ON!!!

Nor am I the Sarah Hamilton I was at school with whom I can't find on the internet.


I am the Sarah Hamilton who a year (and two days) ago decided to start writing some vague ponderings and ideas down and who can't believe that this has merited me a place on the first page of google! Though modesty is preserved by the fact that today someone else (with clearly LOTS of time on their hands surely!?!) searched for SARAH on google and I didn't feature until page 85!

More on sex and teenagers

As I thought, lots more people saw more of this than I did and there are some comprehensive thoughts from Richard . I'll add more links as I find them.

Update: Tractor girl also has some thoughts on this programme.

Agent K is annoyingly erudite, well-observed and cogent on the subject - why can't I have thoughts that well developed at the moment?!

Update: Chris has also now posted on this programme.

I'm now REALLY hoping to see it on video sometime.

To err is human

Not having a great day today.

Have mucked up a couple of things totally my fault and completely KICKING myself over them. Nothing disastrous, nothing vital to national security but I just HATE making mistakes.

All of them are surmountable but it's just rubbish really. bleurgh!

This is the holistic thing of blogging. Smetimes life is not perfect!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

No sex please we're teenagers

Annoyingly I missed mos tof this because I forgot to set the video and only got back from our Youth Council meeting at 9.45

Anybody tape it so I can watch the whole thing? Anyone got any deeper ideas about the show as a whole?

However I was in time to see three girls talking about the service they went to in the US and it gave me some hope for our relatively plain, down to earth Anglican services. They said that a church in England was ok cos it was "like all on the sheet and stuff" but the US service was "too much. It's like jumping in the deep end when you don't really know how to swim"

They felt uncomfortable with the hands in the air arm waving and felt like giggling so left before they upset people. A challenge to us then...

How do we invite young people who have never been to church to our services?

How do we help them not to be embarrassed in such circumstances?


Quick one as the first PROPER day back in the office is incredibly hectic.

Pictures of the annual wiblog gathering at Greenbelt are up here. Have a look.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Sermon 4th September

Ok so this, as usual, is what I had written down. I'm totally certain this is not exactly what I said because I restructured it several times in my mind before I delivered it! In fact I was a little disappointed in myself this morning. Sermon started well but I lost my flow and bumbled through the last couple of minutes. grrr. We all have to have off days I suppose!

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
An amazing statement.

We’re rather more than two or three this morning. Yet over the past weeks many of us will have been away from our usual habits and practices, away from work or school or whatever we’re usually used to doing. We may not have been at church so often this summer. I know I certainly haven’t been at All Saints’ very much at all since July as I have been away with groups of young people to Taize and on our own youth holiday as well as at Greenbelt last weekend for my own holiday.

However even though I have been away from my regular church going routine, I’ve been gathered together with fellow Christians; sometimes in twos and threes sometimes in vast crowds.

Jesus doesn’t say
For where two or three are gathered in my name,
…that’s very nice
Or For where two or three are gathered in my name,
… it’s not quite the same but it’s almost church
No Jesus says
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
All it requires of us is to come into community in his name and God does the rest. God promises to be present if we come together into community. What matters is the intention.

Of course, many people have experience of meeting God on their own and their personal prayer life is one which is important for them. Some, though demonstrably not the people here, don’t see the need to come to church. “I can be a Christian at home.” There are many ways of seeking God in private devotion, through reading, prayer, bible study, music, meditation and these are things which God does want us to be doing. Yet this is not all it is to be a Christian. In this Gospel today, Jesus is telling his disciples for the need for community. He first tells them how to deal with arguments, because unfortunately it is part of human nature that we come together and will disagree. I can’t help but think there is a slight touch of humour when Jesus says;
If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my father in heaven.
This is not about individual devotion but about community.

at this point I have to admit I nicked some wisdom from the blogosphere:
There are those who fear that in community, the individuals will be washed away. But in reality, the opposite is the case. It is only in a community, one with another, that we discover who we really our. Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father..." not "My Father..."

In Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome, which we also heard today, He hastily summarises the laws, the big stuff and moves swiftly on to the actual stuff of community. “Love your neighbour as yourself”

Community for Paul is not an option of Christianity, it’s what it’s all about.
Paul’s letter speaks to me a lot for this morning. He is telling the people at Rome that they KNOW what it is that they should be doing and yet he also knows that they need telling.

Standing up here in front of the church community and teaching about the bible is something I love doing but sometimes I do find it hard to get the words right.
I think today is partly one of those days because I know one of the things I want to talk to you about it one of those topics that can make people uncomfortable.

Approaching the subject of how much people pray or read their bibles is a tricky business. I remember being asked, as a young person, to share how often we read the bible, how often we prayed. This is not what I want people to do this morning.

So few people ever feel that they spend enough time reading their Bible or praying and yet people are often wary of asking for help and guidance as it might show that they don’t know. A person could spend a lifetime doing nothing but contemplating God, reading the scriptures and praying and they still would not be doing ENOUGH. They would still not fully comprehend or understand God. The point is, it is not for us to DO enough.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
As part of our vision at All Saints about being a Christian community we said that we wanted to focus on discipleship.

This is the first step towards doing that. It’s not a test for you. In fact I think it is more likely to be a test for the Pastoral team : those of us who are responsible for teaching you about faith!

You have a piece of paper in front of you with questions on. These are, primarily to help you think and reflect. We have also given you the option of asking for further information and if you would like us to let you know about some resources we can give you or groups we might be starting then you can write your name and contact details on the back but you don’t need to.

Learn about the Bible through talks / lectures / discussion.
Learn about the History of the Church through talks / lectures / discussion.
Discussion of Church issues with a group
Discussion of the Bible with a group
Prayer in a group
Daily Bible reading
Daily Bible reading with study notes
Daily Prayer in private
Daily Prayer in a group

This is the time to reflect and take stock
As our old testament reading said:
This month shall mark for you the beginning of months.
It is a time for the new term and new beginnings.

I know people make new year’s resolutions but often I find that September is the time when people take stock and think afresh about things. So now, many of us will have put our holidays behind us and be looking ahead.

What will you resolve to do?

Wholly communion

When I was at Greenbelt I went to three very different services of Holy Communion and combined with some of the stuff from the liturgy week with SAOMC at the beginning of the summer (was it only that long ago? feels like an eternity!) I've been reflecting a lot about how we do Holy Communion.

I'm quite a traditional (though liberal), catholic Christian. I consider that in the communion service, the bread and wine becomes Christ. I'm not sure I'd say that the wine actually becomes blood and the bread becomes flesh but I know that it is utterly changed. It is different. It is special and to be treated with due reverence. This kind of traditional view of the Eucharist might seem like one that wouldn't welcome too much in the way of experimental worship. I certainly did object when there was a suggestion that we could "do a Eucharist" with doughnuts and "duff beer" at a youth event themed on the Simpsons. I can't exactly put my finger on why I'd object but I would. I wouldn't have minded people sharing doughnuts and talking about sharing of food being an import, fundamental symbol and literal enactment of companionship. In fact we did something much like that with bread at the late night worship which my friend and I led at our diocesan youth holiday recently.

I run quite a lot of alternative worship (on a small local scale) but as someone who is not ordained, this has never been Eucharistic so I was excited to go to some alt worship that was.

The first service I went to was the Marvin Gaye Service. I didn't actually know it was going to be a Eucharist (which I would say was slightly disconcerting but ok). We walked into the room and the set up (by COTA) was just amazing. Two huge rear projection screens and a long "path" of newspaper which was used in the intercessions. The service was clearly extremely well thought out and prayed through in its planning. The leaders had worked out exactly which songs would fit where in the flow of the communion service and stressed to us at the start that it was a service of listening. The sense of community was still strong and we were asked to share the peace by smiling at people for being there and making it the service that it was. I really felt a closeness to God through the listening, letting the music wash over me. In all honesty I can't really remember how much of a Eucharistic prayer there was. It was there but I can't remember how. Yet it felt right. People served each other with communion with the word "love". It worked. The service just spoke of Love and the word of communion just echoed that. The service was slick but not in a bad overdone way. It was prayerful and calming. I don't think Holy Communion could be like that every week (or as in my church, everyday) but as a special one-off specifically designed service it was excellent.

The next Holy Communion I went to was led by Sounds of Salvation a Ska band made up of young people. Their enthusiasm was positively contagious. It wasn't slick and well run like the COTA service but it had such energy to it that it didn't matter. One of the great things about it was the way they used THEIR style of music. They even adapted some well-known songs to Ska style which were just incredibly funny and funny was ok. It was still worshipful. (Fore example; my friend pointed out the great two tone stole that the priest was wearing - class!) The style of Ska does engage with sillyness and the band certainly did this in the service. Yet it wasn't derisory. It wasn't funny at the expense of God or at the expense of the service it was just funny. The bit that I found a little strange but still good was the singing of the Eucharistic prayer. As someone who has been to Choral Eucharists, this was particularly strange. It was like the way the Eucharistic Prayer is usually intoned and yet it was SO unlike it. All the words were there and even the sung elements for the people were there but in Ska style. It was genius. It was class and I will totally be taking some of mine along to one if they do one again locally which hopefully they will as they're pretty near me! The one point at which it showed very clearly that the service lacked the slickness of COTA was the distribution. It wasn't made clear what people should do. Three corners of the room did it well and formed large circles then passed the bread and the cup round but our corner was kinda random and sporadic. I had wine then bread and some people had to chase the wine to get some. However despite all of this, the fact that young people played such a key part in energising the worship, leading it, planning it and praying through it made up for so much.

The last Eucharist I went to was in many ways the most likely to be like a regular service (there was a service sheet!) yet it was also in other ways the most unlike it (the service sheet had a tree for doodling on). It was held outdoors which I found just amazing. I love some of the architecture of churches that is the backdrop for our worship and an enhancement of it but having the most perfect blue cloud filled sky as the "reredos" to our communal altar was just stunning. Everyone had been asked to bring their own bread and wine and their picnics. If I'm honest this unnerved me a touch. I didn't want the sharing of bread and wine to be confused with the sharing of snacks. However my nerves were soon appeased.

At the beginning of the service, there was a shout and a great poem (Paul talked about these) and some actions (which, if I'm honest, I could have lived without!) . The responsive reading again used a bit of humour. Then the Eucharistic Prayer was replaced by an allegorical, metaphor heavy story which I really liked. Jonny Baker is hoping to post it under worship tricks if he gets permission. The story included the recollection of Jesus' words at the last supper and at the end of the story we were encouraged to share our bread and wine. After we'd done that, some people in our circle also shared cocktail sausages and tomatoes which I thought would upset me, as there was still bread that had been consecrated there to be eaten and wine that had been consecrated to be drunk. My friend was really sympathetic to how I might be feeling and checked that I was ok with it all and I actually found that I was. I would have thought that I would have needed all the bread and wine to be eaten before the meal was eaten but actually I rather liked the fluidity of the Holy Communion with the meal. It was important to me that all the bread was consumed, was eaten and not thrown away, but it didn't matter as much as I thought it would that it should be eaten before anything else was eaten. The Communion reflection our communion as a group and I really valued that.

Three very different very alternative services of Holy Communion and three services which you couldn't recreate as a regular service of Holy Communion in a parish setting. Yet there must be something from each of them that would transfer. Something of the inegrity of preparation of COTA, the trueness to self of the young people of Sounds of Salvation, the embracing of nature and the community focus of the Sunday Eucharist. The question is how would we do that? I'm not posting an answer merely posing the question. How can special services teach us about our regular worship? How can our regular worship be special each time without necessarily varying?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Cartoon on Church

Randomly found another Christian cartoon today. Made me laugh though still not sure it's a claim I could have made! Not all the cartoons are on church stuff but there are a few hidden away!

Gregory the not so Great?

I'm just about struggling to the conclusion of writing my sermon tomorrow.

My task is to encourage the congregation to reflect on their personal devotions and their needs for learnign in their journey of faith. I've been really worried that asking people to think about daily bible study or joinign a house group or committing to a regular prayer pattern will come across as patronising or nagging and I have beenstaring at the laptop screen angst ridden about how to phrase things (ironically I will rephrase when I speak anyway but I need to have a starting point!)

So in the midst of all this fretting about my preaching tomorrow, I am called upon to read from a homily of Gregory the Great this morning at Morning Prayer (being as it is his feast day!). What do I find but a reflection on the great man's own self-doubting about his ability, authority and repsonsibility to preach!

Can you picture my colleagues' faces as I said these two sentences:

How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.


Moreover, in my position I must often communicate with worldly men. At times I let my tongue run, for if I am always severe in my judgments, the worldly will avoid me, and I can never attack them as I would. As a result I often listen patiently to chatter. And because I too am weak, I find myself drawn little by little into idle conversation, and I begin to talk freely about matters which once I would have avoided. What once I found tedious I now enjoy.

Here is the reading, though in a slightly different translation, courtesy of a blog somewhere:

Note that a man whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight.

How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.

I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgment of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. Indeed when I was in the monastery I could curb my idle talk and usually be absorbed in my prayers. Since I assumed the burden of pastoral care, my mind can no longer be collected; it is concerned with so many matters.

I am forced to consider the affairs of the Church and of the monasteries. I must weigh the lives and acts of individuals. I am responsible for the concerns of our citizens. I must worry about the invasions of roving bands of barbarians, and beware of the wolves who lie in wait for my flock. I must become an administrator lest the religious go in want. I must put up with certain robbers without losing patience and at times I must deal with them in all charity.

With my mind divided and torn to pieces by so many problems, how can I meditate or preach wholeheartedly without neglecting the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel? Moreover, in my position I must often communicate with worldly men. At times I let my tongue run, for if I am always severe in my judgments, the worldly will avoid me, and I can never attack them as I would. As a result I often listen patiently to chatter. And because I too am weak, I find myself drawn little by little into idle conversation, and I begin to talk freely about matters which once I would have avoided. What once I found tedious I now enjoy.

So who am I to be a watchman, for I do not stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weakness? Truly the all-powerful Creator and Redeemer of mankind can give me in spite of my weaknesses a higher life and effective speech; because I love him, I do not spare myself in speaking of him.
This passage spoke to me of my sermon but also of my blogging. It ties in a bit with this holistic blogging and spirituality of blogging.

Bloggers are watchmen and as such we may try to "stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weaknes"

All I have to do now is work out how to fit that lot into the sermon!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Why Write

Interesting link courtesy of WhichJo about the need to write which clues in a bit with the spirituality of blogging bit.

Have a look.

Holistic blogging

In the interest of holistic blogging, I’m including something which is very ME. It is not trendy it is not youth work related, it is not essentially demonstrating the spirituality of blogging but it is me.

My friend and I went to a prom this evening. Marvellous. Just fantastic.

Firstly we had a lovely meal in the Giraffe Café on Kensington High Street (we have plastic red giraffes from our alcohol free cocktails to prove it!) then a gentle stroll along to the Royal Albert Hall for the late night prom.

The Sixteen performed Wylkynson’s Jesus autem transiens / Credo in Deum, Cornysh’s Salve Regina and then a quartet of mellifluous wonder from Tallis: Nine Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, O nata lux, Gaude gloriosa Dei mater and the inimitable Spem in alium.

It really has been quite a week for music for me, reflecting my curiously mixed taste. The Works, Estelle, Simple Reason, Sounds of Salvation, the Marvin Gaye Service, Firefly, Jazz Jamaica, A Frank Sinatra evening and then a bit of choral heaven.

No matter how much trendy alternative worship I go to ( or indeeed run!) I still think that a well sung bit of Tallis takes some beating in given me that sense of God's kingdom on earth and renewing that still centre within me.

Another odd moment though. I knew that another friend had also booked for the concert and I met up with her to say hi but I think I also saw a guy called Giles I haven’t seen in eight years. It really has been a week for blasts from the past!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Reasons to be blogging 1, 2, 3

A bit of interestng debate has opened up about why people blog.

Following on from Andrew Jones' seminar on the spirituality of blogging, Ben Mizen responded and since then Phil Goodacre has also joined the discussion.

Today I was back in the office for the first time properly since the summer rush of youth holidays and, while balancing the budgets, planning the programme for the next twelve months, creating a questionnaire and working out what to say (or rather still not quite working out what to say) in a sermon on Sunday, I have been thinking aout why it is that I blog and is it a spiritual exercise.

Spirituality is one of those amorphous terms that can encompass everything and nothing so it can include blogging but it can equally exclude it.

Spirituality for me is about engaging with God, serving God. What I do when I blog (sometimes) is reflect on my day, on my experiences and on events in the lives of others (those I know or those elswhere in the world) and sometimes I receive feedback on these reflections via comments or via those curious, old-fashioned things called conversations!

There are also times when my blogging is just burbling. However, even in my babbling, I am me (anyone who knows me in the flesh not just in the blogsphere will attest to that one!) and therefore, according to the argument that the whole of life is spiritual, my blogging, even my babbling is spiritual. Yet that just doesn't quite wash with me I'm afraid.

Yes I know that, in all things, I can serve God and be spiritual but I also know that I do not succeed in doing so at all times. I know there are times when what I do is not to God's glory; that there are times when my actions are not spiritual but human and therefore flawed. Yet this is as true for blogging as it is for anything. So my argument turns again in its circular spiral against itself.

I think as in so many things, it all comes down to intention. Most of the time in my life and in my blog I intend to serve God either overtly or simply deep within me. So why do I blog?

I don't think my reasons are so deeply worked out as those Andrew Jones suggests:

Blogging is a spiritual discipline because to blog is to find oneself in a place of:
1. Praise (public acknowledgement) - "publish glad tidings daily"
2. Accountability. (Eph. 5: 21 "Submit yourselves to one another", quote from Athanasias)
3. Vulnerability (Daniel's window)
4, Given-ness (Freely you have received, gift economy, Prov 11:24)
5. Creative Naming (Adam, Neighbors in Ruth)
6. Repentance (editing/deleting/changing our mind in new media)
7. Fellowship (hypertext linking, Koinonia)
8. Evangelism (storytelling, blogging from our lives)
9. Integrity (writing matches our speaking, design reflects reality)
10. Posterity. (store/guard what has been entrusted, writing history)
There was also another one: Watchfulness ("watch and pray").

I'd love it if my reasons were so noble. For me I think the reasons are simpler:

I blogged originally becaue a friend did and as he was doing a "writing thing" I wanted to as well.

I blog because it helps me (I don't know why!).

I blog to record what is going on.

I blog to help me think things through.

I blog to let people know about what I'm thinking.

I blog because it keeps me in touch with my friends. It would be better if we all had time to talk about all this stuff but we don't!

I blog because I enjoy it.

I blog because it's fun.