Thursday, March 29, 2007

Beatboxing Flute

Loved this change from traditional classic to beatbox. Thanks to one of my young people for flaggin it up!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Voluntary contributions

Richard posted about some volunteer stuff and I was interested to take a look because, as part of my role on the chaplaincy team at our local university college, I was invited to the Volunteer Awards event last night where the student volunteers who had made a significant contribution of hours (25, 50, 100 - one have even done 600 hours!) were fed a posh dinner, applauded, presented with a certificate, photographed for the uni magazine and then went on to dance at the disco.

I commented to my fellow chaplain that the churches could well learn something from that.

How many hours do our volunteers do? Do we celebrate that enough or are we too afraid that in highlighting how many hours people do we might lose them!

I'm sure none of us thanks our volunteers often enough. I know I always try to take my leaders to eat out together after training sessions but it really is a drop in the ocean.

We recently had to work out the number of hours of volutary work is done in the church as part of our accounts; in other words if we HAD to employ everybody who did anything in the church, how much would it cost. I seem to remember that a brief look at the youthwork alone and the hours my volunteers do added up to at least another full timer. That was before we even considered, the church stewards, the flower arrangers, the choir, the bell-ringers, the children's leaders, the coffee-shop volunteers, the PCC members, the task group members, the hours put in planning and running events like harvest suppers, fetes etc, and that's not even counting most of the roles people play in preparation for worship.

So I'd be interested to know. What do people do to recognise the contribution of their volunteers?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bishop confirmed

Bishop John has been confirmed as the new Bishop of Oxford today and although he won't be inaugurated until 8th June (when I shall be on holiday - oops!) he has, however, posted something on the Oxford diocese website about getting ready for Easter. Good stuff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


My lovely hubby is currently making all kinds of clanging and sawing noises as he is kindly make a special frame for four pictures I've just finished (using the fabulous easel he bought me!) which are inspired by the creation story. Yes there are just four. In tackling day 3 (when the earth brought forth vegetation) I realised that my symbolic style got lost in trying to show the growth and didn't quite work so well. I've made it work now, I think (though it is the one I'm least happy with) but what I've done wouldn't translate well to the birds/fish and animals/humans on days 5 & 6 as they would probably be similarly out of style. So it is that my creation's only taken four "days"! Once Michael's finished I'll pop a picture up.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Archbishops' reflections on the slave pits in Zanzibar

A useful short film to start discusssions with young people from our two archbishops. Really good to see them engaging in new media.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sermon 11th March

This is the sermon I preached this morning. I first introduced Pat from Iain Rennie Hospice at Home which is the charity we're supporting for Lent at All Saints'. It's also the charity which looked after my mum when she had cancer and for whom I did the charity parachute jump. That's why there's mention of them (an the shelter we supported) in the sermon.

Isaiah 55:1-9, Psalm 63, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9

"Do you think that because these [people] suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other [people]?"

Today very few people believe that those who are suffering have done something which makes them deserve it. Whether it is a disaster or a sickness, the things that happen to cause suffering are not a punishment from God.

God does not send that kind of punishment. Instead as we heard in the Old Testament, God offers us things freely and calls us to things that help us:
"everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price."
And when there are trials in our lives, God is also present, according to Paul:

"God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it."

Yes throughout all these trials, God’s role is not that of the one inflicting it. In our sufferings, God is with us. Jesus knew sufferings and so is able to understand us and how we feel when we suffer.

Yet the message of this is not that we can do whatever we like and God will sort it all out. Yes God is a God of forgiveness but for forgiveness we must repent and also we must commit our lives to his service.

In the Gospel, Jesus calls us to repentance. And also stresses the importance of bearing fruit. It is not just about us being there but about being there and doing something useful. As the parable of the fig tree shows though, we need to bear fruit. Just like the fig tree that needed to be fed with manure, it is often when we are surrounded by unpleasant things that we can bear more fruit.

It is not just about God being there in our suffering but in our presence in the suffering of others. This is something we can all see in the work of the Iain Rennie nurses and in the homeless shelter our church supported last night and the work Paul is exploring in High Wycombe for the future.

God calls us in his two great commandments to love God and love our neighbours as we love ourselves. God calls us to serve in honour of him so that we may grow in our relationship with each other and with him, as God says in the parable of the sheep and the goats:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25. 35)
Not everyone can do the amazing work which Iain Rennie do. We are not all nurses and we don't all have the patience that work like that needs but we can all do something. Almost anyone can hold a collecting tin. We can certainly support those who DO such things by donating time or money to charities and in all our lives there are chances to serve.

During lent, so many of us give up something and this can certainly give us opportunities to serve. In the time you have freed up by not doing other things we can begin to serve.

Where in your life is the opportunity to serve?

Where do you see Christ in the face of someone you could help?

or the much harder question...

Where in your life are you not seeing Christ?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Soup-er day

Really long busy day today but a fab one! It started with a session making soup for the homeless shelter our church is supporting in London (I was there a while ago). Two of our older teens were part of the team serving there but I waned to offer the others a chance to help out too so we mae the starter for 30 people (which doubled up as a vegetarian/vegan alternative to the main course apparently!) in the form of a fresh vegetable soup. I'd gone to our local out of town vegetable shop and got a stack of seasonal veg for £7 and we spent a merry hour peeling, chopping and stirring - amusingly I'd forgotten to take a wooden spoon so we ended up stirring with a celery stick which was kinda funny!! Anyway it was good and we linked in at youth group (Pulse) by talking about homelessness and what it really means. We ended up with a load of volunteers to help out next year when we'll hopefully be running a shelter in Wycombe!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Matrix 07

Fab time at Matrix O7 particularly seeing Agent K again as it has been AGES! Also good to catch up with Phil and Lev again (even if he was hyper on Five Alive some of the time!) Likewise good to have the Oxford diocese Posse of Ian, Simo and Laura there. Met up again with Alice, which is a Matrix tradition now.

Highlight for me as the James Lawrence session on leadership and I sadly orded (via amazon whilst at the conference) the book he recommended on talents of leaders and I hope to be using that and his book on Growing Leaders for our training events with the youth team here.

Low point had to be the last keynote which really didn't resonate with me so it was a bit of an anticlimax. The chap was really empassioned which was great and he was an enganing speaker. Unfortunately I found his passion needed tempering with compassion as although he critiqued the current situation of youth ministry rather well he didn't seem to follow that through with encouragement to improve/change that situation or offer anything tangible as a way of doing so. the other thing that was odd was that some of the seminars seemed to be the same as others which had been on offer at the last two Matrices (proper plural JUST for Ian) - same topic and session leader - so I'm not sure if there'll be enough new stuff for me in two years time.

Of course, as others have said before, the organised sessions were only the half of it and there were some great times of discussion about the nature of marriage and rather TOO long a discussion about vomit.

So far in follow up to the conference I haven't managed to type up my notes but hope to do so. However, I have done the strenghths finder test myself and discovered that my "signature themes" (top five talents of leadership) are as follows:

  • Connectedness
  • Ideation
  • Input
  • Woo
  • Achiever
I'm ridiculously pleased that I got the one with the funny name (woo!) anyway all this apparently means:

Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting.
Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life's mysteries.

You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre. For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on
most days this is enough.

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information-words, facts, books, and quotations-or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don't feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It's interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

Woo stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them. You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport. Some people shy away from starting up conversations because they worry about running out of things to say. You don't. Not only are you rarely at a loss for words; you actually enjoy initiating with strangers because you derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection. Once that connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on. There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in. In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet-lots of them.

Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by "every day" you mean every single day-workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need
for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Copyright © 2000 The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ. All rights reserved. Clifton StrengthsFinder ® and each of the 34 Clifton StrengthsFinder theme names are trademarks of The Gallup Organization.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Quiet Day

Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush.
We had a Quiet Day today at Douai Abbey near Newbury. In a group of 25 people we had 3 teenagers so I was really thrilled. It wasn't a fabulous, mind-blowing youthwork designed day. It was a quiet day for the congregation and these three young people were there as members of the congregation. For me that says so much about integrating our teens into the life of the church. I was on hand in case any of them really couldn't cope with sitting in silence on their own but they were great and really got a lot out of it, including one who was really worried she'd not manage to be quiet. Fabulous!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New work laptop

As the office PC is 7-8 years old (still windows 98 and Norton seems to hate Windows 98 with a burning passion) I was given permission to buy a new computer, preferably a laptop (which had publisher on it) with a budget of £700. When you look at prices this seems a reasonably EASY thing to do but in fact most laptops come without Microsoft Office (and we needed Small Business) which is 239.99 on its own (and that's as an upgrade from Works). However I was lucky enough to find a new laptop with 1024 RAM and 60GB HD plus all the software and a memory stick for £687. I am pretty proud of myself. Unfortunately one of the reasons it was so cheap is because it was the last one in the shop and I think the OTHER reason is... it's pink. Apologies to any future youth ministers at All Saints!