One fine day for one tired Vicarage

January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes a day comes together to convince you that there can be no calling, no job, no career more satisfying and fulfilling and varied than the one you’re in. Today was one of those for me.

Morning Prayer, on my own, close to the site of the Shrine of John of Beverley, with the low sun illuminating the sculptures of broken pilgrims on their way to holiness. Psalm 65 reminds an end-of-the-week Vicar that God is “the hope of the ends of the earth” and makes “the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy”.

Two hours of graft at the computer produces a notice sheet, worship schemes, the booklet of music for our new Communion setting, and the Candlemas liturgy. Seems to me that putting the right stuff into people’s hands at least prevents worship from going wrong, and gives it every chance to shine.

Then a few minutes to sharpen an address for the slightly tricky funeral at noon. These things gestate for a while (the visit was on Monday), and then come out almost fully formed, but a phone call (during my earlier typesetting) from a family member I’d not met previously kept me on my toes. To the Crematorium, and a change with a minute to go: a planned poem will not now be read by a mourner, and mustn’t be read at all. I’m not sure how my observation of the dynamics of the relationships between mourners changes what I do on the day, but it’s good when the tightrope is negotiated and its clear at the end that the words (mainly supplied by them) have done their work.

Straight from there to Oncology at the Hospital nearby. One of our most active people has been completely and suddenly felled by cancer. I’m in no position yet to sum up what’s happening, and am only one of many who will accompany my friend in what will unfold. But there are intimacies I witness with his family today which squeeze through my clerical professionalism. Not something to treat lightly, being there at such a time as this.

Quick lunch in the hospital cafe, in glorious sunshine. A meeting back at church about an art exhibition, with the sunlit Minster looking impossibly wonderful. Back at the desk there is news of one of our office volunteers who was blue-lighted to the other hospital two days ago, and had an emergency op yesterday. So off to visit her: she lives on her own and I don’t think twice about the two hours the whole thing takes. Fantastic mixture of humour and reflection: the lady opposite is loudly talking to a nurse who is doing tests. “I’ve got tickle-itis” she declares. We assume this to be diverticulitis, but the nurse replies “I thought only Ken Dodd had that”, and people recovering from major surgery try not to laugh too hard. There is the most amazing sunset.

Tonight is our Youth Cafe (as featured on Songs of Praise earlier in the month). 200 young people swarm through the Minster, and an army of the Minster’s congregation (very few of whom would say they are youth workers) sort the whole thing out. Once again I’m amazed at the variety and commitment of the people of God here. There are so many parents picking up their offspring when it ends that the police have to come and sort out the traffic. Our Youth Minister deems this ‘a result’.

I have generated very little of what has happened today, and so much of it has been a gift. You take your training and experiences and humanity and personality and shabby attempts at prayer and your theology and into this grubby pot God pours riches. There is much that’s unfinished. My friends are ill, and one is critical. A family continues to mourn, and I hope they can see hope as they make the journey through grief.

This was only one day. Perhaps I’m over dramatising it. Lots of other clergy will have done similar, and much more vital, stuff today. But this job is stonking sometimes, and I can’t quite believe I do it. Thank you to those who make it happen, and let me in to their depths and their joys.

And your prayers for those who sleep tonight in trepidation, and worry, and wonder. “To you, O Lord, all flesh shall come” (Ps 65. 2)


English Baccalaureate

January 12, 2011 § 18 Comments

Am cross cross cross about the English Bac. Its a way of arranging the data about Schools to show how many pupils get 5 A*-C passes in ‘rigorous’ subjects – strictly defined (no RE in humanities, no music etc).

1. I’ve argued before that a league table only tells you one thing about a school, and the data is so vulnerable that it generally tells you the wrong thing.
2. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, decided to manipulate the data in this way without reasonable warning. As Christine Blower from the NUT said:  “You can’t have schools judged against things that didn’t exist before.” A previous decision had allowed pupils to drop a modern foreign language. Why should schools now be marked down without warning for the number of pupils who failed to attain one?
If this Government believes in fairness it should have flagged up that it would require the data to be presented in this way in time for schools to do something about it (ie with at least 3 years warning so that option choices can be made with all the inormation to hand).
What Gove has done is to declare that something which wasn’t an offence now is, send someone to prison for doing it while it was legal, and justify it on the basis that the punishment will make everyone buck their ideas up.

3.  The list of ‘rigorous’ subjects not only has some glaring and offensive omissions – isn’t RE a humanity? – but it devalues all the others as well. My two sons want to pursue careers in music and the expressive arts/design. One of them was earning a wage in that field while still at school, and is supporting himself in his gap year doing the same. Well thanks a lot Mr Gove. Not rigorous?

The English Bac is an act of contempt for a teaching profession which was asked to do one thing and has now been attacked for it. It makes a spurious, elitist and dangerous distinction between ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ subjects. Its imposition is duplicitous from a government which is supposedly giving more power to schools: the EB  tells schools what they should do while saying that of course they can choose to do something else if they want to be at the bottom of the league.

I am all for rigour in teaching and learning. I have 13 O levels and did all the sciences, three languages and 2 lots of maths as well as the English I went on to teach. I am all for attainment, the measuring of ability, the stretching of potential. But this is offensive, gimmicky and unworthy of someone who is supposed to hold education and teachers in the highest regard. After the sport debacle it’s the last thing schools need.

This chap clearly agrees!

Photos for the 12 Days – XII

January 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

First Evensong of the Epiphany already said. So here’s one of the Magi from Beverley Minster’s crib.

I’ll get lyrical tomorrow in church about the amazing inclusion by God of followers of another religion who had upped sticks, going on an educated guess, and being welcomed to worship the true King of Israel. And about the immediate revelation of Good News to the Gentiles.

Epiphany is great. A real shame that it’s swept up into post Christmas tiredness, new year busyness and back to work depression. Free the Magi!

Photos for the 12 Days – XI

January 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Total vanity. But it’s been a busy day, and I’ve never given a blessing on national telly before. And emails are flooding in, from all over the place, saying that people liked the prog.

Not sure what I look like in HD though…

Photos for the 12 Days – X

January 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

The BBC did us proud on Songs of Praise last night. The filming was so long ago that I’d forgotten just how much we were taken over by the demands of television.  It wasn’t just for the week of filming, nor for the large number of planning meetings about practicalities and logistics. Songs of Praise especially do a shed load of research – one person spent a week in Beverley just collecting stories.

A local journalist rang me this morning to ask why the programme had been so good (she’d loved it so much she watched it twice). It certainly captured both the beauty of the Minster and the life of the congregation (apart from the performers everyone who was interviewed is a regular part of our life here).  Perhaps it was because the programme’s makers had spent such a long time in Beverley getting to know us. They had certainly been received warmly, and it might just be that the warmth they received made its way into the programme they made.

When someone is with you for a while, you can’t keep an act up. They get to see you as you are. Both Songs of Praise and the Antiques Roadshow enjoyed being with us, and found a quality here which they reflected in their programmes. There’s no way you can instantly generate such an atmosphere of hospitality, welcome and love out of nothing. You inherit it, and then do all in your power to keep it growing. That’s certainly what I’ve found here over these last 18 months. And it it’s not there to start with, you get there is small stages I guess.

So, a photo of the Minster, taken this afternoon as the sun was setting. It’s from a distance and close up, if you get my drift. Overview and detail. My mission for January…

Photos for the 12 Days – IX

January 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

I must have read it many times before, but have no record of ever preaching on it. Colossians 1: 1-14 (set for the 2nd Service in today’s lectionary) was our chosen reading for All Age Worship this morning.

It’s fascinating – one of Paul’s amazing prayers for fledgling Christians and the fledgling church. The underlying theme is ‘bearing fruit’ – the Gospel has taken root in their lives. Now, he says, you have the power either to stifle that growth, or let the Word grow and develop among you, to do who knows what. His prayer is that they might have knowledge, power, strength, patience and joy.

So we prayed this morning that we would bear fruit this year. The fruit of prayer for each other and for our commuunity and world. The fruit of knowing God and experiencing God’s power.  People wrote their prayers on fruit, and this tree will now be in our prayer chapel, as a sign of our thankfulness to God for planying his Word in us, and our determination to let that seed grow as well as we can make it.

Here’s to being fruity in 2011.

Photos for the 12 Days – VIII

January 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

The year began with an experience I’ve never had before. Cycling 17 miles.

Beverley Minster has a tradition of a cycle ride around our five church buildings, starting and finishing at the Minster. Like all the best traditions it’s, ooh, at least 4 years old. But I wasn’t to know it was so newfangled when I agreed to take part. Anyway, we raise funds for our mission links and for ourselves as the riders get sponsorship.

Great to get going in 2011 with a little exercise. Great to do something new (ish – not ridden the bike for a while). Great to visit each of the buildings in my care. Not so great to consume more calories than I expended – but the hospitality in each church was wonderful, and a vital expression of our being together.

It made me realise that the motor car can insulate us from our surroundings. Perhaps my precedessors, on foot, on horseback, or in a coach or trap at horse speed, will have had much more of a rooted connection with their parish than I do. And it was a reminder that a pilgrimage is about the journey as well as the destination, and that church ministry is perhaps best exemplified in the manner of welcome you get and the expression of hospitality you find.

Well, that was my excuse for eating scones, biscuits and stollen anyway. Would have been rude not to…

Happy New Year.

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