Wednesday, 30 November 2011

World Aids Day Flashmob

Tomorrow is World Aids Day.  The day when around the world events are held to raise awareness of the still very real issue of HIV and Aids.

Here are a few more facts about HIV in the UK from the NAT

•Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
•You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
•HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
•Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
•You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
•There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV

Now let's think about HIV and Aids around the world, it was estimated that there were 33 million people living with HIV/Aids in 2009.  What an immense number of people, let's stop that number growing.

Are you as moved by this as I am?
Moved enough to do something?
Perhaps wear a red ribbon?
Or attend a World Aids Day event?

We were moved enough at St Nicolas to organise a flashmob.
At 6pm on Thursday 1st December 2011 anyone who wishes is invited to reveal their red tops and freeze for one minute in silence in the middle of the shoppers at Broad Street Mall in Reading.  By freezing they will attract attention, this will be followed by the distribution of postcards explaining more about World Aids Day and the NAT.

If you would like to join in then just turn up at the Broad Street Mall, wearing red under your coat, at 545 ready to be placed to freeze.  The event will be photographed, videod and covered by the press.

If you'd like more details then just leave a comment and I'll contact you.

Autumn Statement Thoughts

Let's start by providing a link to the Autumn Statement itself from the Treasury
Now here are some of my thoughts on this statement, I am limiting myself because my thoughts on the statement would ramble on for thousands of words but there are some headlines I can't ignore.

The Autumn Statement sets out the actions the Government will take in three areas:

•• protecting the economy;
•• building a stronger economy for the future; and
•• fairness.

Protecting the economy
Raising pension age - yes, we all know that's required and we have to live with working for longer seeing as how we're all going to live longer.

Limit public sector pay rises to 1% for 2 years - this will mean an approximate 2% pay rise for public workers over a 4 year period, about equivalent to most of the private sector over the same period in my experience.  However this is a bit chicken and egg, if the government provides low public sector pay rises then the private sector is likely to follow suit, and in a period when the cost of living is increasing massively this is actually a pay decrease.  I'm no economist, but common sense tells me that spending will decrease and fear increase if we're all worse off in our pockets.  Doesn't sound like protecting the economy to me.

Building a stronger economy
Infrastructure spending - it's about time, the construction industry is always the first into a recession and out the other end, they are massive employers of people and users of resources and therefore investing in this industry provides a boost to the economy all round.  Good decision.

National loan guarantee scheme - great for small and medium businesses, but lets be clear, most new businesses are micro.  These are businesses set up by individuals or with just a few employees and they are never going to be included in this scheme. I think this has missed the point somewhat.

Funding for more free schools - how about funding the existing schools?  they run so close to the wire and could do with any small extra investment available.  Does everything have to be about rewriting the current system?

Right to buy - really?  How about providing more council funded housing for all those families who might loose their homes over the next few years if this next recession hits?  there is a real need for public housing.

More funding for 2 year olds in need - fantastic, this is well needed but it will have a major impact on the pre-school system since more younger children needs more adults for the care; where will this come from?

My thoughts
From reading the headlines and listening and watching the media coverage I was led to believe that the statement was being biased towards those out of work, but actually I think the economic justifications are correct and that the Treasury is doing the best they can with a bad job.  All they need to do now is introduce a tax on the super rich!!!!

Journeying with Mary Day Four

Day Four - Wednesday 10th November 2011

Luke 1:32-33
"He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

As if it wasn't enough that an angel appeared, spoke and told Mary she would have a baby; now she is told that this same baby will be the greatest of all babies, God himself.   There's nothing like reassuring a girl when she's in shock is there.

Let's look at the words themselves.
"He will be called the Son of the Most High"
Mary would have known that the Most High was referring to God, this would have been clear to her.  Suddenly the task she was being given would have been increased exponentially.  No longer was this a task, it was a mission and a half.

"The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom will never end"
As part of a Jewish family Mary would have known, as part of her basic religious knowledge, that the house of David is the line of royalty and from which all rulers of the people of Israel came.  She would have realised that this mission was to carry and birth the next King of her people.  The King!

Let's take ourselves back into our own imaginings again; we are Mary, visited by an Angel, told we will have a miraculous pregnancy and now that the boy born will be the next king of our race.  This is like being told that a spaceship will fly down from the sky, land in the back garden and require us to be the translators for the entire human race. 
Do you fancy that task?
How would you feel?

Prayer for the day
Father of all you tasked Mary with the greatest task on Earth, you trusted her to carry out your precious mission and never fail along the way.  We feel so humbled as we journey with Mary and are reminded that we each have our own missions for you.  As we journey we ask for your reassurance and strength.  Amen.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

God in the pilots seat

When I was called I put God in the pilot seat, but then I kind of took over.
At Selection I put Him back as the pilot, but then I swapped back again.
At Licensing God put Himself into the pilot seat and it was fantastic to let Him.

Today I am asking God to be in the pilot seat for friends of mine in need, to guide them safely, hold them gently and bringing them lovingly to their destination.

Godmother Love

At swimming this afternoon I was told that my god-daughter is lucky to see me so much.  I smiled; and quickly put that the right way round; I'm the one who's lucky to be able to see her most weeks and be such a constant part of her life.  It is a true joy and priviledge.

As I was thinking and saying this I looked into the pool and saw how lucky I truly am; as swimming in the pool with Rachel there was my youngest god-son.  Again I see him every week, often several times a week between social occassions, swimming and church.  I know him for all his quirks, cheekiness, love and cuddles; I get to really be a part of his life.

I never had this with my god-parents, they were important in my life but they weren't around my every day life, I guess I saw them several times a year.  I never felt like I was missing out, they were a great part of my childhood, but they never really saw the day-in-day-out me.

I am blessed by these beautiful little people, and so is Rachel, her family is so much wider than blood lines.

The Holy Spirit Prism

I saw this image online today and it really spoke to me about how life starts to shine with the joy of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Let your eyes land on the top of the image; here you see the light of experience.  It is bright and clear and understandable but there's not much depth. 

The prism represents life itself, with many facades and reflective properties.  Most of the edges reflect a shadow of the original light, something less than the experience itself. 

Within the prism is a special place which transforms the experiences into something so much more than they started.  This is how I see the love of God, the light of Christ and living with the Holy Spirit.  When the light of experience goes through this place it is exploded with colour and depth and majesty.  Suddenly the experiences of life are lifted to a new level, the true reason and purpose and joy of life are known.

Sex education reported by the semi-educated

As you will know if you've read LLM Calling in the past, I'm not a huge fan of the Daily Mail and yet I often get to read it because my in-laws read it.  Usually I can laugh it off, but today's article, which isn't even new news, just has to be responded to.

Here's the article in question with the headline "Casual sex and 'bad touching': Guess what your eight-year-old is learning at school these days".

It's enough to scare any parent, let alone their parents.  But from my hour of research it seems clear that it's far from true.  The Channel 4 Learning webpage provides the following notes on the programme content
Unit 1 - Age 5-7
1.Differences     2.How Did I Get Here?     3.Growing Up

Unit 2 - Age 7-9
1.Changes    2.How Babies Are Made     3.How Babies Are Born

Unit 3 - Age 9-11
1.Girl Talk     2.Boy Talk      3.Let's Talk About Sex

This is pretty straightforward, under nine years old are taught about life, boys and girls, changes as you grow and about babies in a physiological way.  The talk about sex isn't until year 6 and secondary school.  And let's be clear, especially as we approach World Aids Day, our kids need to understand about sex and sexual health and protecting themselves in their choices.  I was at primary school when the AIDS campaign "Don't die of ignorance" landed on our doorstep and it did me no harm to learn then. 

Searching some more I found this article from The Examiner, responding to a Daily Mail article in MARCH 2010.  This is old news!!  This response article entitled "In defense of 'All About Us: Living and Growing' DVD at the center of sex education 'outrage' in UK" is written by someone who has actually watched the programmes and comments on the facts they have witnessed.

I don't know what to be more angry about?
the poor reporting
the biased statements
the lack of facts
the creation of panic
the lazy work ethic of the journalists

Daily Mail, pull your socks up, this is truly dreadful.

Why christmas can be Xmas

I'm sure loads of you have seen this on twitter, facebook and all over the web but it's worth showing again.  I've never had a problem with abbreviating Christmas to Xmas, after all it's just shortened for ease of typing. 

The campaign to keep Christ in Christmas comes from a good place, but I've always felt it reduces Jesus; surely Jesus can cope with being the reason for Christmas without having to be within the word itself.

Here's to letting humour be a part of our lives of faith.

Official photos from licensing

Here we are in the middle of the licensing service, we have been gifted our Bibles and are being sent out to a ministry of mission in the world.

And afterwards, we join with the Bishops +John and +Colin and Rev Tovey, the deputy warden of Readers, for the official photograph.

What memories, they will stay with me for life.

Journeying with Mary Day Three

Day Three - Tuesday 29th November 2011

Luke 1:31
"You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus"

Look for a moment at this image of the annunciation.  Mary is most certainly taken aback, she looks knocked off balance and in a state of shock.  This is a rare image of Mary when she was visited by the Angel, most of the art shows her calm and bowed in reverence.
Today we look at the crux of Mary's calling; she will be the mother of a son.
Of course that doesn't sound particularly special, especially in today's society.
But let's go back 2000 years. Mary is unmarried, a girl from a good home, betrothed to a man she will soon marry. She is a virgin, she has kept herself clean and she knows she can not be with child.
Her emotions must have been a plenty.
Worry about whether she understand right.
Fear about how her family and Joseph will react.
Concern over the reaction of society, who normally shun unmarried mothers.
Add to that the pure and simple unbelievability that she is carrying a boy child which is impossible, and she must have been close to fainting.
And why this specific name?
Would Mary have seen the link to the prophecies of her race?
Would she have started to put two and two together?
I am sure she was a faithful servant of God and knew her scripture well, but when put in a shocking situation do any of us manage join dots successfully?
Let's return to our scenario.
Are you on your knees yet?  I'm stuck, dumb-struck in my chair.
I know some of the impossibility she would have felt.  I felt it when I came to realise that I was called into ministry.  And I had none of the worries about family and societal condemnation.  Imagine how Mary would have felt being told she was to have a child out of wedlock, poor Mary, she must have been scared witless.
Prayer for the day
Father as Mary would have felt fear of her family's response to such amazing news, so we worry about what society thinks of our faith.  By following you we turn away from many societal norms and try to live the life you wish for us.  Give us strength in the face of our uncertainty and fear and judgement of others, as you gave Mary as she faced her family with such impossible and threatening good news.  Amen

Journeying with Mary Day Two

Day Two - Monday 28th November 2011

Luke 1:28-30
The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God."

As if it was not enough that an Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary, it then spoke in a language she understood. 
Greetings, you who are highly favoured
Or as no doubt the angel would have said today "Hi, God loves you."
Along comes an angel, not something you ever expect to see, and then they greet you as if you know each other, as if it's a totally ordinary thing to do and conversation to have.
If she was not overwhelmed beforehand, this certainly troubled her, as Luke makes clear.  
I wonder how Mary responded such that Luke would recall that she was greatly troubled and wondered what the greeting was.  I'm thinking physical and emotional shock manifesting in the way we often see, knees weakening, words fleeing and eyes opened wide.
Put yourself back in the everyday situation we thought of yesterday.
I'm in my chair with my laptop on the floor and my mouth agape.  I know my own reactions to shock, I loose the power of speech and go stock-still.
And then the angel speaks again; "Don't be afraid, God loves you especially", or words to that effect.
You seriously mean me?
There must be a mistake.
I'm nothing special, I'm just me.
The thing is we each are known and loved especially by God, maybe we are not called in such a dramatic way as Mary, but we are loved just as we are.  This is the focus of today, to remind ourselves that Mary had to come to terms with being chosen; and so must we.

Prayer for the day
Father help us hear your voice.  Give us faith through our loneliness when you seem far away, and joy in your love when we know you are close by at our sides.  Lord, we know you are always with us, let us know this inwardly in our lives and follow you wherever you lead us. Amen.

Journeying with Mary Day One

Day One - Sunday 27th November 2011

Today is the first day of our advent journey with Mary.  This first week we will be with Mary as she is visited by the Angel of the Lord.

Luke 1:26-27
"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

Imagine the scene; one day you're going about your normal business.  Perhaps you're doing the washing or making breakfast, maybe you're cleaning the house or tending the garden, or just possibly you're at work with your colleagues.  It's just a normal day, nothing special or out of the ordinary.
But then.......  an angel of the lord appears!
It sounds straightforward the way Luke says it doesn't it, the angel just appears. 
Just like that. 
No big deal.
There's no mention of Mary falling over in shock, or having her mouth gaping open, or screaming and running off.  She was quite clearly of a stronger constitution than me.  But then that's to be expected, after all she was to become the mother of the messiah.
Let's put ourselves in Mary's shoes. 
Imagine a point in your normal day.
Me, I'm checking my emails and wondering which ones need dealing with first.
What are you up to?
And suddenly the angel of the Lord appears in front of you.
I can imagine it now, the room would be filled with light and there'd be a person of sorts in the room.
I'd definitely drop my laptop, there's no doubt about that.
I would like to think that I would stay calm and that I would recognise an angel when one appeared to me.
But if I'm honest I'm pretty sure that I would scream and freeze in shock.
How do you think you'd react?
I trust the gospels but I have to say that I suspect Mary reacted much as we would, how could she not be shocked and fearful.  We will never know for sure, but one thing is sure, she didn't run away.
Prayer for the day
Father as we meet Mary today we try to imagine how she would have felt when your Angel appeared to her.  We thank you for her bravery and openness at that time and ask that we might be blessed with the same in our journey's of faith and love with you.  Amen.

Greenbelt 2012 - tickets are booked

That's right, we're all booked for Greenbelt 2012 and this time Mike is coming for the whole weekend and maybe even camping - we hope!!

On Friday 24th August 2012 at stupid o'clock we will be on the road with a car full of tent, sleeping bags and lots of warm layers.

Can't wait!!!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Advent 2011

It's Advent!

I know I'm a day late, but it's better late than never.
This year I'm going to do something completely different; this year, as a mother myself, I'm going to focus on Mary during Advent.

In her encounter with an angel
And her worry, awe and fear
In her relationship with God
And her complete obedience
In her journeying to Bethlehem
And her birth of the messiah
In her first days of motherhood
And onward through her life.

I'll be trying to find images that reflect my readings and prayers and invite you to journey with me as I journey with Mary.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Silent Sunday

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Emotions galore

You'll have no doubt noticed that since Licensing I've been quiet on the "sharing" front, there's been some blogging but none of it reflective or particularly personal. Well it's not been because I've got nothing to say, it's because I've got so much to say that can't be put into words.

Yesterday the PCC went away for a day and I found myself completely overwhelmed when we were talking about the values of our church. I could barely think or speak, instead there were tears a-plenty. This has been happening a lot over the last three weeks; I've been overwhelmed with emotions and been reduced to tears many times. It's like the flood gates were opened at licensing. And indeed it is that flood gates were opened, but not to let stuff out of me! They were opened inwards to let the Holy Spirit flow more than ever before. I've even had prayer times where I'm pretty sure I'm speaking in tongues, a very new experience. It's amazing and massive and scary all at the same time.

Since I couldn't really write about it I decided to try and pray it out and this is what came.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

It's a representation of the journey to date and the emotions I've felt. Starting from the beginning allowed me to enter the emotions and continue with them to now. I'm sure it doesn't make much sense to anyone but me, but it's been a hugely helpful exercise and allowed me to better understand the tears and feelings of being in very deep.

"You'll be changed at licensing."
They weren't kidding; and so much more than I expected.

I believe in the Holy Spirit

I believe .... In the Holy Spirit
The spirit is within us, amongst is, bringing God's presence to us and the world.

We shouldn't be surprised that when God turns up and does things it's often a bit strange.  Pentecost itself must have been mighty weird.

We can cope with weird, can't we?

The holy spirit is tasked with bringing about God's purpose in the world, for the Glory of the Lord.  Sometimes that might happen in worship, or in prayer, or in the car.

To put our trust in the spirit might mean:
- bathing in God's grace in action
- feeling the breath of God
- knowing the life of God within us and reflecting the life of God in the church in the world
- receiving the promise of the journey in faith, the spirit is the sign of God's love everlasting
- accepting the gifts of the spirit, empowering ordinary people to do extraordinary things
- seeing the holy spirit as part of the body of God

We need the spirit in our lives and can pray for more outpouring of the spirit into the hearts of all those who have not felt the joy and love of God.

Everything we are is powered by the love, life and spirit of God.

All that is good in our lives is a gift.  

The people we are as God made us is the gift He gave us.  We are tasked with sharing that out.

God longs for us to use our gifts for the good of our churches and the benefit of our communities.

Points for reflection
What does it mean to say I believe in the holy spirit?  It means to seek life, be a gift and celebrate the giftedness of others.

I believe in Jesus Christ

I believe in .... Jesus Christ
Understanding who Jesus is is central to our faith.  We are followers of Jesus.  
But which Jesus? 
- servant
- leader
- revolutionary
- peace maker
- teacher
- listener
- healer
- punisher
- man on earth
- God in heaven

To me he is a man; a healer and teacher, that is the way I relate to Him personally.

Thomas was a doubter, he found it so hard to believe that Jesus was resurrected; why?  Was it because Thomas knew Jesus to be a man, an extraordinary man, but a man none the less who must succumb to death.  For Thomas, the belief of resurrection was amazing and Jesus allowed him to touch if that's what was needed.

Philippians 2 (5-11) states that Jesus was humbled by being made a man before being exalted to the Heavens, ruling over all.

It is hard to hold the vast knowledge and understanding of Jesus, hence the creeds were written to help us believe together the true faith of Jesus.

Believing in the son of man isn't actually believing in a physical existence, it is being willing to put our trust in Jesus.  It's about putting everything we are and do into God's hands.  It's about living out the implications of our faith.

Jesus is a mix of humanity, in creation; and divinity, in God.  He crossed the great divide into creation and was both God and Hunan.  God CHOSE to step into our world and become one of us, in order to know us more, love us greater and heal us entirely.

We are called to proclaim this great story,  the greatest giving of all time.

We are also called to follow the way of Jesus, to be his hands and feet; not to be perfect but to try to be as close as possible.

Jesus is divine: Jesus shows us what God is like, in him we have met God.  Jesus is Gods "no" to sin, he removes it all.  Because of Jesus' humility he is exalted.

Jesus is Human: he was born, grew, learned, suffered and died.  He needed God, he turned to God and he asked for help.  Through this he represented us in every way BUT sin and took it all away.  Through Jesus' life God knows all suffering in life.

Why do we believe in Jesus? How? What helps us in this?
- God came and lived as one of us through Jesus.  Wow!!!
- Jesus is the standard against which we can measure ourselves.
- Jesus is Lord!

Points for reflection
1. Is Jesus truly the standard against which your life is measured?
Individually? Absolutely, and I try not to best myself up for falling short
As a church? By some yes, we're getting there

2. If so, what needs to change for you to be more like Christ?
Give even more of myself!

I believe in God the Father

Let's start at the beginning...
"I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth"
The story of scripture begins at creation, we put our faith in a creator God.

Believing in a creator of God is not putting us in conflict with the world of science.  It is a foundation of belief and getting caught up in the debate with science is missing the point.  Science explains evolution of the universe, solar system and earth itself with all life we know; believing in our creator God does not contradict this.

Scripture provides the "why" and "who" about creation; science provides the "when" and "how".  It is two different ways of looking at our world.  We believe in God being the who and why of creation and all we are.

God created us to be the pinnacle of all creation; the centre of our planet, solar system and universe.  People matter to God above all else.  We are not servants or slaves, we are his beloved ones.

Why do we think God created us?
Perhaps as an overflow of love and goodness, bringing us into relationship and fellowship with Him who is love.

Doesn't that flow in the face of our society!  It can be hard to accept that in our world where hidden agendas and selfishness are rife.  God shows us sacrificial, all embracing, giving love.  

"The love god shows is completely free.  He has chosen that we should exist and to treat is always as loveable" ++Rowan

"God chose us to be holy and blameless; to be in relationship with God" Ephesians 

God calls us to demonstrate and live out this same love, to put God's Grace into action in the places we are.

God's creation is an invitation into the loving arms and heart of God, especially in the difficult times.

Points for reflection
1. Do you really believe in the goodness and generosity of God the Father?
- I believe because I feel it, I hear it, I experience it, I know it and I accept it.  I see it in Rachel, in my happiness, in my ability of receive love, in my readiness to forgive. I know it through my calling and ministry.  I know it because God is within me always, holding me.

2. For which expressions of God's generosity in your own life and the life of your church are you most grateful?
- family love
- friends
- openness
- acceptance
- mission
- service
- humour
- comfort
- readiness 
- availability
- teams
- opportunities
- everyone valued

Thursday, 24 November 2011

GYKTC - what I'll do different

I was moved by the Getting Your Kids Through Church event.  I have shared much of the keys things which have stayed with me, but there are also things which I will now do different.

1. I will stop complaining about church in front of Rachel
One of the killers of faith is judgementalism and as someone working in the church it is mighty easy to have an opinion about everything that goes on.  I am happy in my ministry, happy in my church and feel affirmed and nurtured; but even I find it hard not to despair at the PCC meetings and share that when I get home.  Last night I realised that this is not something to be done in front of Rachel, in fact sharing it with Mike might not be great since he's in the process of exploring.  I reckon I'll be writing down my rants on disposable paper from now on.

2. I will be even more open about my prayer life
I pray with Rachel, in front of Rachel and for Rachel when she asks.  But I do this at her level rather than letting her witness my prayer that sustains me.  I now commit to helping her see my faith in action more.

3. Share not just the good stuff but also the hard stuff
I tend to hide away the hard times I've had with God, as if believing that it is a failure in myself.  Yet I never allow anyone to blame themselves when they're having a hard time in their faith. Well from now on I will share those times when God feels very far away, when I can not understand how He can allow some things to happen.  It won't be easy because it goes against the grain, but I now know that allowing others to see my challenges might well help them when they have their own challenges of faith.

GYKTC - empower with the gospel

All kids and young people need is love, passion and dedication.

We can all provide that.
We don't need to have all singing all dancing youth groups.
We just need love and an open door.

Let's empower them with the gospel rather than just entertaining them with stuff!
Let's be in the business of discipleship.

These are the words that will stay with me from the GYKTC evening; this is the message that touched me the most.  It is easy to look at the all singing all dancing provisions and their huge numbers of teenagers; but we touch each of our young people every time we see them.  We might not have pool tables and rock bands, but we do have love, passion, dedication and time. 

We are available, we are open to questions and we are accepting, we do OK!!

GYKTC - stages of belief

There are Four Stages of Belief

These are true for children brought up within the church, for young people searching through the church youth group, adults coming to church through Alpha or those who've seen every Sunday service for the last half century.
1. The first stage is about experience - everything is formative in this stage and will inform their theology of life. Everything churches tell and show and engender in this stage will affect how the kids view and know Christianity. The problem isn't that kids aren't listening to us. It's that their listening too much.

2. Peers take over the power of a child's life as they hit teenage years; this is when youth leaders are vitally important. Being part of an affiliate faith is vital.

3. Searching faith comes next; you don't have to know the answers but you do have to be willing to hear the questions.

4. Owned faith is the final stage; suddenly you own your faith internally. We can't force anyone into faith, this is a choice and we must not hold guilt around it!

We need to be aware of where we each are on the journey of belief and ensure that those leading our young peoples works have a real owned faith and understand the process they went through to get there.  We also need to be able to identify where others are in their journey to help them be fed in the way they need where they are.  There is no "one size fits all" solution, it is about providing a structure that is flexible enough to allow those accessing it to source what they need.

GYKTC - fitting the mould

Rob Parsosn is a truly inspirational speaker, if you get the chance to see him speak, go, don't hesitate, just go.  The part of his talk that touched me most was that we tend to want our young people to fit the church mould, whatever that is.

"it's not that I don't like church, it's just that they don't get me, they must think I'm an awful Christian"

"the youth worker is a good bloke but he's just so pushy, he NEEDS me to come to every youth meeting. Perhaps it'd be easier if I just left."

Are these quotes resonating with you?
Have you heard them from your kids?
Or perhaps you've thought them yourself?

I know I felt them! 
And this might come as a shock, but sometimes I still feel that perhaps "the church" as an establishment doesn't get me; but I'm OK with that now because I know God gets me and my local church accepts me.

I hate the idea of moulds, always have done. 
I relish individualism, I adore difference and I encourage the embracing of each of us for what we are with personalities as varying as our fingerprints.

We all have different characters and there is no mould that is perfect; God made as as we are for a reason, we have to be ready to accept that.

So......Why do we expect teenage boys to "like" sitting still and quiet and sing hymns? It's ok that they find church hard because faith is the living out and not the attending of church. Let's not force kids into moulds of faith.

But guess what....this is hard and costly in time and energy.  To provide resources and activities that meet the needs of the full range of kids, young people and adults takes a huge amount of input.  But it's worth it; this is discipleship, this is God's work on earth.  And therefore I subscribe to the opinion that

If the roof is leaking then put a bucket under it, instead of fixing it let's pour the church resources into kids work. Help our kids act out their love for Christ in their lives and through church.

GYKTC - the good and bad of church

The event last night showed a number of clips and dramatisations about church and young people; here are some notes I made whilst watching these.

What do kids like about church:

- singing
- dancing
- worshipping
- sense of family
- being with friends
- sense of community

What they might not like:
- length of services
- not being respected for opinions
- boring games in Sunday school
- sitting in rows facing forwards

What makes it difficult to be a Christian?
- friends aren't Christians
- you can be bullied about it
- don't want to join in with stupid things other kids do but there's pressure
- people assume kids can't really choose to be Christians themselves
- Prayers aren't always answered
- it's seen as being uncool

GYKTC - it's not about church; it's about God.

It was so refreshing to hear this message; it's not all about church, it's about God!
I'm not in the business of getting bums on seats, sure it's nice, but it's not what my ministry is about.

My ministry is about helping people come towards God,
come to know God,
come to love God and
come to know how much they're loved by Him, just as they are.

I know that sometimes church can get in the way of this; I know this from my own experience.
Last night's event reminded me of the years when I felt disconnected, not good enough, as if I was failing God because I couldn't find a church that worked for me or even tried to accept me.  I spent almost 20 years outside of church, but the good news is that in that time there were at least 16 years when I was inside God's loving embrace.  I was in relationship with God, but I did it without support and community and the love and acceptance and nurturing of a church.  I was so thankful when I finally found my spiritual home at St Nicolas, when I was "home".  But I am also appreciative of the time when I was alone with God; when He sustained me daily and when I learned that faith is so much more than a church.

Perhaps my experience is why I do not worry about getting people "into" church.  I hope and pray that people can find the love and support that they need inside a church, but I also know that God will find a way to retain relationship with us if we are outside an organised religious establishment.

Getting your kids through church without them ending up hating God

Last night I went to the Getting your kids through church without them ending up hating God tour by Care for the Family, at the Hexagon in Reading.  What an amazing evening, it has left me with loads to think about and with inspiration galour. 

There is so much to share, so I'll break it down into manageable chunks over the next few posts starting right here with a link to the GYKTC cartoon "Super Regular Kid"

and the introduction to what the tour is all about

Friday, 18 November 2011

Saint Margaret of Scotland

As Preached on Wednesday 16th November 2011 to the 11am communion at St Nicolas Earley.

Today is the patron saint day of Saint Margaret of Scotland.

Queen Margaret of Scotland was born in Hungary whilst her family were in exile. They returned to England in 1057 before fleeing to Scotland after the Norman conquest of 1066 where she married Malcolm III, King of Scots in 1070, becoming queen. Margaret is said to have “civilised” her husband by reading him the Bible.

Margaret undertook many charitable works; serving orphans and the poor every day before she ate, and washing the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ. She also started a ferry across the Firth of Forth for pilgrims travelling to Dunfermline Abbey. This gave the towns of Queensferry and North Queensferry their names

She instigated religious reform, striving to make the worship and practices of the Church in Scotland conform to Rome and requiring humility in the priesthood.

Margaret was the mother of three Kings of Scotland and a Queen consort of England.

Her story ends in 1093 in Edinburgh Castle with a broken heart, she died just days after receiving the news of her husband's death in battle.

Margaret was canonised by Pope Innocent IV in 1250 recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity

What can we learn from Saint Margaret’s life?

She was a servant to the poor,
a healer to the sick,
a teacher of the leaders
and a peacemaker amongst war-mongers.

Sound familiar?
Remind you of anyone we might know?

She was a Royal, a woman of power; yet she never abused her position, instead she turned it on it’s head to bring change and goodness to society.

She did this through relationship with her husband and family, bringing them to the Bible and to lives of faith.

She did this by reforming the Catholic Church in Scotland and focussing on prayer and servitude.

She did this in her work with the poor, putting their needs constantly before her own.

She reminds me a whole lot of Jesus, in her faith, calling, humility, strength and teaching. She is an example of the life I wish to live and the faith I wish to share.
One thousand years on, she is a very modern woman with much to teach us about serving, giving, loving and praying.


Friday, 11 November 2011


My own words fall short on today of all days; how to speak of lives lost through needless war.

So instead I turned to a poet and tried to leave this day of remembrance in her safe hands.


Unfortunately Josie didn't want her poem quoted here so I have removed it; however if you can find it at a library near you then I recommend it.

May war be no more.

Monday, 7 November 2011

What happened at licensing

I have been trying to get into words what happened inside me at licensing; what changed, what occurred, what caused all the tears; but words are failing to provide me with anything other than
- affirming
- emotional
- spirit filled

However whilst looking for some art ideas for upcoming People, Prayers and Potatoes sessions I've found three images which speak perfectly

1. The Journey

It felt like I had rounded a corner of the winding path (snake) of my journey with Christ, a corner which allowed me to see the cross in all it's meaning and truth.

2. Open to the Spirit

I felt opened up; ready to receive and live within the spirit entirely.  No longer relying on myself, but instead trusting in the Lord and His way for me.

3. Face to Face

I came face to face with my faith and ministry, literally face to face with God.  This is what overwhelmed me, the truth and immenseness of it all.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Licensing reflections

I'm now a licensed lay minister.
God chose me.
His church selected me
I trained and learned and prayed.
And today, at 11am, I was licensed.
Yes, me!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I was nervous as soon as I walked into the cathedral but first Neil and then the Bishops were fabulous at helping us stay calm.

The nerves were followed by lots of emotions throughout the service; good, powerful, spirit filled waves of joy, affirmation and calling.  Of course this was expressed through tears, but I had a handy tissue.

And I was licensed, both outwardly by Bishop John in the Cathedral but also deeply, inwardly, personally by God.  I felt "it", an "it" I can't describe, but an "it" that will remain with me always.

The most amazing about today though, even more than the licensing itself, was the people. Mike and Rachel, my fellow LLMs licensed today and my friends who came to join in this amazing celebration with me.  I was bowled away, completely.  Thank you everyone; with your support I will continue walking on the boundary.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Dear Blog

Dear blog
I am so sorry that this week before licensing I have been so quiet. I know this is the time to record, but I've been unable to think of anything worth saying.

The nerves are less now; they're only what I'd expect.
The fear is gone now; the rehearsal took most of that away.
The excitement is high now; it's really happening.
The peace is on me; I know God has me held safe.

Tomorrow I'll be licensed as a Lay Minister.

Thankyou for being my cathartic reflective space through training dear blog. I'm not sure i could have done it without you. And don't worry, my calling continues through my ministry, so you won't be abandoned anytime soon.

See you on the other side
Emma xxx

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Halloween Ideas

This post is basically a response to a friend who asked how I feel about Halloween as a Christian.  I didn't have an easy or quick answer and so it quickly turned into an essay.  Here goes.....

I don't have a massive problem with Halloween per se, although there are many aspects of it I don't like.  For safety reasons I don't like trick or treating; it drives me mad that the shops have made it such a commercial affair; and little kids dressed as devils never makes me ooh and aah.

The things I like are those lots of people like.  I enjoy going to the pumpkin patch and choosing, then carving pumpkins; the way the light floods out fills me with joy and hope.  I love the way the kids get excited about pretending to be someone else for an hour or two, it's such great fun.

I guess I've never thought of Halloween as "worshipping the occult" or being something inherently evil.  That's never been my experience of the day.  Hence I let Rachel dress up and we go to Burley to join their festivities and parade; good harmless fun run by a community who love coming together to celebrate.

I've held this in an uncomfortable balance with my faith for the last few years; feeling that I should avoid or even boycott all things Halloween.  Whilst also feeling that helping children deal with the scary and unknown in life is doing them a service.  They have questions, they're trying to understand death and the tussle of good and bad.  Halloween allows this to be experienced safely.

At St Nics we don't deal with Halloween at all, but many of our kids go to another local church's Bright Lights party at which I helped this year.  The party was a fabulous way of celebrating together and focussing on the light of Christ in the darkness.  But let's be honest, things like this don't deal with the issue of Halloween, they avoid the issue; and as Christians we need to be engaged with the world and can only do that by joining in.

Amongst all these thoughts, and no clear conclusions, I defer to a writer and thinker greater than myself.  Simon Jenkins wrote an article in The Church Times this week which I've found on his blog here. I agree with his proposal that as Christians we open our churches to Halloween and allow the exploration of life, death, fears and unknowns to happen together.