Plan Z

I got a postcard from my good friend Emma the other day.  She is over in Germany and it was very nice to receive it.  With this postcard came a whole load of questions about my future, which I pretty much have answers for, but which I shall share with Emma and a wider readership because hopefully it paints a wider picture and I am sure if Emma is curious others might be too!

When do you graduate? I Graduate in August 2012 i.e. this summer.  It is very very soon

Have you thought what you will do after next year? Sort of!  I am also exploring whether I am called to Presbyteral Ministry (like a Methodist “vicar” in short).  So heading towards that.  One possibility is to candidate during next year and start training the year after.  Another possibility is to leave it a few years and candidate later.  To a greater extent I am waiting on God to give me an idea on timings, and because I am a nervous sort would love it if it kept confirming that sense of call.  Preferably with a signed letter from him or something!

There is also the possibility that in the immediate future I am called to stay in the Bangor&Holyhead Circuit and continue my involvement here.  This is relatively new and something I am just beginning to explore.  Sorry that is vague.  If I am to stay here, then I will be in Bangor for a a few years then maybe candidate after that.

What if the don’t choose your OPP project? Such a good question, possibly needs a post to itself, but in sort I will stay in North Wales and seek any employment I can (within the law) to keep me.  I love it here a bit too much to leave and God seems to be suggesting here is the place to be (nice when we agree).

NB – Blog name will be changed, just trying to work out what to!! A few ideas in my head but feel free to make suggestions!

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Ch,ch,ch changes!

Meetings and changes seem to be defining the run up to submitting a project application, so to catch you up there has been another meeting and lo! Another change.

Any idea of working across a large area and living itinerantly are ancient history now.  I am surprisingly OK about this.  Maybe it was the gradual and winding path that got me here that made it so.  A lot of people would say that it was God getting me where he wanted me, he had to start me there and grow me.  Maybe that it is true.  Maybe it is God reigning me in from some far of fantasy I had.  Maybe this is what happens when a bunch of different people all try and have a stab at what God wants.  Maybe this isn’t how God works at all. (My zealously Arminian theology is exceedingly comfortable with that, if it messes with people’s idea of a God who controls the puppet strings then they’re welcome to sulk!)

The project is now going to be student work entirely.  We’re dropping the Youth Group element completely. This pleases me, I wasn’t sure paying me to support the establishment of a youth group was the best use of connexional funds.  The churches involved are quite competent and have some good people who can do it themselves.  So I feel far more comfortable with this proposed project!  (Hopefully it won’t change again, but I wouldn’t stake too much on it! I wouldn’t gamble at all but were I to, then I wouldn’t stake too much on it!)

So the application we are writing up is for someone to support the Methsoc here in Bangor. By no means run it, or interfere, there is an excellent system set up for electing the future committee and a Chaplain (who also doesn’t interfere; Methsoc does self-governance better than any other Christian society I know of here!), mainly to deal with some of the things that it would be nice to do but we never have time of effort for along with the day-to-day and important stuff.  So things like looking at how me advertise ourselves and looking at bridging the gap between those who express interest in Freshers’ Week and those who make it to meetings.  There will always be a drop off, but it seems we can do more to decrease it.  (When I was Pres of Methsoc we were E-mail in excess of 60 people each week but had 3 regular attenders at meetings and 10 registered members for most of the year!).  So if the application goes through it will be to employ someone to work in that gap, and also to network with other Methsocs, see how they do recruitment and see if we can all learn from each other.

The project sounds really good.  Something I think will work, is worthwhile and something I am interested in, so that is all good!  And the meeting, between me, Alf, our Chaplain and Lynne, the Project Participation Manager (PPM) who covers Wales, was positive and felt optimistic so that is good.

The next joy I need to deal with, pretty much now, is accommodation for next year.  House-hunting should have started for me, it hasn’t quite yet!  Living on my own is seriously on the cards.  I want the experience before progressing onto other things but at the moment most of my thinking is up in the air and it all seems a bit daunting!

So at the moment the future both excites and scares me. Which seems about OK!

A question about the name!

Hello folks!

Another, more detailed post is following pretty shortly, but before then this short one.  I shall no longer be living in a campervan, which means my campervan no longer needs a name.  It is officially goodbye to Mwyndeg (before she ever existed).  So this raises a question …

Please vote using the clever poll thing, that hopefully works and if you have comments and suggestions feel free to make them below!

A Note on Church Growth

This will be short and ranty. Apologies

I have been to so many meetings, gatherings, conferences, services. festivals, chats and other events at levels that range from informal and in a front room to national events inc. large festivals where I have been told that, in general, the church in the UK is in decline.  And I believe them.  There are some not-too-manipulated stats that kinda point that way, and it certainly matches my experience.  yes there are exceptions and yes we MAY have stemmed the tide, but the picture ain’t great.

So let me say this about those churches that are seeing an increase in attendance and/or membership (the two being different, given current culture).  They should be praised and celebrated.  As long as we’re not literally bribing them with a life time’s supply of chocolate, pizza or a house, and they come because they want to, then we should be praising and celebrating growing churches.  They’re doing a tough job better than most.

So let me also say this.

I do not care if the person leading that church is a man
I do not care if the person leading that church is a woman
I do not care if the person leading that church goes hunting and eats raw steak
I do not care if the person leading that church likes to talk about the feelings and drink herbal tea
I do not care what the person leading that church wears
I do not care if that person is married
I do not care if that person is single
I do not care if that person has had a divorce
I do not care if that person has re-married
I do not care if that person straight
I do not care if that person is gay
I do not care if that person is somewhere else along a spectrum of gender and sexuality

If that person has the qualities of a Godly leader and the church they serve is growing
WE SHOULD BE PRAISING AND CELEBRATING.

January Services

Today has been another 3 service sunday!! A covenant Service, an Epiphany service and then Cafe Church.  Many of my friends are blogging about their experiences of these services and so I want to join that crowd!

Covenant
The first thing that has to be done is to point you to Jessica‘s blog where she reproduces a sermon she delivered at her Covenant Service! (take a moment to be amazed by her preaching prowess to do the ministry of the word at service so dear to many Methodists – beyond that, I shall save her from blushing by abstaining from any further praise).

In Bishopthorpe, where I spend my holidays, there is a Local Ecumenical Partnership between the Methodists and the Anglicans, so it was a joint service.  This year, in particular, we had 3 people leading the service; the Methodist Superintendent, the Anglican Curate and a Student Deacon on placement in the Circuit, which was really nice.  The super did another fabulous sermon (they are often superb) Julie, the Student Deacon has a lovely way of leading worship and her prayers were lovely and the Curate lead the beginning bit well, handling a confusion in the order of service very graciously, so all in all a very nice service.

I now move to share some reflections on the covenant service.  They are not particularly new, or complete.  They are the ones that spring to mind!  Any number of Methodists could tell you this and a pile of more profound things beside, but I shall have plenty more Covenants to bore you with other observations.

The things that stuck me most keenly today was the interaction between the corporate and the personal throughout the service.

Some elements are personal bits.  In the liturgy the word “I” is used; they are between God and the individual saying it.  Most notably this is true in the Covenant Prayer; the commitment that we remind ourselves of during this prayer is a commitment to sacrifice our entire lives to God.  Rach make somes very good points that I think are almost as relevant in my life over at her blog.  As Jessica says it is an act of obedience. It is also an act of love; our love of God.  When fulfilled completely it is our offering of everything we have, and are, and will be, or might be, our gifts, our talents, or pet-hates, the whole shebang, our nature, our self, our character to God, for God to do as She wishes.  No one else can make that commitment for us.  It would be wrong, cruel barbaric for them to do so, and also, I would hope inefficacious.  Our lives our not for someone else to offer up.

Other elements of the service are corporate; they whole congregation do them together.  The call to self-sacrifice outlined above, is ultimately a call to discipleship, and discipleship happens in community.  (something those of us who are products of the reformation can easily skip over).  We need friends around us, the teachings of the Church, mutual support from those also trying at this discipleship gig and advice from those who’ve treaded the boards before us.  This was most clearly highlighted in communion, when the bread and wine were distributed to everyone where they sat and then we took them together.  I cannot think of a more “together” way of taking part in what should be a communal event.  And as my father said over coffee, the service was a nice reminder that the two denomiations, and indeed Christians as a whole, share more in common than divides them.  (disclaimer: That is in no way meant to belittle the differences, which I do hold to be very important)

Epiphany
Was next.  At this point I ought to say that Epiphany actually happened 2 days ago, but this is the sunday Bishopthorpe chose to mark it.  Epiphany is when we commemorate the coming of the wise men/magi type people to visit Jesus.  I point first to Simon who does some good myth de-bunking. Always helpful.  And then to Bx who writes a very potent reflexion with much that can be learnt from them, and finally Richard Hall over at Connexions uses a lovely quote.

Epiphany in Bishopthorpe is a very “High Church” event.  There are lots of robes, and processing, it is even one of the few services that the incense in cracked out!  Interestingly I quite like the smell of incense, but I can find it too much, and have to say it does not enrich my worship experience that much.  The service did raise some unfinished pondering in me; mainly around the use of symbol, or re-enactment in services.  In the order of services (although not in actual fact) the choir, a person carrying a cross, the person carrying the incense, the priest and “3 kings” process around the body of the church; this procession (which did occur with the priest, the incense, the cross-cum-King-1, and 2 Church-Wardens-cum-Kings) represents, re-enacts and symbolises the journey of the wise men.  We as the congregation are joined in this symbolic journey, just as our lives can be seen as journey of faith.  I enjoyed it, but was saddened that no explicit mention of this was made in the liturgy or the sermon.  (The sermon, in fact, missed many of the joys of Epiphany and seemed to act more as a coda to Christmas than a celebration of a feast in its own right).  For me this was a shame, there is much that can be said at Epiphany; about the Magi, about manifestation about all sorts of things, and no doubt I shall mull over these more.  But as for symbol, I found the symbolism of the service lovely and thought-provoking, but I come to the conclusion that we must be careful. It is entirely possible to forget to explain or contextualise our symbolism and then it appears to be ridiculous ritual and that is of little help to anyone.

Café Church
Café Church is the entire opposite; no symbolism or ritual there.  That is not to say it is an entirely culture-free zone, or that it is neutral in anyway.  Those at the Epiphany service would have felt very intimidated by the informality, the use of a game that required quick mental reactions and speedy physical movements, to be honest the use of a game in an act of worship at all would be new and possibly off-putting, and many other features of the service.  This is not meant as a critique but as a general tonic to the assumption that Fresh Expressions are neutral, and have stripped way all that off-putting churchy culture.  This may be so, but if it is, then they have replaced it with their own different churchy culture.

There was however, a nice sermon on the risk the Kings too and the risks we are called to take in our lives.  It was a nice culmination of the two major themes of my day!