Remembering, Re-membered and Remembrance

Remembering

This week I have been reminded of the importance of stopping and being attentive, noticing the echoes of God in the world around. The last few weeks have been somewhat hectic as I have tried to get settled into my new parishes, and get to know people, amidst the strange times of social distancing. Amongst many other things, one of my tasks was to think with a few others about what we might be able to ‘do’ over the coming months. A number of conversations and penned plans later, I watched the unfolding announcement of a second national lockdown.

I’m not sure why the news of this discombobulated me so much…perhaps it was a greater awareness, compared to March, of the great many losses that lockdown seemed to claim, whilst also recognising that it seemed that we had reached the point where it was, once again, necessary.

Re-membered

After that news we witnessed the US presidential elections, more aware than ever perhaps, of the importance of one decision for the lives of so many.

As I watched this unfold, in the midst of the leaves falling, I have become aware of our fragility…we have to shed in order to grow. As I led a Burial of Ashes service last week I heard the words of 1 Corinthians 15:36 for the first time, it seemed: “Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”

I always love autumn, watching as the leaves turn and fall, but I have been really struck by the colour that the leaves seem to turn, or the colour of their veins – the red of hurt, pain, blood, conflict…and yet there will also come a time to notice the budding of new growth, green shoots, and a vibrancy of life. It is my hope and prayer that this will be the time to recollect all that we share, rather than to concentrate on what divides us.

Remembrance

This year Remembrance has taken such a different form. Those we wish never to forget have been remembered through online services, or with very small numbers gathered….

“We will remember”

And yet, “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”

I have been reminded this week of the importance of dwelling in God’s world, of taking time to be aware of God’s presence among us, and yielding to that, rather than the pressures we so often put on ourselves. It has been a re-membering of who I am called to be…and what I am, along with all of God’s people, called to do…in all things, and at all times; be bearers of light and hope!

Endings, Beginnings, Time Between…

In the spring, after being signed off as a curate and given permission to discern where God was calling me to next, my partner and I found ourselves driving round the villages of Yardley Hastings, Denton, Castle Ashby, Whiston and Grendon. This was surprising on a number of levels, not least because I had not expected to be embarking on rural ministry within a multi-parish benefice…I’m not sure what I had expected, and I definitely should have learned, by now, to expect the unexpected!

St Andrew’s, Yardley Hastings

A few weeks later I walked around three of the villages, and I became a little more confident that this may well be where God was calling me to be.

Walking towards Castle Ashby

In order to invite others from the diocese and local area into the process, I applied for the post, and some time later was interviewed for, and offered the post of, Rector of the Benefice of Yardley Hastings. It was such an affirming experience and I was, and still am, ecstatic to be embarking on serving these communities.

St Mary the Virgin, Whiston

As we look to the future, and indeed begin to move towards it, the need to shed – or move away from – something in order to make room for the next step becomes more and more apparent. As I prepared for my last services in the Holy Spirit parish in Leicester, it felt pertinent that the leaves were beginning to fall.

Castle Hill Country Park, Leicester

Just as leaves fall gradually, so were these endings gradual. I felt the celebration with me of the many wonderful people who I have had the very great privilege of walking alongside, as well as the lament of loss. Parting is painful, even when we know it is right. I was truly humbled by the kind words of so many who have shared a part of their journeys with me.

St Andrew’s, Jarrom Street, Leicester

The pain of parting gave way to a flurry of activity related to moving house – packing and unpacking. This Sunday, after getting settled in the Benefice of Yardley Hastings, I was licensed as Rector via Zoom. In these strange times much of this discernment process has been conducted on line, and being physically present at various stages has affirmed God’s call on my life now. Clarity of God’s voice has been so important, yet I have wondered how patient life allows us to be to wait on God, to listen for God’s still small voice…? As I look to these parishes, in these strange times, I hope and pray that we can wait on God, notice where God guides us, in order that we can best be God with skin on in our small corner of the world.

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near; wait for the Lord, keep watch and pray…

Sometimes seeing through God’s lens means that we need to take time to discern where the focus needs to be…I guess it’s about being comfortable with seeing things a little out of focus, and yet still looking again to see what lies beyond the blur!

Missiological Reflection

This seems like so long ago that I spent a little over a month with a church in Tokyo, but my missiological reflection on the experience has been published, and is now available here.

Signs of Hope

I blogged about arid land back in April, which I had found on a walk near my house and been somewhat captivated by.

Aridity

I have walked through this field on countless occasions during lockdown, and semi lockdown, and been surprised when I saw something beginning to grow…this field has reminded me of hope in times of real struggle and pain through pandemic life….

Signs of hope

I am reminded of God’s presence, provision and abundance….

Abundance

I am also aware that sometimes God works through us in order to provide for those in need. How is God calling you to be God’s agent of hope this week?

How have we changed in lockdown?

I am very aware that as I write this, as a resident in the city of Leicester, I and the people of Leicester continue to be in a state of lockdown. I have been reflecting on how we have changed during lockdown – more specifically how have our lives and priorities changed.

I’ve been so moved by this photograph essay titled ‘Keeping the Faith’ which has beautifully captured how people of faith have adapted in the face of the pandemic. Whilst it is clear that this has been at great cost, there is something beautiful threading through this around a deepening of belief, a strengthening of relationships, and a realisation of the importance of faith for many people.

So, what have we learned about ourselves? What have we learned about community? Priorities? What have we learned about faith? How can we ensure that some of these revelations continue to be with us as we begin to emerge from lockdown?

The body of Christ broken for you…that you might have life.

Holy Ground

This is Holy Ground

I came across this sign whilst walking near a memorial in a local park…it made me wonder, what is more holy about the ground where we memorialise compared with the ground which we tread each day…? Last summer I went to a conference for people from a more catholic tradition who wanted to craft worship opportunities in a more creative way. Over the days that we were there the worship space had a sandpit in the middle of it. The sand was used in a variety of ways to illustrate or provoke thought. On one occasion we were invited to take a small jar of the sand away with us, as our little bit of ‘holy ground’. The jar lid did not stay firmly in place and in no time I had bits of holy ground everywhere…but that was the joy of it! All ground is holy, or space where God dwells, surely? How often do we notice it though? How often do we act like it is?

Time to tread water…

Water off a duck’s back…

I’ve not blogged for a few weeks as I had a writing week (for my MA dissertation research), then a week of leave to rest and recharge. Amidst the rest I met this lovely duck as the sun went down one evening. She was swimming with her 11 ducklings, and yet she had such a sense of calm around her as she trod water, and stayed visible as her ducklings zoomed around excitedly. She seemed to feel the smile of God shining down on her; so assured of herself and her focus in the sacrament of this moment. It made me question, is it any wonder that I so often feel overwhelmed with so much going on in my head, rather than focusing on this moment, this sacred space and just deal with what that presents…? Is it possible to live within this simplicity and the sacrament of now, whilst also managing to achieve all that needs to be achieved?

Just a Cup

A few thoughts/theological reflections around ‘cup’

This is a piece of spoken word I wrote a few years ago in anticipation of being ordained priest – I’m using it to help reflect on the elements of bread and wine within Spirit Space today, so this is a bit of a sneak preview!

Marking the spot!

I met with God here…

Part of my theological reflection over the last few weeks has been around buildings, and how they came to be so important as ‘God encounter’ spaces. That has taken me to conversations about tents (as ‘Tent of meeting’) and stones. The Old Testament practice seemed to encourage people to mark a place where they had encountered God in some way…it’s strange and lovely that I was reminded of just that as I was out walking over the weekend, and powerfully and wonderfully met with, and walked with, God – amazing that there was a stone placed already for me to ‘mark the spot!’

Signs of ‘normality’

New life

I have loved walking in our local area each day over the last few months, and watching spring bloom before our very eyes. These young Canada geese, swimming so close to their mother, reminded me of the huge dependence we have on others – especially in infancy and childhood. We tend to think that in adulthood this ‘dependency’ disappears.

What I am seeing from our lives in lockdown is that a sense of ‘dependency’ within our communities and close relationships very much remains – but the shape of it changes. I’ve spoken with many people recently about us as ‘relational beings’, very much mirroring the image of God in this, and thriving best when we are able to share things with others.

My hope and my prayer is that we do not lose sight of this need for community, for different types of relationship, as life begins to take over once again.