Sunday, March 12, 2017

When it all gets too much

Since moving to London almost every local paper I pick up contains some violent attack or murder. Combine these with repeated stories on the threat of terrorism and the impending doom of Brexit, I am surprised I make it out of the house. Sometimes it feels as if the best scenario would actually be to shut the door, make hot chocolate and hide with the multitude of books and films we own. I would certainly be safe, but I suspect that even I could get fed up of comfort food and books.

There is always a thought nagging at me when I feel like retreating permanently into safety. Christ did anything but keep himself safe. He did not retreat, he stood in the line of danger, stood by his faith in his Father and ultimately sacrificed his life for us. He did so peacefully and with love.

It is so easy when you feel at threat to retreat, build the barricades and judge those who threaten you, sometimes even lash out. All are acts born out of fear, we all feel it sometimes. Even Christ had moments when he paused, questioned and pleaded to be removed from dangers way.

" Luke 22:  42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. "

The whirling chaos of fear sometimes paralyses us, causing a cacophony of thoughts that hinders us praying. Sometimes we feel totally abandoned by God, unable to find him in among the swirling sandstorm of threats. It is only when we stop for a few moments, take a deep breath and like Christ find away of putting ourselves anew into God's hands that the seething seas begin to calm and peace is restored. This is not a process without risk, it ultimately means sacrificing ourselves to God and trusting everything we are to him. Then and only then can we turn to those who have caused our angst with courage, peace and love.

Christian life was never an easy one, Christ suffered, was persecuted and crucified, however he received strength from his Father. Living a life where I attempt to love all and abide by the morals of a Christian life will always provide me with challenges. Often leave me out on a precipice with many staring and judging. Living in a community that has it's own struggles before you add yours is always going to require adjustments.  But it is only when I leave my house, with prayers in my mind, love in my heart, ready to share Christ's peace with all, that I can ever find my own sense of inner peace. Just like Christ sometimes I need a few moments to retreat from the world, to question and replace myself into God's hands. However it is vital that I then go out of the house, that I become a living breathing example of Christ's love. I may not always get it right, sometimes fear may get the better of me (I am only human) but it is vital that I learn embrace that which makes me feel vulnerable with love and peace.





Thursday, March 9, 2017

At noon, a darkness came over the whole Land

"The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." Mark 15 v38

The Church has been torn from top to bottom and again I stand in the ruins asking where is Christ? 

Five guiding principles on which our fragile community stood. Five principles written to show mutual love and mutual sacrifice, so that all may sit round the table and share in Christ's Holy sacrifice. 

As the Bishop of Dorking has said "Jesus calls us to get over ourselves". 

It is time to start looking to each other in friendship. It is tempting to start hurling back at those who hurl at us. To write in anger, pain or even revenge, but Christ calls us to look beyond ourselves and look towards the good of all our Church. We all, every single one of us will have variances in our understanding of theology and our Church, even if we broadly share an opinion. I have no desire to fight with you, anyone of you. I want today to say I want to "get over myself" share a Church with you. I want to forgive you, though it takes every ounce of patience I have to say it. I have been through the many reactions that I have had in similar situations:-
 Flight to the other Church,Anger,Disappointment, Acceptance to forgiveness. It is not easy, trust is earned and today we have taken a few steps back. My trust has been lost, my faith in walking together has been dashed. But this is bigger than you and me and bigger than those who started this whole sorry mess. We must not allow the Church to die, we are stronger for our differences and learn more from walking together than we do apart. 

We are all called to a ministry of incarnation, to reflect Christ in all we do and say. Recently, some the members of our Church have made a serious error in their behaviour. Again in the secular world we have not presented ourselves as a Christ like body. What hope have we of calling others to a life of love, tolerance and forgiveness if we can not even show it to each other. Tomorrow is a new day, maybe we can walk again in the footsteps of Christ by getting over ourselves. We must as a Church embody Christ in all we say and do, and this means putting ourselves round a table together and sharing in Christ's Holy Mysteries together. If we do not we lose far more than mutual flourishing, we lose our Church.

Tonight I pray for +North, the Diocese of Sheffield and all those who have been hurt and all those who have to deal with what must now follow. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In his Image

As I walked through the streets of London yesterday, I decided I must look a little daft. Dressed for a meeting, except for my shoes which were covered in Donald Duck and my backpack covered in Mickey Mouse. Eccentric as I may have looked, I refuse to walk across London in heels. However my attire was a good metaphor for how I think, life should be taken seriously but we need to laugh, sometimes even at ourselves.  So yes I looked some what unique but that is the point really, I am unique.

Each of us are God's creation, everyone of us of equal value in the eyes of our Almighty Father in whose image we were made. Part of the amazing power and wonder of God's creation is that each of us are unique. We were created to be individual, diverse and unique. This does not make us of less value.

Today is International Women's Day, there are many women around the world from whom I have received great inspiration, Our Holy Mother is one of them. Far from being a weak and submissive, she faced her fears and the persecution of others when she chose to accept the life God asked of her. The choice she made will not have been an easy one, she risked losing it all. She had to place her life in God's hands and have faith that it would all play out just the way God had promised her.

In accepting God's request of her she knew that she would not be conforming to the demands that society had asked of her. In today's society there are many demands put on women. One of the most demanding of which is to be the same as a Man, it is the one I find most perplexing because quite simply I am not a man. I have no burning desire to take my God given uniqueness and trample on the opposite sex just to prove I am as good as them. I already know that I am as good as them (as does God). By all means we deserve equal rights, we deserve to be paid the same for the same jobs, we should have the right to vote. However, there are somethings which are God given. God gave us man and woman, they are not and were not the same. That is what makes us special and of value to one another as we compliment each other.  I think we are very much endanger of losing sight of our uniqueness and qualities that God gave us in trying to prove we are something that we are not.

Today I pray that like our Holy Mother, I have the strength to say to God "Be it unto me according to thy word". That in doing so, I bring up my daughter to value both men and women equally. That we treat those who think differently to us as though they are our friends and not our enemies. As all are loved in the kingdom of God. I ask too that Mary will pray for us all, that we may all be like her and show grace, mercy and strength today and everyday.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Upon the Cross we must Suffer for Salvation to be achieved

When I first started write this blog, it was when I was first beginning to get used to the idea that I could be Anglican and not be ashamed of the fact that I did not believe in a female Priesthood. I began to find my footing and understand the theology behind the instinct and teaching I had had as a child. The first responses I go to this is that I could only have been taught this by a man. I was not, I grew up in the midst a multitude of different Christian influences. It was a decision I reached myself and researched  myself. So, you will forgive me if I find two men writing articles on how women should feel about a Bishop who does not ordain women somewhat ironic.

As a Church we made a commitment to allow both integrity's to flourish, a decision made by a vote in Synod. It allowed everyone what they wanted with compromises on all sides. The decision was what allowed us to live the Christian way, together, in harmony, in peace and loving one another without boundaries. We all sacrificed that we may have a new Church born out of the ashes.

And so the consecration women Bishops commenced, many of them. All very good and all of them doing an excellent job. Bishop Libby and Bishop Philip consecrated within weeks of each other, hugged and commenced their Episcopal ministry supporting each other.  Most of the female Bishops are supporting the decision that Sheffield diocese has made.  All of the newly consecrated women have been supported and upheld in their ministry by those who do not support their ontological position. They have been shown tolerance, love and acceptance. This is as it should be, this is what we agreed it to be, this is how as Christians we should be living. Yet others seem think that their own political agenda or at worst their patriarchal view of feminism is more important the kindness, generosity and tolerance of those with whom we disagree. They may think that my point of view or indeed that many others (whilst also rooted in theology) is wrong and maybe even sinful, but Jesus' action would have been to invite them to dine with him not to throw them out of the community from which they live.

When the 5 guiding principles were announced I had great scepticism as to whether we would ever see another traditionalist Bishop, let alone a Diocesan one.  It gave me great hope and confidence in the Church when Bishop North was consecrated as a Suffragan Bishop. He is Godly man, he is filled with passion for the Gospel, Mission and Evangelism. He is a man who considers the poor and the vulnerable, he will fight their corner in all aspects of society. Above all he has supported the women in their ministry in Burnley and he would do so in Sheffield too.

For the unity of the Church, for the upholding of a Christian way of living, for the development of mission, for the proclamation of the Gospel, for those who need to someone to fight their corner for them, I hope against hope that Bishop North will not allow recent outbursts from those who are entirely selfish to affect his decision to take the post. He has been prayerfully chosen and the decision will not have been lightly made. He is very much the future of our Church, where as I am afraid I do not think his opponents are even in the line to be.

It is a Garden of Gethsemane moment, we can all kneel and wonder at God's plans for us right now. A time when the Church may suffer, but salvation lies after the suffering has been completed.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Today's Mission

I knew that on arriving in London we would be greeted with a whole new community and that community had many needs. However reality hits home rather hard, when you see the queues at the Citizen's advice bureau, read the newspapers, walk home from school past hand cuffed men, arrive home on a Friday night to a line of cuffed drug dealers and see the numbers arriving at the food bank. I knew there were issues before we came. Having said that, the thought that there were people who could not heat food even if they were given some had not occurred to me. I was naive (and perhaps even wilfully blind) as to just how broken and fractured the community surrounding our little Church would be.I have ever encountered a place that needed Christ's love more than this one.

Yesterday I attended the Forward in Faith National assembly. The ideas that were put to us about the Mission of the Church were absolutely what is needed here. That we as baptised Christians are each one of us responsible for taking Christ's love out into the world and working for the common good of all. At the heart of this mission and evangelisation is the Sacraments.That it is vital to keep learning and developing our understanding of the Sacrifice given in each and every Mass.  That we all have a part in the liturgical drama laid out in the Mass. In turn therefore we each have a part in the mission outside of the the Church doors too.

Being a Christian and living according to Christ's example, is neither comfortable, nor cosy. It does not mean we should go out of our way to find hardship and suffering. However it means giving up who we are, sacrificing our hearts and putting our faith in Christ. For if we can not give up who we are and tread in the footsteps of Christ, we can not show others the fullness of his love.

The Church as it is now, in it's present, will become it's future. The way in which you and I interact with those people around us, is how people will view Christ and Christianity in the times to come.  This means today is a challenge to meet hate with love, to meet the sinner with kindness, to walk along side those who hurt us most and show them forgiveness. So as we are shown his grace and mercy, we should show it to others. Then we can bring the essence of  Christ's sacrifice to future generations. If we start meeting those who pour torrents of hate on our communities with hatred of our own. We will deepen the fractures and the chasm between us grows. Society at the moment is cracking and creaking with hatred and intolerance. Let us be the beacon of Christ's light and let's share that light with all we meet.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A whole new world.

I am afraid I have abandoned you all for quite some time. In that passing of time our lives have completely changed. We have flown the curates nest, fledged a little and finally nested in our new Vicarage. We have been on many journeys over the last few years, some testing and some pleasant. But some how they all feel as if this was very much the purpose of the journey and we are now where we are meant to be.

I am all to aware that the journey henceforth is not going to all be sunshine and flowers, however we have found our home in a friendly, happy and vibrant community. It is a pleasure to be here. There is much that is different in our country's capital to the life we had on t'yorkshire moors. Life is busier, chaotic and there is so much to see and do. Even after only a few weeks I have already learnt that a Vicar's wife could really do with another weekend to recover from the one I have just had. There is always something to attend and plenty of cakes to bake. Life's merry-go-round is relentless and it never quite slows down long enough for you to get off and rest.

Amid the hustle and bustle it is easy to get caught up in the whole Mary versus Martha complex. Should I spend my whole time constantly preparing for the next visitor,the next event or the next cake stall. Or is my time more usefully passed by stopping and concentrating on what the moment has presented me with. For many years I was busily and neurotically always trying to prepare for tomorrow. Rushing so much that I slowed myself down and less got done as a result. Learning to take time, accepting that there is time and focusing on what is in that moment has been one of the greatest revelations I have had in recent years. It really does pay off to accept your limitations and do a little bit each day and spend the rest of the time experiencing the day as it is planned with the people you had planned to spend it with.

It has taken a long time to adjust to this way of life, the ever constant pace of the cycle of daily life often has a habit of sweeping you up and carrying you off on a tidal wave. The timings of services here has meant I more often have time to attend Mass. This in it's self forces you to stop and focus on (that dreaded cliche) What would Jesus Do? The wrist bands containing the initials for such that were all the rage in Christian teenage circles in the 1990's. I found them irritating then and slightly irritating now, as it can be a very shallow thing. However time spent at the foot of Jesus, receiving his grace does tend to focus you slightly more on what he would want you to go out and do. The material distractions fall aside as you realise as you feed on his Grace you are equipped and strengthened to go out and serve the people you are among.

Having moved from an affluent area to more deprived area, I am aware more than ever how vital that gift of grace is, the opportunity to hope in a better future and the faith that someone will guide you.

The future for us starts here and I hope that there will be much to share with you all. This harvest time  I need to not only give thanks for the physical food but for the spiritual too. Whilst recognising how to use the gifts of food and grace at my disposal can make the difference to all I now welcome into our home. I hope and pray that I might be as abundant in my welcome to the people here as they were to me, each and every time for many years to come.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The love of God

We have had an all to brief break in proceedings this half term. Time together is a precious gift and not one to under estimate. The gifts that a family share with one another are worth more than all the gold on earth. It is all to easy to get lost in the crazy maze of consumerism and self promotion. Often we get so lost we forget there is a path out and another life to live. That our life on it's own is not enough, we work best as a community. Sharing, caring, belonging, we gain more from this than any object we can buy and any virtual world we may occupy.

You could spend thousands of pounds on a glamorous holiday on which you travel alone. You feel you have left something behind and you have. You have left behind the hope, love, support, hugs and belonging that comes from being part of something. Families mean different things to different people. You have biological families, adopted families, friend families and Church families. Some have more than one family and some really do have none.

To be alone, to feel alone is a terrible feeling. We all have that deep horrific thought now and then. The thought that we are nobody and nothing. The feeling that if we were to shuffle off of this mortal coil right now, no one would notice or even care. It is a consuming thought, that turns you mind an ever blacker shade. When it creeps in, you begin to doubt so much. You question everything. It is very often the simplest of gestures that can pull you out, a smile, a hand held out, a cup of tea. The simple concept that someone else cares and you are not alone.

We of course never walk alone, not even those who have no mortal family. Christ walks beside us, on occaisions he even carries us. We might be to busy questioning his existence and our faith in the face of adversity, but his love is un questioning and unconditional. Though we might rip our hearts inside out at the the grief of our mind constructed isolation, he is there. He will show us he is there, we just have to listen.