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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What the cat dragged in

The other day the cat appeared at the back door clutching in his mouth the limp and lifeless body of a baby rabbit. I tried in haste to remove this beautiful baby from sight before my daughter had a chance to witness it. (To say she loves rabbits would be a bit of an understatement.) However living in a household of male siblings, who called her with childish glee to come and see what the cat had brought, I did not achieve this. I expected much weeping and whaling as befits the usual amateur dramatics of an 8 year old girl. Instead she took the floppy flimsy body in her hands and cuddled it. She said goodbye in the most mature of ways, then set about learning all she could from this tiny body. She did not chastise the cat, as I had, but congratulated him on his hunting skills. She thanked me for the chance to hold a rabbit, that though lifeless was still warm and fluffy.

Her acceptance of the crueller and more vicious side of nature shocked me slightly. Whilst I too had spent many hours as a child looking at nature and it's revelations. I seemed to be somewhat shielded from the crueller side, until one day I rescued a baby bird. I looked after it so well, until I had to go to school. My mother left it to die. I shall only say that my acceptance that not everything could live a long and happy life was not quite so graceful as my daughters. I spent many long days afterwards feeling guilty for doing nothing other than that I had no choice over.

It is a revelation that we all go through. That nature, that in Spring and Summer brings us such abundance of life, beauty and fruit, must as the seasons change bring decay and death as the changes set in. This cycle is excellently portrayed in the poem "Death of a Naturalist" by Seamus Heaney. He writes of how in Summer he wanders encountering the beauty of frogspawn and tadpoles, dragonflies and butterflies. That one hot summer's day had changed into "gross-bellied frogs"  that  "Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting. I sickened, turned and ran." These are two quotes picked for an understanding of how his view changed. I heartily recommend reading the poem to get a full effect of how his journey through the seasons affected him.

His poem though and the experiences above I have spoken of above, are more than just the passing of seasons. They are a metaphor for life, that all life must change from good to bad, beautiful to ugly, from breath to death. Seamus Heaney himself had had the most rude awakening to how cruel life could be, when his younger brother was killed. For most of us the shock that life is not all joy and pleasure comes in a way that is less life changing.  However Seamus Heaney is not alone in experiencing how treacherous life can be to the living.

The question is do we let it stop us in our tracks, hold us in place, freeze us in grief, turn us to fear, anger and hatred. Do we start to resent the cruel and heartless world in which we sometimes dwell? Or do we embrace the fact that life has a circle, that we can learn from pain and change the world with love, care and faith. The death and resurrection of Christ, is  the prime example of the latter. God knew that for us to truly appreciate the glory and wonder of the kingdom of heaven, we had to see suffering and death first. We had to understand pain to wonder at peace. When life is limp and lifeless, it is time to pick it up, cuddle it and transform it into something new.

Today as I pray I ask just this. That you, gracious Lord, grant me wisdom to see the path that you wish me to walk. That you grant me strength to walk along it. That you open my mind to see you in the suffering of others and the courage I need to change what little I can. That I may see you in them and they see you in me. I ask that you grant me the grace to be grateful for the many blessings you have sent me, and contentment that I may not ask for more than I am due. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

The cost of community

Recently I have been re watching the X-files on television. It is a drama of its' time reflecting the ridicule one might have experienced if you believed in aliens or government conspiracy. The extreme things, things that involved a little bit of faith without an awful lot of evidence. What evidence there is, is often hidden, incomplete or vague.  Special Agent Fox Mulder is ridiculed, laughed at, isolated, shoved in the basement and given a scientist to rationalise his wild theories. However his scientist began to see the glimmering truth of the subtle clues in front of her.
Now twenty years later it is probably more acceptable to believe in aliens than it is in God. Alien life forms of some sort are at least a statistical possibility. There is science to back this up and we have even started to go out and look for them with probes on Mars. Such a short time but how the world has changed and how it has not. We are still inclined to ridicule those who believe things we feel are a bit quirky and out there. We marginalise those we do not understand, those who are different. We stand in judgement on those who are too fat, too thin, too brain, to dumb, to rich, to poor, to hard working or too lazy. There is no pleasing everyone or indeed anyone. We all have a clear idea of what we want from society and society has conditioned us to expect what we want to be delivered to us on a plate. If it is not we feel that we should have, we complain and get compensation for anything.
We are never responsible for what goes wrong. It is always someone else. Our own actions can not possibly be contributing to all that is going wrong. We are right, they are wrong. The tolerance we give is only to those who believe the same as us, everyone else is wrong and must be eliminated.  The small matter that this is in fact the reverse of what tolerance means is just ignored.
We can not go on like this. We have to learn to embrace our differences. Society requires each and everyone of us warts and all. We all make society work. Just because we disagree, does not mean we have to turn in on each other and create a loathing of each other which in turn causes us to dislike ourselves. It is a vicious cycle, that will tear society at its' very fabric. Community is based on a love of one another, a gaining of knowledge of each others beliefs, faiths and ideals and learning to share those in a tolerant society to the benefit of all involved. To compromise and accept involves sacrifice. It involves allowing ourselves to become vulnerable and open to hurt and maybe even death. Each human being that walks this planet is worth the same as every other one. None of us are better, though we maybe inclined to think we are. Seeing our own worth and allowing ourselves to value the contribution to society we make, allows us to see the small contributions others make. Slowly step by step we begin to understand the value of community again.

Monday, December 7, 2015

An Iconic Advent

I have not been around much recently. I seem to have been some what swept up by the comings and goings of life. The times I have been able to sit and reflect have been few and far between. But now is the season of Advent, a time set aside for reflection. A few weeks when we should try and hit the pause button, slow down and focus on the magnificent and humbling gift that is about to enter into our lives. One small tiny little life born in a manger vulnerable and defenceless, that will with time will become our salvation.

There seems to be a hundred and one examples of what Christmas should mean to us all going round. But to me there is nothing more iconic about Christmas than the Nativity scene.  I choose the word iconic deliberately, it is an image to be respected and revered. It is a leading example of all we should hold dear at Christmas and not just for the light of the world at the centre. The illustration, known so well to us all, is the image of a family, turned towards and centred on Christ. No matter how many thousands of times I have seen this image in it's many guises, both gaudy and plain, I never tire of it. Never cease to find a new message in it. It is a calling to all, to take your family, be with your family, share with your family and focus all those wonderful gifts and blessings in on Christ. My favourite images are those of a kneeling Mother and Father, these to me symbolise more than centring just the amazing in on Christ. To me it symbolises us as we come through our Advent pilgrimage to kneel at Christ's birth in prayer and thanksgiving and also maybe in fear and sadness asking the saviour to light the path to our own salvation.

I know there are many references of what Christmas means in today's world, which bits of secular life best reflect the Christian message in the modern world. I can not hope to compete with the great and glorious theological minds of our Bishops and their clergy. But for me this image of family is best reflected not when we gather to watch TV, hide in our phones or open our gifts. It is when we gather to share a meal. No matter how grand or how small a meal we have, the fact that we gather at the table, face each other, share one thing between us, talk, love and essentially break bread together, we share this image of family far better than at any other point this season. It is a starting point, for all the other love, sharing and giving we should do at this time of year. Both our Christian family gathered at the altar to share our meal and our own immediate family gathered round a table. Neatly poetic, neatly reflecting each other and the image of the nativity, a family centred on Christ that will turn and share his light with the world so the family gathered at the stable may grow.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Not just one life, every life

Almost 11 years ago I gave birth to my second son. He was a perfect little bundle of joy and compared to my older son his birth was easy. We sat and cuddled him beaming with joy and pride. However he had a slight whistle when he was breathing, gradually this got worse. He was whisked away and put in an incubator. Next to all the tiny premature babies, his massive 10lb figure looked to healthy and out of place. He was vulnerable though and they watched turning up the oxygen as his saturation fell. Eventually the identified the problem as a tension pneumothorax. They put in a chest drain, but this did not work either. So in the middle of the rush of post pregnancy hormones they took my precious child to another hospital. Both my husband and I followed. The problem however was sorted and one of the scariest 48 hours of our lives was over.
As the anniversary of his birth comes round again, we found ourselves anxiously watching monitors again. Hoping and praying that the medication will work and his breathing will normalise. It is a sudden awakening to just how lucky we are to have been given the gift of three children and how fragile that life is. Watching your own child struggle to breathe, whilst watching others washing up on a beach with their life extinguished is of course a difficult thing to see. The death of those children is tragic and wrong. The simple fact though, is that they were not the first. They are not the only children to die, they are just the first that washed up near our doorstep.

Our country now so suddenly moving to help these vulnerable people, is a good thing. Though slightly ironic that at the same time our politicians are debating on whether we should be allowed to kill our own people. We seem focussed on one set lives and one issue. Why are we so determined to fight for these lives, when we have watched others raped, masssacared, be-headed, tortured and bombed? Why fight for those when we want to kill those who become a burden in our country and those unborn lives that might make our own lives difficult. Why are some lives more important to us than others, why do we want to fight for some and destroy others. The answer is we want to do what makes us feel better. It makes us feel better to offer a home or throw some material things in their direction. It is a short term solution to a long term problem. Absolutely we should welcome them in and give them homes and love, but it is not going to stop people drowning trying to get here. It is not going to stop people suffocating lorries as they are trafficked into Europe. It is not going to stop those that can not leave Iraq, Syria and all other tormented countries from dying. We have to solve the whole problem and protect as many lives as we can from the Evil that is creeping not very subtly into the world around us.

When Christ knocks on our door he is not in just the most emotive headline story, he is in every vulnerable life. We have to be able to see him in every life, not just the convenient ones. Welcoming Christ in is not meant to be comfortable or easy it is meant to be hard. Every life is a gift from our Eternal Father, from the unborn one to the terminally ill one, each one needs our love and our protection. Can you see Christ or are you going to ignore him?