Friday, 24 November 2017

Moving worship

I recently wrote a Liturgy for celebrating Communion, and realised how long it had been since I'd had occasion to do that.
Crafting worship, once simply part of my identity, is now a welcome and refreshing pastime as I contribute to Spill the Beans and other worship publications.
Leading worship, however, is something rare in this new role, something to be cherished and for which to be grateful.
It's another transition that has come about in moving from one call to another as I navigate what it means to be "minister without charge".
Two years ago, as I left one ministry for another, thankfully I did not anticipate the loss I would feel when I no longer had to put together, often twice weekly, services. And now I am grateful for the sense of having journeyed through the grief to a place of acceptance - and more - to rediscovering the joy and privilege that it is to occasionally lead God's people in worship.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Calling it out

"Mission will only happen when clergymen get back to preaching from their pulpits and go out knocking on doors." Those were the words of an elderly colleague in a meeting I was recently part of.
His words were applauded and no one called him out.
I was stunned into silence.
It triggered in me a return to an incident I'd had with two other male colleagues over the summer who decided to take me to task on my use of social media. On that occasion, too, I was silenced by their complete lack of awareness of their inappropriate and bullying approach.
In many ways, 25 years into ministry, I shouldn't be surprised by the shocking gender injustice that is all too common in the church but I feel no better equipped to deal with it than I did when I started out.
It seems to me that, if I am always the one who calls it out, that will diminish the other important work that I do. If, however, I remain silent, the stupidity and discrimination continues.
I have in fact lost a number of friendships with male colleagues since following God's call out of the parish and into a new role in the church. It would seem that I've climbed out of the box in which they deemed I belong.
What's more - I find it hard to tell if the gender discrimination is getting worse or if it's my tolerance that has decreased. But what I do know is that life is too short to be considered as anything other than a beloved child of God, called and commissioned by one who created and celebrates my gender, one who honours all created in the image of God as unique, gifted, loved.
Think of all those stories in the gospels of Jesus and the women around him : the woman at the well; the woman with the alabaster jar; the Syrophonecian woman, the haemorrhaging woman; the woman caught in adultery; the women at the cross; the women at the tomb. In the gospels, Jesus' encounters with women are transformative for him, for the women and for those around. Those, often nameless women are the saints I celebrate and whose stories encourage me when others seek to diminish. Those are the saints whose stories encourage me to persist when others would prefer I remain silent.
Thanks be to God for all the faithful women on whose shoulders I stand and may I make the path a little easier for those who follow behind.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Subversive persistence

May you be strengthened in your inner being with power through God's Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith as you are being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16,17)

All summer long, I've walked with these words. As I've traipsed various beaches I've let them percolate  from my head to my heart, let them become a part of me.
That's been a fairly easy task over the summer, when there's space, space to walk on beaches, space to contemplate the power of the Spirit, space to soak up healing and sustenance. I always knew the test would come when work kicked up a gear again, when I was forced, once more, to engage with the structures of an institution that, contrary to everything it represents and flying in the face of the love on which it is founded, succumbs to the abuse of power and fails to honour the divine spark that resides in all.
What I've discovered, however, back in the fray, is not that the structures with which I have to engage have changed - the glass ceiling has not suddenly been lowered, those who are quick to judge and condemn and those who are so quick to put others down rather than build up the body of Christ, have not miraculously disappeared. But what has changed is my rootedness in love, my security in the power of the Spirit of Christ strengthening me. It's quite a small thing and probably pretty fragile, but it makes a difference. 
Two of my biblical heroes are the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who countered abuse of power - they went against the order of Pharaoh to kill Hebrew children. Out of their subversion, Moses was born and a whole nation was led to freedom.
With the power of the Spirit of God dwelling within us, rooted and grounded in love, we are called to be subversive - for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, 18 May 2017


Resilience has become a bit of a buzz word just now. Educators want to see our young people develop resilience. Politicians must acquire  resilience in the face of a rapidly changing world. Even the church is concerned with ensuring (or at least measuring) the resilience of its ministers.
Psychologists assure us that resilience can be learned: the ability to adapt and overcome challenge or to perceive trauma as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than be defeated by it help us develop resilience.
While there is comfort in the knowledge that stressors don't have to define us, that we can rise above the things that might drag us down, that we can learn to change our perception and react with less negative emotion, it concerns me that it then becomes possible to accept things that are plainly wrong simply because we know that we can rise above their impact. This is of particular concern in the church. Recently, grappling with an issue of bullying, I was advised by colleagues to "let it go", "to forgive", "to be the bigger person", all well-meant advice but advice that nonetheless exacerbates the problem and perpetuates the injustice. It is conceivable that developing resilience merely papers over the cracks of a system that is rotting at its core. In my finer moments, I can take on a different, more positive perspective but that doesn't alter the fact that there are those in power, who should know better, who will carry on abusing that power unchallenged while those around them will merely become more resilient. That kind of resilience we don't need!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Blessed and Broken

And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. Luke 24:30

How blessed it is
to break bread with friends
around the table 
or at the altar rail 
in the local coffee shop
or the pub
Indoors,in the warmth
or outdoors, on the street,
sharing bread just as blessed
with the homeless
and the hungry
or with late night revellers.
How blessed it is to break bread
- so much more than sharing food:
Breaking bread
signals careful regard
one for the other,
Breaking bread
involves generosity, 
How blessed it is 
to break bread
when strangers become friends
And food becomes
a sacrament shared.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Making peace with the silence

Mark 15:40-41
There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

Holy Week has been strangely jarring this year
I've been hyper conscious of the preoccupation of others
Those who have been busy preparing services
Those who have been taking part in worship
Those who have been getting ready to welcome family
or have been catching up with friends.
Preoccupation has been tangible
God, too, seems preoccupied
Perhaps unsurprisingly
Preoccupied by the plight of countless victims of violence
Preoccupied by war and rumours of war
Preoccupied by history repeating itself
as those who seek to bring peace
or to live in love with others
are scapegoated
Preoccupied by the sight of those who call out injustice
being subjected to persecution and death.
Today, I walked the beach
in a preoccupied but easy silence with God
and I was grateful for the companionship
in this week of preoccupation
and on this day of silent waiting.

The silence of death

John 19:38-42
The Burial of Jesus
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The silence
Of sabbath
Of burial
Of death
The agony
Of betrayal
Of abandonment
Of separation
The severing
Of Trinity
The hiatus
Of Holy Saturday
A broken body
laid in a tomb

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