Vocation & Discernment in the CofE

A week or so ago I was interviewed by the Church Times about vocations in the Church of England, and to be more specific the discernment process. The lovely people at CT have made the piece available outside their paywall, so if you are interested in what it might be like exploring a call to ordination, do give it a read, here.

And while I’m here, another short plug, if you are looking at the discernment process, I wrote a free guide to it all here on the blog. You can either read it online or download it to enjoy at your own leisure ;) 

JOY // Guest post from Ben Hollebon

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from a friend of mine – Ben Hollebon.

 

 

I love making films. It’s one of those things I just enjoy in every part of the process. Capturing that clip that you know is going to solidify your story when it comes to the edit is so satisfying.

I love God. Spending time with Him gives me peace. I can’t describe in words the reassurance His everlasting faithfulness brings to my life.

I ask God for stuff in prayers. I know it’s a bit cheeky and they’re not always things that I necessarily need, but I ask anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it works that you ask God for something in a quick prayer, He snaps His fingers and suddenly there’s a fanfare outside as the National Lottery pitch up at your front door with a nice big cheque for a few million. I think God is cleverer than that. He is interested in our hearts desires and giving us gifts; but these gifts are not meant to be held tightly and relished by ourselves alone. Instead, they’re meant to be used to glorify His name, His grace, His mercy and His love.

God gave me a gift last year. It was pretty amazing and I can tell you now – it made me rather joyful. He gave me the gift of a brand new job; one that I didn’t know existed, one that I wasn’t looking for, and in fact one that wasn’t even advertised. My wife saw a job advertised on Twitter (she’s never on Twitter and what are the chances she was on just as this was tweeted?). I went for the interview and didn’t get the job; but they told me there was another job, that wasn’t being advertised yet that they thought I’d be perfect for. So I came back a month later and interviewed successfully for it.

What do I do now? I make films for The Church of England. I work up in Westminster and get to communicate stories of the God I love through the medium that I love. God wants us to be fulfilled through His provision.

This Remembrance video, used in many churches and across Social Media is one of those Ben made.
Pretty cool right? God knows my hearts desires and wants me to be fulfilled in life; but He also challenges me to use the good things He provides to make a difference in this world. This isn’t just a “nice gig” nor is it God giving me a break and moving on. I feel called to work here and with that comes the responsibility that what I am doing is for God’s Kingdom. 

My joy this Christmas is knowing that I have a God who not just knows my every need, but finds ways to meet those needs in ways I could never have imagined. My God can literally find the perfect job for me, where I can use the skills He has blessed me with to communicate His Gospel each and every day.

And my God is your God; is our God; is THE God who loves us all immeasurably more than we could ever imagine.

I wonder what gift He has waiting for you to unwrap…

 

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Ben Hollebon works for The Church of England Communications Team at Church House in Westminster. He makes films and loves all things digital. He even got shortlisted at the Jerusalem Awards this year. He is married to Pollyanna and together, they have a cat called Herbie.

 

THANK YOU!

So this weekend as I sat at home with a horrible cold, coupled with the joy of celebrating my son’s 13th birthday I was also watching the tweets roll in from #PremDAC16 and was absolutely to delighted to see that I was chosen as Runner Up for ‘Most Inspiring Leadership Blog’, woop! (I was also shortlisted for ‘Blogger of the year’ and as with last year when I was runner up in that category I am just so chuffed and surprised!).

You can see all the winners listed in the Premier Digital website here, and huge congrats to all the winners, it was an amazing line up, I feel honoured just to be among them. Especially check out Youth Work Hacks who won this category – a really brilliant blog and resource and not just for those doing Youth work I would say.

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Thank to Bex Lewis for this pic, shamelessly stolen from her Twitter feed :)

So, I also want to say a huge thank you to anyone who nominated me and to all of you who read this blog. Over the last 7 years or so it has changed, grown, had various guest posters, looked at different themes, had many a rant, and also a lot of love. But more than that, it has been an outlet for me to work out what is going in in my head, and to my surprise I have found that has often been helpful to others doing the same. It’s quite humbling when someone sends you a message or an email saying how they have found something you have written, really helpful or encouraging or inspiring. And, so, basically I want to say, ‘right backatcha!’ I love writing but it makes is so much more enjoyable and special when I know it reaches other people and touches them. So thank you all :)

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Last year at the awards dinner above! This year, in PJs and socks at home ;)

Top Tips for starting #VicarSchool

So it’s that time of year, new ordinands are heading off to college to begin theological & ministerial training. I remember heading off to my first evening at college with a huge about of trepidation and a large chip on my shoulder; then just a few months ago I cried at our last service together, knowing I would actually miss everyone. A huge journey in just a few years.

So for anyone about to head off to theological college, here’s some top tips to help you survive your first few weeks. Now I know some of you will be off to residential college, other regional or mixed mode, but take what works for you. And feel free to add suggestions in the comments below! thanks too to those who offered advice via Twitter :)

 

1) Be You

First off, be you. It was you that got you to this point, don’t try to be all ‘vicary’ now you are training, the church needs diversity! Smokers, swearers, ripped jeans and piercings? come on in! You are not supposed to be perfect. And on that, please please please please, and again, please, do not start with the whole ‘Vicar-Voice’ thing. You know exactly what I mean, the monotone drone of reciting liturgy or scripture without a shred of joy or meaning. What is that about? Shoot me if I ever do that. Just be you!

@gerrardus tweeted ‘people at Vicar school are posher than average. Don’t judge them’. Good advice, but works both ways, so posh people don’t judge the less posh ones! and on that…

2) Be open minded and loving

Vicar School should be a place where we can learn on many levels, but also learn to challenge ourselves and each other. We may have differing theological views, but healthy debate is good, when done with grace. In fact I encourage you, to encourage each other, to allow college to be a safe space to discuss tricky issues openly and honestly. This can be difficult, emotional and personal but it might be the only place where you can do this. Make the most of it.

Be kind to and patient with each other, it’s new for everyone, if you are regionally training/mixed mode then you may well have paid work to balance too, let alone kids/family/friends coming to terms with the newness of it all.

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Love this, as purchased in Paperchase :)

3) Secret drinking dens

Ok perhaps not exactly secret but I’d love to hear about any Vicar School dens, anyone?! But there does seem to be a strange quirk of celebrated drinks at theological colleges. At some it’s sherry, others the Malt Club, or perhaps the gin swiggers. No idea how this started but my suggestion is give them all a go, you will almost certainly need a tipple at some points. Me? I’m a Prosecco girl – not sure where that sits in the posh stakes? and court be known to sneak a bottle into my room occasionally. Kim notes on Twitter: ‘…the bar is your friend – even if you’re a teetotal introvert. It’s the place where theology takes place.’ True that.

 

4) Books Mortgage

Yes, so you are actually there to study, not just have deep and meaningful chats whilst supping whisky, there is some work involved. And that means reading. A lot of reading. So on the whole books thing, think very carefully about which ones to buy. If you pick all the ones you like off the reading list you will need to remortgage your house (that’s if you will ever afford a house on a Vicar’s stipend of course…). Best advice given to me was only buy the ones you will use again and again – commentaries for example or those in an area that you want to specialise in. That said, you will still need a trip to ikea for suitable accommodation to house them all when you leave college. Haven’t seen a clergy study yet without it’s own dedicated book wall.

There are lots of places to get free books too including google books – which may not have the whole book but might just have the chapter you need. Amazon often has the ‘look inside’ feature which can be used for the odd page too and Kindle often have books for free or at very low prices – keep your eyes open and share with each other.

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My first book wall, such a pleasing sight!

5) The dreaded ‘Formation’

This is a word you will get to hear a lot. To start with it seems huge, you will feel like you are expected to literally re-form like some Doctor Who style shape-shifter into the ‘Vicar Mould’ – see no.1 on this – being churned out the end like some production line (some people even call it Vicar Factory). By the end it will undoubtedly be a huge joke and anything slightly odd or tough will be deemed ‘formational’. Like the dodgy retreat houses, ancient loos and oh so interesting food you shall be forced to eat (grey soup and salmon bolognaise featured highly in my training) – it’s all formational darling…

It is though a good thing really, of course I can say that now I am out of Vicar School. As Kim says ‘It just means being open to being led & shaped by the Spirit & growing’.

6) Marks Smarks

You may go into this intending to get a 1st in every essay, or you may be paranoid about failing. Just remember you only have to pass. No one is going to care if you finish this course with 45% or 99%, you will be ordained and that’s that. Unless of course you plan to be the next Rowan Williams, in which case, you may need to spend a teensy bit more time in the library.

I, and several of my college friends had an ongoing challenge to see who could pass an essay by just one mark. I’m not sure any of us ever achieved it (we passed by more, not failed thankfully!) but there were times when we all thought this essay was going to be the one. So don’t try to be no.1 all the time, there are other things on your life too. Just get done what needs to be done as best you can, sometimes that will be better than others and that’s fine. Also do talk to tutors if you are struggling, they won’t eat you (well that’s debatable) and usually extensions can be offered. 

7) Just keep on bloody going…

There will probably be times when you want to jack it all in, can’t face the next lecture, or swear that if you ever see another copy of he Book of Common Prayer you will barf… (ok, that one might just be me). It’s all perfectly normal. You can do this, and don’t forget who called you into it all, he isn’t going to abandon you now. 

And anyway if you need to skip a lecture or a worship time because you are knackered, brain dead (or hungover, see no.3) then I really don’t think God will mind. Be kind to yourself. 

8) The Learning circle

Yes lectures, classes and tutorials will fill you with knowledge, but don’t forget your cohort who will all be different and have their own journeys, stories and skills to share. I think I learned as much from my fellow ordinands as I did from the course itself. Talk to each other, share ideas, debate and challenge, ask questions, engage in community life and as noted above, go to the bar! 

Also, don’t revert to school pupil mode, your tutors will recognise that you might actually have some knowledge of your own and in fact on my course several of us did some teaching to our cohort from our own area of expertise, which was really great.

9) Out of the house

Whether residential or regional, at some point you will be in accommodation not chosen by you – might be for a few years or just for a study weekend or two. Enjoy the er, interesting, decor; be refreshed by the often strange food (see no.5); and remember if you want a hot shower to be up by 6am – this rule seems to work anywhere and everywhere (except at Aylesford Priory where there is never ever any hot water).

One of my fave places we went to stay was an ex-NAAFI hotel in Kent. All yellow pine with polystyrene ceilings and plastic plants. But, we were mixing with ‘normal’ folk staying there – potential for great chats in the bar, it was warm, had plenty of plug sockets and wifi that worked. Look for the good stuff and you will find it! If you ever have to stay anywhere old – like a priory or monastery, take a hot water bottle – even in summer, and a 4 way adapter if you want to plug in anything.

10) Bluff

And the last word goes to Margaret who shared on Twitter:

Write somewhere (or tattoo): ‘everyone’s bluffing’. Remind yourself of this every day.

good advice!

 

If you have anything to add to the list, please do let me know and I’ll add it on! Thanks to those who shared via twitter too: Gerrarrdus, Kim, Chris, Margaret, Boris the Bold

Calling, Vocation and Discernment

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A few times recently people have asked me about why I wanted to become a Vicar. Thing is I didn’t want to, it was just I felt God calling me to it. And to be honest I was in denial about the whole thing for quite some time. I wrote about it at various points on the blog so this is just a bit of a round up of those posts that were written when I was wrestling with it all. If you are interested in my journey to ordination, perhaps are seeking your own, or maybe just thinking about vocation and purpose, then these may or may not be interesting!

Purpose – This was written the first time I started to voice something around that sense of calling that was going on inside me. 
A Calling – Actually starting to think about ministry.
The O Word – Finally giving in and thinking about ordination
10 reasons not to be a Vicar – wrestling with it all
Life Changes – admitting defeat and seeing my Parish Priest
Meeting the DDO – approaching seeing the DDO 
Rebelling – being a rebel in the church
DDO Update –  last visit to DDO
Approaching BAP and plenty of doubt
General later post on Vocation/Calling
Lastly this is my free Guide to the Discernment Process in the CofE if you are looking into what it means to be ordained in the CofE, this looks in depth at what you might experience. Useful for other denominations or situations too but it is focussed on the CofE process.

 

 

 

Ember Cards

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If I had £1 for every time someone asked me what an ’ember card’ is in recent weeks, I’d be able to pay for all my clerical wear with the proceeds. And I’ve got to admit, it slightly amuses me that me, a definitely ‘improper Anglican’ to coin a term from a Twitter friend, is doing something quite traditional. So here’s a bit of an explanation…

Firstly, let me admit I only heard about ember cards because fellow ordinands have talked about them, but the short explanation is what it says on the card below, that traditionally those approaching ordination send them out to ask for prayer for them and their parish.  As you know I don’t really do traditional, but I do do prayer and I do love cards and design and nice things like that :) That said, usually they are pretty boring and dull and so I wanted to do something a bit different (no surprise there then) and asked my fab friend Mark at Sublime to design something for me and I love it! Not boring, not traditional, but still what it needs to be.

So ember cards, what? why? who? well it’s interesting that when I decided to get some done I wanted to do a bit of research and find out what they are all about and there seems to be very little info out there, but here’s some basic bits if you want to know…

Ember cards are sent out as part of Ember seasons or weeks, or even days. Ember Days are days set aside by the church for prayer and fasting and have been since the 4th Century AD in ancient Rome. As seasons of prayer and fasting it was considered a good time for ordination of clergy and like many things the Anglican church inherited the idea from Rome.

This Ember Season is between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, i.e: this week. Although the focus on times of prayer for ordination has become more of a focus now, rather than just being seasons of prayer. The CofE says this:

Ember Days should be kept, under the bishop’s directions, in the week before an ordination as days of prayer for those to be made deacon or priest. Ember Days may also be kept even when there is no ordination in the diocese as more general days of prayer for those who serve the Church in its various ministries, both ordained and lay, and for vocations. Traditionally they have been observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays within the weeks before the Third Sunday of Advent, the Second Sunday of Lent and the Sundays nearest to 29 June and 29 September.

(My ordination will be 25th June).

So, at these times of year those being ordained send out cards asking for prayer. I can’t find any information on how the sending of cards started (so if anyone knows more I’d love to know!), but perhaps it was a way of letting people know you were being ordained, at a time when communication was harder and took longer than it does today. Many people went away to train for ministry (many still do) and so would have left behind their original or sending church, friends and often family, so it would have been a nice connection to send back information on the ordination itself and asking for prayer from those who had nurtured them in their faith before training.

Whilst I am naturally a pioneer, looking to do things differently or improve things, I am still part of the Church of England and I embrace that. So in sending the card I feel part of the wider church, whilst also making it a bit different. I chose to put an explanation on the card as most people I send it to won’t have a clue why I’m sending it. Plus traditionally you ask for prayer for the parish you are going to, but I wanted to include the one I am coming from that has seen me through training, nurtured me and loved me in it all. Usually people include a prayer and again, many people I send this to won’t be regular pray-ers, but I wanted to find a way to reach them and I thought the most familiar prayer is The Lord’s Prayer so there is a chance people will have heard of it or may have even prayed it at school. And as I say on the card, it does express so much of what we need daily: to be provided for, to be kept safe from evil and to experience God’s kingdom on earth.

For me also, the realisation of what I am stepping into becomes ever more real each day and I recognise the need for prayer more than ever. This is only something I can with God leading me, so please do pray for me as I approach ordination, and of course beyond…

 

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Liturgy – what are we missing?

Here’s the final post in a series of three, looking at formal liturgy and the charismatic church (these are the first two):

  1. Charismatic or Liturgical Encounter
  2. Praying in Tongues = praying through liturgy

 

So something that came up quite a bit in my foray into formal liturgy and the charismatic church is the question, what are we missing by not using it? – if anything.

And it’s an interesting question, because I think many charismatics would instantly answer that we are not missing anything, in fact not using it gives us greater freedom to worship and encounter God. But here’s a few slightly rambling thoughts that have been raised for me…

Familiarity and Comfort

One Bishop I spoke to was keen to stress the importance of inherited words, the things we remember through repetition (which I have written about here), the words that remain in our unconscious. He cited the example of visiting someone who was nearing the end of their life and how words of liturgy that have been recited over the years or even just been said at school or on other occasions, when said back to that person can bring great comfort. More than that, they might engage a person with failing memory or senses as they bring recognition or familiarity that may be gone in other parts of their life.

Of course this is true, if the person has had some experience of church, or of liturgy, or formal prayer then they truly can bring comfort and more. But it’s more than that isn’t it, because they aren’t just familiar words like the line of a song for example. When I did my hospital placement last year one of the first things I did was go into a dementia ward where we sang to the patients some of the old tunes that were familiar to them. Suddenly those who were seemingly listless and glazed came to life with such joy. In fact it impacted a visitor too who had said no thank you to the song sheet but on seeing her relative come alive, began to join in too.  No, prayer is more than familiarity, we believe it is communication with God, so is it then that in praying in a familiar way we are enabling someone to encounter God who may not to able to do so for themselves any more?

Of course one response to the Bishop could be is the bible not enough? Surely words of scripture can be equally as familiar and as profound or moving as formal liturgy?

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However none of this addresses one obvious flaw in the argument, which is that fewer people are going to church and experiencing the liturgy for themselves, so whilst we have a generation or two who may have gone regularly, this is decreasing and we will find fewer people with any understanding or recognition of the liturgy, so what are we planning for the future? How will we reach people who have no experience of it, even now? That is a big challenge to us as a church. Prayer may be a comfort anyway, regardless of words chosen, even to those who have no faith or little experience of church, but that doesn’t require specific words. Though in a situation which may be difficult or emotional it might be useful for us as ministers to have words to be read when we may find we have none. Again though, do these need to be formal liturgy?

 

Beauty Of Words

I also met David Pytches in my research for this essay (which is where the liturgy fascination came in) who, even as a Charismatic leader, suggested that the church might have lost something in not using formal liturgy. I’m not sure we got to the bottom of what he thought might be missing, but we did talk about the nature and beauty of words. Some of our formal liturgy is written so beautifully (note *some), and I know on the odd occasion I have used a prayer from Common Worship, or once I used the Methodist Covenant Prayer, that people have really responded to the words, asking about the prayer itself and where it was from. Is there something about an almost formal beauty in some of those words that reaches us in a different way? Charismatic worship can sometimes be a bit chaotic – that isn’t to say it isn’t planned, prayed through and well thought out, in my experience it usually is – but I wonder if something more formal can sometimes cut through that in a different way maybe? Of course though that is recognising the use of something more formal as an unusual occurrence, so it becomes smelling special, not just the usual.

 

Something Corporate

Something else that came up was the idea of being part of something bigger, something corporate. When we recite words together that are well known and familiar, we are united together in a very obvious way, and I think there is something really powerful about that. Not just in the physical, in that we stand in a building together saying the same words together, but also if praying by ourselves, for example doing Daily Prayer. For a season I did Morning Prayer every day and was always encouraged and buoyed up by those tweeting about the readings or just noting they were saying it too, making me feel like I was part of something much bigger.

Spiritually too, I think it can unite us with the wider church, just the idea of people across the world saying the same words, the same prayers, particularly on a Sunday, it just feels more powerful!

 

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Lastly, I think there is something about reverence here. I am not a formal liturgy person at all, but the one thing I find hard in a charismatic environment is a lack of reverence when it comes to the Eucharist. I don’t know why, perhaps it is just tradition having been brought up in a more traditional church environment, is it just what I am ‘used to’? I’m not sure how much reverence there would have been at the last supper (& that’s another post), holiness yes, but Jesus was their friend and would have been among that like that. Do we need to create an atmosphere that is more reverential?  I’m not sure but I do find there can be something lacking in the freer environment, with kids running around, people chatting in the queue and after, like we are not taking seriously what we are preparing ourselves to receive.

 

So, what are we missing and is it important anyway? I’m not sure I’ve got to the bottom of what I think about this but I know it will remain something I continue to questions myself over. I think one of the biggest challenges to us as leaders in the church today is for the future. The idea of being with people in times of difficulty and illness, at the end of life perhaps, how do we engage people, how do we pray with them, sit with them, when there may be little left? Perhaps that’s more about trusting in God, perhaps in that case formal liturgy has been a crux for us to lean on, and it will longer be so in many cases. Perhaps then we need to lean more on God and less on our formulas…

Charismatic or liturgical encounter?

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So, in continuation of my avoidance of addressing ‘how I’m actually feeling’ I’m catching up on some posts I’ve been wanting to write for a while.

As part of my course we get sent on a church placement and then write an assessed portfolio, which includes various elements. One of these is an essay, which by some random twist I ended up writing on liturgy. This was a surprise to me, a raving charismatic, but throughout my placement I found myself fascinated by formal liturgy and actually chose to write about it (yeah I know, I was as shocked as everyone else…). Anyway, the essay itself looked at how charismatic worship and formal liturgy mirror each other, but I could have written several different essays as I found myself drawn into many themes. So I’m going to do a few posts on the subject. The first is based on the essay itself (which hasn’t been marked yet so who knows if it’s a load of old tosh). Then I am also going to look at praying in tongues and liturgy; and finally, what might be missing from a church that does not use formal liturgy…

 

…o0O0o…

 

So, this fascination with liturgy all started with something my placement supervisor said:

where there is a thick curtain between heaven and earth

our role is to remove that to peer in…

 

He comes from a different style of churchmanship to myself and yet I really loved this line, I could agree with him on it. Whilst ‘divine worship’ (as opposed to worshipping possessions money, fame etc) is maybe waning in popularity in the UK, research shows that many people are still seeking the spiritual and mysterious (See Mobsby’s book below). So both within and outside the church, as ministers, we have to find ways to enable people to encounter God, or as he put it, to peer into heaven and encounter God for themselves. It’s not a new idea of course, even Archbishop Cranmer recognised it, with his view of the ‘spiritual presence’ of God in the Eucharist underpinning his remodelling of the prayer book. There is more to liturgy than just the Eucharist of course, but that’s what I focussed on in my essay as it formed a common point between informal charismatic worship and more formal liturgy for me to write on.

Just as the Christian life is a journey, the Eucharistic service is itself a journey, one that is repeated regularly. As, throughout life, Christians aim to become more Christlike and leave behind the sin and baggage, so each service enables a smaller ritual version of this. And it requires a journey. A journey from our seat, from our own state of mind – towards God, and to encounter him whether through the Eucharist itself or throughout the service. In a more charismatic environment, this journey may be less formal, perhaps more noisy or messy, even allowing the encounter at a different point, but the destination is the same: to encounter God.

And it’s actually amazing how similar the journeys are in different styles of worship. The journey to encounter begins gathered together, preparing one’s heart for worship. In the liturgical approach (according to the patterns of Common Worship in the CofE) this journey is divided into sections: Gathering, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Sacrament and Dismissal; each one with it’s own elements. It is often assumed that in more charismatic worship these elements are thrown out the window, but in many cases the format itself is surprisingly similar.

For example, hymns and songs in worship were originally used to share doctrinal statements and biblical truths in gathered worship. Now, as liturgical prayers take the worshipper on a journey largely in word format, much of the role of the formal liturgy in the charismatic church is now taken by music, with perhaps the most well known part of a charismatic service being a block of songs sung together. They are usually sung in a flowing order that takes the worshipper from a place of approaching God, through to a closer more intimate place. In some cases specific prayers are replaced with songs in charismatic worship like Hillsong’s version of The Apostles Creed or Matt Redman’s ‘Benediction’ which takes the words from Numbers 6 Priestly blessing and puts them to music. In fact just as much of our liturgy is based on scripture, so in fact are many modern worship songs.

This idea of journey also varies as we move at different speeds through the service, but even the words of one song can act as a prayer to take us as worshippers from one place to another, like a formal confession might do. Some think (as I have written about before) that the familiarity of words in formal liturgy enables the congregation to engage with worship more readily as they join with the familiar, regardless of their own condition, but this is equally so in the charismatic as this an be played out through the singing of songs that are familiar and sometimes repetitive.

I’m focussing a lot on the music I know, but I really feel it mirrors the role of formal spoken liturgy. In fact as I’ve also been thinking about sacraments, I find it really interesting that Bono has talked, possibly controversially, of music as a Sacrament. Perhaps that is for another post but bearing in mind that in more formal worship the encounter with God is often at the point of the Eucharist (a sacrament) it is too much to ignore! For some the action of receiving communion is an encounter in itself, whilst for others it is something more individual: a sense, a feeling, a prayer.

…o0O0o…

This post is I recognise in a different tone to my usual style, coming as it does from academic study, so perhaps it’s time to close and leave you with something to think about. So let me leave you with this thought from Nick Drake who suggests that modern (musical) worship leaders could be ‘the new liturgists’. If this is the case, are worship leaders also the new ministers? Are they leading the church in a liturgical way? Should they be recognised, ordained even? Just something to ponder on…

 

..o0O0o…

 

This is clearly a blog post and not an academic piece so I haven’t included references, but here are some of my sources (below) which I would thoroughly recommend and I’m more than happy to share the original essay with citations, if anyone is remotely interested. Just drop me a message with your email address.

 

Anderson, E.B. (2003) Worship and Christian Identity: Practicing Ourselves Collegeville : Liturgical Press

Dix, D.G. (1945) The Shape of the Liturgy London : Dacre

Drake, N. (2014) A Deeper Note: The ‘Informal’ Theology of Contemporary Sung Worship Cambridge : Grove

Forrester, D. McDonald, J. & Tellini, G. (1983) Encounter With God Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark

Gittoes, J. Green, B. & Heard, J. (2013) Generous Ecclesiology: Church, World and the Kingdom of God Kindle Edition London : SCM Press

Gray-Reeves, M. & Perham, M. (2011) The Hospitality of God London : SPCK

Lathrop, G. (1998) Holy Things Minneapolis : Augsburg Fortress

MacCulloch, D (1999) ‘Introduction’ in The Book of Common Prayer London : Everyman

Mobsby, I. (2006) Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church, How are They Authentically Church and Anglican? London : Moot Community Publishing

Pytches, D. (1985) Come Holy Spirit London : Hodder & Stoughton

Pytches, D. (2015) The Way They Pray (privately published)

Spinx, B.D. (2010) The Worship Mall London : SPCK

The Kings Church (2015) Songs in the Night Conversation 

Transitioning

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I’m feeling really kind of strange of late. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I just feel unsettled, or have an ongoing low-level of anxiety, or maybe I just need more sleep, who knows. It’s just that it’s a funny time approaching curacy. It’s normal to have been assigned your curacy well in advance, in my case almost a year ahead, so I’ve known where I’ll be going for a long time. Which is great in one sense as the stress of not knowing and all the paperwork and complicated stuff is done so that you can concentrate on finishing training. But in another way it’s frustrating because you know where you are going but can’t really do anything about it!

So for a long time my husband and I agreed that we would not even think about the new place until after Christmas (I start in July), which was fine until January when it was ‘after Christmas’ and we really did need to start thinking and planning ahead. So to be honest we’ve been busy and I have probably stuck my head in the sand too, and it’s now March and I find myself feeling ‘kind of strange’. 

 

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In modern churches we refer to the bit between the ‘worship block’ and the preach as a ‘transition’, and I guess that’s where I am, in transition. When you lead a service like this, it’s quite an important time as you are going from one key element to another. I find it really tough because you can’t plan exactly what to say or do (and I am a Monica-style-planner), but on the other hand it’s so great because you just have to be led by the Holy Spirit.

So here am I, going from one thing to another and trying to hear God and be led by him. And to some extent I am, I mean I feel so close to God right now, and in my own spiritual walk I feel like I’m growing in some areas, so that’s fab, but I still feel odd. 

So here’s the thing, I finish my current job in 2 months time (EEKKKK!!) so I am winding down there and handing stuff over, which means for the first time ever my ‘to-do list’ is actually shrinking rather than having things added on the end. In College terms I have three essays left, one study weekend and a week away, I can actually count them in one sentence now! There’s nothing new to plan, no new schemes to be putting into practice (and as a pioneering type I love new stuff!), no big projects on the horizon. It just feels strange and not all that comfortable really. 

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So I’ve been trying to think about how I handle transition at church in a service, and the truth is I just stop, do nothing, and listen to God. And perhaps that is the best preparation for the new season anyway? I don’t want to go into it rushed off my feet and with a head full of stuff, I want, need in fact, to go into it refreshed and revived and knowing God by my side. And the one thing that won’t change in all of this: Jesus. Yep, the answer’s always Jesus, right? We all know that. And I know it’s kind of obvious but right now I think that’s what I just need to keep reminding myself of, that no matter what I’m going through, he is a constant. Unchanging and unfailing.

 

The Curate’s Journey : The ‘O’ Word

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This CartoonChurch.com cartoon by Dave Walker originally appeared in the Church Times

 

So, let’s just recap:

: 6 months of crazy as I thought I was going insane

: 3 months of finding some peace (well, attempting to)

: a year of the discernment process, followed by ‘a year off’ to get over the remaining crazy

: 2 1/2 years of study (so far)

and, yes ladies and gents, the day is nearly here.

Yes, it’s the ‘O’ word – no not that one – I mean ORDINATION. Yes it may be a few months away but suddenly it’s all a bit real. After a visit to the Bishop’s Palace a few weeks ago I now know all that I need to know and boy is it scary.

My brain has been in overdrive: what do I wear? what do I say? who can come to the service? what happens if I faint? Will it matter if I cross my fingers? (jokes. well, slightly) Where is it? When is it? Am I going to lose it? will it matter if I have snot pouring down my face when the Bishop does his stuff? arghhhhhhh…

Ok, I may have slightly begun to lose it. I think the truth is, it’s the sudden reality that I am actually getting ordained. As much as I may have prayed for God to shut the door he hasn’t. In fact I think he’s probably standing there holding it wide open smirking at me smugly.

This is the culmination of years of prep and planning and of course an absolute mountain of prayer but talking of the thing itself makes me come out in a cold sweat. All those old thoughts: Am I worthy enough (no of course not), Does everyone think that? (probably but if not they should do) Can I do this? (doubt it – only with God’s help), what on earth was God thinking? (well you could ask him), and so on…

I know the service itself is really just a point on the horizon, end of training but beginning of doing it for real, although as I already work for the church it’s more like a job change. As a family we kind of had this ‘thing’ of not really thinking about it all until ‘after Christmas’ (probably just a neat way of sticking our heads in the sand) but the thing is, now it is ‘after Christmas’ and there’s no more putting it off. We have to plan. We need to rent our house out, think about moving to a new one (if they ever find us one…), plan for new school runs (although thankfully the younger two are staying at the same school so that’s one less worry), plan for leaving my job, planning handover, saying goodbyes. Oh yes it is real and time is flying by.

Suddenly there’s stacks of forms to fill in, yet another DBS check to do (seriously I have about 4 already), certificates to find (yup. any qualification needs to be prove, cue one trip to the back of the loft cupboard for the husband), and meetings to be had. Not to mention the 5 essays I still need to hand in.

Then there’s the whole service, to which we get given a grand total of 20 tickets. Yes just 20, in a cathedral that must seat about 1000. This means we basically have to rank our friends in some form to decide who gets the tickets.  As for the other questions, I guess we will find out on the day whether it matters if I totally lose it or faint (but please pray that I don’t!).

So perhaps by worrying about the service itself I am still sticking my head in the sand, but that’s my current focus and I shall enjoy it thank you very much.

But I do now know exactly what I need to wear – which for a charismatic like me was an interesting discussion, I can tell you – but I can now name the items I need to wear. Why thank you, yes I do deserve a medal. I mean really, what is an alb when it’s at home? and why is it such a random word? and whilst we are on this (and I defo don’t need one of these obvs) but biretta? I mean surely that is some kind of Italian mobsters pistol no? and oh my word but have you seen some of the clerical wear out there?

 

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yellow? seriously?

 

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er, just no.

 

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ok so let’s not comment on which environment this shirt might be better suited to…

And, I rest my case…

Anyway thankfully I shall not be wearing it all that much and I’ve gone for simple and minimal. And I really do thank God for that because DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH IT ALL COSTS? well, a flippin’ lot basically. I mean this is probably one of the worst paid jobs ever (which is not something that I am bothered about I’m just making a point, just so you know) and yet the ‘uniform’ costs a small mortgage. There is, I am glad to say, a grant to get you started with this, but I tell you I will be wearing my clerical shirts until they are thread bare (funny I just managed to correct an awful but very funny typo in that sentence before going live…).

 

So if you see me in the next few months and I seem, well, a little distracted or I start twitching inanely then perhaps you will understand why…