28 September 2011

Sunny Lancashire?!

I write this blog post from the very sunny and warm north-west of England. We have come north to visit the parish proposed by my diocese as the one where I will serve the four years of my curacy. We arrived this afternoon and spent the afternoon and early evening with the vicar and his wife (who share the same Christian names as DrLanky and myself). In considering the offers of title parishes, we have been encouraged to follow our gut and look out for any warning signs. So far so good. My gut feeling is positive, and there are no warning signs so far. Tomorrow I'll meet with some more people in the parish and have some more time with the vicar, and I'm looking forward to that! The one thing I have to remind myself is that we are enjoying unusual weather for Lancashire (even in the height of summer), so we need to imagine the place shrouded in mist and drizzle with a steady westerly wind before we make any final decisions. Until we ge further along the line, I can't really give any more details here. As soon as I can, I will.

10 September 2011

Just hold your nerve

Lancashire have had an amazing season in the LV County Championship. An unusually pleasant (in weather terms) start to the summer meant that unlike in previous years, Lancashire have registered a mere two draws in their campaign. Only four losses and nine victories put them on a par with Warwickshire at the head of the table, separated only by three points. So it all comes down to the last fixture of the season. In many ways this is a good thing, but you could argue that Chapple's men should have sealed it earlier in the season. Now it's simply a matter of who holds their nerve next week. Batting and bowling points have never been so crucial, oh yes, and a win is fairly important too. Let's hope Kerrigan can continue his form following a match haul of 12 (with 9 for 51 in the second innings).

On a personal level, I feel I am being called to hold my nerve at present. I have been expecting correspondence from my sending diocese to inform me of the parish in which they think I should serve my title (4 years of assistant curacy working with an experienced Priest). I was told that I should know by the end of the first week in September, and it's now the 10th, and I'm still waiting. Now I know that there are a million possible reasons why I haven't heard anything, and I'm trying to see the bigger picture, but it's hard! I just have to hold my nerve for a little longer, and I'm sure it will all be fine. the frustrating thing is that I know it will be hard to get up to Lancashire for a visit in termtime, so I wanted to try and get that done now. The more days pass, the less likely it is that this will be possible... Hold your nerve... it will all be fine.

7 September 2011

Greenbelt, my faith and music

Back in the nineties, I was a Greenbelt regular. At that time, it was for the music, and for one band in particular, that I made the journey. I recall a number of very damp Northamptonshire weekends where we'd pitch up ridiculously early at mainstage so we could get a spot right at the front.

As I continued to do the Greenbelt thing, I also stumbled across John Bell and the Wild Goose Worship Group. I recall many late night events in cold tents where we were taught new and exciting music in multiple voice parts. This led to me going on a week long course run by John and his colleagues to teach people how to teach music to others).

In some way, these two small snapshots of my Greenbelt memory are quite telling in terms of where I am now. Many people think that Westcott students all fit neatly into an Anglo-Catholic shaped box, but like others, I find the truth is more complex and more interesting. Whilst Greenbelt has grown into a something of a phenomenon in the world of social justice, attracting names like Mark Thomas and Billy Bragg, when I started going it was all about the music (for me anyway). It was about modern and exciting Christian music from bands like Eden Burning, and it was about challenging the way I thought about music in church, through John Bell and his colleagues.

There was a big gap between my last Greenbelt in the nineties, and my return to GB11. Many things have changed: the venue, my circumstances (I had neither a wife nor a child the last time), the festival content, the quality of the loos... the list goes on. But for me, the important thing was still the music.

Going to GB11 with LittleLanky was a very different experience from GB in the nineties. We didn't actually get to many sessions over the weekend. What we did manage, though, was a Big Sing and Monday night at mainstage with Kate Rusby and Iain Archer (amongst distinguished others).

I suppose what I'm getting at (in a roundabout way) is that music is central to who I am as a Christian, and it isn't possible to fit me into a neat #choralevensongonlyplease Westcott shaped box (and the same is true for many of my colleagues). I'm intrigued about music and its role in my spirituality. I'm intrigued that I'm perfectly at home leading fairly charismatic worship with a guitar round my neck (albeit of dubious musical merit), I'm happy teaching songs from Africa and South America in parts and I'm comfortable directing a choir for a traditional Anglican choral service. There's something in all of those that speaks to me of God, and of worship. There's something that compels me to want to be involved! I seem to need all these and more!

I suppose that's what I like about Greenbelt. It allows me to be myself in a way that I haven't found elsewhere - even after a break of more than 10 years. It provides me with the unpigeonholeable selection of music that fleshes out my particular and peculiar faith.

The Cambridge Theological Federation could be a similar place for folk. It's a collection of people doing academic work in different branches of our complicated church. As well as institutions from pretty much all the major denominations in England, it also contains two theological colleges from the Church of England, each representing a different aspect of Anglicanism. Despite this diversity, we easily slip into a scary silo mentality. "They won't like that because they're from (insert name of institution)". Sometimes, these prejudices are born out in behaviour and conversation, but I sometimes wish we could get past the petty territorial nature of being human, and get onto the business of being a better church! Maybe if we spent more time worshipping together; understanding each other's spirituality by experiencing it, we might learn more.

Rediscovering Greenbelt has been great for me, and it has been wonderful to see DrLanky, LittleLanky and other friends of mine enjoying it too. I feel that it will become again for me what it seems to be for others; a special weekend in the year where much of the nonsense and conflict of life in the church is left outside. Where I can express the full complex and unfathomable diversity of my own faith in a safe, supportive and well resourced place.

4 September 2011


If this is how busy we are in the holidays, the end of the month is going to be hard! The new academic year starts on the 25th September, and whilst I'm looking forward to learning more and doing more theology, I'm not relishing the early starts and the essay deadlines.

The past few weeks have been filled with sorting, tidying and washing following the burglary that happened when we were in Sheringham on placement. Add to that the small matter of Greenbelt (with a toddler), and I don't think we're feeling rested from the summer.

On top of all that, we're currently waiting news from the Bishop about where we might be going next year. Many of my colleagues have started to hear about title parishes, and some have even visited and signed on the dotted line! I, however, have not heard anything. Apparently I will hear this week, and if not I should contact the Bishop's staff. Patience is a virtue; one I don't have in abundance.