28 February 2011


I think a lot about doubt. It's probably the philosopher in me. I am drawn to Descartes' first principles methodology (though I don't agree with where he goes from there), and I am comfortable(ish) with my own doubt.

It's nice, then, to see others taking the issue seriously. Mark Vernon has blogged about an upcoming BBC Radio programme on the subject, and I'll be listening (if I remember (Praise God for iPlayer)).

A couple of weeks ago, our exercise for preaching class was to write one page from the point of view of someone who is usually overlooked in the scriptures. See if you can guess who I chose:

Is it so wrong to want to see?
to touch?
For myself, I mean.
to see and touch, for myself.
I wouldn’t have minded if we’d all been in the same boat.
But I wasn’t there.
It sounds like it was amazing.
I wish I’d been there,
But I wasn’t.
Let’s be honest,
It’s fairly far fetched.
Dead people don’t tend to walk around and talk to folk.
If I believed everything people told me;
especially about Jesus;,
people would probably question my sanity.
I know I would.
But I saw him in the end.
And even though he had a go at me,
I’m glad I got to see and touch
For myself
Is that so wrong?

25 February 2011

Vocation and the work-life balance

It's been an 'up and down' few weeks in the Lanky household. Term-time is flying by at a frightening pace, and it doesn't feel like there's time to stop and think. Indeed, this is my first blog post for some time. LittleLanky's teething extravaganza hasn't helped either.

Over the last few days, there have been heated discussions in the Lanky household. Some might call them arguments. The topic, in the broadest sense, has been to do with 'work-life balance'. This is a term that is common in public and private employment sectors, but it hasn't made it's way into the church; certainly not into the realm of theological training. Maybe that's for good reason. In one sense, the binary opposition of 'work' and 'life' is out of step with talk of an all encompassing vocation. But the intention of those who speak of work-life balance is for the enhanced wellbeing of workers, whether or not they happen to be Priests (even trainees). The intention is to recognise that to be healthy and productive in all areas of life, you need to have multiple dimensions; other places. They acknowledge that if we spend all of our time in one place, we start to find life hard, and burnout becomes a reality (recent Lancaster folk might recall Chris Bonington's 3 legged stool metaphor from Graduation speeches).

I've seen the worst cases in previous jobs. My bosses have all been driven, career minded individuals. They've achieved great things, but I look at them and ask 'where's the balance'? Where's the attention to the other?

I see it here in Cambridge too. Living in community (to whatever extent) constrains the possibility of experiencing anything 'other'. Every hour is filled with something. Especially with a family, there's barely time to do the basics, let alone to experience the culture of Cambridge. If I get an hour here or there, I feel like I should be using it to learn the aorist endings in Greek, or prepare for one of many essays.

Of course, for me, there is an 'other'. Having DrLanky and LittleLanky in Cambridge with me forces me to exit the Westcott/Cambridge bubble on a very frequent basis, and that helps to keep me sane. But just lately, that Cambridge/Westcott bubble has seemed to expand at the expense of my family. Hence the heated debates.

Of course, it's not binary. 'Home' or 'Westcott'.
It's more like a Venn diagram, as DrLanky makes a massive effort to be part of the community here. But it's still hard; a balancing act.

And I know it will be hard when I get out into parish life; if anyone else tells me that its to prepare me for parish life, they are likely to get a smack in the mouth (en agape, of course).

Through all of this, I keep coming back to some words of advice offered by our Principal in my first week at Westcott. 'God doesn't call us to conflicting vocations'. These are wise words, and have become my mantra. My family, and my activity outside of the bubble is a valid part of my vocation. They are not a 'bolt-on'. My vocation is to be the person God calls me to be. That includes being a father, a husband, a friend and a priest (in no particular order). My job is to balance the mess of priorities, and to trust that my calling is to live my entire vocation. Not just one bit of it.

Of course, it's easy to say all of that... In reality, I'm a work in progress, just like anyone else. I still want to do well in my degree, but I don't it to be at the expense of being a good father, husband and friend.

14 February 2011

Too busy? Take on a new hobby

I know it might sound counter intuitive, but it's what a few of us Westcott ordinands have done. Three of us have got together to try a group approach to learning the guitar (ukelele in one case).

Now, I have a couple of guitars (along with a bundle of unfulfilled rock star ambitions), and I know a few chords and the basic technique, so we met last week for our first bash. Amazingly, despite the busy-ness of life here, it provided a wonderfully normal release from the hectic daily grind. Concentrating on something that isn't theology, but concentrating nonetheless, was good!

We made a sound - I can't say it was the most fluent playing, but it was musical; and it was a start! Alas, this week's schedule means that we may not all be able to meet up, but it already feels like we're going somewhere.

I suppose my point isn't musical, it's simply that however busy we are, maybe we need to find some time in the week to do something different from the norm; something that stretches our minds in a different direction. For a professional guitarist, maybe that would be reading theology.