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Is blogging a bad idea for clergy?

A picture of a Bible with a computer mouse attached

David Keen is someone who has re-engaged with blogging in both a prolific and thought provoking way. Well worth following. So many of his posts recently have been bookmarked by me in order to come back to later; it’s almost getting to the point of not being able to cope!

I was struck recently by one of his posts on a subject that is close to my own heart – blogging clergy and subsequent difficulties in them finding work.

Although I think it is unfair to talk about specific people, I have come across (at least online) most of the people he mentions who have been ordained but now find themselves in secular employment.

It would be easy to make a rough and ready calculation and decide that blogging as a priest equals future difficulty in finding work. As I’ve recently discovered in firstly aiding my ‘title’ church through an interregnum and then going into a new incumbent level post myself, one of the first things that the Parish Reps did in both places was ‘google’ the applicants.

It’s not as simple as that, however. For most of the cases that David mentions, other things were going on as well. I can imagine that, for some, blogging just made globally public what was already going on locally. In other cases, other perceived difficulties alongside the blogging were probably more valid concerns. Read more

Unwrapping the sacred bundle

A picture of Rafiki carrying his sacred bundle from the Lion King

Just over a month into my new ministry and I thought I’d write about some of the lessons learnt so far.

In just my third week, I had the chance to attend a conference for new incumbents run by CPAS called The Buck Stops Here. In some ways it was more a course about leadership and business management than it was for new incumbents, but there was useful stuff along the way.

One of the things I picked up at that conference was the notion of the Sacred Bundle. Every church has a sacred bundle of things which, like Rafiki in The Lion King, they carry around with them and which represent their history and their way of doing things. The only problem for new incumbents is that you don’t know what’s in the sacred bundle. It could be anything. Read more

Long way come, long way to go

A photo of a bridge, looking straight ahead to the path, at dawn

Today is a funny day. As I look out my window, there is a hive of activity around the church and various people fuss around getting ready for the big service tonight as I’m licensed and installed as Priest-in-Charge of my new benefice.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting and watching unsure of what to do with myself.

In some senses, tonight feels more important to the church than it does to me. In many ways, that’s right. They haven’t happened to have a service like this one for 29 years. They’ve only had two in the last fifty years. They don’t come around very often and it’s a visible sign of a new chapter beginning in their lives.

I just happen to be the focal point of that turning of the page… but it’s their book, not mine.

In that sense, I cross this bridge tonight… one that has been seven years in the making… for others rather than for my family and I.

That’s a thought to ponder.. Read more

Advice for Ordinands

Fr Simon Rundell posted some interesting advice for ordinands which I found both interesting and resonant with my own experience, so I thought I’d share it here too.

Fr Simon clearly comes from somewhere higher up the candle from me in some of his perspectives (I guess the Fr gives it away), but it’s still good stuff for those lower down. Food for thought.

I liked the ‘don’t try to say everything in one sermon’ tip which as I look ahead now to a role as Priest-in-Charge with no fixed end date feels a lot more do-able than it does when you’re a Curate.

I was also reassured to hear him say ‘if you don’t feel “one day they’ll work out I’m a fraud” that is the day to stop’. I often feel like that and was glad to find I’m not the only one! Curiously something that most clergy don’t admit to each other… even though we probably all feel it.

Great advice not least the last line: ‘Love God, even when ministry feels the loneliest place in the world’.

Blown away

A photo of a girl blowing bubbles

It’s been exactly a month since I last posted and the main reason for that has been our move of house, the inevitable break in broadband connection and the equally inevitable unpacking, cupboard-building, hole-drilling reality of shifting a family of five to a new residence.

We’re settling in.

One of the things that has interested me in the last month arose out of our final Sunday with Pip & Jims. The last service was, for us, a lovely occasion in which we said goodbye, people were very generous towards us in their kindness and love. At the end of the day, I saw down with my phone for five minutes, checked Facebook and simply updated my status as ‘blown away’.

We had been ‘blown away’ by our day, by the kindness and love of the people we were leaving behind, their kind gifts to us and just all the things we could give thanks for that have taken place over the last three years.

However, having spoken with a friend, ‘blown away’ has taken on new interpretations.

When this person read my Facebook status, they interpreted it as if I was saying that it was time to leave and the Holy Spirit was now gently blowing my family and I away to pastures new. We arrived in Walderslade knowing that God was with us in this move and this call, and now in the gentle but firm way that God moves amongst us, we were being blown on again once again to somewhere new.

So may the wind of the Spirit of God
blow firm in your heart
and upon your life,
may He raise you to new heights,
and open new vistas,
and may His breath always bring warmth to your soul.

Café Church stations: Holy Spirit

A photo of heart-shaped marshmallows

Earlier this month I was part of was my final Café Church service here in Walderslade before I move to pastures new. I’m not yet sure whether such services will be part of my future ministry or not; we need to do some listening and seeing what’s appropriate to the local community and the churches that I’ll be working with.

So this might be the last downloadable station for a while. I’m not sure, I may keep writing stations for the sake of it anyway, even if I can’t use them personally.

Anyway, in the last three Café Church services, we’ve been following a series on the Creed (driven by friend and colleague Brad Cook) and looking at the Father, the Son and Spirit in turn.

With the focus on the Holy Spirit this month, there are a couple of stations available to download (PDF file) that might be of use either in a similar setting or perhaps at Pentecost time. Lots of flames and fire, so be ready with your health and safety!

Rt Rev Douglas Coupland please step forward

A cartoon representation of a faceless Generation X Bishop

In the course of my recent efforts to complete my Masters dissertation, I noticed something interesting. You might not have noticed it but in 2009 a quiet, unannounced seachange began in the House of Bishops. It was nothing to do with women or homosexuality. Nope. It started amongst the Suffragans when Paul Williams (Kensington) became the first.

Since then Jonathan Frost (Southampton) joined him in 2010 and Jonathan Baker (Ebbsfleet) has arrived in 2011 to join an exclusive club that is only going to get larger and larger. It probably won’t be long before a diocesan Bishop joins the group and, depending on how you draw your boundaries, Mark Sowerby (Horsham), Mark Rylands (Shrewsbury) and John Holbrook (Brixworth) might also be eligible to join.

What is this mysterious group that seems to cross churchmanship lines and theological traditions? Well, all those Bishops were born in the 1960s and Williams, Frost and Baker are most definitely the first entrants into the House of Bishops from the so-called “Generation X”.

The exact boundaries of a generation are always a bit fuzzy, but following Sara Savage and friends in Making Sense of Generation Y, Generation X are those Read more

Synod, wedding fees and the other side of the story

A photo of a pretty church building and a pretty wedding!

In my previous post on this blog, I had a go at Synod for rejecting the proposals for wedding fees since it allows some churches, some not too far from me, to continue taking advantage of couples with exorbitant prices.

Since then, I’ve not had any public comments but I’ve had a few private emails from clergy colleagues who have been wise to give me another side to the story. They have made me think further and I want to share some of that thinking here.

As with all things, there are always (and at least) two ways to look at a situation and I guess much of people’s engagement with this particular debate depends on where you stand. I currently work in a fairly non-descript, sixties church building that is relatively easy to heat, isn’t falling down, but also does few weddings. One of the reasons we do very few is because a very pretty medieval church nearby absorbs them all (with some hefty fees to match).

However, if you are working in a very old church, or one that is very large in size (either of which could make it difficult to heat) you might read this debate differently Read more

Synod, wedding fees and allowing some churches to rake it in

A photo of a pretty church building and a pretty wedding!

In other news from General Synod, I hear they have decided to reject the call to raise the fees for weddings and funerals.

A good thing too, you might think. However, it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

So what are the positives? Well, the proposed move was to make some pretty sharp hikes in the basic costs of a funeral (£102 to £150) and weddings (£284 to £425) as part of a larger body of work sorting out the way in which the church charges for occasional offices.

However, in anyone’s book, those price rises are pretty steep and, naturally, many clergy, church congregations and Synod members were concerned about what that might mean for mission and ministry at local level. It may not be much of the overall bill for a wedding or a funeral, but it’s still a hefty increase and it doesn’t really look good.

And herein lies the problem. Read more