Sunday, 30 November 2014

Being Ready To Shine

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, Luke 12:35
This evening the great and the good gathered at St John's as our Pastor, Revd. Gary Noyes, was admitted to the priesthood.
In our diocese the Ordination to the Priesthood normally takes place at Petertide in the Cathedral, when a group are admitted.  As Gary is the only one being admitted to the priesthood on this occasion the Diocesan hierarchy, descended on us.  
Ahead of their arrival was a great deal of preparation. The chairs all were moved, and the carpet was thoroughly hoovered. Windows were cleaned the windows, noticeboards tidied and useful things like drawing pins and blue tack were hidden away.  The glass globes around the lights were carefully polished to allow the light to shine through. Seating capacity was increased by folding back the doors in the foyer, and the Foyer speaker, which hasn't worked for several years, was fixed!
Finally, we removed anything that wasn't essential for the service, which included the communion rails and cushions, the prayer desk, the computer stand, the table where the leaflets go, bibles, flower stands,  as we needed ALL the available space.  The last lot of furniture moving couldn't take place until after the morning service on the day, as the only place these items could go was in the back room of the hall, which is in use at other times.
As we begin Advent, I am reminded that preparation is not something that is ever completed.  We hoovered the church eight days before Gary's Ordination.  The next day we gave the children biscuits….We cleaned the windows, then bluetacked up notices about Messy Church, and then took them down again…We cleaned the kitchen and toilets until they were spotless, and then used them….
At the start of this season of waiting, let us not lose a sense of expectation.  In the approach to Christmas we can all feel under a lot of pressure to create the setting for 'the perfect day'.  As I look at my home, I know that work is needed before it is ready to be decorated and to welcome visitors.  As for my life, I know that it needs even more work, if I want to be ready to make the most of the opportunities God will provide, during Advent and beyond.

When the time came for the service, some of us wore visible robes, but all are called to serve.  Ecclesiastical garments are only an outward sign of the responsibility to share the gospel message which has been entrusted to all who are followers of Christ,  whether robed or otherwise.

As the gloom of November, turns to a December brightened by lights of celebration, let the light of Jesus continue to shine out through us in our communities and workplaces.  May we be people who bring hope and joy, not darkness and discord:-
To a world that struggles to hear the good news the angels brought two thousand years ago.
To a world that is largely unaware, that the miracle of Christmas was delivered by Mary, not Amazon!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Mug's Game

You may think it odd, but I have a particular mug which accompanies me to work each day.  It is an average sort of mug, round with one handle, and adorned with a picture of a fuchsia, which is so faded that it is only upon close examination that it is discernible.  I know my mug well.  I call it by name - work mug.  It is not even important enough to warrant the use of capital letters.

This morning, when I am getting ready for work, I pour the milk into a suitable container, and reach into the cupboard for work mug.  Only one problem, I cannot see work mug....I rummage around the cupboard in case it is hiding, or is trapped behind other mugs  Feeling faintly irritated by this unexpected delay, I express my surprise to my husband...
"That's odd," I say, "I can't find my mug!"
"What mug?"
"You know the one I take to work with me'
"What colour is it?"
"Ah!  I used that yesterday when I was cooking the dinner. It is on the draining board ready to go in the dishwasher...."  
I turn and look, and yes, there is my mug on the draining board, patiently waiting.
I turn my gaze back to the cupboard, bewildered that out of the array  of mugs of different shapes sizes and patterns he should chose the one I take to work.
"Why that mug?  You KNOW I use that one for work!"
"I didn't know you used that one for work."
"How could you NOT KNOW! I always use that mug?"
I am astounded that my husband has failed to notice that this mug regularly lurks in our kitchen, often inside a sandwich bag, waiting for the washing machine to be emptied and reloaded.  He must have seen it hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Yet has never noticed that it was the same mug I used everyday, and this was the one!
How many more things has he never noticed, I wonder.  I will never know!
What do I not notice about him?  What small details of daily life do we simply fail to notice, even though they happen day after day?

Thankfully we have a God, who knows us, our thoughts and no small details of our lives escapes his notice. A God who knows us better than we know ourselves, and perhaps far better than we are comfy with being known…

I sigh and get a different mug from the cupboard, place it into a sandwich bag and put it in my bag.
Then I take a mug shot of work mug.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Scores On The Doors

Today's mystery picture....but where is it? 

The last time I was in Wotton under Edge was on a Southern Branch Bellringers Outing. As the organiser was a friend of the incumbent we were given refreshments on the vicarage lawn on a beautiful summer day.  Twenty five years later and my fellow traveller and I roll into town in search of refreshments.  We chanced upon The Edge Coffee Shop. The food was excellent, even if the staff were a bit uncertain of what was actually available from the specials board!

We explored the town, successfully resisting temptation in the gift shops, though I was really taken with a metal wall hanging of birds in a tree.  Fortunately, given the price tag, I had left my purse at home.  I like looking at things of beauty and recognising that I don't need them.  I am also aware that what looks great on display might not look quite so awesome on our anaglypta adorned walls!

We followed a sign in the direction of the church, but then we reached a junction with no signs.  We crossed the road in slightly different places, which meant we entered the church grounds by different paths and managed to lose each other in a church yard… and spent the next 5 minutes following each other round in circles. At one point I saw my fellow explorer disappear through an archway, but I couldn't shout as there was a bloke midway between us who was on his mobile…
After several missed calls, we soon made contact by texting…
"I am in the church, where r u?" 
"I went to find you…"
"I am here….I will come and find you…"

The church is well cared for and seems to offer a good variety of events, catering for all ages. We admired the displays giving several options for reordering the church and discussed their comparative merits.  
A member of the local church appeared and we chatted about the proposals. Then as we turned to leave I noticed some chalked numbers on the wooden doors. 20+C+M+B+14 
"Was this something to do with the reordering?" I enquired.  
"No, it's part of a service, possibly during Lent, when chalks are blessed and you can take them home and write on your own door as a blessing."  
"A bit like the passover I mused…" and wondered how well this would work on the modern upvc doors that many people have in our town.  
"You can write it on the wall next to the door" suggested our guide, helpfully. 
We studied the code, but were unable to crack it! Did it relate to the Trinity?  Our guide helped us to work out that the numbers at either end related to the year, but we were stumped as to the meaning of the middle 3 initials.
Was the M for Mary and the C for Christ?  Where did God fit in to all this???" 

I did not think I had encountered this custom before, so I vowed to google it upon my return as I was intrigued. One blog I discovered suggested that the church door is marked at an Epiphany service, and the initials relate to the names given to the Wise Men, Caspar, Mechior and Balthasar, but it can also be interpreted as the Latin phrase 'Christus Mansionem Benedictat', which translates as 'May Christ bless this home'.  Blessed chalk are then given to the congregation to take home and write on their own doors.

I wonder how widespread this practise is?  Is this tradition growing or shrinking?

Even though our house is no 'mansion' maybe we will start a new tradition and write our own prayers asking for God's blessing on our home at Epiphany in 2015.   Then again why wait?

Come Holy Spirit and bless our home.  Fill it with happiness and contentment.  May it be a place of welcome and a safe place for our family.  Amen.  

Now where is the chalk....?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

One Sided Conversation...

A phone call - we are sending home a form. Please complete as much as you can and bring it in to the meeting on Thursday. The KHT arrives home and denies all knowledge of the form. I leave it until her dinner is cooked.  
"Here's the deal, you give me the envelope, you get the meal"  
At the sight and scent of one her favourite meals her resolve dissolves and the envelope is produced, albeit slightly damp and dusty.  
"I put it under the doormat", she advises me, triumphantly!

Later I read the form entitled Parental Conversation E H C Plan, which my husband has delegated me to complete.  The more I read the further my heart sinks.  I am expected to comment intelligently on matters I haven't considered since I last tackled the soul destroying Disability Living Allowance application form…. I can answer most of the questions, but I feel somewhat out of my depth.  
"Help" I cry. A friend points me in the direction of a training video on the Autism Connect website.  It fills me in on the background, but I still feel there is something missing…This feels like a very lonely conversation.  In the run up to her statement there were professionals working together, with me. Now, there is me and the internet.  The results of this form will help shape the level of care she will get until she is 25!  What have I forgotten?

Thursday arrives and at the allotted time we arrive at the school for the meeting, and sign in
"How have you got on with filling in your form?" asks the Receptionist, urgently.
"Well I have done the best I can, but I feel somewhat out of my depth!"
She sighed.  "Well most parents roll up half an hour earlier…"  
At the sight of my confused expression she stops and glances at the letter that was sent home.  Apparently we should have been invited in to chat with a couple of the professionals prior to the meeting, and during this discussion the conversation document should have been completed.  Suddenly it all starts to make a lot more sense.  Unfortunately, no-one told us.  Mistakes happen. However, I felt wrong footed, and spend the first 5 minutes of the meeting trying not to be too defensive!  On the positive side, they were really impressed with the amount I had been able to complete, and I will get the opportunity to have further input before the document is completed, so if anything significant has been omitted there is still the opportunity to have it included.

That the document was not labelled Parental Monologue E H C Plan, was the clue I missed!  Hindsight, how wonderful you are!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Gain and the Pain

Land of ancient churches, lots of them!  Very old churches, with ancient wooden doors. Situated on little islands, in small hamlets and beside main roads. Overlooking seas, hedgerows or Waitrose... Churches with a bell or two, tucked away in a turret or bellcot.

Beaumaris parish church is hidden away up a side street, but I believe it houses the only significant ring of bells on Anglesey. There may also be a ring of three somewhere on the island, but I am not sure of the precise location or how often they are rung.  

According to the Association website, Beaumaris practice on a Wednesday evening.  We took the opportunity to explore Penmon Point, with views past the lighthouse to Puffin island.  Despite the sunshine the wind was bracing.  We didn't walk as far as we intended, as the smallest member of the party was battling a cold and definitely flagging.

We moved on to explore the Dovecote, well and Abbey.  Both the later were sacred places, where pilgrims gathered, and some left behind offerings that were more than words.

The views across to the mainland were stunning.

We moved on to Beaumaris and discovered a lasagne serving Italian Restaurant, which won our custom.  We then wandered along the edge of the water, before turning our attention to the gift and craft shops.

As dusk fell we retreated to the Bulkeley Hotel lounge, where we sat admiring its fading glory over coffee, until the absence of staff indicated that perhaps we had outstayed our welcome.

We wandered up to the church.  Away from the streetlights the darkness felt very dense to our unaccustomed eyes.  Welcoming light shone palely out through some of the leaded windows, giving us hope that there would be ringing.  We cautiously tried doors, picking our way along unfamiliar pathways, until we found an open doorway…With ever increasing confidence we entered in, and soon discovered a member of the local band.  Up well worn stairways we trod, to a ringing chamber of generous proportions. The local band made us especially welcome,  as we chose a night when some of their regulars were not present.  Plain Bob, Plain Hunt and Grandsire were the methods of evening, which allowed us to concentrate on our striking, for these were bells of character and were hesitant to obediently submit to the handling of the interlopers, and delighted in dropping at the slightest opportunity.  These bells would punish any slack ringing!

Looking round the tower, at those ancient walls, I wondered how many ringers had visited this tower and what complexity of ringing had taken place upon those bells.
We signed the visitors book, but I didn't look back to see if there were any names I recognised, for it felt like an intrusion into history that was not mine.

We admired the blue polo shirts of the local band, declaring their allegiance to their tower, and pride in ringing.  I wonder if someday our tower will decide to get some sweatshirts or polo shirts. It could be our secret weapon for a striking competition - we need all the help we can get, as our striking still lacks the precision we desire!

Beaumaris was the first new tower I rang at after restarting ringing.  I took away memories, but left behind my favourite scarf.  I do not know when we parted company.  Maybe it is languishing still within this ancient walls, or was it dropped as I walked back through the darkness of those unfamiliar streets?

Gained -  one tower and helped the local band.
Lost - my favourite scarf
Would I do the same again, despite losing the favoured scarf?
Oh, the delight and cost of being a ringer!