I have come to replace you

24 10 2014

I have come to replace you. That is what babies are really saying when looking adoringly into your eyes. And, of course, where’s my lunch? Though perhaps then it’s not the eyes they are looking at.

I have come to replace you. When put like that, it sounds like a sci-fi film. But it is reality. We will not live forever. This is not our world to clutch hold of tightly like an angry toddler. Instead we are guardians of it, like parents, tending, caring, nurturing, but the whole point is we then let go.

I have some to replace you. Here’s the nub. Are we brave enough to embrace and nurture those who will change everything? Because that’s what we do with babies. They will take our jobs, our money, and yes, our church. Yet it is our responsibility to nurture them. So, do we make it easy, or make it hard?

I have come to replace you. As we get older we often fear change more. As Christians, who follow a God of change, who journeys with his people through desert and sea via occupation and liberation and ending in resurrection, we do not need to fear change.

I have come to replace you. Whatever position you hold in your church, look at those who will replace you. They may be much younger than you now. Don’t fear them. But consider how you can nurture them, encourage them, and how you can shape the world they will take over from you. Why? So that when they do, they will be grateful to you. That’s dangerous thinking for grown-ups who like to clutch church like angry toddlers, rather than letting the real toddlers in. 

I have come to replace you. Yes, and you are most welcome.





a complicated relationship with pride

1 10 2014

We church leaders have a complicated relationship with pride. We want to do things well; often we do do things well; and when when we do do things well, we worry more about whether everyone went away laughing at the word do-do than being proud that we did well.

None of us – hopefully – want to be ‘proud’. Not that bad sort of proud that lives on a pedestal and becomes arrogance. So, we easily fall into false humility instead. No no, it wasn’t me, it was the Lord! Bless the Lord for my wonderful preaching! I mean his wonderful speaking through this broken vessel…

And we’re back to do-do.

Snowdon.001

I thought long and hard about this when I finished my Snowdon challenge. Because I was proud. Seriously proud. Not badly, not arrogantly. Look, see, I’m already defending it. I was interested because I allowed myself to be proud. This was ok to be proud about. Why? Because I had worked flipping’ hard, trained for 3 months, run further and faster than ever before, taken on a big challenge, and succeeded. Yay!

So, why is that different from, say, feeling proud after a successful fun day, or assembly, or service. I put loads of work into all those; some are massive challenges. Challenge, success, pride. Yay! No?

It is different because we are not ‘meant’ to say that ‘we’ have done those things. Because without God, we couldn’t. And without God, I could have run Snowdon. Probably. But I think so many of us do ourselves down because we won’t let ourselves be proud at our achievements, because we fear becoming arrogant, self-serving, and, well, proud. And we all know what comes after pride…

But I am proud. Hopefully in a gentle, humble, but confident way, I am proud. Proud when I have played a part in helping someone stay dry from an addiction for several years; proud in being part of leading a church that has changed from 14 older ladies to enough for a harvest lunch for 50 (and that not being everyone) (eek, pride); proud to see young people we have influenced doing so well; proud when people grow and develop their faith; proud to have managed to hold together a diverse and complicated community, along with family and other responsibilities; proud to win Banstead Woods parkrun.

Are you proud?

Proud? Yes. And I think that God says, yes, be proud. Celebrate what is good. But temper it with humility, absorbing praise and then reflecting it upwards; knowing that we do all things in his strength, not our own. Because none of us want to be the arrogant church leader who looks down on everyone else’s church or ministry or lighting system. And anyway, most of us are not really arrogant, we’re insecure; we’re not proud, we’re terrified. But we are the people God has made us, with gifts and talents, and when God uses them, and when we work with him to hone them, that is something to be proud of.

We are not meant to be faceless, identikit personality-void vending machines of God-iness. We are meant to be ourselves, partnering with God, for the kingdom. So let’s be confident and tender and proud and humble.

I said it was complicated.    





staying faithful in a small church

25 02 2014

Small churches are important. And often unnoticed. So I was wonderfully surprised when I was recently asked to give a short training seminar in our Diocese called Staying Faithful in a Small Church. The unique privileges and problems of small churches are often overlooked by those from bigger churches. Subconsciously, bigger means more successful, leaders of larger churches are seen as more skilled therefore asked to do training, speak at events etc…and small churches are the ones that you go to to ‘learn’ before going somewhere ‘proper’. 

Small church. Big Vision. Realistic plan.

Small church. Big Vision. Realistic plan. Stay focused.

So, because I was asked, and not because I think I’m an expert or that this is in any way a definitive list, I offer you ten principles for staying faithful in a small church:

  1. Know your purpose 
    We are an open community of disciples, who gather to worship God, live the kingdom and serve the world. We are not a closed group of faithful people who maintain a shrine or a museum. We are not yesterday’s church but tomorrow’s church. We are not a social club, a community centre, or just a venue for a toddler group. We must know our primary purpose. To worship, to live, to serve. So do that well.  
  2. No more empty chairs
    Shrink the worship space to be realistic. Don’t lie to yourself about how many people are in your church, or are likely to turn up. We used to have 40 chairs for 15 people, so I took 10 away. It felt good when we had to put them back, and then get extra ones. It’s demoralising – and impractical – leading a service with a few people dotted over a large worship space. It may be comfortable for those already there, but it’s not welcoming to newcomers.
  3. Plan for growth
    Being small doesn’t mean you can’t have a big vision. We have one: the transformation of the St Helier estate. But it’s realistic: 1 person at a time. On a small estate church like ours, any more that that and we’d be overwhelmed. But plan for growth – it does need a plan. We got a colouring table ready so that if a child came, they would feel welcome. They did. We’ve now had Sunday School for 3 years with 5-15 kids. Our welcomers  used to count their friends in and close the doors, as no-one else was expected. Now they don’t. Grow a sense of expectation. Have a plan. 
  4. No more disheartening singing
    We have no musicians in the parish. We used to sing to organ backing tracks, but with just a handful of mostly older ladies and me, the singing was not great! So we soon moved on to singing to MP3’s from a laptop over the PA system. There are hundreds of suitable songs, and it takes a while to get used to but then it feels normal. Let’s face it, it’s no weirder than singing to a pipe organ. Now we sing a blend of traditional and current songs, from Wesley to Rend Collective. It took the pressure off the singing, and makes the congregation feel much fuller! You don’t need to be young to operate it – one of our laptop operators is in her late 70’s. It is much more welcoming to new people when the singing is filled out by the backing tracks.
  5. Share the jobs
    In a small church it is easy for (accidental) monopolies of power to occur, as the same people do the same jobs. So I created the “I’m happy to help list”, in which people could indicate what they wanted to help with, and what they didn’t. I know, it’s a rota. But it worked in sharing out the jobs, involving people who had felt sidelined and giving a break to those who felt they couldn’t stop doing things because nobody else would. It is also a great way of including new people. 
  6. Only do what you can resource 
    This might apply especially if you’re church is small because it has shrunk. You will need to shrink what you do to match your resources. An important role of a leader is to give permission for things to stop, rather than them being sustained for the sake of it. This can be tough, but we did it with an older ladies group and they appreciated being able to stop gracefully. It’s also important if you are a small church with an enthusiastic vicar who wants to change the world (!). Only do what you can resource. Fragility is ok – you live with it daily in a small church – and don’t take things on to ‘save them’. Let them go.  
  7. Be the vicar to the parish, not chaplain to the congregation
    Our church is small, but our parish has 20,000 people in. Be careful not to get drawn in to simply maintaining the church building and it’s faithful inhabitants. When we look outwards, so do (some of) our congregation. Tell them what you do – assemblies, occasional offices, hospitality – and learn what they do and praise it. It was looking outwards that began our detached youth work on the church roof a few years ago, which led to a previously unchurched young person being baptised. It means we might take our eye off the ball close to home, and that people need to realise Sunday isn’t actually the focal point of your week. Gasp. 

    bin us together lord

    bin us together lord

  8. Find your allies for change and growth
    Listen, pray, and watch. There will be those who surprise you in their acceptance and desire to see things grow. I was lucky in that most of our older ladies were so happy that they had a vicar and people were beginning to come that they forgave my informal style and lack of robes. In fact, because they know I love them, and that I understand the pain they feel at how small their once proud church had become, that they work with me and not against me. All those who were there when we arrived are still coming and 5 years and still the bedrock of service. I am forever grateful to them for that. 
  9. Connect to networks
    Small church leadership can be lonely. Find yourself supportive networks, and don’t be ashamed about your need for that. Whether it is chapter, or a the local church leaders breakfast; or maybe it is going to another church every now and then, or to conferences. Don’t be lonely, don’t feel nobody shares your experiences. This applies also to your personal life. Small churches can take over your life as you are the caretaker, the warden, the musician and the youth worker. Take your days off, maintain your hobby, which for me is being part of a running club. This is important! Oh, and read I am the vicar I am, of course. 
  10. Know yourself 
    Know your strengths and weaknesses, and build a team around yourself that compensate for them. Practically, and theologically. In a small church you might be the only voice they hear. Work out how to give different perspectives, and invite others to lead and preach. Know what makes you feel good, know what you default to when you are tired, and know when to ask for help. And know when to laugh. Nurture you sense of humour! You’ll need it. 

I finish with something that was said to me in my interview for this job, and it’s about frailty and failure. The church was very small, and though they felt it was right for a vicar to be placed there, they didn’t know if it was to close the church gracefully, or to be part of growing it. The question I was asked was: if closing a church feels like failure in ministry, can you handle failing? My answer was something along these lines: this is where I feel God is calling me to be. If that leads to the church growing, or to it closing, this is where God has called us, so this is where we come. To do what, we don’t know. Yet. But here we are. That was 5 years ago. Now we intentionally aim for growth. Smaller churches are more likely to grow.    

Live with the fragility. Enjoy the intimacy. Serve faithfully. Risk failure. Small churches rock.   





a collateral benefit to existing

7 01 2014

When I was at vicar college I thought I was being prepared for radical church. Not being a lifelong Anglican, and then only extremely low-church, and with warnings from friends about not becoming ‘domesticated’ into the Anglican way ringing in my ears, I thought God would send me to the more radical fringes – youth congregations, fresh expressions, the sort of thing that usually needs lots of wires, boot space and where the only sacred object is the worship leaders album-smile.

It turns out God had other plans. You see, he doesn’t just want the radical fringes to grow. He doesn’t just want young, motivated and skilled clergy (I was in those days) in those places. So, after a curacy learning the ropes in a mid-tempo low-church and very supportive environment where I still got to play the drums, I was called to my current estate church, which was then a very tired, very faithful remnant of 12-14 older ladies in the parish sister church, meeting fortnightly with a robed communion and singing to MIDI file organ tracks on floppy discs. Floppy discs!

A question: what would a successful ministry be in that church? The then Bishop of Croydon Nick Baines said to me in interview that they didn’t know if God was calling me to close the church gracefully, or to foster new growth. I had to be prepared to fail, if success is growth. So, we came here not knowing what would happen. Except that, in my licensing service, he said to the congregation that I was not to be chaplain to the congregation, but vicar to the parish. That I must do what vicars must do, which is not only enable and foster spiritual growth in the current congregation, but look upwards and outwards to those not yet ‘in’. Our ministry is not and cannot be solely ecclesiastical.

4½ years on, and despite setbacks along the way, we have grown. In faith, and in number. And then not grown. At least in number.

Why am I saying this? It is in response to Justin Welby’s interview on the Today programme, to qualify his words:

“…but the reality is, where you have a good vicar, you will find growing churches.”

This has many truths within it. What he doesn’t mean is that a good vicar will always mean growing churches. Sometimes it is all we can do to support and enable things as they are. Many vicars will constantly feel guilty that they haven’t found the key to people flooding in. Sometimes success is people getting through life from one week to the next. Sometimes it is getting the vicar through life from one week to the next. This isn’t reflected in parish statistics.

But. As Justin Welby went on to say, there is a pattern. And that pattern is this:

“[the church] need to be flexible in how it engages locally and it needs to be very clear in its intention to grow in numbers… All the research we’ve got is that if we don’t actually set out to grow the number of people and draw people to the reality of the love of God in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t happen. It’s not a collateral benefit to existing. So you’ve got to be very intentional…”

The pattern is intentionality. When we came to this church, the congregation knew when everyone was there, so the welcomers closed the door and sat down. When we begin to expect and anticipate newcomers, it changes how we approach the welcome. Intentionality. From nothing for kids at all, we went from a kids colouring table at the back, to kids sitting at the front on the mat, to a regular kids group. Intentionality.

I meet many vicars who have no intentionality in their mission. If it happens, it will be a collateral benefit to existing – through baptisms, or choir membership, or church schools. This used to work, and does sometimes lead to sustaining the status quo. But actively drawing people into the reality of the love of God in Jesus Christ needs more than a passive hope. So, we need to actively engage with local schools, primary and secondary; we need to actively engage with local kids and families and older people.

view from BA cropped

Here, our main ministries outside of Sunday church have been coffee morning, toddler group and kids on the church roof. Radical? Not really. Done intentionally, with the aim of drawing people into God’s love? Yes. Not the radical I had in mind at college, but it works. 

So let me encourage those ministering in traditional contexts, that we don’t have to be radical but we do have to be intentional. The way it has always been is not how it will always be. For us that has meant singing to MP3s of worship songs and hymns, not robing, being informal in our style but serious in our love and serious in our welcome. It has meant giving love from the depths of our hearts, to those in the congregation who would rather things were like they used to be but actually delightfully welcome the presence of children – children! – in their previously dying church; and giving love to those who have no background in church, know nothing of the Bible stories, or when to stand or sit and why we have so many candles.

The key is what Justin Welby said about the love of God. We set out to grow people in faith and knowledge of the love of God in Jesus Christ; not to grow churches or maintain a museum. You can’t grow a church without faith. But when you grow faith, you grow church. So yes, good vicars are more likely to grow churches because they have growth as their intentional plan. It is not and should not be solely a collateral benefit to existing. That will surely only lead to exiting.

And at the end of the day, it’s not just about leadership and strategy: without the Holy Spirit at the centre you’re building a kingdom of jelly anyway. 

You can find the interview with Justin Welby here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01p3z2v

If you don’t know what vicars actually do, click here for a job description. 





snail

12 11 2013

Claims to self-importance. So many.
Problem-solving? Done.
Individual. Local. National. Global. 
I am hero. 

Last week. Case in point.

Solving individual.
3 one-to-ones.
Support. Listen. Prayer. Coffee. Bacon.
To connect. Help others connect. Sounding board. Partnership.
Good. 

Solving local.
Launch of Prayer for Sutton. Friday night. Yay.
To link churches. In prayer. Can’t fault.
Saturday: Parish Day of Prayer. Creative prayer stations.
Art. Jigsaws. Space. Worship. God loves St Helier. Yes. He will deliver it.
Powerful prophetic word. Tell.
Good.  

Solving national.
Launch of Christians on the Left.
Guy Fawkes night. In Parliament. Pushing past protestors.
Juxtaposition. Hopelessness. Prophetic optimism.
National politics. Can be changed. Needs to change.
Corridors of power. Prayed for.
Good.   

Solving global.
Feel so small.
Pray for Sri Lanka. Philippines. Leaders. Remembrance Day.
Never forget to never repeat. Tell the children. Tell the children.
The children must know. Told them.
Good. 

Without me the world will end.
Collapse without my wisdom.
Individual. Local. National. Global.
Problem-solving? Done.
I am hero.

Being ironic. Like 10,000 spoons.
Adopting the weight of the world.
I struggle.
My shoulders hurt.
Let go. Jesus says. Again. 

But without me…

Let go. 

Let go. 

But. But.

Grant applications // service plans // unopened post // those who are ill // national debt // breastfeeding // tornadoes // payday loans // christmas rota.

The news. Loads guilt. So many issues. My world. Small. Big. Mixed up. 

Be a snail. Shrink for a bit. No more looking.
Permission to rest.
Slow.

Good. 

 





inside outside

11 06 2013

One voice says I should spend all my time with those outside church. Another voice says I should spend all my time with those in church.  A third voice say too many ‘shoulds’ leads to a hardening of the oughteries. I need a lie-down. 

One of the great dilemmas of the church leader is this: who do you spend more time with? Those in the church, or those outside of it? Pastoring and discipling believers, or making disciples of unbelievers? Bishop Nick Baines said this at my licensing: you are not a chaplain to a congregation, but vicar to a parish. 

the community is out there

the community is out there

It’s hard not to spend all your time with Christians. Committees, groups, studies, friendships… It’s easy – so easy – to find yourself in a bubble where you forget everyone else has life and work outside so actually might not be so concerned with the minutiae of church life as us. Thank God!

On the other hand, most vicars see a lot of people outside the church, or on the fringes. At funerals, baptism classes, school assemblies, pastoral visits, community panels, school governors etc where people aren’t even interested in our coffee rotas. How rude. 

Some of us are more comfortable throwing ideas around amongst those with a strong faith already, pushing at the boundaries of conceived thinking and creatively sharpening each others prophetic giftings. Some of us are more at home with those who are undecided or lapsed or simply never thought about faith – convincing, living it by example, making Jesus known where he is not…

And most of us do a lot of both. I spend a lot of time with people with fledging faith, or fragile faith, or no faith at all. When I was in a different church we spent a lot of time sharing ideas. I miss that. But I hardly knew anyone outside church. Now, I don’t get so much sharing ideas, but a lot more encouraging those on the edges. I will miss that too, whenever our next calling comes.

I know a lot more people now who don’t follow Jesus than I ever did before. Like everyone else in church. 

Some vicars, controversially, are even able to make time to be in clubs outside church (here’s to you Sutton Runners!). They’re obviously not working hard enough (is what the inner voice says). How wrong is that voice. But how loud.  

Where would you rather your leader spend their time? Pastoring and discipling (and organising) believers, or making new disciples? Because what we do with our time impacts you.

 





a new hope for amateur church

27 01 2012

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, then you’ll love the brand-new crowd-sourced fan film just released online – in normal-speak, that’s where Star Wars nerds made their own versions of scenes in the film, using actors, cardboard cut-outs, puppets and anything else they could find, sent them in to Darth Vader and he cut hundreds of 15 second clips from them to make the whole film. It is random, disjointed, painful to watch but also brilliant, and mesmerising, for perhaps the same reason.

I love the idea of fans – people who love something – being asked to make it themselves. Instead of being passive consumers of the latest Blu-Ray DVD Extended Directors Cut Olympic Edition, you get involved yourself. Yes, of course it won’t match the professionals; it won’t pass for 3-D when it’s made from a cardboard box. But it’s yours!

It reminded me a bit of when we as Christians go to “Big Events” to see professional musicians & talkers at conferences and things like Spring Harvest or New Wine or whatever is your chosen flavour, get all immersed in the wonder of the Hillsong gas-light anthem with 1000 beautiful people on stage smiling about how Jesus made them all shiny and new… and then try and recreate it in our home church with Marjorie and her 83 year old piano. To be honest, it’s a bit,well, crowd-sourced. It’s a fan film. It’s not going to win an award. But it’s real.

We don’t expect it to be brilliant. It isn’t. But that’s the church. You work with what you’ve got. Jesus came and invited us to follow him, to worship him, and he did away with Professional Worshippers who do it for you, like High Priests. So, you’re not meant to get a glossy show, which is why I am suspicious when I do.

Even the C of E, for all our dodgy theology about priesthood, is crowd-sourced. The reason there is no C of E press office is because we are a collection of diocese who agree to work together. There is no-one ‘in charge’, which is why what Rowan says is not the ‘official’ party line. It’s just his.

May we the church forever be crowd-sourced, the best ever fan film, made by people who love Jesus and spend our time worshiping him because we love him. We won’t be shiny and glossy, there’ll definitely be some visible editing cuts, jerky cameras and accidental comedy moments. But you’ll love watching it.

And better, you’ll love being a part of it. 





george’s [one holy catholic] marvellous medicine

22 09 2011

I am an accidental Anglican, by virture of a beautiful lady I fancied who I followed to church back in the 90’s. I’ve now been married to the beautiful lady for 10 years and an undercover Baptist (erm, Anglican) vicar for 6. I don’t mean I’m married twice. I’m the vicar.

Accidentally and reluctantly, I was drawn into the strange concoction of personalities and traditions that is the Anglican church. A bit like George’s Marvellous medicine, it often feels like someone was having a laugh when they decided to put us all together. Po-faced cassock-wearing catholics / cords-and-shirt-wearing evangelicals * [* delete as applicable], too-trendy-jean-and-hoody wearing young upstarts and a whole load of [insert adjective] people across the board.

See what I have just done. Succumbed to the basic human desire to categorise according to prejudice. You are like me, you are not. You are different, so I will stereotype and ridicule, thereby reinforcing my own belief in my innate superiority.

I have just been to a licensing of a vicar in the neighbouring parish, and there could not be a more different church experience. From our low-church mostly evangelical working-class urban thing, to a cathedral-like exposure to choirs and cassocks and incense and posh people in suits and hats and a word called ‘Mass’ and someone called the Mother of God. This can bring out the worst in me. I look around and see so much that seems wrong. 

God seems to be worshiped from such a distance, people seem to need to wear fancy haberdashery and look all solemn to approach their Saviour who bled and died and rose through shit and death so we didn’t need to do just that; where the church seems to say ‘over there, look, God!’ rather than ‘in here? God? amazing!’ Where the incarnation seems to be restricted to the sacrament, like God is bound into some contractual agreement not to cause too many problems by running around like a naughty schoolboy, but only to appear when the priest is there to maintain order…

There I go again. Sometimes prejudice just flops out. The way to challenge prejudice? People. Simple, really.

Image from ASBO Jesus

The way we structure our relationship with God is so precious to us. So it can dominate our thinking. But I meet people from the breadth of church traditions and, mysteriously (and occasionally disappointingly), find them to be genuine. Genuine followers of Jesus. In a very different way, and often in a way I do not understand. And some ways I cannot agree with. And me also for them. I know what I look like. Disrespectful of tradition, casual with the Eucharist,  slouchy with the liturgy and lazy with the proper order of the church. Offensive, even.

But I follow Jesus. And people who fundamentally disagree with me can see that. Mostly.

One of the beauties of the Anglican Church is that we rub up against each others differences all the time. In charitable moments, this feels like a beauty and a gift. In less charitable moments it is frustrating and annoying, because so often we go for the lowest common denominator, bore ourselves to death and it makes me want to leave.

Image from ASBO Jesus

But we follow a subversive rabbi who included in his inner circle Matthew the collaborator and Simon the insurgent and used a Pharisee to build the church so I feel it must be right to try and find our common ground and purpose and try and see each other as people and not representatives of ‘tradition’ or any other kind of label. So I promise to keep trying. Maybe you will too.

That being said, please don’t put me in a cassock, sit me in a straight-line and make me enunciate every word to old hymns like I’m teaching a toddler to lip-read.





how to not really have plan

13 09 2011

There are many books about how to be a good leader. There are many strategies on church growth. There are many conferences for conference types to share conferencey ideas. I haven’t yet seen a book, strategy or conference called “how to not really have a plan”. Funny that. Though most of us work that way.

a building, not a church

Do I? Well, I do have a plan, it’s just it… changes. Or maybe it’s not so much a plan as an idea, or a vision, or a hope. I know roughly where I am going but I haven’t planned how to get there. That doesn’t make for a very good book.

Let’s begin 2 1/2 years ago, when we first felt the call to come here. On paper it didn’t look our kind of thing. A small church with roughly 14 older ladies, one child, fortnightly robed HC services, no musicians, no kids work, living under the shadow of threatened closure. So many people said to me, what is your plan?

My response was always: I have no idea. How can I know until I am there? Except to love. We will go, and we will love. But you must have some idea, people said. Nope. Except that I feel that God has called us here, and that we will not achieve anything unless we love. And we could not achieve anything without the foundation of 80 years that has gone before us, and specifically the prayer that led to the parish and the then Bishop supporting a new appointment in an apparently dead-end outpost of a cash-strapped and difficult parish. That was brave.

"...and this is how not to have a plan..."

Here we are 2 years later, with an average of 25 -30 adults and 10-15 children on a Sunday, which has blown us away. And brought its own problems! 2 adults to 1 child is a pretty tricky ratio, and not a problem we foresaw! But what a problem to have. Especially as the 14 ladies are still on board.

And those of you who have followed our story on this blog will know about the detached youth work we found ourselves doing, which began as chasing people off the roof and grew into our trampoline ministry, and supporting families and helping young people into college; and this week we take on a new risk as our youth work student begins for the year, with the plan to build on the detached youth work. Apparently not many churches take on youth workers specifically to do detached work – maybe we are about to find out why.

I wanted to tell you about it, because it is exciting. I wanted to tell you about it because I haven’t seen this sort of change happening before. I know it does, I have read about it, but always with a cynical and jealous tone. Ministry is not a competition, but I have yearned for stories to tell. And here we have them. It is a fragile ministry, as I have written before. My boss is going on maternity leave as the youth worker begins, upping my workload considerably; 2 people leaving or falling ill could cause everything to crumble; we have gained a son in the last year which has changed our availability and energy levels; the parish has no money for new projects; people growing in faith is so hard to quantify and it’s a tough place to grow faith… endless is the list of things that could change everything.

houses or community?

But on Sunday I thought to myself, if I had had a plan, this would have been it. This is where I wanted us to get to, but I could not see how. I could pretend I did have a plan, and that it worked. Then I could write a manual. But there was no plan, only a dream, a hope, a future unseen.And love.

Thomas asked, if we don’t know where you are going, how then can we know the way? That is the beauty of following the Way.

And these 3 remain: faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love.








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