Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Thursday, October 26

Hooks to Hang your Faith on

I haven’t posted for a while because it has been both busy and mundane.

On Sunday I negotiated to just sit in the congregation and watch things form that end for a while.

Observations: -

1) I was in the youngest 10% of the congregation. In my own church I am roughly in the middle, and sometimes feel too old for the evening service.

2) When you are not standing next to the choir, the hymn-singing sounds weak and feeble. This is not the fault of the people – the acoustics are bad, there are large gaps between the people, and hymns [in contrast to contemporary Christian songs] are set at a pitch where most men simply can’t reach. You don’t mind singing out of tune if your voice is drowned out, but when your voice will be heard by those near (well relatively near), you don’t have the nerve to sing with any energy. Especially if you suspect they like ‘contemplative worship’ and think loud singing is irreverent. So – quiet, feeble singing. From my charismatic perspective, reverence of God means making AT LEAST as much noise as you would when reverencing a victorious football (soccer) team returning with the World Cup. God has done more than kick a bag of air about!

3) The rood screen is an obstacle to the view, and sets an artificial division between the congregation and those with formal roles. In the words of the Sacristan – them and us. He says the screen arose in the middle ages when churches were used more as community centres (good) and would therefore have had animals staying the night in them from time to time and the screen was to keep the animals out of the sanctuary. I can see the point, though from my point of view I don’t consider one place more holy than another – God is everywhere – and I would also consider the animals made by god to be holy too. But I’m being picky there – its just a different perspective. Anyway, we are no longer in the middle ages with animals around, and I think the rood screen should go.

4) I was able to follow the service well (except for the bit where the middle pages fell out of my service book and confused me completely). I did appreciate the fact that a liturgical form of worship means that all can participate in more than just singing hymns.

I spent some time with the sacristan as arranged long ago. He explained a lot of the meanings of the vestments to me, and showed me the Aumbry, and stuff like that. He describes these things as ‘Hooks to hang your faith on’. In his former role as a surveyor, he used to remind himself of the key actions in a compulsory purchase by remembering each one hanging on a hook in a row of coats hooks. And so, in the church, the vestments and rituals are things that he uses to remind himself of the key points of the faith. I can see where he is coming from, and it makes sense. In my personality I am able to deal with things in a fairly abstract manner, but every one is wired up slightly differently, and for him these things are very helpful. Another key aspect, which I can endorse, is that they are physical representations, or re-enactments, of his faith, almost in the same way that he sees the bread and wine as incarnational. I am coming at it from a very different angle to him, yet I can respect his view as a legitimate one.

But coming back to the meanings of things – I was surprised that he didn’t seem able to give me official definitions of the meanings of things – it seemed like it was a more personal interpretation, and that other interpretations were valid. I’m not sure if official meanings exist. I can see that these things might have been useful in earlier times to visually communicate the gospel to illiterate peoples, but if the meanings are flexible, how effective is the communications? And if the meanings are so flexible, do the rituals paradoxically end up actually meaningless?

I have also attended more Wednesday choral evensongs and more Sunday evening prayers.

I have come to appreciate the Choral Evensongs as an act of worship to God. So often we think church is there to entertain us, and when I told my family that there is only 5 in the congregation apart from the vicar, readers and choir, they wondered why we bother going to the effort for just five. But that is missing the point – it is for GOD, not us. Having said that, I have heard from god in these services. This week the singing of Psalm 94 really communicated to me in a way that would not have worked in my own congregation, where the psalm would be read not sung, and even if read with expression it wouldn’t have worked so well.

Where the Choral Evensong uses the Book of Common Prayer, the Sunday evening prayer uses the ASB, which was never officially approved by parliament. I always say the words wrong in this, and in a congregation of 4 including all the ‘staff’, this is embarrassing.

When I went to the church on Monday night for what I thought was a business meeting of the Readers, we did the ASB evening worship first, complete with homily, before we got down to business. Great, acknowledge God at the start of the meeting. But to sit through exactly the same stuff again was really tedious.

Common Worship says that repetition of services means that eventually you learn them by heart and then you can worship God without the need to read and shuffle papers, and can really enter into the spirit of the worship. Fair enough, but the stage after that is that you stop paying attention at all. Be honest now - how many of us really pay attention when we say the Lords Prayer? And in the passage where Jesus taught the prayer he warned us not to use repetitions (Matt 6 v 7 KJV) – so I always rebel when I am told to pray [repeat it word for word] as Jesus taught us – NO HE DIDN’T!

When I told friends (including former Anglicans) I was joining an Anglican Church, they warned me against it saying “It’s the same every week!” Their tone of voice was that of refugees from a disaster pouring out their woes to the media.

I have not experienced this sameness in my own Anglican Church, but after two months on my placement I am beginning to get the feel for what they mean and to be honest I am looking forward to the end.

End of Rant

For my last month, I have been given a more active role. I will be the one reading the Liturgy for next Sunday evening (ASB), and for the second Wednesday (BOCP) services, and will do the homily on the last Sunday Evening of my placement. I am also doing the prayers this Sunday.

After that, I have to prepare a report on my placement for the Year Group meeting in January. The report will be read by my supervisor at the placement church, so I shall have to be more balanced than I am in this post!

Monday, October 23

I'm not sure they have a category that I really fit

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical






Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


Roman Catholic


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Monday, October 16

No baby again

Today’s news is an answer to last week’s questions. Mrs is not pregnant.

It is hard to maintain faith at these times, and to remind ourselves that we believe that a new baby is God’s calling on us. Abraham and Sarah had to wait until she was 80 to see the promise fulfilled. For now, we shut the curtains and Mrs hides in bed, emerging only for comfort feeding. I warned the kids to keep a low profile for the week!

We are fairly confidant that eggs are being fertilised, but they don’t seem to implant. In younger days we were always very fertile. So now she worries that the strong doses of methotrexate (arthritis medication) that she used to take may have done damage to the eggs so that now they don’t grow properly. This is a small problem for God, but of course we want the answer now (the clock is ticking quickly past the age when it is safe to have babies) and god’s idea of soon is different form ours.

It is also very frustrating becasue we get all of the pregnancy symptoms each month, but it comes to nothing.

Today was a sudden drop in mood – on Sunday a visitor to the church mistook her for a student, which did her ego a lot of good and was a much happier moment.

Thursday, October 12

I can continue with the usual stories of how I have readings dumped on me at the last minute – but this week I came to Wednesday evensong equipped with my own Bible, in language I am familiar with, so when as expected I was asked at the last minute to do a reading, I did it very well.

But what I want to focus on today is the content of the service. Because there I was, sitting in my vestments in the curate’s chair, gazing at the ceiling and everything else, when the vicar started to read the Old Testament. You know how it is, when the scripture is read, and everything in the room disappears from your perception and it is just you, listening to God as he singles you out from the congregation and speaks to you, personally, directly, even from that most unexpected of places – the Vicar’s mouth in a church.

The passage was Deuteronomy 8 – shamelessly copied here from the Bible Gateway.

6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

So why did this passage apply to me?

Well the first meaning was about my training, which is approaching its end. I have had a narrow evangelical background, but now the Lord has shown me the vastness and variety of his church. It is a good land. It has denominational pools and doctrinal streams and springs. It has fruit – new believers, and the good deeds of the saints (I mean all believers). It has honey and oil – the Holy Spirit. It is a place where I will lack nothing. And if I work and dig to find out more truth and more wonder, I will find it in plenty. Don’t pick up on the details of this interpretation – just get the feel of me coming into a good land on a spiritual level.

But the second meaning is about me coming onto a good land financially as I change jobs at the end of the month. (‘Change’ as in ‘stop being an employee and become an independent contractor’). It is a promise that I will be better off [Thank God!] but also contains the warning for me – yes me personally – to remember where that wealth comes from.

The two things merge together to some extent, but it’s more that they are both expressions of the same thing – that I am moving from a time of training, testing and trial into a time of blessing.

I am excited!

Monday, October 9

REaD#nnGz (Preparation)

Baby: this is all very confusing. Since the miscarriage, the cycle has not settled down, and we don’t know what day we should really do a pregnancy test. So therefore the fact that this morning’s test was negative doesn’t really prove anything. She feels that fertilisation took place and has some pregnancy symptoms, but we don’t really know. A period may start today, but if it doesn’t that doesn’t prove anything either. Who knows? Who knows?

Training: this week I did readings at Wednesday Evensong and at the harvest Communion on Sunday morning. Now this church boasts that it has everything prepared well in advance. So arriving for evensong with my readings rehearsed, I was told they had given me the wrong passage and so I had to read the correct passage unrehearsed, stumbling twice, and looking foolish through no fault of mine. Then on Sunday I arrived with no official function but had a Bible thrust in my hands and was asked to read to the main congregation for the first time. It was a familiar passage but an unfamiliar version, so again I stumbled and looked dumb simply because I wasn’t told before hand. These things would matter less in my own church which is much more of an informal family atmosphere, but in my placement church things are supposed to be done right and it does matter. Having got that off my chest, I actually connected with God during the service as I took communion – as I have often done in my own churches – but it was nice to get the same buzz here. I have finally made an appointment with the sacristan (?) and he will explain to me what all the stuff means. But he also revealed that he is a freemason (in addition to the other guy I told you about), and the way the conversation went I wasn’t too sure of he was recruiting me to the Oxford movement or to the freemasons. Pray for me to be open minded but not deceived.

Work: nothing to report. Just waiting for someone to sign a bit of paper.

Tuesday, October 3


I promised pictures of our new 8 week old kitten. We have called her Cappuccino (Cappi for short) after a very long family conference, based on her colouring.

Monday, October 2

Financial miracle

I should have mentioned in the post below good news from my own church. Our church income has been about £XX,000 below our expenditure this year. So we held a gift day on Sunday which raised half of this amount. BUT... we also received news that we had received a legacy, which equals the other half of the amount we needed. So our account for this year will now be balanced.

God knows our needs before we know them oursleves!

Busy Weekend

Something of a weekend!

We bought a new kitten to replace ‘Bubbles’ who died earlier this year (see "Bubbles in the Sky”). Very cute – 8 weeks – everything a kitten should be. She had only just been brought into the pet rescue centre along with mum and siblings. Photos will come soon.

Our own baby: - still going through the usual ups and downs- feelings, no feelings, feelings, no feelings – could be an early pregnancy but will it implant? Mrs keeps seeing twins and signs about twins, and wonders if this is just a heightened awareness of such things (I think so) or God promising or the Devil taunting? Only time will tell.

Training: I was at the Oxford Movement church again this Sunday. No repercussions for my absence on Wednesday. I was doing the chalice again. I didn’t trip this time, but the drop that I did spill went straight down a posh lady’s [formerly] pure white neck scarf. Will I be in trouble now? The sermon was very good and clearly inspired by God and contained the phrase:

“God wants real heart faith, not a few good moral habits and churchy routines”.

I found his to be quite remarkable and heart-warming in a church that places so much emphasis on the detail of its ritual. The hymn just before communion was an excellent interpretation of how despite being just man-made bread and wine, it is in memorial fashion the body and blood of Christ. This is probably not sufficiently incarnational and sacramental for some of the church, but it was nice to be able to sing with conviction and then to say “the Blood of Christ” in a context that I was more comfortable with.

In the evening I was back at my own church, where I was responsible along with another member of the congregation for presenting a service based on a Tearfund pack on their work in Bolivia. To set the context we re-created my own childhood memory of sitting on the dirt floor of a Bolivian mud hut eating boiled potatoes with my fingers. We had the congregation sitting on the floor at the front on a grubby brown carpet eating plain boiled potatoes. It worked very well, and brought the more impersonal material from the pack into a more relevant context, and helped the church to understand the conditions in which our own missionary in Bolivia works. Of course all this meant I had to move all the chairs into a square beforehand, and put them back into the normal rows afterwards. Gallons of sweat!

Work: the wheels grind slowly but surely towards the 1st November, when I should start the new arrangements.

Blog: I find this very useful and cathartic, but I am seriously debating about whether I am doing the right thing. I have seriously thought of deleting it all, but don’t want to lose the investment of time.