Photo credits

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

Monday, December 20

... adding insult to injury

We found out that the new man who took over my wife's work at the old church ran the CHildren's presentation yesterday. The report is that it was mostly him talking. What a surprise! But the annoying thing was that his presentation - unwrapping presents which had meanings - was an idea whic he stole form my wife when she was trying to arrange to do something with the toddlers. She would 0f course have involved the kids more than him, but he doesn't share her skills. He rejected her, saying he had ideas of his own. But when it comes to the actual event, he steals her idea and presents it as his own work.

Lord, help me to forgive, because I don't think I can do it without your intervention.

Workplace Christian Fellowship.

Encouraged by yet another new face at the meeting today.

Still need to be contacting non-christians rather than simply gathering the faithful.

Church Search II

As I said below, we have started looking at churches outside our town in the neighbourhood district.

One caught our eye. About 10 miles away. Same name as our old church. Also an anglican church.

Many church websites are either slick moving things where they have spent a a fortune on style - possibly at the expense of substance. Others have a simple drawng or photo of the church with a few one-liners about the list of activities. THis one seemed to strike the balance.

It had a photo of the church - ie a photo of all the people in it (now the Baptist church we slagged off below had also done this, but this one was much more upbeat, somehow). It had a photo of the new church hall - in the background with a lrge group of people in the middle. It had a very long page dedicated to the youth and children's work, with a detailed analysis of the philosophies and mission statements of each group, ie WHY it was there, and the reason was usually service and outreach.

We felt that this web site was pitched at the level we would hope for.

Now clearly, there is a big differecne between the website and the church itself, and so in the new year we will visit and see. Watch this space!

Candle-lit carols

In the evening I visited the church where I did my placement during my training. Too 'high' for us evangelicals to settle there. BUt I did want to see their candlelit carol service. I had checked the time on the internet, but still managed to arrive 1/2 hour after the start. I walked in in the middle of a period of absolute silence while a candle was lit. The huge door BANGED shut behind me! AAARRRCGGGHHH!

The service was good in its own way, very beautiful, with a highly skilled choir. It was strangely moving, and during a carol I didn't know found myslef tearfully praying in tongues over our church-less situation and the whole circumstances of our life. So it was very good.

I hoped to sneak away at the end but was spotted, and ended up having to chat and said far more than I should about our reasons for leaving the old church. Bother.

Church Search

So: we planned to go to the Baptist Church.

It didn't happen.

Our town is notoriuos for it's 'ecclesiastical merry-go-round' - people are always moving from church to church and the same faces turn up all the time. So, wherever we go in this town, we will bump into those peole who we were glad when they left us! (Aren't Christians such nice wonderful forgiving folk?!?!)

So on Saturday we started looking at web sites for churches in the neighbouring areas to our town. More of that later, but in the process, noted that the website for the Baptist chuch was rather downbeat. Now, you could argue that a downbeat church needs us more tthan a thriving one. BUt what we are looking for more is a skill match - a church who's priorities and aspirations match the skills we can offer - and the baptist church didn't seem to prioritise the children's work that my wife wants to work in. She's had enough of not being prioritised!

Also, 10 inches of snow dumped on our town and paralised it. Mrs determined that she was not going out in that to visit a church that didn't really look suitible (bearing in mind her rheumatoid arthritis makes it very hard for her to walk on slipery surfaces).

So I said I would take the baby to the play area anyway, because she needs exercise, and that while I was there I would make a preliminary survey for our play church idea, even though with the snow disruption it would be hard to measure. So Mrs then decided that in that case she would come with me. Which meant walking a longer route to avoid the humped bridge, and stopping every few minutes to take a photo of the snow, and struggling to get the push chair across the mounds of slush. It took us an hour to walk 1/2 mile. By then it was lunch, so we stopped in the restuarant opposite the play area. The she went to the play are with the baby, while I went home (10 minutes!) to dig out the car from the snow (1.5 hours plus much sweat) and go back to feth her. Stopped at the supermarket for the weekly shopping on the way back.

And that was almost as spiritual as our weekend got. Not good!

The play area was quiet, but who knows how we shood, interpret that data, distorted by the weather.

Friday, December 17


We finally had a look at the job description for the Children and Families Worker at the local Parish Church.

We were already a bit concerned about it being full time, and our friend has declined any job share approach.

Now we saw that the job also requires a full driving license and involves travel to different locations. My lovely wife does have a driving license, but does not drive and hasn't been behind the wheel for over 6 years. So its not really suitible after all. Also, the firsts ection of the application for asks for your referees, so they clearly put a high emphasis on them. And the people that should be her referees are the people who have unfairly sacked her from the role at our old church.

All that sense of divine timing has come to nothing.

And now we really don't know which way to head in the near future.

Meanwhile, realising that it is the 'Christmas special' season when we can measure how churches treat their young, we have decided to postpone our 'play church' investiagtion until next year and look at more churches now. So this Sunday we will look at another Baptist church where our daughter attends one of the youth groups and seems to do well.

Thursday, December 16

Office outreach

The office carol service went well today, with approx 65 present (of which 10 were part of the 'team'). We managed to involve some of the office Christians that don't attend our weekly prayer meeting. The Chief executive - who is a Christian - did the opening prayer. Everything good.

The PA system which I borrowed from my old church worked perfectly well, though it was a bit awkward having to go into the building again. Inevitably, the vicar was in the welcome area, and again turned on the charm in the hope of winning me back. He is very good at this, though standing back and looking at it from a more distant perspective, he is actually quite manipulative. He manages to get you to agree to things, and then you walk away wondering why you agreed to such a bad deal. On top of that I find it very difficulat to say 'no' to people, and find it hard to give people bad news to their face. So, although I was supposed to be telling him that my wife and I don't want to attend his meeting in mid January, all I got out of him was a guarantee that we won't be outnumbered there. He also conned me into keeping the church keys for now, and tried to pursuade me to keep attanding events. BUt I know his game - it is all attempts to try to keep me attached to the church.

Meanwhile, Mrs was at one of the loacal play areas (not the one referred to in my previous post) meeting some of the mums from the local Baptist church. Not surprisingly, in that location, she also met a few mums form our old church too - ones we have no contention with and who have in fact been very supportive. It was good to be able to put our side of the story to them, becasue they are still in the churhc reche and can see all of the changes but don't know the background. It's comforting to know from them that the changes brought in by the new people don't seem to be very popular. But that doesn't really help. They still deserve a good creche, and for their sake we would rather the new people do something good. But anyway - Mrs is convinced that there is no way that she can go back to that church. I think maybe, if the new sunday school superintendant and his daughter leave the church, together with the assistant minister, and if Mrs was officially comissioned to rebuild the creche, then it might be possible. But none of that is going to happen.

Monday, December 13

Next Parish Option - first test.

We visited our [new?] parish church this Sunday.

It was their parade service, with Scouts, guides and a Rose Queen.

Q1 - what place does a Rose Queen have in Christian theology???

Apart from that: The good was that we were able to mingle without having to give too many explanations, the bad was that although it was a very child oriented service [good] it probably didn't give us a fair picture of the church. One of our friends who was already there said the service had been 'pretty radical'. So it may not be appropriate for us. Our two year-old toddler is unusually lively and will never sit still that long, and the small baby area at the back would be too small and too babyish for her. There is a creche - not operating this week - so she may be happy there but we don't like excluding children from the whole of the main service. There has to be some time when the whole body comes together if only for a short while. However, if my wife does get employed as their 'children and family worker' she would be well placed to influence these things.

Other points - we met a few of the people form our old church who have left in a huff and come here. They were friendly enough, but didn't leap at the idea of Mrs getting the job. They probably don't realise what she has been doing more recently. My 10 year-old son. who will come with us to whatever church we join, seemed happy, especially when he met a school friend there. The church is laid out in old uncomfortable pews. The vicar was very friendly and much more at ease with kids than our old vicar. We were welcomed well at the start, but nobody we didn't already know spoke to us afterwards. The coffee tasted good. Average age was high, and most of the younger people seemed to be parents of the scouts in the parade just visiting for the day. So if we were presumed to be parents of scouts, why did nobody make more effort to encourage us to visit again, or stay, etc? What a wasted opportunity! Which my wife would be able to influence. Oh yes, the speaker was a young woman. who was very good - competent both in style and substance. And if they already have such good people, why do they want to bring in someone else? And would my wife actually be good enough to meet their needs?

Next week we will case out the play area for our Play-church idea, though that seems less likely now.

Personally, I am feeling more guilty for the manner of my departure from the old church, and wondering if it has all been just a misunderstanding and whether I should just go back. I feel tainted and guilty. But I could not ask my wife to continue in that old church. I could not continue smiling and laughing with the people that were hurting her and continuing to hurt her even after we had explained the problem and they had made long faces and apologised. I have to put her needs and feelings above all else.

Yesterday evening was the first time I didn't turn up for a warden duty at my old church - I wonder how the Vicar coped with sorting it out without telling anyone I had left. But that's his problem, if he wants to manage it that way.

Friday, December 10

Christmas - Wow!

This is good

Some future options

Play Church

We thought about starting a 'Play Church' in one of the local indoor play areas. We knew of another couple who have been drifting without a church for a while, with small children, and wondered if they would join us in setting it up. I wanted to do it under the commission of a church or an apostle or a bishop or something similar, but Mrs wanted to go it alone. The most obvious 'cover' would be the Anglican church, but the play area lay within the parish of our old church so we would end up being supervised by the very people we have lost confidence in. And then we found that the other couple had drifted so long that they had rather lost faith. Not really church-planting material! So this probably won't happen yet.

Next Parish

Well, our house is technically in the neighbouring parish to our old church. This parish is also an Evangelical Anglican church, though more traditional than my old one. And I've noticed that there seems to be a two-way street between them, with people leaving each in a huff and going to the other, waving to people going in the opposite direction as they go! So perhaps we are destined to follow the same road? One advantage of staying in the Anglican Church is that my Readership would still be valid - I would just need to be relicensed to the new parish. But they already have 3 or 4 readers form my old church at the new parish already. Do they want another? Also, some of those who have gone there before are people who I was glad to see the back of when they left our old church. Aren't we Christians nice people?

But the main reason for considering this church is that one of our friends, who is already a member there, tells us that they are advertising for a children's worker. So my dear wife is going to apply for the job, which is just up her street, and if successful will be paid £££ to do the very job which was considered to be of no value at our old church. I suppose it would not be appropriate to make rude hand gestures towards the old church!

I need to keep my emotions out of this and make a decision that is based on what the Holy Spirit wants us to do next and what is best for my wife, which will of course be the same thing.

Monday, December 6

Time for a new church?

Well it all came to a head this Sunday.

Mrs could bear to come to church only to sit out and watch her work destroyed, neither was she going to put her child in the care of those who were destroying it.

I had to go - i was on warden duty. I had debated with myself for most of a sleepless night as to whetehr I should go in at all. I felt taht if I were to come into a confrontain with certain individuals I might thump them. Or strangle them. Or both. Neither being ideal behaviour in a deputy warden of the church towards members of the congregation while on duty. So I was going to stay at home. But that would have meant ringing up one of the other deputy wardens very early in the morning and asking them to stand in. Not fair. And I felt the Lord prompt me to go in.

It was galling. I did have to provide keys to the main offender so that he could continue with his act of destruction. I had to watch while his nepotistically involved family strutted about relishing their victory. I noticed taht some of the things they were doing were things that the assitant minister had promised my wife they would not do.

I could take it no longer, and called the assistant minister out of the servoce to ask what was going on. She tried to assure me taht all was OK, that my wife was loved, they did want her to come back and be part of the team but...[the truth slips out]... just not in control. There we had it. Proof that my wife had in effect been sacked, but nobody had told her, nobody had explained why, nobody had tried to find a better way forward.

My following behaviour was indeed unbecoming of a deputy warden on duty, shouting at the assistant minister repeatedly in the church foyer "Everything they are doing is sh**tting on her head". I had lost it. It was time to leave the building rather than make more of a scene. I grabbed my coat, asked the assitant minister to tell the senior warden that someone needed to take over my duty, and walked out, thrusting away her attempted hug.

At home I said to my wife - "Everything you have been saying, confirmed, in every detail".

That afternoon we wrote our letter to the church resigning our memebrship and my various posts and sent it in with our kids - who will stay at the church - on their way to the evening service.

It is done.

Of course anxious Vicar came knocking at the door half an hour later. Trying to pursuade us not to go. He loves me and all the stuff I do in the church. Fine, but I am not alone, I am part of a couple, and he has not loved her or the stuff she does in the church.

Eventually, to get him out of the house, I agreed to a meeting in January once tempers have cooled. BUt I really can't see that he will have any success in finding a deal taht will satisfy my wife that she is loved, and her work valued, when the evidence is otherwise.

So now we have a strange sense of relief. It's done!

BUt it's annoying taht we still have this meeting in January, and can't really tell people until after that.

Friday, December 3

Time for a new church?


It looks like my time at my church is coming to an end.

I have always flourished at this church as deputy warden, member of the PCC, and licensed lay minister.

Not so my wife, who has always felt overlooked, ignored, invisible – and when she is noticed it is only to put her down.

But in the last 18 months she had finally found her feet. Our baby had given her an entrance into the children’s work, and she had risen to lead the crèche and two of the mid-week toddler groups, and these were bringing new people into the church. I would say it was the best church crèche in the town: not just a dumping ground to give the preacher some quiet but a ministry in its own right. The focus was on making children have a positive attitude to church and Christian things from the outset. There was a wide variety of new clean toys set out attractively. There was a teaching session for the older ones following a curriculum with feedback to parents. Fantastic.

All gone.

And partly my fault!

I was on the ‘vision team’ that said we should have a ‘Purpose Driven’ structure. So as part of that a Sunday School supervisor was appointed. His approach to management turns out to be highly autocratic bordering on fascist. And in two months he has reduced my wife from a confident happy fulfilled leader into a weeping wreck pushed to the sidelines.

Unable to face him, we arranged for the mum’s on the rota to handle the crèche one Sunday while we took a break at a breather different church – the first non-holiday Sunday we have been absent in 7 years. We even prepared the teaching material and set it all out in advance for them. We gave the official reason that she was resting owing to her arthritis, which had flared up to the extent of needing hospital treatment again.

Now, a month ago, my wife had asked for the Vicar to come round and pray over her arthritis. Nothing happened – he was too busy. But now, suddenly, after missing one Sunday – he was ringing on our door bell. Not to pray for the forgotten arthritis, but wanting to know what was going on. He doesn’t want us to leave the church – who knows what tales we might tell!

So it was an opportunity for my wife to tell him exactly how she has been feeling. I say exactly – it was a summary with many details, many crushing events, missed out.

Things should now improve, shouldn’t they?

No. He told her to some back to church but to continue her break. So, we set out the teaching materials as before, negotiating with the rota teachers during the week. I took our baby into the crèche in her absence. WHAATT? It had been completely re-organised. A high prison-like partition was introduced to separate age groups (hard for mums with two kids!). Our teaching materials were pushed to one side, and a new hurriedly prepared curriculum was imposed. The rota teachers were left out, and new teachers, many of whom have shown NO interest in helping before, were put in. Our wall posters were taken down. Was this care-taking while the leader was resting? No - it was a takeover coup!

Mrs has been told to rest for the rest of the month. The new Supervisor has been told that she IS coming back – and he looked taken aback and disappointed.

It emerges that he planned some elements of this with the Vicar beforehand, when he was offered the post. To be fair, I don’t think the Vicar fully knew what he was signing up to. But then it was partially his put-downs that set the scene for the new guy to continue disrespecting what my wife has built.

So how can she go back when her rest is over? How can she continue to work with people who have no confidence in her? How can she work with people who have destroyed in two weeks what she has spent years building? How can she work with a know-it-all man who knows little about crèche, and refuses to acknowledge her qualifications, skills and experience in this area? And would he even take her back as the recognised leader, or just as another mum?

Basically, she considers herself to have been, in effect, sacked.

For six years she has put up with the put-downs because she has seen me flourish in the church.

As her husband, I decree that it is time for a reversal. It’s time for her to flourish, even if I have to languish for a while.

The church still has a chance. It can reinstate her as pre-school leader and take this ministry out of the new guy’s jurisdiction. But if that doesn’t happen, there is no place for her in this church. And I don’t think it will happen.

I have always had a low opinion of people who move churches owing to a personality issue. Now I finally understand them. Apart form anything else, if I had to be in the same room as him I might end up behaving in a way that would shame the house of God.

Where next?

There is a rather strict Baptist church just at the end of our road, which I would find stifling. But it places a high priority on children’s work, so that looks the most likely.