Photo credits

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

Monday, April 30

First day back at our original church

The morning felt neutral, or if anything I wondered if we had made the right move.

The evening was very very good, and God spoke. To us. To ME!

The thing with the morning was that nothing seemed to have progressed while we were away. They were singing the same songs. Some of the same tensions seemed to be there. The main Sunday school superintendent that we fell out with was not there, but the people he has put into the role that he told my wife [by sacking her] was not necessary were quite cold to us. But our daughter seemed to enjoy being in there. There were some new families – which is actually great news – but I somehow felt they were looking at us (and the welcome we were getting) as a threat. And the sermon had the same anti-gay rhetoric, asking people to sign the petition against a change in the definition of marriage. Are my views on this now too ‘liberal’ for this church? (I’m not liberal in the dismissing-scripture sense, but I probably am in the lets-look-at-the-scripture-again-and-check-we haven’t-got it-wrong-and-lets-tolerate-people-that-look-at-the-same-scriptures-and-interpret-them-differently sense)

So during the afternoon I was not able to give my wife the overwhelming support for the move that she would have liked me to give her.

But the theme for the evening service was ‘new beginnings’, and having talked about which of us should go we decided we both should and arranged a babysitter.

It was very good. Now, its important to bear in mind that they did not know that we would be turning up this week, and the theme was probably set months ago. But it was as if the service had been prepared especially with us in mind.

It was not the same old songs – one was a fairly recent Phil Whickam song. One was written in 2010 by the church’s own musician who was leading the worship that night. It was as though it was written for us.

The talk was about – you’ve guessed it – new beginnings. But it also included bits about tolerating epolpe with different lifestyles form us even if we disagree with them – for example gays and lesbians – so there is a chink of sense shining through there.

But the bit that really got to me was near the end when the minister who had given the talk went to the front feeling foolish, and asked people to put one hand on their mouth and one on their heart, and then she told us to lift the ‘mouth’ hand to God and give to him all the things that have been said against us, and then to lift the ‘heart’ hand and give to him all the things that still hurt us. And I did. That was right at the end and the meeting broke up almost straightaway, and I found myself speaking to the Vicar and NSM – the people we had all of our shouting matches with in January 2011 – and found myself saying ‘sorry’ to them. This then opened the door for hem to say sorry to us. And it really was quite an emotional moment of genuine reconciliation.

Very good indeed.

Next we met an old lady, well into her 70s, who being deaf to a while to twig that we were really back as opposed to just visiting. As soon as she realised, even at her age she started jumping up and down and saying ‘Thank you, thank you Jesus’.

I can’t really add to that!

Friday, April 27

Back to our old church III

Well, our letters to our old cell group seem to have gone down OK - I saw one of them this morning and he stil gave me a cheery wave.

The response to the other letters is a deafening silence.  Hope we have not offended too many people.  I do feel guilty that we left.

I am also apprehensive about the original church, which we are going back to.

Nobody has really apologised for anything.  We are moving forward on the basis of 'that's in the past', rather than actually resolving it, and I think that may sow seeds of instability in the future.

In particular the main person we fell out with is still there, and we have had no contact with him at all.  I still have an urge to thump him.  But Mrs, who was the one he actually offended, is much more forgiving and argues that he will have learned lessons and changed over the year as well.

So if she is prepared to forgive, so must I be.

School blues II

It might not be so bad.

She found out thta there were other schools with vanacies, in particular a chuch school up at the north end of the town.  This is completely impractical from my perspective, but she is happy that it is on the same bus route that she would normally use, and has already asked for our daughter to go there.

It will be at leasst two weeks before we find out.

Tuesday, April 24

School blues

We sent off our school preferenes list to the local council many months ago.  Today was the day when we found out what school our daughter has been allocated to.

Not our original first preference - which is probably a good thing now that we are moving church and that choice was very much linked into our vision for that parish

Not our second choice - the school where she currently attends nursery and has her best friend

Not our thrid choice - the school all her siblings went to.

All of the above were oversubscribed.

So the local council has allocated her to the school closest to our house.

This makes sense, but there is a reason there are vacancies there - it has some of the worst outcomes in the town.

This is partly a consequence of the catchment it lies in, with many immigrant communities that have been recently disrupted as they move to the UK and which struggle with the English language.

It is also a school that does well with 'special needs' children - in the sense of learning difficulties etc, so it attracts them and this brings down the average marks.

But it also means that the brighter pupils are left to fend for themsleves as the attention is diverted to the needy groups.

I don't in any way resent the attention given to them - it is good.  But it is inaapropriate to mix my very bright daughter in amongst them, as she will suffer.  She needs to be at a school where she will get 'special needs' attention for her high ability level.

You might argue that by taking her away we will be part of the problem that causes that school's results to be skewed down.  But we have had friends whose bright children have gone downhill there, and our first duty as parents is to put our daughter where she will flourish.  It is not right for her to be a tool for your social engineering.

Oh and did I mention - the family of the curate we had trouble with goes there.  Mrs would have to see his wife every day. 

So we will appeal and try agian to get her into the second choice school.  And if they don't accept it, well, my daughter is actuually young in the year and isn't legally obliged to go to school yet.  And Mrs is a qualified teacher, so she will homeschool her until a place becomes available.  And beyond if need be.

Not that we approve of homeschooling - children need to get out of the home and develop wider perspectives and learn to interact with otehr people and ideas.

But what is God doing in all this?

Perhaps the local school needs a Christian influence?  It's closest to the church we are re-joining.  And those deprived families need someone like us to link them with their local church.  So should we trust our daughter to the Lord and accept the council's decision as his will?  Maybe.  If this is the case then our appeal will fail, and Mrs will come round to the idea in due course.

It is hard for her to be accepting of this situation, when as someone passionate aboute working with chidlren and pasionate about her own chidlren she is asked to send her own child to the worst school.  It really is a kick in the teeth for her.

Monday, April 23

Back to our old church again II

(Didn't attend anywhere yesterday - took son to University)

We have now done the deed of issuing our carefully composed letter to the recent church, copied to the leadership team, the cell group and the prayer group, with cover notes for specific friends.

Sit back and wait for the backlash.

There is bound to be something in our letter, no matter how hard we tried to get the balance, that will be taken in the wrong way, or else people will just not get it.  Can't blame them really.

It hurts us to hurt those who were true friends to us there.  It's not their fault. 

Mrs went to the new (i.e. original) church last week.  I will go again for the first time in over a year next week.

Sailing in the Spirit

Time for the sailing analogy/illustration/parable.

I first went sailing owing to an enquiry from my son.  I went to the taster day, and liked it.  Loads of people were working hard as volunteers, showing us what to do, creating a happy atmosphere, giving us hotdogs, caring for our kids, etc.  I joined the club.  I learned to sail.  No I wnat others to join and learn too.  I got into a boat.  I read the wind.  I set the sail and caught the wind, and went as it directed.

Spritualise all that!

The club is the church - full of volunteers who work their socks off.

The open day is the evangelistic event - fun, food, friendship, happy atmosphere, kids catered for.  A taster on a boat.  Hooked!

The boat is salvation, it is Christ himself.  We are in Him.  OK it should be a wooden boat to represent the cross, but we'll make do with a plastic one.    It is the thing that I trust my life to.  the place where I will live and move and have my being.  It will keep me afloat in the storms of life, and eventually carry me to my true home.

The wind is of course the Holy Spirit.  He blows where he wills.  we have to read him and go where he directs.  But 'the spirit of the prohpet is subject to the prophet' - we have to set the sails and the tiller, so that through living in Christ and catching the Spirit we will reach our home.

I love those anaolgies, though no doubt the purists among you will spot many theological flaws suggested by over-stretching them.

But on a practical level, come on Church!  If people can put that much effort into a club dedicated to getting boats to go round and round on a lake, then surely - given how much more wonderful and fantastic our salvation through Christ is on every level and in every way imaginable - surely we can also put a bit more effort into God's church and spreading the gospel.

Boneless nuggets of McKnowledge

I think this is good.

boneless nuggets of McKnowledge

Sailing – RYA level 2!

I have completed my sailing course and now am equipped with the RYA level 2 certificate. I am safe to hire a boat – NOT! I may be entitled to do so, but I really struggled on the last day of the course. This was partly because the main training officer who had been away for two weeks was back, so I felt more pressure, and also partly because I was already the weakest sailor on the course and so he ws watching me most and I felt under more pressure. So, where on week three I had done the three sided course well in both aft- and centre-main boats, this week I could barely get round it once. I lost control numerous times, dropping both the tiller and mainsheet. I got my head tangled in the mainsheet, and trapped, was unable to swap sides and capsized the boat. (Till then I was the only person on the course who had never fallen in). I generally had a torrid time, and didn’t enjoy it at all. It knocked my confidence. So I was actually very surprised when they gave me the certificate.

So my next goal is to hire a boat on Lake Windermere, but I had better go to some of the ‘social sailing’ Tuesday sessions at the local club first.

Thursday, April 19

Back to the original church

We met with the leaders of our old church (Vicar and NSM) yesterday.

We put it to them that we were seeking advice.

We told them:

• How our original calling to the new church seemed to be floundering as the Curate was leading the church in a very different direction

• Our daughter was not suited to their strategy for children in church

• How when we met the Vicar of the new church to discuss ordination, he had said we were too old and in any case he didn’t know us and we would have to go back to the old church for endorsement of our applications.

• We would like to go back, but…..

• To do so would mean flip-flopping back and forth between churches in a way that does not seem right

• To do so would mean seriously letting down our new good friends at the new church

• You can’t keep running from problems. Maybe God intended us to stay at the new church, face the conflict and see it through.

Their response was very positive. They would be very pleased if we decided to go back. (Obviously they had to stop short of actually asking us to go back as that would be sheep-stealing). They disagreed that we were too old for ordination, with the NSM saying that most people on her course were in their 50s. They understood that our first priority has to be for our daughter’s spiritual wellbeing (who incidentally has sometimes asked ‘can we go back to that church?’). Basically, they want us back NOW, but understand that we do need to manage the transition to minimise damage.

So the decision is pretty much made.

We are now working on a letter to send to the ‘new’ [soon-to-be-‘old’] church, giving our friends enough information to understand why we feel a need to move but without being provocative, moody, or mud-slinging.

Going back will solve many problems. My Reader’s licence is linked to that church. We are much more comfortable with the worship style there. We will be re-united in worship with our other children who remained there when we left. It will be good to be a living demonstration of the reconciliation that can be achieved through Christ.

But I’m still confused about God’s purpose in all this and why we are flitting from one place to another – not good.

Monday, April 16

We may be moving church again!!!!

This is really not what I had in mind and nearly caused a 'domestic' when she told me.

You may recall that when she enquired with our vicar about ordination, he basically said 'I don't know you, you'll have to go back to your old church'

He was talking about getting signatures; he didn't mean move back permanently.  But sometimes the Spirit of God takes words beyond their original meaning.

Independently of this she has been feeling increasingly reconciled to the old church - some of those that caused the trouble have left it, and she has matured in her attitude and is generally much further down the road of forgiveness than I am.

You may also have read the posts below about our misgivings at the current church - how we were called there to do children's work but the curate and others are leading the church off in a different direction that is not compatible with the work we do.  And again, we could just throw in the towel and let them get on with it but we would be subjecting our daughter to their child-care policies which we think are harmful.  Also they would want her, at the age of 3, to sit quietly through an adult sermon.  Impossible for a normal three year old, let alone our rather vivacious little whirlwind.

So its carrot and stick.  Disillusioned where we are.  Reconciliation there.

She wants to do it straightaway.  I have been holding back - it's contrary to my principles to flip-flop from one church to another and if we do move I want a managed transition to minimise damage.  I'm confused as to why God would call us so strongly to a church to do a work that is then stifled by its leaders and then for Him to call us back to the old one.  Mystery!  We could stick it out at the old church until we have been there a year.  We could stick it out for a further year and see if when the curate leaves the church takes a new direction which is more suited to us - but that could take yet a further year.  So she went to the old church this weekend, while I babysat.  Meanwhile, the book I have been reading says that you cannot 'manage' God, just do what he says.

She has already made the move in her heart.  Its just a case of me catching up and finding ways to communicate with the current church to minimise the damage caused to them by us moving.

Easter Holidays

  • Caravan in north Wales.
  • day trips to Llangollen, Llandudno, Conwy, Caemarthen, Nevyn, Criccieth, Porthmadog, Bala
  • Some very wet and windy days - but that's what makes it Wales - warmer and drier later.
  • Teenage sons did Segway experience (at Delamere forest in England), Go Ape, Canyoning, spotting low-flying RAF planes
  • Money worries caused by financial year ending on bank holiday messing up the timing of incoming and outgoing payments.

Tuesday, April 3

Outcome of the meeting.

Doom and gloom, I’m afraid.

He thinks she is too old to apply for ordination owing to policies on cost of training v years service in return.

He won’t support candidates that he has known for less than two years. Which is right in many ways, but neglects the history of our case.

He suggested we go back to our old church and get them to endorse it. But since we left that church because they were overlooking her, it’s hardly likely that they will have changed their minds.

One view of course, since everyone keeps telling her implicitly that she is not wanted, is that in fact there is truly something terribly wrong with her and she shouldn’t be putting herself forward.
On the other hand, it may just be that she is a woman struggling in an institutionally sexist organisation.
Personally, as her husband who knows her intimately, there is plenty of cringe-worthy stuff on which I tend to focus, but there is also a huge amount of talent, gifting and calling that is not being utilised. And for every negative, there are people with greater negatives that have been ordained.

Give me Credit!?

I went to the bank to replace a damaged debit card.

They also offered me a credit card. I said ‘Nobody will give me credit with my record’. They said ‘You’ve been given a tick on the system’.

The banks never learn, do they?

Fortunately, I do.

No thanks!

Monday, April 2

Sailing lesson 1

Had my first sailing lesson on Saturday.

Generally it went very well.

Find that the tiller is never in the right place when I cross the boat. I think its a case where I need to do what they mean rather than what they say.

I enjoy it, but I worry that once I am fully trained I will get bored of sailing backwards and forwards all the time. This is why they do races, but owing to time constraints (and lack of expereince and ability) I am unlikley to race. I fanatsie that I will buy my own boat and sail round Cumbrian lakes, but I think the £s will run out before then.

The nightmare comes back. Not happy!!!

Mrs spoke to the curate about the possibility of her pre-school class bringing palm branches from their lesson into the church shouting Hosanna.

She was sent a polite letter, saying broadly “no, this had been discussed with the team and that it was not considered appropriate – we have to balance the conflicting wishes of the whole church, we don’t want the kids doing something every week and they can do something next Sunday. And PS don’t bombard the leaders with your ideas”

Well, at least they did her the credit of replying with a reasonably polite letter, which is a vast improvement on the previous church. But we were not sure how children waving branches and shouting hosanna could be deemed inappropriate for Palm Sunday.

It was even more upsetting when on the day the Curate was leading the service and announced that the kids would bring in palm branches shouting hosanna – and it was the older class (with the curate’s kids in), doing the very thing that Mrs had been told was inappropriate and not wanted And it was a shambles. Mrs would have done a much better job of it. And she has been left feeling totally betrayed again.

She really doesn’t look for these insults, but it seems her destiny to be treated like dirt by everyone in authority!