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On The Question Of Snow And Working From Home

As is well documented, Britain has been hit by a lot of snow (by our standards). Where I live, we’re not the worst hit by a long way, but at lunch time our children’s school was closed down. This afternoon, we heard it will be shut tomorrow. At present, we are forecast to have snow every day until Monday at least.

The children are thrilled. I am not.

Why? I love my children dearly, but having them around the house even more when I am supposed to be working is murder. They will be in my study fighting over the use of their laptop and if not fighting about that, then either monopolising Debbie’s and my desktop or just plain vanilla fighting. As children do. The hazards of being someone who works from home mean that in these circumstances much less gets done. I am the sort of person who needs peace and solitude for preparation. All on top of the fact that the conditions mean I can’t get  out to coffee mornings, hospital visits and the like.

Other things have taken on a higher priority these past couple of days. I am catching up on some paperwork. I installed Windows7 on my laptop, and will upgrade the desktop when I can do a proper backup of everything first. I changed the security suite on all three computers. With Debbie’s help, the study is unusually tidy. But few of these things will impress my church members.

Other things remain constant. I am preparing a sermon for Sunday in much the usual manner. But the meeting and greeting, pressing the flesh aspects of ministry which personalise it – and on which ministers are often judged, regardless of theology or other qualities- takes a hit at times like these.

And there is little I can do about it. Oh, I can phone people instead of visiting them. I can ask the full time hospital chaplain to see someone on a ward on my  behalf, all assuming he can get in to work. But these are substitute measures, and one has to hope that people will be gracious.

Sabbatical, Day 2

Well, here’s a tune for today:

Yes, after the snow that made a flourishing entrance yesterday afternoon, it continued all night and we woke up to a thick and persistent covering, with temperatures comfortably below zero Celsius. The children’s school was closed, as were most in Essex, and the snow received such a welcome from the children that it decided to keep arriving all day.

This morning, we spent an hour or two in the garden. I don’t know whether Rebekah is an instinctive young feminist – her usual prediliction for girlie things and the colour pink might not fit the stereotype – but she insisted we make a snowwoman:


Rebekah and Mark by the snowwoman, 2nd February 2009

Rebekah and Mark by the snowwoman, 2nd February 2009

After a walk to the local Somerfield for soup and a few goodies, we had a restful lunch before a trip to the nearby green, a few hundred yards down our road. Two more hours of freezing while the children sledged down an incline and played with neighbourhood friends.

I’m sure I should have done some theological reflection as my extremities protested about the temperatures, but in truth I was more warmed later by the news that Robbie Keane is returning to Spurs.

All ‘proper’ sabbatical work has been relegated to this evening. I am beginning to write a summary document of The Starfish And The Spider, which I recently referenced here. I said I was interested in this book, because it has been popular over the last two years in missional and emerging church circles. Tonight I’ve started to type up a summary of the book, complete with some reflections on where it might intersect with Christian faith, and how far its insights are compatible with a biblical faith.

In due course, I hope to post some of those reflections here on the blog for discussion. They might be split up into a series of posts, or it could be rather long and uninviting. Watch this space.

Sabbatical, Day 1

The sabbatical began today with a visit to Holy Trinity, Springfield, which will be our worship home for the next three months. I jotted down a few items from the service that could make the transition to worship in smaller, more elderly congregations than Holy Trinity’s. Not least among these was a version of the Creed rewritten as a hymn and sung to the tune of ‘I will sing the wondrous story‘. Tim, the vicar, kindly emailed me the words.

Mind you, I do recall hearing Professor Frances Young say in a lecture once that the creeds were originally acts of worship, so perhaps putting them in a hymn is entirely appropriate for those who sing their worship.

It’s not the first time it’s been done: in recent years, Graham Kendrick has, as have Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. So has Wayne Drain. And those are just the ones I that come to mind immediately. So there’s something to store away for when I return in May.

 This afternoon, it was another church trip. This afternoon, our friends at St Andrew’s held one of their ‘Activ8’ Sunday afternoons for primary school age children. This time, however, parents were allowed to stay. They had a Christingle, timed to coincide not with Christmas but with Candlemas, the festival that celebrates the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple. But coincide was all it did: everything was Christingle.

Besides, while we were in the church, we could see the snow starting to arrive in thick quantities. And while that is more characteristic of February than December, it made the afternoon feel more Christmassy for some, not least two excited children with whom I am acquainted.

We played a game with paper pieces of a Christingle, rather like playing Beetle or Hangman with a Christian twist. There was a picture of a Christingle on an A4 piece of paper turned landscape-wise, with the text of a grace to say at mealtimes. Once you had coloured it in, you could have it laminated, and hey presto, one place mat. That was another idea, along with the sung creed this morning, to ‘borrow’. Finally, before sharing tea together, we made our own Christingles, albeit using glow sticks rather than lit candles.

So twice in one day I have found something to take back after the sabbatical, and I wasn’t even looking intentionally. Sometimes I say I don’t have an original idea in my body. My best ideas have been duplicated from someone else. 

How about you? Are you original? Do you borrow? Or both? And if you have borrowed something good, do you feel like sharing it further in the comments below?