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Personal Update

Just thought I’d include a quick personal update, because blogging over the next two or three days is going to be tricky. Tomorrow sees another trip to the vet for the new cats, an ECG at the GP surgery as part of the background checking on my blood pressure situation, a family haircut crammed in between the end of school and Rebekah’s weekly Rainbows, then out early evening to Bishops Stortford for a meeting in the Methodist District for those ministers and circuits where a minister’s current invitation runs out next year (as mine does). Then it will be up early Tuesday morning for admission to hospital and the nasal op I keep droning on about. 

So with that in mind, if I don’t get to post tomorrow and Tuesday, please understand! (I think you will.) 

Today also has been one of those times where The Two Ronnies would have said, ‘In a packed show tonight’. On the surface, not a demanding day: two communion services, one at 11 am, the other at 6:30 pm. However, we always try to do something with the children on a Sunday afternoon, to maintain some pretence that Sunday is a family day. So when I arrived home around 1:15 pm, Debbie had sandwiches ready, they had to be gobbled, and it was off to town with the little monkeys.

Mark (who is still storming ahead at home and school with his reading skills) had been given a book by his teacher on Friday about art. He had got into the notion of ‘public art’. That seemed to mean – er – graffiti, and I don’t mean Banksy. So he and Rebekah were excitedly pointing out all sorts of public art as we walked along the river into the town centre. Thankfully, they didn’t notice the ‘art’ I saw which featured words beginning with ‘f’.

Rebekah bought a Princess Diana doll at the church May Fayre yesterday, and we found her a cheap book to help her understand who she was. (Diana died 1997, Becky was born 2003.)

BBs didn’t have any ice cream so our usual treat was out – the kids opted for combined red and blue slush puppies instead, and we took some bread to feed the ducks. 

Back home for me to cook, Debbie to have a bath, and when I’d gobbled my pasta, salad and garlic bread, it was time for evening service. Back home afterwards, it was all domestic tasks for an hour or so before finally sitting down.

I’m typing this while wifey watches the double-episode season-closer of Lost.

I guess it’s been a typical minister’s Sunday?

See you soon.

Sabbatical, Day 71, Easter Sunday: Jesus Returns To Life

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! In this final Damaris Trust video for Holy Week, Krish Kandiah and Peter May talk about how Jesus’ resurrection from the dead gives us hope when considering what happens when we die.

…………

A great service for Easter Day at St Andrew’s this morning. ‘In a packed programme tonight’, as the Two Ronnies used to say, we had the Easter liturgy, renewal of baptismal vows, Holy Communion (of course) and people invited from the community to remember deceased loved ones.

In the middle of all that, there were two highlights for me. Firstly, the worship band shrank at one point to the younger members only. So Emily on vocals , Dan on guitar, Bradley on keys  and the drummer whose name I don’t know – they’re all round about thirteen years old – led us in Tim Hughes‘ ‘Happy Day‘. Here’s a version by the original artist:

Emily is a great singer, Dan a quiet and efficient bandleader, Bradley filled in subtly and the drummer guy is top drawer.

The other highlight was Lee’s sermon. Taking Mark 16:1-8, he made a virtue of the strange and sudden ending to Mark’s Gospel. He said we have to write our own ending to the Easter story in our lives. I thought that was great. 

For all that, it’s been quite a mixed day emotionally. On the one hand, I have entered Easter with a renewed confidence in the truth and importance of the Resurrection. Not that I ever lost my belief in the bodily Resurrection of Christ for one moment, but sometimes when life or circumstances aren’t the most encouraging, it can feel far away. Reading Tim Keller (sorry to mention him again!) and Tom Wright (see this excellent article from The Times yesterday) has done much to fortify my faith.

But other things have been weighing me down. My friend Will says today, in talking about his service this morning, 

Before the prayers of intercession, I reminded our congregation that for many the joys of Easter are still crowded out by their own personal Good Fridays. I know I have friends who will this week spend more time agonising in the Garden of Gethsemane (Jen and Mike, we are praying for you and Luke). For some, Easter is more like the women in Mark who hid when afraid.

And as he mentions his friends Jen, Mike and Luke, so I have been thinking about the three couples I mentioned last Sunday who have separated. Some events today have reminded me of them. Debbie and I feel such pain for them. And if that is how we feel, how do they?

More trivially, our eighteen-year-old cat is suddenly looking old, frail and weak. We are beginning to think the end might be near. The children realise, and on top of the fact that they have been asking questions about death as we’ve come through Holy Week, Good Friday and today. Mark in particular keeps asking whether he will die on a cross like Jesus.

I’m also starting to get more regular questions about how much longer the sabbatical has to go. The answer is that – with having tacked a week’s leave onto the end – I shall be back on duty four weeks today. The official Methodist literature on sabbaticals talks about planning your ‘re-entry’, which rather makes ministers feel like Apollo astronauts. The idea is that there should be a managed, phased re-introduction to active ministry.

Which makes me think of two words: ‘fat’ and ‘chance’. At least I hope it won’t be like my last sabbatical, when the superintendent asked me to come back early due to a crisis with the circuit treasurer. However, a sabbatical grants you new vision in all sorts of ways. It is then a huge challenge to share that vision with churches that are used to things being a long way different from such visions. I’ve always been a restless traveller on the outer fringes of Methodism: right now I feel somewhere out beyond Pluto.

Of course, it may just be a version of what anyone feels when a good holiday is coming to an end and they have to return to work. (Not that I’m suggesting the sabbatical is a holiday!) Time will tell.