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Sabbatical, Day 47: How Could I Forget My Daughter?

Pressed for time in blog writing last night, I made an unwise choice. Yes, I enjoyed writing about the bozos in the High Street, but how could I overlook the achievements of our wonderful daughter?

Yesterday was a terrific day for her. We saw her take the lead when her class led school assembly, sharing on a trip they’d had to Braintree Museum to explore Victorian life a couple of weeks ago. All the class said something, but Rebekah had to kick it off. Clear voice, good projection, nicely paced. Could  make a preacher of her yet.

Later in the assembly, the Deputy Head presented her with a certificate to mark the Maths test she passed last week. She looked so proud, in the right way. At the autumn term parents’ evening, her teacher had told us that Maths was her weakness. No longer, it seems. Not only did she pass this test, we had the spring term parents’ evening on Tuesday night, and she is attaining standards in numeracy ahead of her age now. So there has been a real turnaround. She has worked hard, and the teacher has done well with her.

Meanwhiles, Mark, according to his teacher, ‘can do everything’, and she’s having to hold him back on his reading because he’s so far ahead of the others. On its own, this would have worried us, but she discussed strategies with us for making a bit more of the books they’re expecting him to read that they know are below his capabilities. The real concern is his lack of socialising with children of his own age. 

Collecting the children from school yesterday, we were greeted with a very red Mark. Not only his hair, but blotches on his skin. We kept him off his swimming lesson. This morning, he was much better and we sent him in. However, by morning break the school had phoned me and I went in armed with Piriton. That did little, and at the beginning of lunchtime came the second phone call. We brought him home, and with the school anxious that he might be infectious with something like slapped cheek, Debbie took him to the doctor, where they had to wait alone in a side room before seeing a GP who wasn’t sure what it was, but said just to keep him off school tomorrow. Poor lad, ever since going full time at school in January, he’s struggled to do a full week any week.

Meanwhile, back at yesterday afternoon, Rebekah was fit for her swimming lesson. Once a term, the swim school tests the children. Yesterday, she passed her 20 metres badge, so great elation and more reason to eat chocolate!

Today, she is happy too, because another milk tooth fell out, thanks to a cherry cake that was served for dessert at school dinners. It has been irritating her for days. Tonight, it was not difficult to persuade her to sleep, because she is anticipating a nocturnal appointment with the Tooth Fairy. And in the tradition of a children’s book we once read about the dental sprite, she is sincerely hoping this tooth was clean and sparkling enough to find a home in The Hall Of Perfect Teeth. Our next door neighbour told her there would be an extra reward for such teeth.

Fat chance. The standard £1 coin is in the envelope with the TF’s letter. We’re not getting stung again.

Meanwhile on the sabbatical front, I still haven’t ordered any more books, but having a Myers Briggs personality type that likes to keep my options open, it was fatal today to receive a catalogue for church leaders from Wesley Owen. As I flicked through, hoping not to be tempted and take it on an early trip to the paper recycling sack, I was accosted by a few titles that could have something to do with my research. Not the ministry and personality type stuff, but the dialogue between traditional understandings of ordination and our contemporary missional context. 

So step forward Ministry By The Book by Derek Tidball. Prepare for Exile: A New Spirituality and Mission for the Church by Patrick Whitworth sounded interesting. And Evaluating Fresh Expressions:explorations in emerging church: Emerging Theological and Practical Models edited by Martyn Percy and Louise Nelstrop sounded like it might be useful as a critical voice from outside my tradition to ask hard questions about new forms of church. If anyone reading this has read any of these books, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Sabbatical, Day 24: No Sleep Till Brekkie, More Lectures And The Bristol Tourist Trail

I don’t do well on first nights in new locations. Not on the evidence of this sabbatical, anyway. Having barely slept before 4 am on my first night at Cliff College a fortnight ago, I didn’t sleep before 1:30 here, then woke at 5:30 with a vile headache. (Not that I know what a nice headache would be, you understand.) At 7 am, I decided I needed a large dose of tannin, so I took the pint-sized mug I’d brought from home and made my first tea of the day. The pain slowly subsided over a period of several hours, until it was gone by late afternoon.

Trinity does worship differently from my time. Twenty years ago, nearly everything was Alternative Service Book. Except when Paul Roberts inflicted chanted Book of Common Prayer services, that is. Though the ASB has been replaced in the C of E by Common Worship, the college seems to have themes for particular weeks. This week it’s Iona Community worship, widely popular in many parts of the British church but something that drives me nuts. I have no problem with a liturgy that emphasises social justice and makes no division between work and worship. However, I have found several of their liturgies and some of their songs hectoring and lecturing. Not only that, the confession used this morning was fundamentally inadequate. I like the mutual confession approach of Iona (service leader confesses and congregation pronounces forgiveness, then the process is reversed), so I’m not critical of everything. But this confession started from the point that we had hurt ourselves, then others, then the world. Absolutely no reference to the rupture between humans and God that is central to confession. Remind me never to use it in worship.

There were good things – not least the brief testimony of a student as to what God did in a prolonged experience of a spiritual desert. And the guy who read the Gospel reading did so with great feeling. Those were highlights.

Lectures were more relevant this morning. The operating paradigm (I’m at a theological college – out come the long words!) was still that of the large church, but I felt that more of today’s material was translatable or adaptable. We began with a session on team leadership and issues around teams. We then looked at how to run a meeting, largely taken from the old John Cleese video ‘Meetings, Bl**dy Meetings‘. Finally, a few thoughts about some common mistakes made by leaders.

This afternoon had an optional session. I opted out. It comprised some BBC videos on assertiveness training. While that’s an area I could do with improving in, I needed some air and some exercise to counter the effects of the much improved food. I decided I would try to find some old haunts. Off I went across the Clifton Downs, down two roads whose names may just betray Bristol’s slave trade past – Blackboy Hill and Whiteladies Road – and on down, eventually to Park Street, where I used to frequent three shops. I knew that SPCK would have been long gone after the business atrocities that have been inflicted on that chain of bookshops. Sadly, Rival Records is no longer around – I remember buying Bruce Cockburn‘s World Of Wonders in there during my first year. And the Evangelical Christian Literature bookshop is now a branch of Wesley Owen, stocking everything from N T Wright to Joel Osteen. Insert words such as ‘sublime’ and ‘ridiculous’ as you see fit. I think I’m right in remembering that ECL had been founded by George Mueller.

Not being home today means I’ve missed Shrove Tuesday with the family, but Debbie told me tonight she and the children had decided to postpone pancakes until Saturday. I’m glad they have. Pancakes and their toppings are one of those simple pleasures where it is a joy to see the fun Rebekah and Mark have. Two small pancakes with toffee ice cream here at lunch time were delicious, but no replacement for being with the children. As to toppings generally, I’m a fan of those English Provender jars – no, not the garlic, ginger or horseradish, rather the raspberry coulis or the Belgian chocolate sauce. The latter has been harder to find in the supermarkets recently, though.Looking at the website tonight, I’ve noticed they now do a Fairtrade chocolate sauce, though.

More seriously, I had to miss a hospital out-patient’s appointment Rebekah had this afternoon. Eighteen months ago she had grommets inserted in her ears after protracted episodes of glue ear and consequent poor hearing. They still haven’t solved the problem. One grommet fell out a few months ago, and today they could see congestion in it. She may have to have more grommets fitted, poor lass. Recently, we’ve let her start answering the telephone, but conversations with her are punctuated with “What did you say?”

Tonight, I’ve just spent the time quietly reading. Next stop a spot of supper then an early night, I hope, to catch up on last night.