Sep 022010

Many of the sessions at conference were worthy of note and I’ll probably be reflecting on some of them in due course. But here are some choice little nuggets from one session in particular. They’re probably somewhat paraphrased rather than accurate words and I offer no commentary, simply letting them stand as they are.

The scripture readings should not be ‘attacked’ in a sermon.

Christian is an adjective, never a noun.

The response to decline is not to build a fortress.

The clergy need to learn to be quiet.

Sep 022010

Yesterday marked the last day of my final candidates’ conference: today marks the beginning of probation.

Endings and new beginnings are, I suppose, the very marks of a Christian’s story. That grand meta-narrative of scripture is a cycle of endings and new beginnings; enslavement and redemption, death and resurrection.

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Apr 112010

Another conference done and dusted. This time, “Church and Society”. It was the usual mixed bag although I have to say this one was, I think, biased towards the better end of the spectrum.

The Good

Some very challenging and encouraging presentations on HIV/AIDS, working with children and work-life balance.

The Bad

The “you will be working a 70+ hour week; get over it” attitude when we’ve had repeated conferences reminding us to take our leave entitlement, protect our day off and achieve a sensible work-life balance.

The Ugly

You know who you are! (Or maybe that was just the mirror after one too many late nights?)
Or maybe it was the ugly reality of some of the situations we may well come across. Not always easy to find love, never mind beauty, in some situations, yet who are we to deny God’s outrageous grace to anyone?

Memorable sayings

“We decide what we spend our time on.”

“Never underestimate the Guild!”

“Try not to be busy.”

and my choice when asked which statement struck a chord with regard to church:

When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new forms are created by people who are not afraid to be insecure.

Rudolph Bahro

Aug 302009

There is a time for everything…
… a time to weep and a time to laugh.

It would seem that the task of training for ministry is a serious one – and none would deny it. But it seems that some candidates just don’t take their spiritual formation seriously enough. After all, every task must be an occasion for sombre reflection, for appraising weighty matters and for pondering the very essence of ministry itself. So, when some tasks become the time for laughter then that is surely entirely inappropriate is it not? Surely when there is laughter the task is not being taken seriously; it trivialises the issues; it is disrespectful.

Yesterday evening’s workshop session ended up being a bit ‘manic’. The subject – our prejudices – was serious enough. But the task – populate a church plant of 12 people from a list of 20 volunteers – ended up as a source of considerable amusement. The justifications for selecting the old lady with the walking stick over the former beauty queen or the 19-year-old shop assistant over the trade union shop steward became increasingly outrageous. And why not select the pregnant school teacher on the grounds that you’ll get a flying start on a Sunday school class?

The very contrived list was intended to throw a light on our potential prejudices as we selected one over another. The question is, did creating humorous scenarios from an already very contrived scenario diminish the teaching points intended to be made? Some would say yes and the task should have been treated with due solemnity for what is a potentially serious issue – prejudice. Yet, through the increasingly exaggerated caricatures, it was clear that we read so much into a very minimalist description. And I would hope that a group of mature and reflective people would be able to see the point in that and to recognise that, if anything, our ‘prejudices’ are even more exposed when they are caricatured. And I would further hope that rather than trivialising the issue, the humour is a way to open up the seriousness of the issue.

The caricatures will stick in the mind far more effectively than dry, serious analysis. They will act, I hope, as reminders of how rapidly we put together a fabricated image of someone from the smallest piece of information and how outrageous these fabrications can become. That’s not to say that humour is always the appropriate vehicle for learning. But nor is it to say that those who approach a task ‘seriously’ have a right to suggest that the humourists are trivialising a task. Questions may be asked, but openness to the possibility that humour also works must be allowed.

This, I confess, is a thinly-veiled rant about the reaction to a particular session. But I do object to the suggestion that I don’t take my faith and my ministry development seriously enough. In every caricature I questioned my reaction and reflected on whether any innate prejudice was driving my keep/leave decision. I believe that I can do that with maturity and balance, regardless of whether I laugh or remain ‘serious’. If I must remain po-faced in my ministry development then I fear that it will be a time to weep.

Apr 102009

… and other choice quotations (or should that be quotes?) from Candidates’ Conference.

I’ve been away all week at my second Candidates’ Conference held at Gartmore. I am absolutely shattered but the week was really excellent. A bit of a mixed bag for the workshops – some really challenging ones and some that were a bit on the excruciating side. This conference’s theme was context and commitment, with a look at Urban Priority Area parishes, world mission, city centre challenges and much more. There was an excellent workshop on conflict resolution which could easily have been a full day.

Worship was good, lots of reflective moments and with an amazing communion service on Maundy Thursday evening. Communion is normally on the last day of the conference, but since it was Holy Week, it was more appropriate to have it on the Thursday. It was also decided to have it immediately after dinner, as we all sat at the tables at the end of the meal. When we had finished eating, we started reading various accounts of the Last Supper. A number of people had their feet washed. Then the bread was broken and, with the wine, was served and shared. After sharing the meal we then left the dining room and went into the garden where there was another reading and a song was sung. Celebrating communion in that context was enormously powerful.

The best bit, of course is the fellowship. It’s great to be able to spend time with other candidates and talk ’til silly hours of the morning about everything and anything, about God, life, hopes, family, friends, placements, supervisors, tough times, joyous times, trivia, the esoteric, the downright wierd and wonderful. And when you talk about everthing and anything it can get heated, funny, challenging, exciting and eminently quotable.

So, the top three eminently memorable phrases:

In third place, Howard, with “My, he’s a big one.” Howard’s 6’7″, preaches in a kilt, singes his hair on pulpit lights and was reporting the often-heard ‘whisper’ from the congregation when he first appears.

In second place, Daniel, with “It’s all about sex. Tom Torrance really does it for me.” The context was a discussion about the rubbish that women in ministry have to deal with. Daniel is Romanian, with excellent English, but an interesting turn of phrase at times. Tom Torrance is a theologian with good stuff to say about the power struggles in ministry.

But top of the pile, with a wonderfully quotable phrase, was Jane with, “Deep, deep down, men are really shallow.” Same conversation as Daniel and probably the best summary of the discussion I could offer.

And the UPA one? That was me. I feel no sense of call to a UPA and was fairly adamant about it in a conversation. I was made to sign a dated declaration of that so that it could be cast up to me when God decides that’s where He’s going to put me.