The Lord’s Prayer at the School Gate

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Waiting at the school gate in Wellow, Somerset

Each school day morning I arrive in a village with my children before any other family. We park, we chat, we pass around the tic-tacs (another story), then walk down to the school gate where we watch the traffic pass by and the rest of the families arrive.  It is a time I cherish, a time to share and a time to pray, and so I do.

Our Father in heaven,
Our Fathers on Earth, the fathers at the school gate, there are some but most are mums. Do all the children have fathers? Do they know them? Do they know their Heavenly Father?

hallowed be Your name,
The village church steeple looks down upon the school, a sign of God’s holiness, a meeting place with hope. Do those who cross it’s threshold for school assemblies and plays see holiness or stone sculptures?

Your kingdom come,
Your families come, your farmers pass by, your builders restore the buildings that surround the school. What kingdom do they inhabit, what kingdom will come to them? Will it be God’s Kingdom, the politician’s or the paycheque’s?

Your will be done on earth as in heaven,
You will not mount the pavement in your rush to your next destination, instead You linger, You cherish. You will life into being: each child waiting to learn, each parent waiting to say goodbye, each commuter squeezing past another, each delivery driver, each walker, each bird nesting in the trees.

Give us today our daily bread.
You feed the children, the teachers, the staff with food to each, with knowledge to enthral, with experiences to inspire; each one unique and creating yet more unique pathways. You watch over those who eat the food, who serve the food, who prepare the food, who grow the food. You give us the rain, the sun, the wind, the seeds, and the Holy Spirit for the day to come.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Only one child was perfect, only one adult did not do wrong. The children excited on the pavement will face disagreements and disappointments, friendships temporarily lost, warnings from teachers, playtime diminished. The adults ready to travel to work will face frustration, worry and anger as they travel and work through the day. Forgive us when we give into imperfection, when we let the red mist descend. Forgive us when we do not recognise the person in the person that does wrong, or the wrong that we may do.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Watch over the children handed over to the company of teachers and strangers. Lead each adult away from temptation to hurt, to scar or to taunt. Lead each child away from temptation to lash out, to shout, to stamp their feet. Deliver each one a better person back to the embrace of their family when the school bell rings and the gate opens to reunite each child and adult.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours now and for ever.
This place, this pavement, this school, this village, these hills, these people are Yours. Help all of us waiting to hear the clunk of steel as the gate is unlocked see You in all that we gaze upon. Help us all to recognise, to give thanks and praise for the life You have created and the things You have guided into being. Help us to see You in the past, the present and the future. Help us to see You in each other.

Amen.

Silent Thoughts

Warning: this post contains plot details and spoilers from the film Silence by Martin Scorsese.

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Martin Scorsese is not one afraid to ask challenging questions about the nature of man and faith, questions that some find simply the mention of a step too far, even heretical. Faith is something that has been a subject of exploration in his life and films. Having once sought to become a priest he famously adapted and filmed Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel The Last Temptation of Christ, exploring the idea that Jesus may have struggled with his contrasting human and divine nature.

In his latest movie Silence he has taken more challenging areas to explore by taking Shusako Endo’s novel about 2 Jesuit priests who travel to 17th Century Japan in search of their former mentor who, according to rumours, had renounced his faith. At that time Christians in Japan were suffering under a brutal regime seeking to wipe out the faith. They were forced to renounce their faith, an act known as apostasy, by stepping on an image of Christ known as a fumie. Those that refused to apostatise were tortured, often to a slow and excruciating death.

The title alludes to Gods seeming silence or absence whilst people suffer for their belief in Him, and as the priests watch the persecution unforced around them their faith is severely tested. Whilst believers’ faith gives them strength, the priests struggle to maintain their own faith as the silence breeds doubts.

The film illustrates some of the challenges the persecuted church went through then, and still does today. One of those challenges is the decision whether to profess and practice a faith in public and risk the consequences or to hide their faith away, even publicly renounce or denounce it, and consciously act against the God they privately believe in.

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Hope Echoes

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You are wondering through the cold winter night with the thoughts and worries of the year gone by running through your head and see a glow from behind some barn doors. Intrigued, you approach it. You notice it is ajar and as you peep inside you see a group of people gathered around something. They notice you and beckon you in. The warmth of the light and fire is matched by the welcome you receive. Your eyes take in the smiles before they descend upon a young couple who seem to glow with joy. They invite you to come closer. As you approach you become transfixed on a new born baby the lady is holding. She lowers the baby into your arms and he nuzzles into you: a new life full of new promise and possibilities, lying happily in your embrace.

The big cause for celebration that we’ve been looking forward to all year has finally come amongst us. Yes, the latest Star Wars film is now in the cinemas! The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, is a tale of light overcoming darkness but the hope but we are counting down the days to celebrate the greatest gift of hope ever to have been given to us. And after the difficult year we are coming to the end of we could do with some hope, but the hope we have is not a new hope, it is a hope from the past, present and future.  Is a hope that Isaiah knew was coming, a hope that Joseph lived out when Mary most needed it, and a hope that continues to echo throughout the world to this day. Continue reading

Depressingly (dis)honest

Nik Wallenda walks over Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 2012, Photo by Frank Gunn

Walking the tightrope

Over recent years we have seen an increased awareness about mental health issues but how honest can we be when talking about them? How certain can we be that as well as more people talking about mental health issues more people understand them?

In a blog committed to being open and honest about what it can be like to discern whether I should be ordained it is perhaps strange to question the degree of honesty, but every disclosure brings with it a consequence. People disclosing their struggles with mental health can get sidelined and loose jobs.  I fear they might find routes towards ordination blocked too because of misunderstanding speaking louder than God’s will.

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Guilty as not charged

A picture showing the police id parade and line up from the film The Usual Suspects

I am used to be one of the usual suspects

I know I’m guilty of something, I just don’t know what it is.

When a car horn is blown or its lights flashed in my direction I look to see what I have done wrong and, usually, find nothing. When my name is called out in the street I look round expecting to be admonished but see a child being called back into the safety of his parents instead. When my boss asks to meet with me in private I walk into the room expecting to told off but leave having been encouraged. Perhaps it is down to the suspicion that my time of reckoning for all the times I have done something wrong and got away with it has arrived. Continue reading

Today, I remember

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11th November, Remembrance Day (Image © The Royal British Legion)

Today I remember my grandfathers who fought for freedom from the bowels of a boat in uniform and from the shadows in disguise.  

Today I remember families left behind, too often waiting in vain for their loved ones to return.

Today I remember those living under skies of fire in basements beneath bombarded buildings and childhoods lost in the rubble.

Today I remember those fleeing torture or death at the hands of their neighbours, those abandoned by governments local and global, and those swallowed up by seas of water and despair.

Today I remember a soldier’s ear healed by the Christ that cried out in pain.  

Today I remember lights in darkness, hope amidst hopelessness.

Today I remember sacrifice and a cross of salvation. 

Today I remember Jesus.

Today I remember life, fragile and eternal.

Today I remember to give thanks.  

Today I remember the part I must play to end war and sustain peace.  

Today I remember the need to share signposts to God.

Today I remember.

Who and what do you remember today?

Carry On Calling!

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The path of discernment is a right carry on!

The discernment road can be a rocky one, a journey of soaring highs and rough and rutted lows. My journey has been more of the latter of late. The journey to my first BAP was pretty smooth, an enjoyable glide along an undulating path before gravity took hold and sped me into a post-BAP crash. Since then I have found myself being a willing but wary participant on a road to a possible second BAP with enthusiasm, scepticism, devotion and despair as travelling companions.

The Church of England recently ramped up their efforts to encourage people to come forward for ordination, in part to help fill the gap left by retiring clergy. The messages emanating from the church’s leadership and the advertising campaigns have been notable for their absence of anyone over 35, with the focus being on young adults. This focus hasn’t been limited to advertising, the changes in ordination training and funding announced recently also signify a shift of focus towards those younger than me. I was already starting to get the impression that prospective ordinands over 35 were not welcome or appreciated by the Church of England when a new recruitment campaign video was released. Although full of encouraging stories it reinforced my cynical suspicions that my life experience and age might a curse and not a blessing (see One Foot in the Graveyard). Continue reading

Comfort Blankets

There is a part of England where I will forever be trying to save a drowning lady, our hands stretching out towards each other within a storm that Jesus has come to calm.

A few years ago I had been ask to model for an artist leading a team of others designing and making a tapestry for their church. I was, apparently, a perfect match for the image of St James that they wanted to portray in a scene depicting Jesus calming a storm with His power and truth as He instructed the disciples to become fishers of men. As I set off for my third and final Examining Chaplain I diverted to the church to accept an invitation to see the completed work.

Standing some distance away from the tapestry my likeness shone out like a reflection, but as I drew closer I became fixated on my fabricated eyes which were locked onto the unseen face of the lady fighting for survival in the storm. The tension in the tapestry was palpable, yet despite the turbulence threatening to envelop the situation my expression was calm, emanating from a security found in Christ that was being extended to the lady in the water. I wanted save the lady in the physical world but Jesus’s presence hinted at a saving in which I would be simply serve as a link between the lady and Christ.

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Do Worry, Be Happy

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Your thoughts will be discerned

I am an advocate for worriers. I know that Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow but to concentrate on seeking His Kingdom (Matthew 6:25-34), so worrying about the latter must be okay!

Worrying is a matter of perspective. One person’s worry is another person’s preparation, and so it has been with me prior to each Examining Chaplain meeting I have had. Last week I had my second of three, and it was the one had most reason to worry about and prepare for: the Examining Chaplain I went to see had seen and interrogated me before (see A Tale of Two Storms). She reminded me of Miss Marple as her likeness in age, look and character could hardly be separated from the infamous character. Continue reading

Shown the door

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Doors closing or opening?

I’m not paranoid, I know people are watching my every move.

As you try to discern if God is calling you to be ordained it can feel as the Church is watching and analysing your every move: CCTV cameras trained on you, hidden cameras in place to catch you unaware, spies and informers reporting back to headquarters. Of course that is nonsense, there is no need for the church to watch or inform you because you will be informing on yourself, and willingly so.

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