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3 November 2007

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, University.

Well, things are beginning to hot up here in EMUT, with this week having my first external preaching slot, my first attempt at doing something a little more pro-active in the Chaplaincy, and that old mainstay of Anglican ministry – funerals – beginning to appear. Stir in Halloween and a Chaplaincy Guest Lecture and it’s quite a potent mix.

St. Z’s has a close link with the adjoining parish, which once upon a Victorian time was actually a daughter church, so in the great tradition of good neighbourliness when I was invited to preach there I jumped at the opportunity, and then fretted and struggled to produce something for All Souls – a celebration that I see as pastorally valuable but sometimes theologically dubious. An occasion for those who have lost a loved one (or any or, often, no apparent, faith) to seek solace and comfort in the bosom of the church they don’t attend. Please excuse my slight cynicism as I betray my rather intolerant evangelical roots, but there’s no point in denying it. Ultimately it all went rather well, a chance to act like a curate again, having a part, but not the lead role in the great drama of the liturgy. Several hours of fretting had produced two-thirds of a sermon, or to put it the other way, left one third inspiration required. And praise God he delivered and didn’t let me down. I set great store on careful preparation, and know that I don’t always reach the standard I set myself, but sometimes just “reading” the congregation can tell you so much, as can listening to the hymns chosen and the words used, especially if you’ve not been part of the process.

Chaplaincy can still only be described as mixed. The ministry of hospitality and encounter is rewarding, like the 2 dozen students who turned up for free tea in the foyer of the arts campus 5 minutes before I was going to wheel my trolley away. Good for community presence and feel-good factor, good for showing practical Christian love in action, but rather less, at least as yet, for meaningful engagement. Likewise, having, decided based on observation and a little discussion, to start up “Thursday Soulspace”, providing an explicit chance for tea and chat followed by a simple opportunity for prayer together I sat alone in the Chaplaincy for a complete 2 hour period. It’s easy to say that “it takes time” but rather harder to sit through it A bit like being “stood up” by the representative of a charismatic evangelical group of mixed repute busy trying to re-enter the Christian mainstream on Friday lunch time. The fact I was feeling distinctly unwell probably didn’t help, but even so. (And to be charitable, they could have emailed an apology, but since the Wireless Access Point the Chaplaincy uses has gone down we wouldn’t have received it!)

Halloween proved a delightful damp squib from the domestic viewpoint, although a house lakccng a sign and possessed of a decent gate, not to mention official No Trick or Treat posters, might have something to do with it. As it happened I was out (on my day off) at an excellent Chaplaincy Guest Lecture on “Sexuality, Scripture and Psychology”. The turn out was better than I anticipated, but primarily drawn from the town rather then the uni, which is a shame. It would have been nice to have a good mix. The speaker, coming from the Roman Catholic tradition, took some material I’d heard before, but never really engaged with, and produced a compellingly-argued synthesis about relationships, both human and divine, in the context their application to the two great commandments. I’m now eagerly awaiting the book to be published next year by Gracewing. It reminded me that I don’t really do enough “proper” theology.

On the funeral front I’m going to have to cope with twin issues of the long-term association of individuals with the former incumbent and their desire for his involvement alongside the fact of only working half-time and finding a list of willing substitute clergy for those occasions when I’m not available. It will work through, in time, just like the requests for marriages from outside the parish based on “pretty-building-syndrome.”

Do I have enough hours in the day? No. Do I have enough energy? No. Do I have enough experience? Don’t know. Am I enjoying it, and sure that God has called me here? Oh, yes!



1. Christine Lin - 4 November 2007

You said:
Am I enjoying it, and sure that God has called me here? Oh, yes!

Amen to that!! Glad to hear it!
The light always guides the way, we just have to notice it…

2. Kathryn - 5 November 2007

You have no idea how well that last couple of sentences reads to one currently scouring the CT small ads with serious devotion!
I’m glad to have the opportunity to learn from your learning, if that makes sense…

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