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What I did in my holidays (in parish magazine format). 13 September 2010

Posted by Dr Moose in Church, Faith, Life, University.
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Dear friends,

No matter what the calendar tells us, about when the number of the year changes, I suspect for most of us with young children or in active employment, the New Year has already started. Come the beginning of September we swing into a pattern that was formed in our infancy. I’d guess it’s a hard one to break. Holidays have passed, obligations have returned. It’s all up-, or down-, hill to Christmas, depending upon your point of view.

So what, if anything, did you do over the summer? What have you learned? Here’s the Vicar’s answer to that old back to school chestnut – what I did in my holidays.

First there was the opportunity to escape and to be looked after by others. Unless you’ve ever worked from home, and with the constant mental presence of work; with the expectation that every phone call and every ring of the doorbell is likely to result in another job, it may seem a little hard to understand the need to escape completely. Sadly the presence of mobile phones and all-pervasive internet access is spreading this phenomenon all the more widely to all the more people; which is probably bad news. Love it or loathe it, whatever the source, overwork over a long period is bad news. Getting away allows a clearing of the mind and the space to pray. It’s an opportunity both to re-order your own thoughts and for God to re-order them for you, through the places you go and the people you meet. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the Gospel authors remind us that Jesus also made the habit of getting away from it all.

Then there was Greenbelt, the annual Christian festival which many years ago was at Castle Ashby. Did you know that it’s been going 37 years? (I’ve been for 20, non-consecutive, years). If the family holiday was the chance to relax, Greenbelt was the chance to encounter. We camped once more with the Anglican Franciscans and joined into the communal rhythms of prayer, praise and eating, as well as having the chance to engage with speakers and be entertained and challenged. Greenbelt helps me reset the clock, to realise both the good and the bad, the changes and the things that I’ve failed to change. It’s not about guilt but honesty, and honestly giving it all back up to God and about seeking to get it right “next time”.

The final piece of the learning wasn’t a holiday, but still part of the process. The first week of September was a reminder of my other “hat”, the Anglican-Methodist Higher Education Chaplains’ Conference. Four days of looking at the dreams and realities of Chaplaincy work. Space to worship, to think, to explore, and as much as anything else, to pass on stories and experiences from our Chaplaincies, finding out what does and doesn’t work, and so gaining ideas for the future.

Whether we have idea or not, one thing we can be sure of is that the future holds change, whether in the parish or the university. Society and our lives amidst it are not static. God is to be found in the present, and if he’s to be revealed to others in the present, than we need to be in touch with the present too. I’ve been challenged over the past weeks about how much we as the church, here and nationally, are really in touch with the present. Do we recognise the needs of the now? Do we see the way ahead? And what are we going to do? Change shouldn’t be a matter for despair; growth can be as much a product of change as decline; potential and problem are merely the opposite sides of the same coin.

As we approach our Feast Sunday, the 803rd (arbitrary) birthday of our church, we can be re-assured that God does not change. He still desires that all may come to know him in Jesus Christ, and that we play our part in his mission. How we do it has to involve change, but his truth does not change. If our works are rooted in faith and following him then they will prosper, and if they are not, they will fall, and something else will take their place.

So that’s something about what I learned and thought over my holidays. What about you?

With every blessing, as ever,
Stuart

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