Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Seagull watching and preserving the day off.

We found the sea yesterday! While the storm clouds and rain were beginning to draw across the UK, we remained damp free and so the Rector@6 and I, plus two dogs, headed for the coast. It was a rare half day with no appointments for the Rector. I had spent the morning riding out while the Rector squeezed in a wedding planning appointment. It can be so difficult to arrange a suitable time to see both the prospective bride and groom together if one lives away - hence the appointment on a Bank Holiday. 

Preserving the day off must be a skill and we do not have it yet. So often there is an invitation or a meeting that turns up on the Rector@6's day off and, while some can be turned down, others are too important to miss in these early days. These are the chances to meet with people who want to discuss their ideas and plans for the church and groups that want to develop further, what they are already doing. These are the people who are putting their heads above the parapets and saying they want to be involved and in order to 'catch that fire', we miss out on our day off as the dates are too difficult to rearrange. 'Change your day off' I hear you say - and we do try to take other time off. Note to Rector@6 - we must try harder to plan and preserve a church free day!
Yesterday afternoon was wonderful. It took us four weeks to find our way out of our valley, six weeks to make it to the nearest city and only fourteen weeks to discover the coast! Dorset is known for its amazing Jurassic coastline and we scrambled across the boulders, looking for fossils and other treasures. Tess, our six-month pup, had never seen the sea or beach before and it was lovely to watch her sticking close to our older collie - even following him into the sea for a dip. Eventually she just sat in the clear afternoon sunlight and watched the sea lapping onto the beach and the seagulls circling overhead. We took our lead from her and The Rector@6 and I had a very relaxing afternoon.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Garden notes

The rectory garden has proved to be a wonderful distraction for me. While the Rector@6 gets to grip with the six parishes - I am tackling the garden - as I have done in the last two houses we have lived in. The garden is large enough to have a wild garden with a woodland walk at the end - all of about ten metres! The primroses have given over to the bluebells (Spanish unfortunately) and now these are being swathed in drifts of white flowers that I would call sheep's parsley but I'm not sure if that's correct. There are all sorts of other flowers that are finally preparing to brave the variable weather and are raising their heads through the grasses. Each day we see something new.

The shed still has to be moved but we are clearing the ground around it and have put in two raised beds for salad and herb crops. Tess seems to think these are play pits and likes to scuff around in the dry earth. It will be an interesting salad mix if any seeds do manage to germinate. The Rector@6 has spent his day off building the base for the first of two sheds. This is very important for him - it's a man thing I believe!

We have seen owls and bats in the evening. I watched a slow worm making itself very at home in our rockery - so no slug pellets in this garden. The buzzards circle overhead harressing the rooks who are nest building in the surrounding trees. We even had a rather large grass snake sunning itself on a newly cleared patch at the end of the garden - it gave me quite a fright as it slithered away.

A little sunshine makes all the difference but here it seems to bake the soil very quickly and then it is impossible to dig. I have so much to learn.

The vegetable garden is not doing so well especially since a crop of last years potatoes has now started to sprout at right angles to and though all the things I have put in. Tess has no respect for vegetables so most new seedings have to survive a good stamping from the pup! She loves the garden and the extra space she has now - and we are enjoying it too!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Walk, talk, pray and sermon writing

Last Saturday a hardy group of parishioners took to walking a valley walk around our six churches - a total of 11 miles in all. I'm not sure why this was started ten years ago - maybe as a prayer walk or a spin off from 'beating the bounds', but as it was, we were blessed with glorious weather and a great day out. Over thirty people walked the whole walk (the Rector@6 and myself included) and this rose to over fifty people if you included those who completed parts of the walk. Some were sponsored and were raising money for a chosen charity and others were just walking and enjoying the countryside and fellowship. There was time for prayer and a reflection in each church - each with a different topic and some with tea, coffee and cake (Dorset does very good homemade cakes). It was a great opportunity to get to know people from the different parishes and for the Rector@6 to get ideas for his sermon the next day (which he had not completed!).
Sermon writing in our house can be a bit like blogging production in our household - sometimes they just roll out with ease and other times I know the Rector@6 is struggling because he doesn't sleep well and keeps disappearing into his study - even on his DAY OFF! Occasionally we have a week of chewing over a particular text at the supper table. On other occasions, my experience as a time served teacher comes in useful for testing out or inspiring more child friendly talks. I still have a drawer of 'useful objects' that teachers tend to hoard - just in case!  The sermon for the day after the valley walk (Pentecost Sunday) was one of those occasions when my hoard of yellow stretchy men came in handy. The stretchy men were handed out to everyone who attended the joint churches' service. It was quite amusing to see the reactions and questioning look as each person was given a hymnbook, service sheets and a stretchy man. The Rector@6 was obviously inspired by the aches and pains he was feeling from the walk - because he talked about being stretched and re-shaped by the God - a subject close to my heart!
The early birds at the first church

Tess was not very well behaved in church!
We reached the last church in time for a lovely tea. It had been a super walk and the Rector@6 and I feel we are beginning to know where we are!
It was such a lovely day that we didn't want it to end - so the Rector@6 and I decided to walk the two and a half miles home, passed thatched cottages, through the scented bluebell woods and out into the vibrant yellow fields. What a day.......what surroundings!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Mellow Yellow

What an awesome walk this morning! My eyes are being opened

Thursday, 9 May 2013

"Come on up. We haven't started yet - we are getting more chairs!"

Nearly twenty years ago we were standing on the steps leading up to the Gibraltar Methodist Church. This church  is situated above the shops at top of the main street. As a family, we were arguing because we were late (or so we thought) for the church service where the school choir was due to sing. Our eldest son should have been there at 10 am and it was now 10.15. We were discussing if we could make it to the Anglican Cathedral instead - as that service started at 10.30. We had turned to go down the stairs when a head popped up over the upstairs rails and said, "Come on up. We haven't started yet - we are getting more chairs!" and this is how we met the minister. We couldn't escape, so we went on up and attended our first service in a Methodist church. It proved to be a life changing moment for my husband. A fire was lit and he came out saying that it was if the minister had been talking to him personally.

This minister went on to baptise and confirm my husband, to support his training as a methodist lay preacher when we returned to England and to laugh when the Church of England demanded that my husband was confirmed again but by a bishop this time! This minister was not at all offended and told my husband to get on with it because, as a Methodist minister, he had confirmed more Anglicans into the Methodist church. This minister had no problem seeing that my husband was being called to serve in the Church of England.

While serving alongside the Royal Marines, my husband was based near to where the minister and his wife lived when they returned to England.  He enjoyed their hospitality and company on many occasions - so important when he was living away from the family. He was encouraged in his Methodist lay preacher training and this minister saw my husband's call to ministry begin to grow. He was an extraordinarily gifted minister who could relate the scriptures to modern living. He made it relevant.

And so, next week, my husband - The Rector@6, will speak at this minister's funeral - a short tribute to a man whose wise and gifted words - changed the course of my husband's whole life (.....and mine).

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Strategies for coping in the new benefice

Hurrah! - The scaffolding around the Rectory has gone! The builders are coming back - but at the moment we are a builder free zone. It's been eleven weeks since we moved from Tavistock and I can honestly say we (and I say WE) have never been so busy. The Rector@6 has survived the Easter services and he has managed to attend 4 of 6 annual general meetings. We have had a host of invitations and, where possible, we try to attend as we want to meet as many people as we can. There are times that we have to say no - and Sunday lunch has proved to be one of those times. I would love to share a Sunday roast but The Rector@6 needs to stop after two services  - and to stop talking - especially if he has a service in the evening.

I have found a lady who needed help with her heavy horses - so I am riding regularly again - and on a shire cross and a Clydesdale. When I left Dartmoor I thought that was the end of riding Clydesdales. Leaving Major, the Clydesdale, was very hard. When I arrived in Dorset, I answered an advert, not knowing what sort of horses I would be helpng with. God certainly moves in mysterious ways! This riding is outside any of the parishes and I find that I am really able to relax because of this. I have yet to commit to activities in the parish.

The Rector@6 is getting to grips with six diverse churches and is attempting to draw them together but, understandably, they want to keep their identity. The question is - how does the Rector@6 reduce his work load? He has a small ministry team - so he is not alone but they can only be stretched so far - however enthusiastic they are. Drawing the churches together has to be a priority and when we have had a joint service, there is a definite sense of optimism.

It's not all rosy - while many are keen to support and help the Rector@6, there have been others who have been waiting for the new rector so that they can address issues that are troubling them. He has had to learn to handle these unexpected telephone calls and not to take some comments personally, as these issues have often been brewing for some months before the Rector@6 arrived. He has found this a difficult side to the work and I have seen him chew over such issues for longer than he should. And then the sermon preparation gets squeezed - and if the sermons are not sorted - the day off is not a day off, as the Rector@6 tends to be preoccupied and not much fun!

Walking is our great escape and, with the better weather, we are finally discovering where we are. We have bought a personalised map which is centred on our village and includes all the parishes. The map is displayed on the loo wall so that we can learn the landscape and contemplate our next walk. The sunshine and clear skies mean that we have been exploring our surroundings and finding those places that are 'awesome'! (We have followed up on useful suggestions from fellow bloggers) We have spotted the first bluebells in the ancient woods that fill the landscape and we will soon be surrounded by seas of bluebells. We see deer regularly and yesterday  I saw a tiny fawn in the undergrowth while I was out riding. The deer tend to stay still when I ride rather than run off as they do when I am walking. We are learning to look and see the beauty of the diverse countryside that surrounds us. There are ancient woodlands and sandy pathed forests. There are vast flint ladened fields and acres of pastures. There are miles of well signposted footpaths and bridleways to explore. I missed the sea when we first moved to Dartmoor - now I miss the moor but through the camera lens, I am learning to look with fresh eyes and the landscapes are opening up their splendour.