Wednesday, 31 July 2013

An interactive encounter

Just over two weeks ago, the Rector@6 and I were invited to supper by 'the upper home group' in one of the parishes. There are two house groups in this village - 'the upper' and the 'lower' groups! This bears no relationship to their churchmanship or academic status (or at least I don't think so!!), it is simply due to their geographical location. One is situated at the top of the village and the other is at the bottom end of the main street. This is the village that has the biannual 18th century street fair and where the Rector and his missus made their entry (see last blog).

We have learned that there is no such thing as a free supper when you come from the Rectory and usually the conversation turns to church matters. The Rector@6 has learned to take his wine slowly, in order to be able to respond to the conversations thoughtfully. The evening was delightful and we were able to sit outside and get to know this group. There was a buzz and this was a group who really seemed to be engaging with their beliefs but we hardly saw some of them in church because of the Rector@6 being rostered to go to other benefice churches.

The conversation turned to the street fair and one member commented that her daughter had seen palm readers, magic shows and fortune tellers but, even inside the church, there appeared to be no Christian representation at the fair in the previous years. Many people went inside the church to listen to the live musical performances and then left - perhaps unaware that it was actually a working church and not a concert hall. This year there was a new space in the South Aisle that had been beautifully converted to make a meeting room with kitchen facilities. As yet, -  no fair group had claimed that space. So there it was - that was the challenge to create a space (for God).

I had seen some amazing interactive prayer stations in a church in Cromer in Norfolk, when we were on holiday last year. I had watched the holidaymakers come in and engage with each area - people were able to be still, to reflect in this sacred space and engage in activities that would focus their prayers and thoughts on different areas. There were so many brilliant ideas. I took loads of  photos - with no idea of when they might come in handy again. I have to say - I have felt that God has been placing projects into my hands since we have been here. When we arrived in this benefice, I had felt the need to have some type of reflective space at each of the regular coffee shops that we have in three of our churches. Nothing too threatening but just to remind people that they were not in a village hall and that they were actually in the village church. The Rector@6 had put out a request for noticeboards but they had not been forth coming, so I accepted my timing was wrong and I couldn't do it on my own - anyway, I was the incomer!
Suddenly, with a couple of weeks to go, there was the opportunity and a group of people who were going to make it happen. I just had to share the photographs from Norfolk. It was like lighting the blue touch paper!
It was great to see people become enthused and help in any way they could. The South Aisle was transformed by fair day. A trail of footprints was stuck to the floor and people were encouraged to follow the footprints to see where they took them to. They were encouraged to write one thing that they were thankful for on a sticky note and stick it on the glass doors and ask a big question to God and peg it up.
We had a soft seating area where people could sit and chat or be still or read. There was colourful bunting hung from the ceiling.We had prayer trees, 'making tables' where Icthus symbols could be decorated and added to the net hung from the ceiling. You could help yourself to water from the tap and think about those that didn't have access to clean water. Prayers for different places in the world were written on luggage labels and pins were placed on the map to locate where the focus was. A homemade quilt decorated the walls (covering the large TV screen) and its comforting message was explained. People engaged with the very recent news stories that were made up into a collage. It was great to just sit, watch and listen. Sometimes the room was busy and buzzing with people, other times it was empty or just a couple were sitting talking. The Rector@6 and I popped in and out as this was an unmanned event this year - everyone had been allocated street fair jobs by the time this idea was thought of!

What now? People have been enthused and liked the space being used differently. The Rector@6 used the prayers and big questions in the service the next day - the Gospel reading being Luke 11, 1 - 13. I am now finding out more about interactive displays. SGM lifewords have very interesting pages on 'using traditional buildings for creative mission'. 'Space encounters' is such a brilliant title. Let's hope that others are inspired and we can bring these churches alive!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The 18th century rector

 So here we are - The Rector@6 and his missus at the street fair. The door curtains turned into a very presentable dress and even the Rector's hat and wig stayed on. We won a prize for the best dressed group so all the hard work was worth it. Now the question is - will the Rector@6 be in costume for tomorrow's service? You will have to be there to know the answer!

An added bonus to the day was the success of the upper house group's reflection zone in the church - an interactive prayer space was created and was well received. With only a couple of weeks to create this from the first germ of an idea - it just shows how much untapped energy there is around. Who else will come out of the woodwork?!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Blogging silence due to overload

A brief moment of relaxation - the weather is glorious - so there must be time to swim!
The gaps get longer and longer between posting a blog due to the work load of this rector's wife (who doesn't do scones, Sunday school, flowers, rotas or clean brasses). Over the last few weeks, these have been a few of my 'duties':-

1. Make door curtains into 18th Century dress for myself

2. Research then find pattern for 18th Century Rector's costume and make.

3. Find / make suitable headwear for said costumes including wig for rector.

5. Fill in for church secretary at church warden's meeting and take minutes.

6. Write up minutes.

7. Meet with enthusiastic group to share ideas for church display during village fete.

8. Visit scrap store to find materials for previously mentioned project.

9. Poo pick horse fields in midday sun for owners x4

10. Back a young horse for first time and survive.

11. Rescue mauled pigeon and make decision over its future.

12. Attend lunch party, supper party x2 and not look tired.

13. Plan menu for 'come and share' August house groups being held at Rectory x5

14. Redecorate upstairs smallest room (not finished)

15. Remember to celebrate 33rd wedding anniversary

16. Find suitable clothes for supper at the Bishop's (what is suitable?)

17. Attend supper with Bishop and smile.

18. Keep newly planted garden vaguely alive with constant watering.

19. Chase grouse / partridge / pheasants out of the garden before they get vegetables or dogs get them.

20. Arrange / hid clutter so spare room is available for my mother's visit.

21. Visit beach, National Trust houses and sewing shop.

22. Organise my mother to sew on 24 buttons to rector's 18th century costume (now button holes to do)

23. Organise spare room for nephew to stay while on work placement - he won't mind clutter!

24. Pick the vast number of gooseberries - and try to find a home for them (I don't do jam / pickles)

25. Pick remaining white and black currants - the birds have got there first.

26. Write blog here it is!
PS I forgot to mention the fantastic evening spent on the beach with my husband - life is good!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Returning relaxed, revived and raring to go.

What a difference a week away makes to how we view life. We have been back from Devon a week now and, as usual, The Rector@6 had to hit the ground running...and so did I, as I am now helping with some Andalusian horses (adding to the heavy horses and the Dutch friesians who I visit). Suddenly life seems exciting again. We have had a week together in the familiar surroundings of our PO days (pre ordination), the weather was kind to us. We travelled from South coast to North coast and spent a day riding on the bit between. We went to see a film (this is now a luxury as we are not near a cinema in Dorset). We watched Summer in February, which is about an Edwardian artist colony and the erratic artist, Sir Alfred Munnings. It was romantic, moody, with stirring music and a stunning setting on the Cornish coast - pure escapism. And we stopped talking church!
The dining room

It took several days to unwind and to discover that life was not totally centred around six parishes and their parishioners. Our three hundred year old cottage did what it has always done since we have lived here - it soothed and relaxed us and reminded us of who we are. The much loved garden, where I know almost every plant, is overgrown after months of neglect but the roses and wild flowers are stunning. Some evenings, the garden was framed with a huge expanse of inky blue night sky, scattered with handfuls of stars. This is the place to see shooting stars.

The Rector in high places
We were supposed to be doing repairs on the house - and we did do some - but the fine weather seduced us and we walked the coastal footpaths and paddled in the chilly sea. We had the beaches to ourselves (most of the time) and there is no better place to be reminded of how insignificant we are, than under the towering rocky cliffs. It was time to just stand and stare and breathe deeply. When we first moved to Devon, these were the secret beaches - the ones that you had to climb down a long, overgrown path to, or walk the fisherman's (smuggler's) path to find. Now there are footpath signs and even road signs sending people to the nearest parking places. I know it's good to share but sometimes......I would prefer not to. These are the places that need to be chanced upon or passed on by word of mouth. That way they keep their magic and do not succumb to the health and safety brigade and TV chef's latest, greatest authentic dining experience. But to tempt you to step out and chance upon these places yourself, I will share some of  the photos - then you must get the map out and find them for yourselves.                                                          
One path down to the beach
and another secret path..

view across to a well known island and hotel