Thursday, 19 June 2014

Last Post (for a while)

It is time to stop. Blogging is no longer the correct medium to be recording the journeying of the Rector@6 and I. The words won't come (or if they do - I fear I might be indiscreet!). I must write positively if this is where we are meant to be. I can't write about the relentless turning of the hamster wheel that goes on in the rectory - sermon writing, newsletter writing, meetings with agendas and minutes and service preparation for six churches - each wanting to keep their service pattern and format. I can't write about the lack of real friendship and support from those who understand the life in a public house. (I don't mean that sort of PUBlic house!) I can't write about that feeling of isolation, after having had a working life - I haven't met another clergy spouse whose other half is employed full time by the church - where are they?.
I can't write about the evangelical judgements made by some in the past (and I still hear today) that have left people damaged and refusing to have anything to do with the church. I can't talk about the inherited team that didn't seem to want to be a team. I can't write about a property department that does not care or that is stretched too widely with too little money. I mustn't mention the endless hedge and grass cutting in our lovely large garden and the lack of time to do it. I must have no opinion about the people who are supposed to care for the new clergy and their families but seem to have no interest in getting to know them. I am a box ticked because I have stayed here.
In this country, where people are getting bigger and diabetes is a recognised problem, but I mustn't mention the cakes that fuel the coffee mornings or the lack of encouraging Fairtrade at the expense of taste. Even the children's work have cake related names and cake is served.
I must ask politely about the exotic holidays people are disappearing off on - when we can't even manage two consecutive days off. I can't write about not having weekends to visit friends and family who work on weekdays.
As you see - this blog would be an endless list of moans and groans - and no one wants to read that. I must focus on the positive - the increasing number of weddings and baptisms, the beautiful countryside that we are surrounded by, two amazing horses and two lovely dogs -and then I find myself reaching out for that sense of awe and wonder in our world. So often God seems to get lost in the day to day running of a rural patch. There is little time for reflection or contemplation for the Rector@6. The phone rings late a night with requests from people who have been out at work during the day. A two minute walk to collect the paper can take half an hour - fine when you have a spare half an hour. Fending complaints from people who don't come to church, about the Christmas star on the tower, the state of the graveyard and the noise of the bells ringing are all part of the job. Even prayer with others seems to become a long list of requests to God to do this or that.

We are losing the abilty to laugh - and that is serious! I am sure that is not what God intended when he called the Rector@6. I used to find that blogging allowed me to vent my frustrations ( you see I can still do it!) and put things in perspective. Now I am looking over my shoulder and wondering who will be judging my honesty. So I must stop blogging. Rectory life is not a golden bubble and it does need some adjusting. That will take time and space- so blogging must stop for now.
Thank you for your support - especially those clergy and clergy spouses who have been there, are there, seen it, are seeing it and done it or are doing it - your comments and emails have been great encouragement. The Rector@6 and I are not done yet - we just need to concentrate on God's service......(and each other).
Thank you for journeying this far with me - do stay in touch!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

We walked, we talked and we are working hard (and playing too).

We have been blessed with beautiful weather for days now. Our Valley walk was dry and warm and it really is a delightful event. Tess made the walk about six times longer by running to the front of the group and then back to find me and then repeating this - she loved every minute and she was much better behaved in church this year!
Life in the Rectory hasn't stopped for a moment it seems - and then the grass is growing and needs cutting in the garden, the vegetables need planting and the horses need riding. The Rector@6 is getting a steady stream of enquiries about baptisms and weddings - which are always a joy. These need care and preparation so that the 'church experience' (often the first for a very long time) is a positive one.

Two church building projects are almost complete so that three of the six churches now have kitchen and toilet facilities - not bad going for small country churches! The latest project has involved putting a mezzanine floor in the bell tower for the bell ringers and a kitchen below this. What a successful result! We have a new view of the church and we can now see the bell ringers as they ring and they can see us!

 It's not all work - we are discovering many beautiful places here in Dorset - either with our dogs or our two Friesian horses (of's not Dartmoor!).

Saturday, 24 May 2014

It's walking time again!

 I can hardly believe that it is a whole year since our first Valley walk. It was our real introduction to the wonderful Dorset landscapes that can only be found away from the roads. It is the first event I can remember clearly since arriving in the parish last March (of course we had beautiful weather to make it truly memorable). We walk from church to church, with a short 'service' in each. It is about eleven miles in all. People are sponsored to raise money for TRUSTchildren's Home in rural south India or Double-Joy Children's Farm in south western Kenya or one or all of our beautiful valley churches.

Our Tess will be raising money by walking the walk with me. She was born just when we found out that the Rector@6 was coming to Dorset - hence the name Tess. One of our churches has links to Thomas Hardy - and has delightful carvings designed by him. He used to cycle over to read the lesson at evensong. Of course all these beautiful old churches cost the small congregations a lot of money to keep in good order. So Tess will be walking for them and trying to raise plenty of sponsorship.

Learning the ropes from Dad

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Daring to do things differently

What I have learned so far is that things can be done differently ...but only when the time is right. This applies very much to my life and to the churches in our benefice. The Rector@6 has been here over a year and gradually there are little bubbles of change surfacing - some only just visible - some might rise too quickly and burst and others will hopefully continue to grow, so that everyone can enjoy them. The need for change is becoming more urgent as the ministry team is depleted at the moment and you can only stretch a rector so far!
It is about trusting that we are working together and considering everyone's needs - not following an individual agenda. It is about listening and hearing God and what people need. It is about waiting - waiting until the resources or ideas are right for everyone. And that's what the Rector@6 has been doing - inevitably he will be too slow for some and too fast for others but hopefully no one will be lost from the flock that way.

English bluebell woods smell amazing!
Applying the same approach to my life has been difficult - there have been times when I would have loved to get involved - and would end up taking the lead I suspect (a trait of many teachers!). I am learning to stand back - I am able to run off to the horses and breathe deeply - and things still happen. I have been truly blessed (yes blessed - I would never have used that in the past) with the surroundings we have found ourselves in.
This morning's new foal up at the farm
Tess finds rural life suits her very well

Evening rides are very special.

Thursday, 1 May 2014


Here is the real reason why this rector's wife has been unable to blog very often. A month ago I became the owner of these beauties - (the Rector@6 says he owns one of them). They are our retirement narrowboat or place in the sun or whatever we thought we would do when we reached retirement age! I must stress that we have not reached retirement age but have foolishly spent the money early!
They are a driving pair of friesians who came off the lorry from Holland five weeks ago. I have never driven horses but they can be ridden - with a little work.

They were much loved in Holland and their owner and trainer followed them over to see how they were settling in ten days later. We had a chance to see them being driven and they were parked up outside the rectory for lunch, on two days.

We have been getting the boys used to English ways and traffic. We have met blacksmiths and saddlers and the Rector@6 and I are on a very big learning curve.

My head is buzzing as I am the one who goes up to muck them out in the morning and tuck them up at night most days. The Rector@6 is coping with the annual round of 6 Annual General Meetings. He is trying to juggle a service rota with fewer staff members and is keen to explore some new ideas - but where is the time? Standing with the horses in their fields and gazing at the glorious countryside is proving to be a real opportunity to unwind.

Those of you who have followed this blog, know that I am very fond of Clydesdale horses - who are the old farm work horses and have very affectionate natures. These friesian are the Dutch farm horses and they are friendly, curious and very entertaining! We are so enjoying getting to know Fryso and Edel  (Eddie and Freddie). If you had told me a year ago that we would be owning two horses, I would not have believed you. What an amazing world it is!

Friday, 18 April 2014

How to do Holy Week?

Today is Good Friday and there are three different events in our benefice - Easter Garden making with children's activities, an Hour at the Cross and A quiet service of words and music. The Rector@6 has not been involved in organising these - space has been there for groups or individuals to lead the events. Holy Week has evolved this year like that. The Rector@6 has gently nudged and there have been two excellent musical events led by members of the benefice. We began the week with a 'desert island discs' type evening led by two of our musicians who discussed the music that had been influencial in their lives. We had an afternoon concert of meditation and reflection which was beautifully put together and performed by a group of friends. It was strange to have come to church in the middle of a working week and sit and reflect, while listening to awe inspiring music. What a rare opporunity! And we have today's events. There has been a small audience each time - and that's where the work needs to be put in - get the information out to the villages!

The other difficulty is getting people to move on and come up with new ideas. Changing things is not popular in rural parishes. Recently the Rector@6 had problems with a parishioner who wanted the church to be the same as when they were growing up and thus suitable for the family funeral! There are builders working in that particular church - putting in a mezzanine floor for the bell ringers and a new kitchen underneath - all the money raised in advance of work starting! That's progress ....and it is not wanted by some.

Returning to Good Friday  - Jesus' death on a cross is a challenging, unpleasant event to have to talk about. But we know what comes next and we should be inspired to spread the good news. People are becoming unfamiliar with the Christian message and need to be reinspired to listen again. If we keep putting on the same events and telling the story in the same way - people will choose not to listen. We are consumer society - even in these rural parts.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Horses at the rectory

Silence from the rector's wife (once the Curate's wife) - now there is a rarity! The weeks are flying by in a blur; writing is taken up with the weekly church newssheet that I edit and minute writing when needed. Blogging can no longer be used to vent my opinions or emotions because there are lurkers out there! Some parishioners admit to reading this blog – good for you – I’m pleased you have found it ...and others read and say nothing. How do I know this?-  Because people let slip in conversation (without realising it) things that I have written about. If asked, I am always happy to talk about blogging but I do not advertise the fact that I blog.
Another reason for the silence is that words have failed me on so many occasions when I see what people expect from their Rector. It seems that with six churches, life is like a six horse carousel; - each church being represented by a horse that is either going up or down, as it circles around the Rector@6. He finds himself riding upwards as churches begin to reach outwards and think about mission and, when there are debts to be paid, arguments to be resolved and hurts to be mended, he rides downwards.  Perhaps, after a certain number of years in ministry, you stop riding these waves.
The other problem that is more unexpected, is that if the Rector@6 tries to make the church more accessible to people who do not come to church regularly, he finds that they have very little understanding and want everything on their agenda – particular dates and times (usually having invited the guests or booked the hall for the reception before speaking to the rector). Heaven forbid having to have the baptism on a Sunday and in a church service! Old friends or family vicars are pulled out of retirement and are recruited before speaking to the actual incumbent. It’s one thing making yourself accessible and another – being walked all over!
I have thought seriously about ending this blog and just keeping diaries to reflect on events at a later date. So often there are things I cannot write about – but I am shocked by some of the behaviour I have seen since being a ‘wife of ’. Yet Vicars are some of the most content people in their work. I can see why – because when things fit together and people work together – the world is a better place!
 Despite all the debris, life is beginning to make sense – and maybe the words will begin to flow more easily in time.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Awesome Lent reading

I try to read a Christian book during Lent in order to focus my thinking and prayers because I sometimes think I want to be a better 'conventional' Christian! It would make my life as a Rector's wife so much easier if I could just accept some things without wanting to question all the time, if I could spout Christian doctrine like I really meant it, that I knew my bible better and could quote the relevant verse to support my opinions. However, I know that I am not like that and, perhaps, I never will be - I need to test my understanding and voice my doubts in order to work them through.
This Lent I have read ‘Ten – Why Christianity makes sense’ by John Pritchard and it was a thought- provoking, compelling read – so much so, that I have finished long before Easter.  The chapters are written with ten points - and the chapters do not need to be read in the order they appear (although some obviously follow on). I loved this style as I found I could pick it up at any time and read short sections. The subject matter ranges from ‘Ten things I believe about God’ and ‘Ten things I don’t believe about God’ to ‘Ten ways to enliven your faith’ and ‘Ten values for tomorrow’s Church’. It is relevant and up to date in its thinking. It is realistic about where a person or a church might be. There are practical suggestions for enlivening your faith. I went to the early Book of Common Prayer service this morning with a newfound sense of expectancy, rather than dreading a cold church and resenting the early start.  As John Pritchard says;-
‘ It’s an attitude of the heart, triggered through the mind. I often realize (eventually, when my dull brain has woken up) that when God has gone quiet it’s because I’ve ceased to expect much of him.’

Since the Rector@ 6 has been in this benefice, he has run several courses that have been very well attended. His aim was to get us all to be able to talk about our faith – to each other and so we are able to explain it to those who have no experience of the church. Another member of the ministry team is running the present Lent course and we started with thirty people in attendance - so something is happening here! It’s not a case of “not another Alpha course”! These are opportunities to think about our church, our faith and grow together. Just last week, someone said, “I think about it a lot, but I can’t talk about my faith – I haven’t got the words.” Christians need to be able to talk about their faith as John Pritchard says;-
“It’s been said that the average British churchgoer is as well prepared to meet an aggressive atheist as a boy with a peashooter is to meet a tank.”
Hopefully, our benefice is trying to address this.
There is so much I would like to write about – so just go and read it for yourself. I wonder if you will find it as inspiring as I do. 

“...there are other metaphors that, for me, come much closer to describing the God who whispers in my inner and outer life: God as the Mysterious Laughter I hear in creation; God as the Gentle Persuader who touches me lightly on the shoulder; God as the Aching Beauty who speaks through nature and the arts; God as the Shimmering Presence always just beyond my reach but giving depth to common things.”

Saturday, 8 March 2014

One year anniversary.

It's official - the Rector@6 has been in post one whole year! On March 7th last year - the rectory was full of family who were with us for the collation, induction and installation of my husband to this benefice. I remember the night well, as the Rector@6 had gone ahead and I had to drive my car, full of family, to the church. It was such a foggy night and I couldn't see more than a few metres in front of me as I crawled along the unfamiliar country road. Now I know every bend, narrow spot and pothole on that journey - having had to race back to the rectory, on more than one occasion, when the Rector@6 has found that he has forgotten his sermon or keys!
We marked the anniversay by escaping from the benefice and going to find the sea. It was warm enough to sit outside and have fish and chips, overlooking the empty beach. What contrasting weather to the last few weeks and what a contrast to the rural benefice. Now that our Devon house is let, we will have time to get out and explore the contrasting landscapes of Dorset and we are really looking forward to that.
Here is just a taster of what we have to explore....


Monday, 3 March 2014

Paths blocked while trying to move forward

The countryside here in Dorset is still recovering from the massive storms that we experienced a couple of weeks ago. Much of my dog walking is in woodlands and many of the paths are still blocked by ancient trees that have been uprooted. It makes me think about life in our churches - as we try to move forward, there always seems to be some barrier in the way. It takes creative thinking to find a way around the blockages - and that takes up a lot of time! There have been many sleepless nights in the Rectory as, in turn, one of the benefice churches throws up a problem. We never thought it was going to be easy but life is, perhaps, harder than we anticipated it was going to be. We are both tired and in need of a break in order to gain some perspective and to stop us looking over the fence to see if the grass is greener!

This path was lined with magnificent beech trees but they have sadly suffered in the storms.

In other woods, the chalky subsoil is exposed when the trees fall onto one another, causing a cascading effect through the woods. It reminds us of the need to have firm foundations.