Sunday, 30 September 2018

Under attack?

I used to think people were weird when they talked of being under ‘spiritual attack’. It was not something that I could even begin to understand before I was a Rector’s wife. I expect I would have explained some events as coincidences or just my heightened imagination but now I begin to wonder.

We have had phases in the years that we have been here, when we have felt under attack personally. Or the atmosphere in a parish or parishes goes sour. And it seems to come at us in waves, exhausting the Rector@6. I have never experienced anything quite like it but it makes me think of all the old stories that you would hear in rural communities about runs of bad luck ( of course we don’t do luck in churches). know the things that sent the milk sour, or that caused the harvest to fail. Even writing this, I’m thinking ‘don’t be so daft!’ But I have discussed it with Rector@6 and he feels them same. Are there such things as forces of evil? Would something want to stop the church thriving?

Of course it’s all coincidence, it’s all in our minds...or is it?

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Church of England Preservation Society?

I have kept quiet for too long! I am now a more experienced rural rector’s wife and I am learning to be ‘me’ now that we are settled. I am also learning that rural churches of England are incredibly difficult places to maintain...and my Rector has six! I am not just talking about the buildings - six beautiful historic buildings that need faculties in order to make any changes, maybe the approval from the Victorian society, historic churches, the Archdeacon, the farmer next door and anyone and his dog it seems! Is the Church of England a preservation society for historic buildings or a group of people who believe that Christ can make a difference in people’s lives? I also refer to maintaining and bringing the good news to a faithful group of people, maintaining their enthusiasm, interest and love as increasing demands are put upon them.
I read today that only 2% of young people identify as Church of England. I am not surprised. What are we able to offer them in our rural villages? Church leaders are faced with juggling the demands of the small, stalwart elderly congregation who faithfully give to the church collection each week and the lack of interest from the few young families who have managed to find housing in the villages. The regular share payments cripple the mission of rural churches. The upkeep of ancient buildings cripples the mission of the rural church. The constant need to spend time applying for grants, seeking  permissions and meetings - bureaucracy gone mad - cripples the mission of the rural church. The threats...yes threats, from church members that are issued if things are not done the way they want - cripples the mission of the rural church. The competition from community churches in nearby towns, that don’t have the buildings to maintain and do have  a greater surrounding population density, cripples the mission of the rural church. The lack of understanding by the hierarchy that one person cannot serve multiple parishes, without regular time off  to refresh, cripples the mission of the rural church. And so it goes on...and on! And yet my OH feels called to faithfully serve the rural communities. I what cost?

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Slow starts

I haven't done very well - have I?! I was going to start blogging again and I have failed miserably. Why?
1. The world situation has left me speechless. As I have sat at my computer, images of Paris came into my mind. What words are there to say or write?
2. Everything in my world seems so trivial in the light of what has happened.
3. Writing is a luxury these days - I mean writing from the heart, contemplating, turning words over, erasing, rewriting that phrase.
4. Words are sucked from me in the form of weekly Pew News sheets, monthly letters and meeting minutes and agendas. - I don't write all of these - the Rector@6 is suppose to write some of these but so often I provide a template, an inspiration or a quote to get him going.
5. Editing takes up more time than writing - and I still don't see all the mistakes. I press the 'send' button and immediately want to suck the document back as I have spotted a lurking gremlin in the prose. I know that within minutes there will be one or two of those emails:-
'I don't like to mention this but...' or ' I'm sure everyone else will have pointed out.....'
Actually - I don't mind these too much because I just don't proof read very well some days. It's like a kind of word blindness and I can only see what it is suppose to say and not what it actually says!

Goodness knows how vicars write sermons week after week - sometimes two or three in a week. My mind is so full of agendas, rotas and news letters. - perhaps I would be better off not being the Benefice Secretary!

So how am I managing to write now you may well ask. I am writing this in silence, on a retreat day in mid Devon. WHAT! Me on a retreat! If you could only know how much I have wanted to try a silent retreat since we moved into the Rectory. To be able to hear that still, small voice of calm and not have it interrupted by telephone calls, emails and news sheets that have to be dealt with on a relentless, continuous cycle, week after week. There seems no time at all between the ending of one and the starting of the next. And I am only the secretary - who would ever want to be a vicar/rector/minister. You surely must be 'called' (and not by phone!). You can't think your own thoughts, or look out of the window, and peacefully contemplate the life cycle of a slug (unless of course they feature in this week's sermon).Who ever said a priest's task was just to 'be' - had no idea of the pressure exerted by modern technology.

We didn't realise how mad life was getting until I started seeing the Rector@6 coming in from a meeting/ coffee morning/ visit or service and checking the emails before he has even taken his coat off. Or seeing that he is checking his iPad messages mid sentence in a conversation with me. He has a permanently quizzical look on his face as if he is trying to keep too many plates spinning in the air. (He probably is.) And I was following suite, - not stopping for coffee, not standing and staring at the garden - not breathing! It dawned on us in the same week and we knew we had to stop.

So we have retreated - which turned out to be a silent day ( we hadn't been expecting that!). As we entered the ancient Devon Long house we were told the house was in silence until lunchtime - once we entered the rest of the house.  And I can breathe.......

I want to keep breathing and I hope, on our return to the Rectory, nothing will stop me breathing again. I want to enter into the Advent season with expectation and energy.

Well that lasted about ten minutes! On our return, late in the evening, we discovered the Christmas tree festival had been advertised for the wrong church in the local magazine and a completed baptism form delivered through the door, for a day when there was no morning service in that particular church. When the Rector@6 checked (by email- too late to phone he thought) the invitations had been sent out, 50 guests were coming - everything was booked....except the Rector!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Unexpectedly Awesome

Exactly three years ago today we learned that we were to move from Dartmoor in Devon to Deepest Dorset. The interview had been successful for the Rector@6 and we would be on our way, in the following February, to his first incumbency. I remember the interview days so clearly. I remember the sense of excitement and I remember what we were told. How different it all was! And how much harder it was than we expected. For many months, I wondered if we were going to surface...or survive. So I stopped blogging.
But we did survive and now I feel able to write again - although I wonder if I will be able to find the time. Life is so full, often random events clutter a day, unlike the ordered days when I was working. As well as the random events, I have two beautiful dogs and two amazing horses to sort out. The horses are an unexpectedly awesome addition to our family since we have been in Dorset. They make sense of being in the middle of nowhere, with no family or friend links, no nearby train links and no decent shopping for miles! They also tie me here!

This weekend has been more hectic than usual as we were supporting three candidates from our Benefice at the Confirmation service at Salisbury Cathedral. We don't often escape the valley to go to Salisbury - and Saturday was not looking promising with the rain and gale force winds but by the afternoon we drove the straight road to Salisbury with an awesome setting sun in the rear view mirror.

The Cathedral was bathed in the golden light when we arrived which just emphasised its magnificence. There was to be a rehearsal for the candidates and their sponsors (and the rector) while I could go off for tea in the Chapter House and view one of the best copies of the Magna Carta. (click  read more) I really wanted to go shopping in Salisbury but couldn't quite make my escape!

It was dark outside when the service began. It began in darkness in the cathedral with a reading from Isaiah 43:1-3a,6b-7. We all sang the Taize chant 'Veni sancta Spiritus' as Genesis1:1-3 was read. It was all very atmospheric. After the candles were lit, the candidates for baptism and confirmation were presented. They then moved down the central aisle to the magnificent font where the baptisms took place. Everyone then moved on towards the spire crossing where those to be confirmed, were presented to one of the three bishops. The congregation was encouraged to move through the cathedral with the clergy and candidates - it was an unexpectedly awesome experience!

At the end of the service the west end doors were opened and everyone followed the Bishops outside onto the steps of the cathedral. The night was clear and dry and there were distant fireworks exploding into the sky. Here we were able to group with all the people who had come to support from the Benefice - what an unexpectedly large turnout! The Rector@6 was thrilled by the number of people who had come to support the candidates form the Benefice.
And after everyone had left - The Rector@6 and I found ourselves in an empty cathedral! I don't know how it happened but people drifted away - others had gone to change in the vestry and suddenly we were all alone! You feel very small and very conspicuously in God's sight - now that is unexpectedly awesome!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

It's Time!

I'm staring at the blank screen wondering what to it too soon to return to my ramblings about adapting to life in the rectory? I have missed the comradery of Bloggers but I needed to focus on settling. I have woken this morning with the urge to write again - so much is changed, so much is changing. The Church of England seems to be changing. Our valley churches are changing. I am changing. Does this mean I am shaping up into a Rector's wife? I don't think so - I still feel like a square peg in a round hole but I need to write to remind myself of how far the Rector@6 and I have come since arriving in the valley for The Interview three years ago. I need to record the changes that have happened so that it might give myself (and others) hope. There have been some difficult times and the Rector@6 has even applied for a couple of jobs and he has got as far as being interviewed for one. We both knew it was too soon (was it the thought of escaping ....running away?). We both knew it was not right for us (the Rector@6 had even said that he would not accept the job at the interview - if offered - which it wasn't!). I'd like to say that we don't wake up on a Friday morning and turn on our iPad search the vacancy list in the Church Times ....but that wouldn't be true. This weekly scanning of the vacancy pages helps to remind us how fortunate we really are!

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!).