Category Archives: CoE

Being called… to represent

A priest also represents the church both to its members and to the world. I am excited about showing everyone that church can be different from stuffy old pews and boring services, that church can be modern and exciting without losing itself and its traditions in the process. I am very passionate about letting every member of the church have an input, I believe in being an enabler more than a leader and I hope to include as many people as are interested in realising their vision for the church. At the same time I believe that the community of the church can only work as a unity and I know that my own obedience to the principles of the church and through these to my bishop is a large part of maintaining this unity.

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Being called… to the Eucharist

The Eucharist has a special place in worshipping God. It is a great thanksgiving, a celebration of the great goodness of God where God meets his people in the closest way possible. In the Eucharist, we realise our identity as God’s loved ones and an opportunity to be guided into a fuller realisation of the calling of the church. During the Eucharist the congregation comes together as a community, is reminded of God’s word and life and his gifts for us, experience an age-old ritual that connects generations of believers, receive God himself and are sent out with his blessing as missionaries. Praying the Eucharistic Prayer is something I feel quite passionate about. The Eucharist was first celebrated by Christ and the shared meal with God at the table is an inspiration for me every Sunday and being able to share this with others seems truly awesome.

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First sermon – the (not) writing of it

I don’t know if you have ever written a speech. The only ones I have given before were presentations at school or university, with power point slides, very technical requirements, none of which were inspiring the audience but mostly the dissemination of information. I had been successful at that but in preparing my first sermon, I quickly realised that this would be very different.

You are supposed to put yourself into your sermon. Your own thoughts, your understanding, your private recollections are really the only way to make it truly meaningful to your audience. And this is frightening. The idea of standing in front of a lot of people you know and will continue to know and basically undressing your soul for them is not something I relished doing.

When I was given the gospel for the day and it turned out to be John Chapter 10, I was stumped. I had nothing to say. I only had a question: Why is the world not perfect if we answer to our shepherd?

Thankfully, the Minister had a good idea – why not talk about that question? So simple and so great. Once I had that theme decided on, thing just flowed. I am lucky in that my mother is something of an expert on the art of rhetoric and for two months every night in bed I played with what I wanted to say. I even had a first version written down about two weeks before I was supposed to give the sermon and had planned to practice it on my friends – that never happened. I was too chicken and it didn’t feel like I had gotten it right yet.

I am one of those people who will start something in good time, get a first draft with plenty of time left and then won’t finish until the last minute when the pressure is on maximum. Accordingly I completely rewrote the whole thing on the Sunday morning at 9 o’clock (the service starts at 11.45h), practiced it in my hallway, rewrote some parts again on little note cards (there was no actual text until after I had to hand it in to the DDO) and left for church at 11am. I was nervous like you cannot imagine as I pulled up in the car and entered the church.

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Being called… to teach

Preaching gives a priest the opportunity to speak out. They can take the time to explain a biblical concept in depth, enlighten the congregation of a misunderstanding, and inspire them. I hopefully will be able to convey Christ and to bring heaven and earth to each other. In this role the priest is a messenger from God to his people. He brings hope – and this is hard work, time-consuming and essential. It is necessary to keep the own imagination and hope alive in order to inspire others and to dream dreams of what could be with God. I need to keep it simple so that I will be understood. My regular engagement with scripture will teach me to listen to scripture in the light of the ordinary events of the day. My experience with preaching is rather small but it was a great experience to share God’s word and how I understand it with people I care about. Though it was frightening at first to expose myself in this way, I found out that the response is certainly worth it. I believe that sharing my passion for God’s word and mission on earth is one of the reasons I exist and I know that this will be something I will always do. However, I am well aware that there is much I still need to learn in order to be able to give truly inspiring speeches and even then not every sermon will be great. Also, my life outside the church will be watched carefully by others. I will be judged by many people’s ideas of what is right, quite a few of which will likely be contradictory. While I don’t relish this, I am ready and going into this with open eyes. I know that in the end I need to stay true to myself and my own conscience.

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Being called… to community

I will need to know and articulate the voice of my hearers, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar this might be and there is no substitute for being close to my parishioners – forming personal relationships is absolutely essential. Having the opportunity to form meaningful bonds through a common relationship with God is one of the best parts of being a member of the Christian community. As a priest this will be both more easy and more difficult than it is now and I have already felt a difference after announcing my intentions in the chaplaincy. A priest can be confidante and guide for those who feel comfortable with him or her. On the other hand, friendship can be difficult for the priest as their role in the community is rather exposed and he or she is by many seen as different from others. I would therefore pay special attention to making sure that I stay approachable, join in with the community at whatever they do (I will even go to cricket games!) and what defines them. At the same time I will need to keep an open ear toward issues that might come up within my parish. One parish can be home to more than one community and it is important that I am there for all and everyone. I need to be able to speak up when things are not right and to stand on principle whilst being flexible. Experiencing friendship and love in the relationship with others is necessary to my emotional well-being and spiritual life. Making connections with others is a great source of satisfaction and a source of strength. Even if some connections are fleeting at best and others are contrary rather than nice, without other people around me I cannot make do. Making a difference in somebody’s life is something I aspire to and in my experience a great way of doing this is by showing that I care (and I do care) and by listening to them. As a priest I would have much opportunity to use the skills I have learned throughout my life and this is something I look very much forward to. I don’t lose faith in others easily and I am able to see both sides of an argument even if I am personally involved. I think this will be very important in maintaining good relationships.

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I am called… to his Word

A priest is called to proclaim the gospel to the community he or she lives in. In order to be able to do this I will need to be immersed in scripture, to literally marinate myself in it so its essence can be spread around. I will therefore be diligent in prayer, expose myself to scripture systematically and prayerfully and will study with regard to deepening my faith. A priests combines a passion for God’s word with a passion for living in God’s world and lives with attentive wonder. I will point out God’s work to others and listening to both the parish and God will help me to grow stronger and more mature in my ministry. As part of my prayer time, I read one chapter from the Old Testament and one chapter from the New Testament as well as a psalm each day. Only by truly opening ourselves to the many ways God communicates with us can we do his work in the world. Scripture for me is one of the most immediate ways God talks to me. Many times have I come to him with a problem, exhausted, tired or also happy and found some answer, comfort or joy in the chapter or psalm I was reading that day. Just as many times I was taught a lesson or inspired to be a better person through reading scripture. As a priest I will have a better understanding of scripture, both what it means and better skills to find meaning in it. Combining what I read in the Bible with what I am experiencing in the world and in my life brings me comfort and insight not least into myself.

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Worship with my children

No, I am not married and I never had children. But organising a prep course for first communion and since then leading the Sunday School services in our chaplaincy have provided me with a small group of great kids with whom I get to learn and worship about once every two months.

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I am called… to lead worship

As a priest I will be leading the communal worship of my community most of the time. It is a double calling to be worshipper and leader of worship in order to transform all. Not only would I lead a service though, I would be responsible for setting the tone of the worship of the community for which I need to be a liturgist at the technical level as well pay attention to the life of the world in my community so that the worship can express the intensity of God’s interaction with the world.  Actually, I am a little overwhelmed by this. I don’t know very much about liturgy at all. I guess I will learn this at college…

I would tend to the worship of others as well as my own. In leading worship, my prayers will be an important source of information for others. I will have to walk the thin line of providing both the comfort of the familiar and the challenge of being out of one’s liturgical comfort zone which might well lead me out of my own comfort zone. It would be my responsibility to understand and apply the theology behind the liturgy used and to enable the understanding of others through it.This will be especially difficult since many people will just be sitting there, letting the words wash over tzhem without really listening to what is being said. As long as my expectations aren’t too high I should be fine!

Worship is a gift from God and I am called to share this gift with a specific community in a specific place at a specific point in time. This means that in order to make the community’s worship relevant, I will need to pay attention to the community I will serve, to the culture, newsworthy events and personal happenings. In my worship with this community I will have the chance to express the intensity of God’s interaction with the world. This will require me actually relating to my congregation. Oh bother! Me, the one with the odd music tastes, reading books that nobody else likes and being addicted to American TV Dramas! I will have to step things up a little… or possibly use my excentricities to good effect!

I have had some experience in leading worship, in a home group setting, reading in church, writing intercessions and praying with my Sunday school children. I found it both exhilarating and difficult. Leading worship means that there is a chance that I am the only one truly taking part in the worship. This can be both emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Isn’t there an easier way to meet people than sitting through a service being bored for more than an hour each Sunday? Porbably I am being very harsh. On the other hand, when there were others truly worshiping alongside me, leading them in prayer is meaningful and important. I have always felt that praying with others brings an additional level of immediacy to prayer and while I wouldn’t miss my personal praying time alone, prayer with others is also very important to me. Leading others in prayer regularly and having the chance to be a vessel of inspiration through God’s word is something I am very much looking forward to. And the children are the best!

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I am called… to worship him

Worshipping God is the most important part of a priests calling, being the inspiration for and informing all of his or her other activities. Worshipping God is taking a step back from the preoccupation with ourselves. It is deciding again and again to give God my soul, my life, my all. Through praying we give and receive love from the one source of all things and we proclaim this love to the world. Worshipping god and regular prayer is immensely satisfying. They can give me a feeling of accomplishment, of having helped when no other help was possible. Prayer gives me a connection, to God but also to others. As a priest I will continue with worshiping God regularly and it will help me to continue giving my life to him. Much of my life I did not know to pray or how and the journey of learning how to talk to God was long, full of stumbling blocks but also with great accomplishments and gratification. Prayer has become something I do like eating and drinking and I cannot imagine doing without. Sometimes I find it difficult to get started but for this reason, I think, there is the Daily Office. in this set text of prayers I can get started even when I don’t know how and it gives me a framework with which to work when I am uninspired. At the same time it is the moments during the day when I give God a quick thank you or please that can be the most meaningful.

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All the essays I didn’t do

Like I wrote on Friday, there are many hoops to jump through when discerning your calling to priesthood. Not least of this is a thick pack of papers and book chapters given to me by the DDO with an A4 list attached at the front detailing the many essays I needed to write before my interview. One of them is not so much an essay but an application from. This is fine, until you see questions along the lines of: Describe your journey in faith. How has your prayer life developed over the years? Describe your life so far. Who are the people imnportant in your life and how do they support you?

You try answering those questions in less than 500 words (which I didn’t have to, thankfully) because just for one of those alone I wrote 2 A4 pages. And it still didn’ feel complete. One of the requirements in this process is, of course, complete honesty and I was but there is no way you can actually tell them EVERYTHING that has ever been important in your life. And true enough there were a lot fo follow up questions at the interview…

I also had to write my own obituary (basically my life in the thrid person in 2000 words) and an essay on the nature of the office of a priest and how I feel called to it. Then I also was supposed to write something short on the Anglican communion/ church of England, 300 words detailing how I fulfill the different criteria they look for (there are 9), something on the Bible, something on the academic study of the Bible and whether it is threatening and a sermon. I had to give the sermon, not just write it, too! I’ll get back to that later.

I got away with not writing all of the above (thank goodness!) but the ones I did write really helped me a lot in sorting through my jumbled thoughts, directing my exploration of my calling and I am grateful in that all of this confirmed my calling. It could have completely gone the other way! Writing these also caused me to discuss many of the questions raised with differnt people from my chaplaincy for which i am also very grateful. It strengthened these relationships and gave me new points to think about at the same time.

So, thank you CoE. This has been a great journey so far, yes, exhausting at times, and frustrating, but also immensely gratifying and fulfilling! Possibly everyone should do this once just to clear their head (but then, who would, if not getting a kick from God first?).

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Process Stories

Becoming a priest in the Church of England is not something that you just do. First you go through a rigorous discernment process, both for the church to find out whether you are indeed the right person for this calling and for yourself to find out and to clarify your calling to the priestly office. The process differs from diocese to diocese and for the Diocese of Europe in which I find myself after moving back to Germany, it takes at least 18 months, though for most it is much longer. Currently I am at an in-between stage. I have not been accepted yet but have jumped through the first few hoops and completed some of the necessary steps. The first step (and this is the same no matter where you live, and, I suspect, no matter which church you worship with) is to talk to you local priest or vicar (here it’s a chaplain). In these conversations (and they should be several), you first discuss your sense of calling, he’ll give you some reading to do (the whole process will involve a lot of reading!) and guide you in your first baby steps explorations. If you are lucky, like me, your vicar will be supportive and helpful. The conversations can be really meaningful and help you to learn much about yourself and, incidentally, your vicar and his sense of calling. Eventually he will give your name to your Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) – or whatever the equivalent is called in your diocese. This is when the official process starts. In the Diocese of Europe you are first invited to an informal weekend in London, when you meet others interested in ordination, learn about the process, a little about the Church of England and visit some “typical” parishes. This is necessary because many of the participants have only encountered the Church of England in its chaplaincies abroad, these visits show them parish life in England. After this visit you go back to your chaplaincy. The PCC has to officially adopt you as a postulant before things can progress. You are given a thick pack of papers to read and a long list of essays to write. Then you are invited to an interview with the DDO. This just happened a few weeks ago for me. In September I will attend another conference, when there will be more interviewing, a presentation, group discussions and after that, I will (or will not) be invited to appear before a bishop advisory panel. That is when the final decision will be made – will I receive training or not?

I don’t know if any of out there had to go through similar processes. For me it has been both illuminating and a hassle – I do have a “real” job to do on the side and am living my life with all its many distractions as well as preparing for this. How did you experience your discernment period? Did your church make you jump through similar hoops?

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Having faith

Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engr...

Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my discipleship course today we studied (some of) the story of Sarah and Abraham. At first I thought, that since I already very much knew this story (backwards and forwards and all) it wouldn’t be a great session and I’d probably not get very much from it but it might be fun anyways. Well, the joke’s on me. I didn’t just have one but two major shifts in my perception of God and his nature. It was amazing how much a new perspective can change the meaning of a story and how talking about the Bible changes how you read it so much. I am starting to think that reading the Bible by yourself is really almost futile (although also important) if you don’t also read it with other people! Preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing.

But yes, I learned something today. I learned, by reading the conversation between God and Abraham, that it wasn’t important to God what Abraham thought or believed so much. He made him promises and “signed a contract” (by moving a torch between carcasses of Abraham’s sacrifice, there is no accounting for culture, is there?) and he didn’t ask anything from Abraham in return. He had faith in him and that was it. And when Sarah laughed at him, at the idea of her having a child, that didn’t matter either (so much for being vengeful and jealous, I always knew that was not the God I know), he just reaffirmed his promise. And when I thought about it, this happens again and again; he calls Moses and promises him he’ll free his people, and Moses says: No! Not me! but God has faith in him. And he talks to Solomon who says: I don’t know what I’m doing! but God believes in him. And then, of course there is Jonah who needs a lot of persuasion before he finally knows that he can do it, too. And eventually God sent the world his son and never asked anything in return. He had faith in all of us, that his suffering would not be in vain. It is an amazing feeling and I needed quite some time to process all of this. And now I feel very, very lucky.

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A course in Discipleship

English: Logo of the Church of England

My diocese offers a course for established members of the Church that will help us to discover more about the Bible, what it means, and the Church of England, and helps us grow in our faith, carry this faith into our lives, and share it with others. Of course I couldn’t resist. I have reached the point, where reading the Bible on my own and reading about lots of things also on my own, starts to get counterproductive because all it does is confuse me. When Jonathan (who leads the group near where I live) told me about it I jumped at the chance. Today was the first session. We didn’t exactly start today though, because there was an opening service at the cathedral that was very nice, where we were sent out to discover; but today was the first time I really got to meet the members of my group and we started a little bit discovering each other and our stories. Obviously everything said in these sessions is confidential and so I will not be sharing any personal stories of anyone other than me. But just the fact that, after meeting for the first time ever, some of us felt able to share some deeply personal things about ourselves (not everyone, but quite a few) was very encouraging. Even though most of the time was more of an introduction and it didn’t feel like we were doing any actual “work” (hopefully it will never feel like work) I came home encouraged in my faith and my journey, and refreshed because I had met other people who were at completely different points in their lives and faith and from a large variety of backgrounds but all of us had the faith in God and Christ in common. About half of us stayed behind in a little cafe after we finished because we were not ready to go yet. And I am also deeply gratified that I like so many of them. To be honest, all my prejudices about who is active in churches had led me to expect a group of old women and (you can laugh at me now) there was not a single old woman in the room (there are 8 of us, the oldest of which is around 60 and a man, the youngest is 21 and everyone else is above 28 and below 40 as far as I can tell). Not one housewife either. It is too bad we only meet once a week. I have already finished all the “homework” we were given, so what am I supposed to do until next week?!?!

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First Communion: My experience

Group portrait of children at their First Comm...

Group portrait of children at their First Communion, Holyrood School, Swindon, 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next Sunday my parish will have a discussion after the morning service on whether we should introduce a First Communion for younger children so they may participate in the Eucharist before having been confirmed. Apparently this discussion has been going on for quite a while, and everyone is hoping that staging a public discussion with a guest speaker will get things going. I will be there and discuss with everyone. This is something that is quite close to my heart, since I, as a Catholic, of course celebrated my First Communion when I was 9 and then my Confirmation at 16. Why is it so important to me? Looking back, I think, it is partly the fact that, as soon as I was allowed to participate in the Eucharist, I felt like a full member of the congregation. During the preparation I had learned a lot about what the Eucharist meant, how a mass was celebrated, and why in this order, and what everything we did meant, and I, as a 9 year old girl, felt very adult and privileged to become a part of the adult world. At the same time it was a great spiritual experience for me. Generally, the First Communion is a big deal for Catholic children and their parents, almost a mini-wedding, and some people really go overboard with the dresses and presents. In my village you get presents from almost everyone who knows you or your parents (for example I got a holy water basin from the church choir because my mother was a member, but also presents and money from the individual members). My village parish had just decided that things had gotten too far the year I had my First Communion, and that, for many children, the purpose of it all had taken a far second place behind the material side of it. So we had, what was called a silent First Communion, on Maundy Thursday, just over a week before the public ceremony. For me, that was exactly right; the idea that here I was taking Jesus’ body and blood for the first time was unimaginably precious. But what decides my opinion today is, that having a First Communion and being welcomed into full public membership early on, made my decision to be confirmed when I was 16 (everyone being confirmed was my age) a matter of my personal relationship with God rather than a requirement needed for me to feel like a full member of the parish community. Also, because all of us were older, we had the chance to discuss a lot of topics in more detail than if we had been younger, and some topics that we would not have been able to discuss at all; including sexuality. Having had that chance made my faith stronger, I believe, and having made the decision to be confirmed as a young adult also made it feel more of a commitment to God that I had personally chosen. All of this helped me to find my way back to Jesus and prayer after I had strayed a little while at university. It was definitely the right way for me and as much as I like and am committed to the Church of England, I will always look back with pride and gratefulness to my Catholic upbringing.

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Book of Common Prayer follow up

Title page of the Prayer book of 1662, printed...

Title page of the Prayer book of 1662, printed by John Baskerville in 1762. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, today we had the service that followed the original BoCP and while it was very different, it was also really, really nice. The main difference was, as I thought before, that the order of the service was all jumbled up and yes, that was confusing at times. I thought it was rather interesting that all the ten commandments were recited at the beginning of the service and the archaic language was, of course, very beautiful. I liked that it was different and special. Here is what I didn’t like: During most of the service, the minister stood with the back to the congregation. She was, of course, meant to be facing God and this is the very traditional way of saying the mass in the Catholic church as well (today pretty much no-one does it that way anymore, though). For me, it felt weird, unknown and distancing. We discussed this after the service and a retired vicar that I will call Jonathan here (it is not his real name) made the good point that the priest is meant to be a member of the congregation, facing God and that the two times she actually faces the congregation for the absolution and the blessing, the fact, that she is speaking for God then is greatly emphasised. This is true, but I still prefer the other way.

Overall, I think I could get used to it and I certainly liked it for the celebration it was of tradition and the history of the Church of England and the BoCP. I also like that we don’t usually use archaic language more, though. It makes the connection to God we feel during worship less extraordinary and more as a part of our normal life and I think that is as it should be. After all, the writers of the BoCP decided to hold the services in English rather than Latin so everyone could relate to the service and understand what is being said.

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Book of Common Prayer

Title page of Book of Common Prayer, Scotland 1637

Title page of Book of Common Prayer, Scotland 1637 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, in choir, we were preparing for Sunday’s anniversary service of the Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer, of course, is the first prayer book of its kind with the complete liturgy of the different services. It was first published in 1549 but quickly revised in 1552 (which is what we are celebrating on Sunday). I was very surprised to learn that the order of the service has actually been changed around a lot and parts of the service that I am used to being at the beginning (like the Gloria for example) end up at the end and vice versa. Apart from the arrangement we were practicing being ridiculously difficult, the words being different (i.e. more archaic like you’d expect) and no-one knowing whether we were singing the beginning or the vicar (as indicated in the sheet music but who knows whether our vicar wants to sing solo, he usually doesn’t) the music was very, very pretty and I really liked singing some of the prayers that we usually just say aloud. I wish we’d have had the chance to practice the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer as well but there really wasn’t enough time. I really like singing prayers, it makes me feel closer to God in some way. Music is a really large part of how I connect to God and while I like the hymns and anthems we sing in church, I wish there was a little more singing at times. I miss the whole congregation just singing a prayer that everyone knows with no accompaniment or music in front of them. I really fosters the communal spirit I think.

Back to the BoCP though, I am not sure how I feel about Sunday’s service. I have said earlier on this blog that I like the ritualistic sameness of a service and on Sunday that is going to be completely changed around. Obviously doing this for one service celebrating a centuries-old tradition that feels more adventurous than anything else, but I am glad that normally we do it the “normal” way. By that I mean the way I am used to it because it is mostly (as in 90% are the exact same words) as in the Catholic service I grew up with. It’s funny how how we first learn to realte to God stays with us for a long time and, for me at least, is difficult to change. I spent some time in Canada and while there went to quite a few modern protestant services and it never felt quite right. Luckily there is something for everyone out there and we don’t have to force ourselves and make the relationship with God more difficult. I am looking forward to Sunday because it should be interesting and of course the BoCP should be celebrated. Also, I get to sin, praise and worship and what could be more rewarding?

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Evening Prayer and rain

Gully flooding update #2

I am a little disgruntled. When I left the house about an hour ago to walk to church for the evening prayer, the weather looked just fine with light cloud cover and now and then some blue sky peaking through. I decided to not take a coat since it is really too warm for one anyway. The evening prayer was really nice, like always. When I went to our evening prayer for the first time i was surprised how much it is like the Vesper of the Catholic Church. I don’t know about you, but for me going to a service and knowing what comes next is very calming and helps me to let go and just be. I don’t have to be on the lookout what is happening next because I already know. Does that make sense? What I like about evening prayer, also, is that the whole service is meditational (my browser tells me this is not a word and suggest denotational as an alternative but I’m sure you understand what I mean), because we read psalms and canticles, scripture and pray together, some of it in silence. It’s a great way to connect to God in a more private way than in a Sunday family service. That is also something I really like about Taize services. But I digress. When the evening prayer had finished and we stepped outside it was raining like crazy and I got soaked when walking home. I hate getting wet. My hair had been blow-dried and everything and now it is just limply hanging around my face looking like, well not like much. I guess it was an unwelcome reminder that vanity is not something to take on as a facet of my personality but really, if I may say so myself, I am not all that vain. I just like to have the effort show when I make it. Well, I was reminded and say thank you in a grudging, teenager kind of way. To God we’re probably all teenagers anyways, breaking the rules time and time again, not learning our lessons and talking back to him. Thankfully he is very understanding!

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Filed under body and soul, CoE, Community, Prayer, Taize

Feeling it

 

After talking about how great it is to be part of a community before, I was struck today by how easy it is to include people. My parish is doing a fairly good job I think, although it is not too difficult for a parish in a suburb where everyone has lived all their life and knows each other really well. Sometimes though, there are new people (like me) and sometimes people don’t get included when they could be. Today we had a get-together of the young people, that is the age group of 18 -early 30s, the second one so far. It was a great opportunity to meet new people (I didn’t know half of the people there despite having been an active member of the parish for about a year) to get to know the people you do know better and to have a good time. We laughed hysterically, ate really good food, prepared by our gracious host (one of the group), and just had conversations that were new and nice and – well, funny. I know that on Sunday I will see some of these people again and I will feel comfortable with instigating a conversation and feel more  a member of the parish for it. Knowing who people are and some basic information about them is, I think, what makes us feel part of a group. When X says, have you heard that Y’s son broke his leg? and you know what they look like and maybe even that Y’s son is a great swimmer, it feels so much more personal and included. Meetings like today’s are, I think, the backbone of any community. Giving people a platform where they can get to know each other in an informal or even formal way, is what makes the difference between an active community and a group of people who all go to the same place every Sunday. I am really glad I went today and I am sure thanks to this new group I will feel so much more included. I am grateful that I got to meet some more people my age because frankly, I had started to think that there were only 4 of us in the whole congregation, and tonight there were 12 of us. Just like that the number of possible friends tripled. We got our inspiration from a neighbour parish who have had a similar group for a while and have had very good experiences with it. Especially this age range is easy to overlook because most churches have something for children and parents but the group of people who are neither is growing. Tonight’s get-together was a resounding success and everyone had already some ideas of what to do the next time we meet. Isn’t it a great feeling when you meet new people and you like them?

 

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More than the sum of its parts

St Francis Church Bournville

I think for a lot of people, certainly for me, going to church means being a member of the church community and therefore a member of something bigger than all of us. I was reminded of that today, when I returned to my parish’s Wednesday evening service (you are getting this post a little later I think)  after a longish time of absence and I was greeted with great joy and enthusiasm. It was so much more appreciated because I did not expect it. When the vicar asked “Is this who I think it is?” and was so obviously glad to see me, I was so surprised and happy to have been missed. I was even hugged (English people don’t hug each other all that much; in Germany this would have meant a lot less) and welcomed warmly by everyone. It was lovely. It reminded me of the Church of Christ being a place for us where we feel at home, safe, and loved. I am lucky because I have found a parish where I do feel all of these things but there are probably quite a few people out there who are Christians but haven’t found a way into a church yet, maybe because they had a few bad experiences or maybe because they never dared. I was one of them until just about a year ago. I was lucky because I had a friend who introduced me to the possibility of Anglicanism and helped me find out which church was right for me. When I arrived at my parish I was welcomed with open arms. It has been easy to become one of the group. How many people must be out there who didn’t get that chance, though? Not only is it so much easier to live your faith and worship when you are with others who feel the same, it also helps you feel a part of something bigger, something amazing, something that is more than the sum of its parts. Coming back to Christ’s Church was one the best decisions in my life but it was not an easy one. (I talk more about that here). But I had help and encouragement and had a background in the faith. Today I am glad to have been reminded of my luck and God’s grace in letting me be a part of this great community. Together, we can accomplish almost anything.

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Church of England

When I decided to join the Church of England and, by default, leave the Catholic Church, people asked me why I bothered. After all, I could have been happily Catholic while being a member of my CoE parish. I didn’t agree. It was not an easy decision, in fact it took me around a year to make it. To start with, I felt (and still do) a strong bond to my home parish in Germany, where I still go to church when I am visiting my family. This parish helped me grow up in faith and community, they where my anchor during some very difficult times and I will never forget that. But I had also grown up with the understanding that the Catholic Church did not represent my views in a lot of areas and in fact opposed them in quite a few (I’ll probably be talking more about that in the future). In my parish and my family it was always understood that what the bishops and the pope were doing had very little to do with our faith. When I had lived for quite a while in England and had experienced the very conservative forms of Catholicism here, had been disappointed a few times when trying to join local Catholic parishes because they were not very welcoming, I decided to branch out and the CoE seemed the obvious choice. I found the parish I am a member of now quite quickly and they were just perfect for me. Eventually, when the Catholic Church was more and more removed from who I feel I am and where I am in my faith, I decided that I wanted to be a full member of my parish, because for me it does make a difference. And really, the Catholic Church hadn’t really done much to make me be proud to be Catholic. I still felt like I was giving up a huge part of me and it took long conversations with friends and family members as well as my Catholic minister from home who had seen me grow up for me to feel comfortable with the decision. From a structural point of view I love the democratic elements in the CoE and the worth they put on the laity. I have found a place where I feel comfortable to make spiritual connections and worship as part of the community.

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