The first term seems to have flown by and we now approach Christmas and I feel a sense of loss not meeting every week. I have found some firm friends and enjoy the fact that we don’t always agree AND THATS OK.
During this term we have been tested and challenged to see who we are, what our faith is and how we react to different situations. We have learned what boxes we should fit into, if we are a certain type of church or more importantly not to get stuck in a box.
All the time being gently nudged back to the bible and learning to look though fresh eyes at familiar passages. This for me has been my hardest struggle as I can never remember who said what when etc. On advice I bought a new bible specifically for this course and I have tried to keep notes of things that jump out or historic context or even the time of year this might be relevant. That has helped enormously and I have discovered that I have new favourite passages and books, something that has surprised me greatly. I am trying to be disciplined and read the readings in church with my bible in front of me and was caught madly flipping through the pages to write a note on a connected passage during a sermon – NO IT WASNT A SHOPPING LIST.
The most important thing I have learned and or achieved is to slow down and listen in our group. No really I have!!! I don’t have to keep the conversation going or be the first to answer to be quite and listen is ok – those in my group may find this hard to believe but honestly I really am trying! 🙂 Silence is acceptable.
I think I would be accurate in saying that everyone of us has taken at least one piece of information from our discussions that may be something we want to try to instigate in our own church as we have shared good practise ideas and failures too.
It has been quite clear we all need to work on our mission with youth but also not all of us do as much as we could to encourage men or cater for the elderly or disabled worshipers. This has proved easier for the large town based churches and they are blessed by good attendance and in general seem to find it easier to achieve fundraising or diocesan goals. Despite this, our rural churches are holding their own, finding other ways to attracted members and to in someway be a more inclusive and accessible part of the village.
We have been encouraged to learn and believe in our own theological opinions. To have the courage of our convictions. To be prepared to defend our Faith against those with different opinions. To this end I have been reading blogs, engaging on twitter, reading (well dipping in and out) of books on our reading list and others that have been recommended or taken my fancy in my pretence that I am theologian. Some of the twitter feeds have been controversial, some have been infuriating, some have made me yell at my screen! BUT everyone of then have reassured me that I am on the right track. God is a kind loving God who encourages and holds us safe in his arms even when we don’t deserve this.
Four weeks in I had a bit of a wobble – did I really have anything to contribute to this group? Did I have the talents that are needed to get to my end goal? Was I right in my end goal is that what is really required of me? I was a bit afraid, a bit uncertain was I just a huge phony? Have I been hiding behind church as an excuse not to face issues in my own life? ??
So with a brave face but a slightly heavy heart I went to session 5 which was “Learning to live well with difference”
We had our first case study.
Now I work with students studying to be counsellors and have had many a conversation with them ranting about a specific case study and had my own little chuckle with them as they struggled with the black, white and grey of various situations.
Without going into too much detail, any worries I had about my ability to engage with this course went out the window. I was so enraged by some of the possible outcomes suggested by the sheet and to be honest felt I wasn’t sure I wanted to be any part of that church if that was how it was going to react to the situation. It stirred up a lot of discussion and people commenting on similar situations in their own churches and parishes, how they had handled the situation, what they felt should be done to prevent this happening.
I was so exhausted thinking this situation over and over even though I knew it was a hypothetical question and logic told me it was made up of several different possible situation.
After days of ranting in my head looking at all the different angles I took my outrage to my lovely Rector. He listened, smiled, smiled some more and said something very logical which I had thought but hadn’t really focused on.
Instantly I realised it wasn’t anything to be wound up by but was a way of being reminded of the passion and the need to make sure everyone was cared for and being well treated that had got me into this course in the first place!!
Our final case study was approached with much more depth and theology by us all raising some really personal moments and forming us even closer as a unit.
My other stumbling block is off the cuff prayers that some people do with such easy and with such meaning.
Without offering, (See I am trying!) I was asked to pray. I must have been in the zone as I truly felt the prayers came from deep within and felt to me to be a summary of the 6 weeks and how we had all grown together. I very much doubt anyone realised the significance of those prayers but to me it was a gentle shove a bit further down my path.
Home work has been issued for the break – What is the Shape of you???
Please tell me I am not alone in humming Ed Sheeran?
Christmas Blessing xxx