Thursday, 2 June 2022

What lies beneath


Have you ever been told that you are so lucky you only work one day a week?  I am certain that many clergy have heard this statement at one time or another.  Sometimes offered in jest but with an underlying sense that there is some truth and other times meant quite seriously.  The work of the clergy is what I would compare to an iceberg.  Ninety per cent of what we do is below the surface and the ten per cent (also known as Sunday morning worship) is what is most visible.  I am sure that you are wondering where is she going with this? 

I have had a few interesting conversations lately and it strikes me that since the pandemic began just over two years ago the above sentiment has become more prevalent amongst a very few people.  Only a very few but just enough to add to the increased uncertainty and anxiety that many pastors live and deal with on a daily basis and which most keep well hidden.  There is the sentiment that clergy have not worked as hard in the last two years, have had an easy time of it, have not been with parishioners or if you were newly matched with a parish have not gotten to know parishioners.  All assumptions!  Yes, I speak of what I know, sadly.  That said then the sentiment spreads that since we have had two easy years then why do we need holidays for renewal and refreshment or family obligations or whatever reason?  An unhealthy response for those not in sync with either their parish, parish leadership or their clergy.

Let's add another piece to the mix where an article that I read said that 38 % of pastors are not alright and have or are leaving the ministry. [1]  That is not an insignificant number.  The stress of the pandemic, the many deaths that resulted, the overwhelming grief and the inability to minister in the traditional or time-honoured way added to workloads that were already nearing 60 hours a week has caused many to re-think this vocation.  The responsibilities of the job have increased, and the rewards have decreased. The small, spontaneous and positive interactions with church members that previously kept clergy going disappeared from the work over the past two years. And if you add to that a lack of understanding from a member(s) of the congregation then you have a mixture for disaster.

Clergy have been expected to do more with fewer resources and people and yet to keep the same momentum going. [2]  And if it was only the ten per cent that is visible that we actually do then perhaps and only perhaps the criticism might have some basis.  But there is this ninety per cent that you can not see that is beneath the surface, likely highly confidential and certainly of a pastoral nature.  There is the necessary preparation for the liturgy and the sermon since the majority of us can not pull them out of thin air.  There are the calls for emergency care in the middle of the night that are responded to in a timely manner.  These are but a few of the things that happen beneath the surface because they affect those that we respond to and are not readily visible to the larger numbers that gather on a Sunday morning.  

So many misconceptions abound about what it is clergy do on a daily basis.  Since the nature of the position is largely autonomous let me assure you dear readers that few have time to sit around playing games or twiddling their thumbs.  If there is nothing else there are telephone calls to check in on members to see how they are doing (sarcasm at work here--to my knowledge that instrument did not break in the last two years!)  So perhaps those who waver and wonder and threaten financial withdrawal should consider looking beneath the surface to see what really lies underneath before piling additional stress on already overburdened clergy. Perhaps instead of making assumptions, it would be more beneficial to do a check-in to see if your pastor is okay, to ask questions and offer support and understanding instead of adding to the ever-increasing concerns.  A priesthood of all believers is also a priesthood of partners in service to God.

Icebergs and pastors, are an unlikely analogy and yet in these times more appropriate than ever as we go forward and slowly emerge from our bubbles and cautiously enter back into relationships, community and caring for one another.  The pastor will be there to pick up as many pieces as possible, to listen and be present for your cares and concerns but conversely who will help the pastor manage the same?  What lies beneath, behoves all of us to take a closer look. 


Additional Sources

Monday, 4 April 2022

It all began in Grade Six


The Narnia Window

My love of the Chronicles of Narnia began in sixth grade.  At the end of the school year, I received an award (I can not remember what it was for) and the prize awarded was C. S. Lewis's book The Secret of the Silver Chair.  I have a vague memory of the original movie the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but this would make the first time I read the chronicles and at twelve I don't remember reading them in order.

Some years later the books were revived again and a new movie was made.  This prompted a re-read of the books, this time in order, and an eventual watching of the newly made movie.

Today my DH needed to be in Oxford and I suggested I would give it a miss and just relax.  But then I pulled out the phone and googled things to do.  Yes the Harry Potter sites topped the list and then there was another site that caught my eye 41 Cool and Unusual Things to do in Oxford.  So I had a look.  Lo and behold C.S. Lewis is buried there and there is a Narnia window in his home church.  So I told my DH I thought I would tag along after all.

Once in Oxford, I thought how hard could this be?  We found a church that had a tourist map and St. Michaels is a tourist destination but there was no time to dally there today and climb the tower!  I asked the workers there for directions to my destination and was told it was at least an hour to walk.  How very disappointing!  I didn't have that kind of time.  So off we go to a coffee shop for me to rethink my day.  Google maps to the rescue a twenty-five-minute bus ride and about a ten-minute walk would get me there.

I left my DH in the coffee shop, he has another commitment, and I was off.  Sure enough on the fifteenth stop I was off to find Holy Trinity church.  I was in the suburbs to be sure!  Finally, I reached the Coach house and vicarage.  There was a sign pointing down a path to the church and finally amongst the trees I could see the tower of the church and then the gates to the churchyard.

It is likely the smallest church and the most unpretentious church that I have been in on this journey.  It was open to visitors and welcoming.  I slipped inside to spend a short time here.  

I looked around for the window with the expectation that it would be large and colourful.  Instead, I found simplicity in one of the regular windows of the church and yet it was loaded with the symbolism of Narnia.

Aslan is the sun radiating life and light
The waterfall from the paw shows his role as life-giver to Narnia

Other images from the stories: the trees are the Apple tree and 
the talking tree

The flying horse from the stories

The window is simplistic compared to the many that are generally seen in the buildings but it is the simplicity that makes you pause and linger for another glance and what else will be seen if you look a little closer. 

It was well worth the trek completely off the tourist track and a beautiful reminder of the beauty in the simple things that are too easy to miss.

Holy Trinity Church and grounds

Saturday, 2 April 2022

A little wandering


An old rolls royce-repurposed as an ice cream truck

Today I wandered the streets of London.  Yes I had a destination in mind, yes I had a detour along the way and yes I had a fabulous walk and wander.  

My detour, St. James Sussex Garden
Parish Church of Paddington

The Nave

On my own and without a map meant I had to really pay attention to my direction and turns.  Many of you will know that I can be directionally challenged and easily lost.  Well not lost really, just taking in different sights!  There were no interesting markets to wander through which was disappointing but Kensington Gardens were lovely to wander.  I found the round pond, sunken garden, memorial fountain of Diana and many more statues.

The Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace
 looking toward the Palace

Statue of Princess Diana, unveiled 2021 on the anniversary of her 60th birthday.  Inset in the paving is
These are the units to measure the worth
Of this woman as a woman, regardless of birth.
Not what was her station?
But had she a heart?
How did she play her God-given part?

The memorial fountain for the Princess of Wales.  
Not currently working but I was underwhelmed!

Statue of Peter Pan

Wildlife taking a little R and R

Part of the Italian Gardens

The Round Pond and space around

People meandered, ran and just enjoyed the opportunity to sit and watch the world go by.  While the sun shone there was a definite nip of cold in the wind but it was a beauty of a day for walking.

Kensington Palace, sorry no inside pictures I refused to pay the exorbitant price to enter.

Statue of Queen Victoria in front of the Palace.

Friday, 1 April 2022

Let's be Spontaneous - Bristol


Door to the Chapter house

Were the words my DH said yesterday as we sat having lunch at Paddington station.  So we finished lunch and booked tickets for Bristol.  Now my DH was booking for nine a.m. and I interrupted and suggested he might want a bit later so at ten thirty (which was off-peak and therefore cheaper) we were on the train to Bristol.

We have had quite a day.  We arrived just in time for lunch.  Having never heard of Cowbee we thought we would give it a try.  The waffles are delicious.  Then we were off for the day.  We saw the Cathedral, murals, St. Nicholas Market and had a fun spontaneous day.

The Cathedral and the College Green

The Cathedral had its start in the 1100's when an Augustinian Abbey was founded on the site.  Remains of it are still on the grounds but the burial area of the monks has been converted into a green park (College Green).  It is leased by the city, and is a well cared for space where on a nice warm day you can sit and enjoy the space and a picnic.  

The cathedral itself has stood in the centre if Bristol since the 1500's.  It, like most Cathedrals, is quite majestic but less heavy on the stained glass.  The commercialism is less in evidence, not because they do not welcome donations, but the emphasis is a place of prayer and there are a number of quiet places where one can just sit and pray or contemplate.

The Nave

We went back for the five fifteen choral evensong which was quite lovely.  The Eastern Lady Chapel hosted us for the service.  It was nearly full with more sitting in the nave as we departed the service.  

The Eastern Lady Chapel

The gardens of the Cathedral were well used.  One could find lunch at the cafe and sit in the garden or just wander through.  It was well maintained chaos!  Herbs had their own section, holly was beautifully pruned in different shapes and was full and thick.  

Well pruned holly

Beautiful full blooms

More of the garden, yes around the tombstones

Nestled in the garden was this sculpture simply titled Refugee.  Dedicated to all that have suffered racial persecutions.

Once we were outside again we noticed, closer to the Cathedral, a green space that looked more randomly planted.  This space titled Flowers in their Footsteps has been in existence for eight hundred years.  Wildflowers grow here on the sight where protesters have gathered.  One of the biggest crowds was in 2020 when 15,000 gathered to march for the environment.

Daffodils are currently in bloom here.   The intent is to draw wildlife closer to urban dwellers.

It is an impressive sight to see this building standing in the city centre, surrounded by the hustle and bustle and yet offering both inside and out a place for people to commune with the divine

The Seafarers Chapel

A close up of the candle holders

Up, Up, Up we go to the pulpit!

Nave and High Altar

One of the murals around the city

Neptune - God of the Sea

Our spontaneous day allowed us to discover additional beauty and we feel richly rewarded.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Stations of the Cross

In the new Cathedral of Coventry in the Unity Chapel there were rough wooden posts.  On each of them was a paper maché character.  These represented the stations of the Cross.  They were not your traditional depiction and I found them quite interesting.

Not being familiar enough with the stations to be able to do them without the guide I still appreciated being able to stand in front of each of them and contemplate the meaning and significance of each one of the stations. 

Jesus is condemned by Pilate in the traditional station.  This one is simply titled CONDEMNED.  When have you felt condemned or conversely when have you condemned someone?

Traditionally the second station is Jesus "accepts" his cross or as this station says BURDEN.  Take time to consider the burdens that we carry, why we carry them and how we can lighten our load

In the traditional third station Jesus falls for the first time. This is simply titled FALLEN. What has you stumbling and falling?

Traditional Stations mark the  fourth as Jesus meets his afflicted mother.  This is titled ABANDONED.  Have you felt abandoned? Have you abandoned someone or thing? How did it make you feel?

At the fifth station Simon is compelled to help carry the cross.  Here the title is simply SUPPORTED.  Think of a time when you have been supported and conversely when you were the one that supported.

Traditionally the sixth station is Veronica offering her veil to Jesus. Seeing Jesus in distress she offers a cloth for him to wipe his face.  Here we simply have SEEN.  Think of a time when you felt that you were in the presence of the divine and felt seen by God

The traditional seventh station Jesus falls for the second time.  Simply titled FALLEN.  When have you fallen again and reopened wounds or caused fresh wounds and bruises

At the eighth station Jesus speaks to the women.  This one is titled EMPATHISED.  When have you felt Jesus speaking to you.

At the nineth station Jesus falls for the third time.  FALLEN here is quite dramatic and our image is barely holding on.  When have you been so filled with despair and how have you hung on?

The tenth station Jesus is stripped of his garments.  This is titled SHAMED. Here our vulnerabilities are exposed

The traditional eleventh station Jesus is nailed to the cross.  NAILED is the title of this piece.  

The twelfth station, Jesus dies upon the cross.  

At the thirteenth station, Jesus is taken down from the cross.  RELEASED is the title of this next piece.  When have you felt free from obligations, duty, burden?

At the fourteenth station, Jesus is placed in the Sepulcher.  This stop is entitled TRANSFORMING.  How have you been changed and transformed by your experiences?

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (Good Friday Collect, Anglican Church of Canada)