Canvassing opinion

2 09 2009

1021125_under_canopies_3It was a bit longer than a week or so wasn’t it! It’s been a busy summer with a real variety of experiences. And now I am looking down the barrel of a very challenging autumn.

The summer started with the family at ‘New Wine’. This is a week long christian event run by the New Wine network.

This isn’t the place to dis’ other people’s spirituality, so I will refrain. But this was not a happy experience for me. I have been before so I wasn’t surprised, but I am so far away from this sort of muscular christianity. We only went again because the children enjoyed it last year (when I went with my then training incumbent). When they enjoy it and ask to go and when the rest of the time they have very little contact with other children in a church setting, it feels mean not to take them. I was concerned at times about the level of indoctrination my children might have been subject to, but actually, they seem to be able to make quite mature judgements about what’s being said to them. And we’ve got the rest of the year to give them a broader range of experiences.

A friend and colleague recently gave me (mischievously I think) a copy of an article by John Milbank called ‘Stale Expressions: The Management-Shaped Church’. As well as critiquing the fresh expressions agenda, Milbank gives the managerialism of evangelical Christianity a bit of a going over too. This article is uncomfortable reading for people like me who have adopted an emerging/missional ecclesiology and I will return to it as I grapple with it in the coming weeks (because he makes a lot of good points).

The managerialism of evo Xty is very much evident at something like New Wine. Milbank’s analysis is quite persuasive but when you’re at a big event away from home with your children, you notice when it’s well run. So in that regard alone, I was appreciative of evo managerialism.

It stood in stark contrast to the frankly shambolic nature of Greenbelt. This was my third time at Greenbelt (a christian arts festival over the Bank Holiday weekend). I had been in ’06 and ’07 and really enjoyed it. Both times previously I had been without children. The laid back feel had been part of the attraction on those occasions. But this time around with kids in tow, I didn’t find it quite so amusing.

The contrast was all the more stark because not only had we been to the (well run but bonkers) New Wine conference at the beginning of the summer, but also because we had been only two days previously at EuroDisney (or Disneyland Resort Paris as we must now call it). Now that is well run!

We’d been there to meet up with my brother and his family, whom we hadn’t seen since last summer. Good times. If a little tiring.

Now you’d think after 3 days in Disneyland, we’d be used to queueing. But in Disneyland, you queue for 30 minutes to share a thrilling ride with excited children. At Greenbelt, we queued for an hour for a plastic token to get our children into an activity session. At the end of the queue, there were tokens for only one out of three. The venues for our two junior age children were already full. And they wouldn’t give us tokens for the afternoon session. We’d have to come back and queue again for that (for an hour and a half as it turned out). But even before that queue, when we came back an hour after collecting the morning session token for the actual session, we queued to get through the front gate, and then again at the venue inside the children’s compound and then the same again when we came back 2½ hours later to pick her up.

Now I’m sure the properly spiritual response would have been to have appreciated the unexpected downtime and to just chill enjoying the view of ominously gathering rainclouds overhead (It never did quite properly rain – unlike New Wine where we had a monsoon). But after a night of shivering in the tent, I was having a bit of a sense of humour failure, to be honest.

That all said, Greenbelt was enjoyable. The children did have a good time and did get to see a very different expression of christianity from what they’d experienced at New Wine. They loved watching Shlomo and the Vocal Orchestra on the mainstage. But Athlete on Monday night was just a bit too late for them to really enjoy it without needing to ask after every song: ‘is it finished now – can we go home?’

So now, back home, and back to work, I face the challenge of needing to write a proposal for an extension to my licence in the autumn of next year. When I started back in October, I knew this point would arrive. My job for year one was to explore possibilities and suggest a focus for ongoing work. A licence extension wasn’t exactly a foregone conclusion, but it seemed like that’s what everyone expected. But the situation has changed. The bishop is retiring this month. The diocese is facing some pretty severe financial constraints. So the question I need to answer is no longer merely, ‘what will I do?’ but ‘why is it necessary?’ I need to answer that question not just for the locality but for the whole diocese, which is facing all sorts of cuts. I’m confident I can make a strong case for why this work is needed here and why an investment should be made here particularly. I’m also confident I can demonstrate how this is vital for the whole diocese. But it’s a big piece of work. If you’re the praying kind. Pray for me. If you’re not, and you don’t feel like giving praying a go, touch wood or do whatever you do to send out your positive encouragement!

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A kick up the proverbial

9 06 2009

Basically I have needed one. A kick that is.

I finally, after quite a lot of effort early in my appointment, have got a work consultant sorted. I saw him a couple of weeks ago and laid it on the line as far as what I though about my effectiveness as a worker is concerned. And I got the help I needed. He asked me the tough and direct questions I need to be asked but have shied away from asking myself. When I know what I need to do to turn around my effectiveness and achieve my goals – why aren’t I doing it?

I asked for a kick up the bum and I got one. And in a couple of weeks’ time, I’m seeing him again and he’ll ask me how I’ve been doing. This will be so helpful.





An apology…

8 06 2009

Sorry to those of you who regularly follow this blog that the content has come in fits and starts. It’s amazing how easy it is to get behind. I will try and keep things updated a little more regularly from now on…





But at my back I always hear…

20 04 2009

…time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near. (Andrew Marvell: To his coy mistress)

Where has April gone? Where is the year going. It will very soon be May and though I’ve got lots of irons in the fire, I haven’t really achieved very much. I’m a quarter of a year into a two-year licence. And actually I’m supposed to have my draft BMO (Bishop’s Mission Order) ready for the end of this year. And I’m supposed to be doing an MA dissertation. And I’ve got nowhere. Now where?

I know I shouldn’t panic.
But I am.
Just a little bit.

Now of course, I’m only six months in. And these things take time. A lot of time. But I still can’t shake off the nagging thought that one of the factors slowing things down is me.

Maybe I’m just a big talker. I remember a Spitting Image sketch taking the piss out of Shirley Williams. It was in the style of one of those anonymous appeals on behalf of people suffering some horrendous social difficulty. ‘Shirley’s a talker’ was the line that stood out then when I was ooh, ever so young! What if that’s me?

My very first post on this blog was in the form of a resolution to get on with stuff. Well, it’s still me, so it’s still the same struggle. Too many things buzzing round my head to just settle and get on with one or another. Please, tell me I’m not the only one.

Actually this reminds me that this very morning I bumped into a friend who is a someone I perceive to be a highly efficient manager and ‘fixer’ in his profession. He repeated his offer to me of some personal coaching time. Kerching! Now where did I put his number…