Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Prayer of the Church of England

I was delighted to discover this new offering from the Liturgical Commision of the Church of England (the people who write the texts used in services.) It would make a very good Christmas present.
Church House Publishing 2012

The book's compilers have collected into one volume some of the most popular and enduring prayers of the Church of England, both old, traditional ones ( from The Book of Common Prayer and other sources) and the more recent prayers from Common Worship that have captured our imagination and are already loved by worshippers up and down the country. Many of these prayers express in a few words thoughts that are too deep for spontaneous utterance - you know the feeling 'I couldn't have put it into words myself, but that's exactly it!'  Many of the texts also make me think and challenge me - can I really mean that? I think this is the heuristic use of prayer - to pray something that is a bit more than you can manage but to feel that you would like to be drawn to that place of grace and understanding. This is prayer that stretches the imagination. A Roman catholic priest who taught me theology once said that the glory of the Anglican tradition is its Collects (short prayers which collect into a brief space complex and profound thoughts.) I predict that this will become one of the Anglican classics of the first part of the twenty first century providing, as it does, an insight into Church of England identity and spirituality. The prayers each have a short introduction to their historical context which helps the worshipper to dig deeper into their meaning.

 I'm sure we've all got our favourite prayers that chime with something very deep within us. One of mine is

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awkening 
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light,
no noise nor silence, but one equal music,
no fears nor hopes but one equal possession,
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
in the habitations of Thy glory and dominion,
world without end.
John Donne 1572-1631
I also love, for it's wonderful Kingdom theology, the post communion prayer which I think first came in with the Alternative Service Book 1980
Father of all, we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off,
You met us in Your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, He declared Your love,
gave us grace and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ's body live His risen life,
we who drink His cup bring life to others,
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all Your children shall be free
and the whole earth live to praise Your name,
thought Jesus Christ our Lord.
The culmination of the prayer sweeps the whole world up into the praise of God and this reminds me of Cranmer's placing of the Gloria at this point of the service, after the distribution of the bread and wine - it seems the right place to locate a peon of praise on behalf of all peoples.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Fourth Age - Life Long Learning

We are used to hearing about the Third Age but lately we are beginning to hear about Four Stages of life. People are living to be much older and many are active into their 60's and 70's in ways they were not previously - I was speaking to one man on Sunday who is still working aged 78. It's also true that many people are progressing into their 80's and 
90's and looking for ways to find friendship and to go on engaging in the adventure of life, even where physical health, sight, hearing or mobility has deteriorated to some degree. The writer Ann Morisy puts it like this, 'For the first time in human history, our map of life consists of not three stages, but four. The suddenness with which this new shape to our lives has come about makes it unsurprising that we fumble for ways of making sense of this apparent gift of extra years.'  

Apparently anyone reaching 65 (which, for most people, used to represent the age of retirement or beyond) can expect an average of 15 years' further active life. This general expectation of a greatly extended period at the end of life is a relatively new phenomenon. I can remember my grandparents commenting on every obituary they read in the Times where the deceased had had more than his or her 'three score years and ten' - it was unusual.

So what are the distinctive qualities and tasks of the Fourth Stage of life? Carl Jung lived to be 87. His psychological theory placed great emphasis on the need for a person to pass through the process of individuation which often occurs in later life, certainly after mid-life. By means of this process, poeple work through earlier internal conflicts and losses to become more themselves. James Fowler noted that, in the final stage of life, people often discover how to become more comfortable living with paradox, recognising that two truths that appear to conflict can be accepted and 'lived' together so they make a larger picture of what truth is - 'I loved my parent/my parent was sometimes unkind to me'  can come to be understood in the wider context, 'My parent had a difficult life/my life has been valuable despite the wounds/I can both love my parent and acknowledge that they were unkind'. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross both portray the spiritual life as a succession of stages or 'rooms' through which we move, coming to stages where there is much perplexity, stages of comparative peace and stages where there is a deep yearning to discover more or to plumb the depths of our own psyche in order to look at the hidden places.

What are the implications of this for the churches?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Chancel Repair Liability (2)

There is a very helpful site for PCCs investigating Chancel Repair Liability and struggling with the actual research or the implications of discovering they have lay rectors. Three cheers for Greg Yerbury, A Team Rector in Penkridge, Staffordshire for his excellent work on this! If you visit his website, no. 2 under handouts (PCC Action Sheet) is really useful. I, for one, will be sending a contribution to Greg's PCC to thank him for all the work he has done on this

Opinionated Vicar: Post-Paralympics, what's changed?

Opinionated Vicar: Post-Paralympics, what's changed?: I was quite challenged by this discussion starter on the new Church Growth Research Programme website My team did quite a bit of research...

I was really interested in this because it's been my experience in parish ministry that people with learning difficulties, hearing difficulties, and other challenges to meet have influenced the life of the church in ways that have brought welcome, positive attitudes, and a fresh sense of fellowship and purpose. Very grateful to David for reminding us to keep thinking about this.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Twelve Things I've Learned About Blogging

  • You can waste a lot of time if you are not disciplined.
  • You can waste a lot of time if you are disciplined.
  • My spelling is worse than I thought it was.
  • I should have learned typing at school instead of Domestic Science (which was unscientific and best avoided in the home.)
  • If you put the words 'Royal Wedding' in a post, thousands of people from all over the world will read it in 24 hours.
  • If you put the words 'Women Bishops' in a post, quite a few people will read it in a week.
  • If you slave over a really well-informed article on dementia, hardly anyone at all will read it.
  • Do not express opinions about future Archbishops of Canterbury.
  • Shy, unlikely people will tell you wonderful things.
  • People you would not normally associate with write comments that make you think.
  • Something you write in the UK comes across quite differently from how you intended it in another part of the world.
  • There is power in the internet - you can influence people and form alliances for good, and presumably, if you are not careful, for bad purposes. There is a democratic power in social media that ought to make democratic institutions rethink democracy.

Cowthorpe Gathers to Open Bert's Garden

Adjacent to the beautiful church of St Michael and All Angels, Cowthorpe, lay a piece of Glebe land. One of the Parish Councillors, Clive Billenness, spotted the fact that it would make an ideal garden - the only area of land in the village which could be open to the public and shared by all. Tockwith and Wilstrop Parish Council purchased the land and a garden was planned and planted. The result is a lovely, sunny corner next to the churchyard, lined with hedges and sheltered by trees, where there are see-saws and twirly saucers for children, seats for the less agile and flower beds for the horticulturists. Yesterday, the village gathered to open the garden which is called Bert's Garden in memory of Bert Rountree who lived opposite the site for many years. The ribbon was cut by Bert's daughter, Sarah. The Cowthorpe Hand Bell Ringers turned out for the occasion and entertained us with 'Grandfather's Clock', 'Oranges and Lemons' and other well known tunes before leading a rousing rendition of 'In an English Country Garden'. This was followed by a very interesting tour of the unique, historic parish church by Derek Gaunt (well worth another visit!) and a slap up bring-and- share tea at the home of Ian and Heather Hartley whose hospitality was particularly generous because their garden had been under water just a couple of days earlier.  English village life at its most resilient, sociable and very best! Thanks also go to The Revd Paul Spurgeon and Hunsingore DCC for their support with this project.  

An English Country Garden
How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
We'll tell you now of some that we know
And those we miss you'll surely pardon.
Daffodils, heartsease and phlox,
Meadowsweet and lady smocks,
Gentian, lupins and tall holyhocks,
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops and forget-me-nots
In an English country garden.
How many insects come here and go
In an English country garden?
We'll tell you now of some that we know
And those we miss you'll surely pardon.
Dragonflies, moths, gnats and bees,
Spiders climbing in the tress,
Butterflies drift in the gentle breeze,
There are snakes, ants that sting and other creepy things
In an English country garden.
How many songbirds fly to and fro
In an English country garden?
We'll tell you now of some that we know
And those we miss you'll surely pardon.
Bobolink, cuckoo and quail,
Tanager and cardinal,
Bluebird, lark and nightingale.
There is joy in the spring when the birds begin to sing
In an English country garden.


With many thanks to Clive Billenness and Shaun Stothard for the photos.