The Mystery Worshipper report I did recently from our holiday is now up: read it here.
Previously during Lent I have posted daily(ish) updates from the Christian Aid Count Your Blessings leaflet. I’m not going to do that this year, but if there are any that particularly leap out at me and inspire a reflection then I’ll post them on the blog.
Unrelated to Christian Aid, but today I am counting the blessing that is a repaired washing machine.
Although I would like nothing better than to rewind this week and start again, and although I was a bit whingey yesterday in particular, this is the week we are stuck with and so must make the best of it. So, today I decided to count my blessings, and there are lots and lots of them. I have so much to be thankful for, and it is good to remember that.
Which reminds me, Lent starts next week. I think it will do me good to Count my Blessings (link is a pdf file) again.
And so to Greenbelt, which although only a weekend ago feels like ages! This was my first GB for a couple of years, and I went by myself as HD didn’t have enough leave; this time I was also working for the first time since my first GB in 2003 when I was a venue steward.
There were loads of positives. Of course, catching up with lots of lovely people, from the wibsite, from Ship of Fools, from my old London church, from York, even from my (very first) university (embarrassingly H recognised me but I only recognised her when she told me 😮 ) is always the biggest highlight, and what I love about GB (and what is very different from Womad – we have on occasion bumped into a friend or two there, and last time a couple of years ago we camped with HD’s brother and sister and brother-in-law and their kids, but mostly it’s just us and the music). I camped with York friends (one of the things I was working on was the Visions service, and the other bit of it was working in the Soul Space venue, which was also headed up by someone from Visions), so got to spend quite a lot of time with them, and then I had a very happy couple of hours after the Visions service going to the Shipmeet at the fab Tiny Tea Tent, where it was wonderful to catch up with folk again. And then on the last day, once I’d got my tent down, I spent the late afternoon and evening with ship and wibsite friends (including Pants, Auntie Doris and Cal amongst several others. I also managed to bump briefly into Tractor Girl but sadly didn’t manage to get the chance to grab a cuppa with her (that was one of the highlights of a previous GB for me 🙂 ).
Because I was working I didn’t get to loads of things – I caught about the first 15 minutes of Billy Bragg’s set before having to go off to Soul Space to work, and the main other things I caught music-wise were Kate Rusby and the Unthanks. So I guess it’s fair to say I really wasn’t very adventurous this year, just went with tried and tested favourites (having said that I’d not seen the Unthanks live before, I’d definitely like to see them again though). Talks-wise I started off at Abide (a tiny venue populated by the meditative/storytelling-types) to see a really promising-sounding talk on allotments and atonement, but which turned out to be quite dull so I gave up after 10 minutes, and tried (and failed) to get in to see Richard Wilkinson talk about inequality (the queue was too long so the venue closed before I could get in – I did buy the talk though to listen to on the journey back and am sorry to have missed it, and I have also bought the book The Spirit Level). I did though get to see the whole of Mark Thomas’ 2 hour set (which I think he has already toured, or at least started to, as he made reference to a bit of it not going down so well in Glasgow) detailing his walk along the length of the Israel-West Bank wall. He was absolutely brilliant, and I’m definitely going to get his book – he was funny, absolutely hilarious, but also heartbreaking – polemical, angry, funny, it was leftie comedy at its absolute best. I loved his story about the British Consul in East Jerusalem, and some of his one-liners were unexpected but quite brilliant (particularly the “Luton should be illegal” one – I can laugh at that as that is where HD is from – and his reason for coming to GB, despite being an atheist – “missionary work”). The Big Top was absolutely packed, and deservedly so. I laughed and cried, it was quite quite brilliant.
The other comedy (er, I mean anointed ministry time) I caught was Reverend Gerald Ambulance. It is always such a blessing to receive ministry from Lewisham, and the good reverend was on fine form.
In Soul Space (which is the mellow area for prayer, reflection and generally chilling out) I was basically a glorified bouncer, and didn’t really get the chance to be too involved in anything actually going on as I was too busy doing the (whispered) crowd control thing. Having said that though, I thought what I heard of the nChant service and especially Orthodox Vespers sounded absolutely beautiful, and I’ll have to try and check out some more of that if I go back. I learnt that after 3 hours of whispering to people (directions, requesting they turn their phone off, taking appointments for spiritual direction, that sort of thing) my throat absolutely killed me in the morning, it felt like I’d been yelling football songs at top volume on 10 pints. Which was a bit ironic!
Another highlight for me was the Visions all-age service on Saturday afternoon that I was participating in. Thanks to my madchurch experience, all-age worship is something I am somewhat allergic to, and I must confess to not being entirely convinced it would work, but on the day it all went beautifully, it was fantastic to see so many children and adults really engaging with the various aspects of the service, and to get such good feedback afterwards. I didn’t go to the main communion service on the Sunday (as it invariably annoys me – as it was I could hear bits of it from my tent and thought it sounded a bit shouty, so I’m glad I gave it a miss), so Visions was probably my main God-bit really. It would be so lovely to find something similar up here. Ho hum.
One thing I did find was that it was a real old slog driving down all the way to Cheltenham. I was lucky to stay with my in-laws to break up the journey both ways, but even with that it was a bit of a hike. I think realistically my days of going to Greenbelt every year are probably over, although I am also sure that this won’t be my last festival. It was certainly fantastic to catch up with people – here are some selected highlights:
Rather than do either a. a scary list of things I aim to do this year which then make me feel inadequate because I will fail to live up to them or b. a long rambling screed of streams of consciousness over why I want to achieve the unachievable anyway, I’m just going to put up here, for my reference as much as anything else (so it won’t be the great writing you’ve come to expect from this blog 😉 ), a kind of combination of the two which hopefully will be neither scary nor rambling, but more a kind of wish-list or stuff I’d like to see happen but not stuff I’ll get too obsessive about. We’ll see.
To get the elephant (or in my case perhaps more accurately hippo) in the room out of the way first, I’ll at least mention weight loss. I’m aiming for about 1lb a week, which will hopefully see me lose about a stone by Easter. There are a few reasons why I want to lose weight, none of which I particularly want to go into here, but I want to end the year feeling better physically, and feeling better about myself physically, than I have started it.
I want my PhD to be over and done with this year. And get back to writing for the fun of it (yes academic writing can be fun).
I’d love to have cleared my debts this year. I should have one card cleared in the next couple of months; the other one will take longer but I have just increased my payment so hopefully I’ll start making a dent in that soon and get onto the parental debts too. That would be good.
I don’t really want to end the year in health visiting if I can help it. Though at the moment that’s a bit out of my hands – while I’m paying off debts and HD is in temporary work I’m not going to give up permanent work. Whether or not I’m still in health visiting, by the time I finish the PhD (hopefully in the summer) I want to be starting a course which will get me qualified in the area of nursing I want to go into (more of which later if it actually happens). If I do manage to leave this current job, maybe I’ll try and do some more OU tutoring if I can.
I want to get back more into my faith, and what it means for my life. I was very challenged by conversations with HD’s sister and brother-in-law over the holidays, and although their vision is not mine particularly, their heart and commitment is something to which I aspire (and from which I’m still a long way away).
I want to be a better wife. HD says he’s happy with the one he’s got (he’s very lovely like that), and I don’t mean total personality transplant or anything, but I think I can aim to be less selfish and more loving without causing him too much consternation 🙂
Creatively, I’d like to get to know my shiny new camera better and maybe start another photo project as I think my Glasgow blog is running out of steam a bit and the Sibiu blog is running out of photos! And I’d like to draw a couple of pictures at some point as well, it’s been ages (over a year) since I last drew anything.
There’s other stuff as well, like wanting to know where we’ll be living and for HD to have a permanent job and for us to be together all the time and all that sort of thing, but at the moment that’s all a bit out of our hands. I can start to do some of the stuff above though.
I feel pretty good about 2010, all told 🙂
[I’m not actually up at 5.29am, post scheduling is a wonderful thing 🙂 ]
Over the last few years I’ve become a bit forgetful when it comes to anniversaries. I’ve forgotten my blog birthday the last couple of years even though the blog represents something quite significant for me over the last few years (you might not think so, given the often inane witterings, but still….). I’ve also forgotten my Christian birthday most years, but a couple of days ago I remembered so I thought I’d type up something in advance and commemorate it at the actual time, 22 years later, that I became a Christian.
Those of you who know me now and know that a. I’m not an early morning person and b. I’m not a late night person either, in fact c. I love to sleep for hours if my body lets me, might be surprised to know that I finally said yes, I’m going to stop fighting and acknowledge that I do actually believe this God stuff, at 5.29 am after an all-nighter with some friends from uni. It was my first term at uni, I was 18 – all those years ago late nights and early mornings seemed so much easier than these days! (creak). I think I’ve changed a lot since then, and not just my hairstyle (a mullet seemed like such a good idea in the late 80s!) – my opinions on lots of things faith-related, and my tastes in church and sub-culture, to name just a couple of things, have changed, or evolved, quite a lot I think – and there have been times when I’ve really wondered where God is. But, I still do believe, I’m still here hanging on by my fingertips, and still trust that some day the things I don’t get will make some kind of sense. I can’t let go, I think because God won’t let go. And I am so grateful for that.
To (almost) the other end of the M8 yesterday evening, to see Derf – or should I now say, Rev. Derf (well technically The Dr. Rev. Derf, but she’s decided against that for thoroughly understandable reasons!) being received into her new congregation/circuit/parish (they’re a bit complicated, these Methodist types!). What a lovely evening. As soon as I walked in and saw her over the other side of the room in her dog collar I got all weepy (I’m still getting all weepy thinking about it), and although I did hold it together during the service, every time I looked at her I got all emotional. Just seeing someone doing what they were born to do, what a wonderful thing 🙂
The spread the congregations put on after the service was a wonderful thing as well 😀
Wishing Rev. Derf every joy and happiness in her new ministry.
Today HD and I met up with some friends from York who are staying in Scotland for a couple of weeks to relax prior to the (very imminent) birth of their first baby. We met at the Gallery of Modern Art, which is currently the home of an exhibition called sh[OUT] which is of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex art (some of the art is sexually explicit but there’s nothing explicit at that link) as part of GoMA’s biannual social justice exhibition. There were bits of it that I enjoyed more than others (as with any exhibition) – some things I just thought “eh?”, other aspects of the exhibition were a bit pseudy, and others I liked more. Part of the exhibition wasMade in God’s Image which was a selection of art exploring the intersection of sexuality and religion, the bulk of this featured photos of members of the Metropolitan Community Church interpreting various Biblical stories (the link shows the photo of Ruth and Naomi). There was also a piece featuring a Bible, which was asking people to add their stories by writing in the Bible themselves (the point being that many LGBTI people feel they have been removed from the Bible, or at least from standard interpretations of it). Unfortunately (and I am amazed they didn’t see this coming, but anyway) all that happened was that the Bible ended up full of offensive graffiti, and so now the Bible is in a glass case and there are some blank pages next to it which are added to the Bible every so often. There was another bit with pages of the Bible torn out and screwed up, and a photo of a woman with pages of the Bible in her mouth and up her nose etc – have to say I found that gratuitous and offensive to be honest, I didn’t see its value as either art or as a statement on discrimination but it felt like it was being offensive for the sake of it. They also had a small amount of art from people from the Muslim community (though as they said in the blurb, the relatively small amount compared to Christian communities probably attests to the difficulty that many in other religious communities have in exploring and discussing sexuality). There was one set of photos, 3 I think, of a Muslim guy which related to his everyday life as a Muslim and as a gay man, which I found very moving in particular.
As we left the museum, there was a protest by a small group of Christians with banners and posters with Glasgow’s extended motto (“Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of Thy Word and the praising of Thy Name”). I’m not sure if it was a one-off protest or if they are protesting there regularly for the duration of the exhibition, but it was the strangest juxtaposition – it reminded me very much of the Father Ted Down With This Sort of Thing protest, and (similarly to how I felt when I went to the service where Bishop Gene Robinson preached at St Mary’s Cathedral last year) the contrast between the humour and hurt and reality and creativity inside in the exhibition and the dour, joyless protest outside was really very striking – as one of our friends said, it was almost like it was an extension of the exhibition (and, probably more eloquently than any of the art, highlighted the exclusion and hatred that many people face as they try to face and live who they truly are). I don’t know – I think I understand why they are protesting (though I think they’re very wrong), but I just wish if they’re going to claim to represent the church and the Christian faith that they’d be less miserable and dour about it. Protesting against something you believe to be wrong is one thing, but to be so sour about it does the church no favours, and to be honest I think is counter-productive. Plus it’s probably doing more to publicise the exhibition than if they stayed at home and ignored it.
So, sh[OUT] – worth a look I’d say if you are in town, though I wouldn’t take children unless you (and they) are ready for a very frank conversation about birds & bees, birds & birds, bees & bees, etc. The main part of the exhibition is on till November, and the Made in God’s Image bit is on till 22nd August.