Tag Archives: ordinand

Letting Go And Moving On

Butterfly transformation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

The last few weeks have been a series of consciously starting to let go, as I, and many of my fellow final year ordinands, come to the end of our formal training. I suspect that this process has been happening over a much longer period, but our final weekend at college brought us together as we ‘prepared for ministry’.

As part of that we were asked to plan a creative act of worship, and under the leadership of Sue (Smith), we, that is Ruth (Peet), Jenny (Tebboth) and I, worked collaboratively to do just that. What we produced turned out to be a powerful release as we thought about how we were continuously being transformed. That enabled us to let go of those things that may still be causing us to worry, to hesitate, to hold us back; which we could lay down at the foot of the cross and then to commit ourselves to moving out toward our new or existing ministries.

We wanted to share some of the ideas that went into creating this service as they might be helpful to others who are also on this pathway or who may be in need of laying something down before moving on.

A weighty pebble to hold

A weighty pebble to hold

On entering the room we were each given a weighty pebble which we were asked to hold on to at all times if possible until later. These were to represent the worries and burdens that we might consciously or unconsciously be carrying with us at this time. By keeping hold of the pebble we became aware of their weight. Sue then introduced our service.



Our training has been all about formation; however, over the last two or three years we can now see how our lives have also been transformed. Taking the example of the life cycle of the butterfly, we took a moment to think we are now in that process

For many people this proved to be a trigger to simply sit and consider just how far they had travelled and to realise that it would soon be time to emerge from the chrysalis – scary prospect but one that we didn’t do on our own, as the words of The Butterfly by Margaret Orford reminded us

My hands are warm to the butterfly
I am trying to set free.
Delicate, frail creature of beauty,
what can it know of me?
I am outside its comprehension.
It knows sunshine and showers,
darkness and the feel of flowers.
We do not ask it to do the impossible
and know Man.
So we with God,
who looks with tenderness on our frailty,
trying to guide us.
Trust him!
He knows the way and if we let him,
will open windows,
and cradling us gently in hands we cannot comprehend.
will lift us up and set us free.

These rocks have let go...

These rocks have let go…

Ruth then led us in a meditation which culminated with us placing our pebbles around the foot of a cross.

(Holding our rock …) God is always leading us to new places on our journey through this life towards the kingdom, and sometimes that means letting go of people, places and things that are familiar to us. For some of us this experience is particularly acute right now.

We may be moving to a new home in a new community; we may be finding a new way of being in a familiar community; both these transitions mean letting go of an old way of being … and beginning a new journey, finding out who we are in a profoundly different role.

For all of us, as God calls us forward, inevitably there are people and places and things and aspects of life we need to let go. The rock we are holding represents all this. These rocks have let go of their original place, hewn by wind and rain, and buffeted by storms and sand and sea, they are all the more beautiful for that. And the new rock face revealed creates the potential for other unique and beautiful new creations.

The rocks are heavy, not necessarily because the things we need to let go are heavy, but because the knowledge that we need to let go and the act of doing so may weigh on us so heavily. We may have been carrying this weight for a while, and we have represented this by holding onto the rock this evening.

We follow in the footsteps of many: Abraham let go of his home and moved to a new land.The Jews left the familiarity of Egypt to journey through the desert. The apostles gave up their means of living to follow Jesus. Jesus … gave up life itself for us. Now … it’s our turn. Still holding the rock … let’s think now about the things we are letting go … think about all that has been good in them … all the experiences that have taught us and shaped us … and we thank God for them now ……

Now we focus on one aspect … it may be the thing that we have to let go that is weighing on us most heavily … and in it let us find something good … an experience, a lesson, or an act of kindness we can cherish and take with us … and let us thank God for that now ……

Looking at the rock, we can imagine it laying on a beach. Now we ask God to show us a new thing that he wishes to grow in us, when the warmth of his love hits us like the sun bursting through clouds onto the surface of the rock. May the tiny sparkles the sun reveals on the rocks surface, represent the beginnings of new joys for us in the service of God ……

Then, when you are ready, and only if you feel that you can … take your rock and let go of it at the foot of the cross as a sign that you are letting go of the past and moving on … not forgetting … remaining grateful for all that we have received … but simply giving it to God and letting it go ……

Jesus said … ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’ (Luke 18:29-30)

Moving Onwards
For many of us this was a significant moment as we realised that what was happening to us was very much real; but we were not left to dwell too long before the tension was broken by the song ‘Be who you were born to be’ by Bliss which encouraged us to look forward instead

Gotta jump off that cliff and be who you were born to be

Gotta jump off that cliff and be who you were born to be


Stepping out...

Stepping out…

Getting ready to step out
Just before we took those first steps to go out though we were encouraged by Jenny’s prayers:

Lord God, you are the one who makes all things new. Not discarding the past but redeeming it for a richer way forward. Thank-you for all we have been learning and for the way you have been forming us. Thank-you for this place and for the care and teaching we have received. We pray for the work and development of this college and for all the staff and students here

Lord in your mercy….hear our prayer

As we have released those things which we hold close but need to surrender we have empty hands to receive all that you will give. Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith who we follow and whose Spirit is our companion and helper so that we can go forwards confident that the way ahead is known to you and that you will equip us for every work that you have prepared.

Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer

We pray for your Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may know you better. Enlighten our hearts to know the hope to which you have called us…. And help us to know your incomparably great power. Fill us with hope and expectation, faith and especially with your love for people we will meet and reveal to us where you are at work already so that we may work in tune with you.

Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer

We pray for those communities where we will be working…….. We pray for those who will be training us………. We pray for our families as they adjust with us to our new situation…… We commit ourselves to your unfailing love

Let us say the Lord’s Prayer together:

Our father in heaven hallowed be your name, your kingdom come your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the Glory are yours now and forever, Amen

shutterstock_85086514Stepping Out
And so we were now ready to step out, hopefully a bit more confidently than before. Our final act was a commitment to hand everything over to God to whom we knew we could return whenever we needed to. Each person made this commitment by laying their ‘feet’ along a path, strewn with a few rocks on which we might stumble from time to time, but that led out towards the door and our new ventures… we were finally moving on!

Leavers Feet


Fear Of Failure

Compline - A quiet end to the day

Compline – A quiet end to the day

This week I had to do something really frightening. The sort of thing that makes your heart race and your knees tremble. It wasn’t quite the fear I feel when I am at a great height and not in control of my balance; nor was it the fear generated by an unseen but threatening presence – the sort that made me hide behind the sofa whilst watching Dr Who as a child. No, this was the fear of failure.

The cause of this fear? Well, you could say it was self-inflicted; but for various reasons I had offered to be one of the ordinands that ‘sang’ Compline in the college chapel!

Compline is the final service or ‘office’ at the end of the day. This quiet and peaceful worship, stills the mind and allows you to hand over to God all of those things that have happened during the day before retiring for the night. At Cuddesdon, the practice is then to maintain silence until the next morning

The service is taken from the Book of Common Prayer, and can be said, but is more often than not sung. However, this ‘singing’ is done in Plainsong – a sort of medieval chanting style. The notes are written on a stave [a set of five parallel lines on any one or between any adjacent two of which a note is written to indicate its pitch] in the form of dots (see picture below)

Compline is sung in plainsong

Compline is sung in plainsong

And there’s the rub – the fact that I had to google what the name of those lines were called tells you that my musical knowledge is limited. I understand that each note has a different sound depending on where it sits on those lines, I even know the names of some of the notes in those positions; but my problem is that I can not link in my head the name of the note with the sound that is supposed to come out of my mouth! Still, I wanted to give it a go.

I’ve written previously about having the courage to do something in Getting Out Of The Boat but inherent in all of these types of challenges is the fear of failure; that you’ll make a mess of it; that people will laugh; that you’ll feel a fool. So probably best not to do it…

As the time got nearer, the natural introvert in me kept questioning why I had ever thought it was a good idea and what had possessed me to volunteer. However, I knew that I’d been pushing myself lately to do things that stretched me; that exhausted me, but which were beginning to give me more confidence

I have to admit that even after a brief lunch-time rehearsal, right up to the moment that I sat in the chapel itself, that I wanted so much to say ‘I’m sorry, I really can’t do this’, hoping that like Zechariah I’d be struck dumb and have a legitimate excuse to save face; but a quick arrow prayer to say ‘Here goes God’ and the barely audible note hummed by my wonderful fellow ordinand, Jane*, sitting right next to me, found me launching into the first versicle

Did I sing like Katherine Jenkins? – No!

Did I hit a few ‘bum’ notes? – Yes!

Did I worship the Lord in word and song – Yes!

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control
2 Timothy 1:7

Having done it I can’t say that I won’t feel that nervousness again, but if we attempt to do things in good faith the Holy Spirit  will invariably pitch in there with us [musical pun intended]

So don’t fear failure, and don’t let fear stop you from giving things a go. As it says in one of my favourite prayers:

Lord help me to remember
that nothing is going

to happen today that
you and I together
can’t Handle

*Huge thanks must go to Jane Winter, whose infinite patience and kind encouragement played a large part in enabling me to not give in to my fears and for the support of all my fellow Ordinands who sang the responses impeccably and who didn’t laugh but gave me silent hugs afterwards!

Holy Hogwarts!… An Induction!

/View, Ripon College, Cuddesdon

Window View, Ripon College, Cuddesdon

Saturday, September the 14th 2013 dawned with a glorious sunrise in what would soon become the 34°C shimmering heat of Seville Airport. The evening would find me in a cooler 11°C, singing a beautiful service of Compline.

What happened inbetween involved a plane, a car, a traffic jam, a large group of strangers and a few reams of paper.

This was to be the official start of my training as an Ordinand and it was exciting – despite even the traffic jam!

The Induction Weekend had arrived….

When I consulted the dictionary it actually gave me five senses in which the verb ‘to induct’ could be used [Other dictionaries are available and may give more]. Did they all apply to this rite of passage?

1. To officially give someone a new job or position

I think we all arrived feeling a little aware that we would no longer be the ‘ordinary’ people who worshipped in our local churches, worked in our everyday jobs, were husbands, wives, mums, dads etc.  We were now to be officially know by the title ‘Ordinand’ – each one of us a candidate for ordination. Even so, I still felt quite ordinary because that future occasion, the Ceremony of Induction, when a new Parish Priest is formally presented to their parish was still just a hazy marker somewhere in the distance.

2. To accept people into an exclusive society or group

walls blogLooking around my surroundings there was a perception that here was a place that had produced and nurtured a great many worthy theologians, with its mellow brick walls and quaint passages and stairways. At the same time there was a real sense of modernity and purpose. It may very well be an academic institution but this was to be no vicar sausage factory. ‘Holy Hogwarts‘, as Ripon College, Cuddesdon is affectionately known, demonstrated almost immediately the inclusivity it prides itself on by welcoming such a diverse group of people who will each be individually transformed over the next few years to serve in the Anglican church.

3. To admit as a member; to officially accept someone into a group

Perhaps this was to be the most important part of the induction process. Having arrived late I was unsure how I would fit in – the introductions and icebreaker moments having passed. Plonking down my overnight bag and then being whisked to see one tutor, then straight into a seminar that had already started, I literally only had time to remember to keep breathing! However, the overwhelming friendship shown during our refreshment break and over the rest of the weekend, was enough to make me feel blessed that here were a group of strangers that over our time together would become good companions on the journey

4. To teach someone about something

This is the scary bit! I was never very good at school… either in temperament or academically. I was intelligent, but never really discovered any reason to demonstrate that intelligence in the form of exam results! Now I am about to undertake a Masters Degree in Ministry. The reams of handouts pointed me towards the different modules or topics I could choose. There were options to learn Greek and Hebrew and opportunities for attending additional lectures. I hope that I am mature enough now to apply myself to this form of learning; but I also believe that alongside all I will be learning about ministry, I will also be learning a lot about myself over the next two years. Our formation will come about not only through our capacity to learn but through our ability to be broken open and fulfil the potential God has set aside for us.

5. To produce an electric current by electrostatic or magnetic processes

The Edward King Chapel, Cuddesdon

The Bishop Edward King Chapel, Cuddesdon

This fifth and final sense then is the most exciting! I am saving the interior shots from inside the Bishop Edward King Chapel, a modern architectural miracle, for another blog; suffice to say our Sunday morning Eucharist was electrified by being in such an innovative and uplifting worship space.

Our small congregation, including family and supporters sang and it was as if they had become a multitude. There was a palpable sense of the Holy Spirit moving among us.

The next stage of the journey has begun…..Alleluia!

For more information about the Bishop Edward King Chapel and why it is up for the RIBA Stirling Prize follow this link

Pivotal Moments and the Parable of the Lobster!

Pivotal Moments!

Pivotal Moments!

In life, there are key moments that are scattered along our timelines. Moments that stand out and are remembered as pivotal. Some of them are more general – like birthdays, weddings, the bearing of children… others are personal – times when something has happened that has taken us in a new direction and changed our lives.

Sometimes the change has been welcomed and sometimes it has been scary and uncomfortable. Sometimes we’ve been able to avoid it altogether by simply refusing to acknowledge that there is any need for change. So at church today, at what would be one of those pivotal moments in my life, I thought my talk could revolve around that topic.

All church congregations can become complacent from time to time -or maybe it’s just our particular brand of Anglicanism? We know what is going to happen each week, so we turn up with two or three minutes to spare; find our usual seat; exchange brief pleasantries with the people in the pews in front or behind us; offer a quick arrow prayer that the service will not take too long as we have visitors coming for lunch; settle down to say those well-worn and comfortable words of the liturgy and hope we won’t make it obvious if we go off into a daydream during the sermon…..

I warned them…. I really did! I warned them that some of them weren’t going to like it; some of them would be happy to do it but that some of them would have a little moan about it. However, that they were to moan to me afterwards and not amongst themselves!

I simply asked them to change their positions, to move around and find a different space. Then, when they were sitting comfortably – or uncomfortably as some of them now appeared to be – we did a dramatic reading of one of Jesus’ less well-known parables… the Parable of the Lobster*! Before you start searching for it, you won’t find it in any of the Gospels or even the Apocrypha, but it is a parable nonetheless – a simple story to illustrate a point

The Parable of the Lobster

Narrator: Long ago, when the world was very new – there was a certain lobster who determined that the Creator had made a mistake. So he set up an appointment to discuss the matter.
Lobster: With all due respect, I wish to complain about the way you designed my shell. You see, I just get used to one outer casing, when I’ve got to shed it for another. Very inconvenient and rather a waste of time.
Creator: I see. But do you realise that it is the giving up of one shell that allows you to grow into another?
Lobster: But I like myself just the way I am!
Creator: Your mind’s made up?
Lobster: Indeed!!
Creator: Very well, from now on your shell will not change . . . and you may go about your business just as you are right now.
Lobster: That’s very kind of you. (the Lobster leaves)
Narrator: At first the lobster was very content wearing the same old shell. But as time passed he found that his once light and comfortable shell was becoming quite heavy and tight. After a while, in fact, the shell became so cumbersome that the lobster couldn’t feel anything at all outside himself. As a result, he was constantly bumping into others. Finally it got to the point where he could hardly even breathe. With great effort he lumbered back to his Creator.
Lobster: With all due respect (sighing), contrary to what you promised, my shell has not remained the same. It keeps shrinking.
Creator: Not at all (smiling). Your shell may have gotten a little thicker with age, but it has remained the same size. What happened is that you have changed – inside, beneath your shell. You see, everything changes – continuously. No one remains the same. That’s the way I’ve designed things. And the wisest choice is to shed your old shell as you grow.
Lobster: I see, but you must admit it is occasionally inconvenient and a bit uncomfortable.
Creator: Yes, but remember – all growth carries with it both the possibility of discomfort . . . and the potential for great joy as you discover new parts of yourself. After all, you can’t have one without the other.
Lobster: That’s very sensible.
Creator: If you like, I’ll tell you something more.
Lobster: Please do!
Creator: When you let go of your shell and choose to grow, you build new strength within yourself — and in that strength you’ll find new capacity to love yourself … to love those around you — and to love life itself. That’s my plan for each of you

Afterwards, I commented that before the story I had asked them all to make a change and that I had noted that some of them were very happy to do so and had made quite a radical change, moving far away from where they had been sitting. Others only wanted to make a slight change,  and still others really, really didn’t want to move at all, perhaps being like the lobster at the beginning

The truth is, change, however big or small, is often difficult and uncomfortable, but God calls us to do it many times in our lives. We often try and keep change to a minimum, trying to maintain the status quo, trying to change the circumstances we find ourselves in to fit with what we have planned…maybe weeks, months, years ahead

But what if God were to change those plans? How would you react?

I heard a really good quote the other day by a writer called Bob Goff. He said ‘I used to think I could shape the circumstances around me, but now I know that Jesus uses circumstances to shape me’ Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

How is he going to shape us so that we can be a blessing in the world, so that we can move out into the world as kinder, gentler people filled with power and filled with strength?

Those plans we made may have to change, but instead of trying to predict how it will affect us far into the future maybe we should think of it simply as what is the next thing that God wants us to do on our journey with him and how are we to do it. Is it to get up and change a particular aspect of your life; is it to go on a walk and spend some time with God; is it to do something radical – to say here I am God?

As I mentioned earlier, from a personal point of view, today I am at one of those pivotal moments. At the end of the service I ‘laid down’ my scarf as a Lay Reader in preparation of the move into the new phase of my ministry as an Ordinand. To reach this point there have been many changes in my life – some filled with utter joy and some filled with utter despair.

What I do know is that I haven’t faced it alone because God has met me in the change and has given me a lot of wonderful people to walk alongside me – and most of them were sitting there right in front of me at church.

Change brings a lot of challenges and a lot of blessings – it needs us to be willing to stretch and become more than we already are – but remember that we don’t do it alone. My hope and prayer is that even though change is often difficult and uncomfortable, you’ll welcome it as a tool from God to help you become who he wants you to be. All you have to remember, is that God loves you. Amen

The Bob Goff quote was from Steve Weins blog http://www.stevewiens.com/2013/08/09/what-you-will-need-on-the-road-of-resistance/. Thank you Steve for allowing me to share

*Author unknown – if anyone is aware of the authorship please do let me know

Stepping out on a new journey


Every life is a journey. We start it the moment we are conceived to the moment we die. Each person’s journey is unique – which is what makes each of us unique. Some days we get to run ahead, others we are sat indoors with our noses pressed to the window pane. On good days we feel totally in control on others we sense we are being swept along hoping that someone will be there on the river bank to throw us a lifeline. All the while we get to make choices – that is our humanity.

Yet spiritually we shouldn’t worry if we have true faith in God. The psalmist tells us that God is there with us on our journey, from beginning to eternity,

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.                             Psalm 139:16

The wonderful mystery is that we don’t get to see what that journey will entail, because I certainly wouldn’t have imagined that my journey would bring me to this particular point in my life.

In a few weeks time I will be starting my training as an Ordinand, having been through a rigorous process of discernment. I am excited and fearful. Yet I know that whatever happens in the future will be because that’s where God wants me to be.

You are welcome to join me on that journey from time to time, because maybe that’s the point where our paths are destined to come together and we walk side by side for a while. I look forward to your companionship along the way

In the meantime may God bless you wherever you are on life’s journey