Friday, 26 August 2011

A Hymn for all seasons

Travelling back from seeing two of my boys on the south coast I started to think about how my life can be expressed in the hymns I have sung. At each stage of my life a hymn has become a favourite and has had something very special from God in it. It seems that God speaks to me through hymns and sung worship almost as much as through His word in the Bible.
As a young child I went weekly to Sunday School and was always thrilled when invited to choose a hymn to sing. My favourite was Hold the Fort for I am coming ( probably because the tune seemed livelier to me than many other of the hymns we sang. However the central message of the hymn, to be patient and persevere is a message that has stuck with me throughout my life. Then as I became a teenager I sang in the church choir. We sang many hymns and sacred music but the one that came to be very special to me at that time was Thou didst leave thy throne, and thy kingly crown (// There was strong and strange yearning in my heart as I knelt and sang "O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee." But it would be ac ouple of years before I understood what the words meant and what relevance they had to my own life. then as a 17 year old I attended a friends baptism. I had for a few months been talking to friends about what it meant to be a Christian and had written a letter to a friend at uni the day before in which i told him that I knew I wasn't a christian but didn't understand what I needed to do to become one- one of the problems being a deep sense of not being good enough. then at my friends baptism the preacher spoke about how non of us are good enough to come to god and we can only be made clean by what Jesus did. It was one of those occasions when it seems the preacher was speaking only to me. At the end of the sermon there was an altar call and I responded. not caring what school friends might think of me. As I went forward the congregation sang what was anew hymn to me but one which became and remains very special- And can it be? ( As they sang " I rose went forth and followed thee, I made a declaration that I would always follow Jesus. It was a decision I have never regretted and has led 34 years later to where I am now. For years that hymn would be sung at special events and each time I'm back in that baptist church handing my life back to God.
A year later I went to college to train to teach and learnt many new songs but for a long time And can it be remained my special hymn. Then as I married and started to raise my children a new one became extremely imnportanr to me- Great is thy faithfulness. ( This hymn spoke so often to me of the love and faithfulness of God as I struggled particularly when my first husband left me. The words became my prayer especially the last verse-
3.Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! I knew trhe strength of God in every situation and He kept me close to His side through all the pain and struggles.
Then cam the day when I felt God calling me to ordained ministry. I'd wanted to serve God all my life and always served in the church where ever I could but this was something else. As I prayed in the morning service the Rector prayed for God to call men and women to serve Him as ordained priests. Something began to grow in my heart that morning, a desire to say yes and do what ever God wanted me to do. As the day went on I became more and more excited at the prospect and more and more daunted as I thought about what it would mean as a divorcee with thee boys at home. That evening in church we sang what to me was a new hymn-
( The rector invited us to remain sitting as we sang it until we felt we could say yes to the questions being asked. I was soon on my feet saying yes God, I'll follow you and do all that you are asking me to. I loved the last verse, Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’II go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’II move and live and grow
in you and you in me.
Not long after I also learnt the song
I the Lord of Sea and Sky- with its refrain which I didn't realise until a week ago actually says Is it I Lord?- I sang it as It is I Lord. I never wanted to question what God wanted me to do. ( These two hymns were my prayers as I journeyed along the road to selection conference and on to theological college.
And now - in a place where we sing at least 3 hymns a day and where we are encouraged not to choose a hymn that has been sung in the term already- I have sung many songs and began to wonder which one means most to me at this time. Obviously many of those I have already mentioned are sung regularly and are still very meaningful. But the one that seems to resonate most with me at the moment is Lord for the years.( Perhaps because more than anything I am so grateful to God for the way he has led me and held me through so much. It speaks of just where my heart is at this time.
As I have written this post I have played the hymns on the computer and loved everyone all over again. It has been wonderful to remember how much God means to me in the music His people have written to express their own praise.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Having an audience

I have a friend who blogs wonderful conversations with God. She may not realise how wonderful they are but they touch me every time I read them. I struggle to know what to write sometimes- though I want to blog regularly if only to be able to read back and see how far I've come in a year. I struggle I think because I'm not always sure who I'm writing to or for. Yes its for me- but is it also for those who read. One of my intentions when I started the blog was to hope it would help others as a couple of blogs helped me when I was on the journey to BAP and theological college. My friends audience is God- she writes how she is feeling and what she wants to say to God- as a result their is a consistency and authenticity in what she writes. I'm sure that my own blogs don't have that- but does it matter. If its only really for me to look back on then I'm the audience and so what I say is just for me- or is that a selfish way of looking at blogging. In some ways I don't suppose it matters but it got me thinking this morning.
On a different note I had an email yesterday to reassure me that the offers of title posts won;t be sent out until September so now I can sit back and not worry whether the postman has been or not. Though I'm still longing to receive the letter I'm no longer worrying about when it will come.
Yesterday I took a day off from essay thoughts and writing and went for a day our with my husband to Cirencester. We had a lovely day just wandering around the town and through a park. The park had me thinking as there was a very long straight path which we walked along. We couldn't see what was at the end, and didn't know where any of the side paths might lead to. There were no sign posts and it was all new to us. WE got a way along the path having walked up hill for a while and still the path stretched on- with the gates due to be locked at 5pm and aching feet, we decided to turn back. Unless we go again we'll never know what is at the end of the path or how far it is. This journey has been a lot like that walk. I've never been sure what will be at the end of it, I've seen paths off to the side- even had to take a few, but never known what they would bring, and at times have wanted to turn back without reaching the end. however something ( someone- God?) has kept me going kept me coming back to the main path and kept me walking to the end. I'm not there yet, still don't know what will be there when I get there but God is in control and I'll keep on going.
now time to go back and write some more essays!

Friday, 19 August 2011


Life is beginning to pick up again around the college although we have a month before term starts. With so many new people arriving we are having to reform as a new community. New friendships are being made and strangers are becoming familiar faces around the buildings. This is made all the stranger as a number of people have gone away for the summer and won't be back until the middle of September. I am enjoying deepening friendships with some of the ordinands who were here with me last year and also starting to get to know those who are joining us. Before i went away for my summer placement someone commented that you are only ever 3 Christians away from someone you know. I found that to be true while on placement and am finding it to be equally true now I'm meeting up with new ordinands. the Christian world is a small world and we all feel like brothers and sisters when we meet which is wonderful. I'm looking forward this evening to playing host to a couple from downstairs. the husband is church sacristan with me and we both did rural summer placements so we have a lot to catch up on. Off now to make the meal ! :)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Moving in

As I sit typing a new neighbour is moving into the flat in the next block. She isn't the first- two other couples moved into my block last week. This time last year I was preparing to move, preparing for a whole change of life. Today I watch others making that move and reflect on how my life has changed. I've spent the last two days closeted in the library reading and making notes on qualitative research methods. I'm not that interested but must complete an essay of 3000 words on a research method before getting started on my dissertation. This time last year I was looking forward to the studying, to learning how to be a vicar, and to making new friends. This year I'm struggling with the studying- only because there is always far more interesting things I'd rather be doing, I Love all the practical learning to be a vicar, and would love to spend some time at the moment just being rather than doing. I'm still looking forward to making new friends amongst those who are now moving into college, and looking forward in the coming month to renewing my friendships with those who have been away back to their families during the summer.
As new people arrive I'm reminded again of the many friends who left this summer and are now settling into their new role as a curate. It has been great hearing the many stories and the joy of those who have already started. I'm waiting to be asked to consider a title post- and patience is a virtue I have always struggled with. In a years time this college will be continuing, those who are new this year will be waiting for new arrivals and many of us will have moved on. The cycle of life continues and we all have our place. I need to remember to enjoy the place God has placed me in now- including the studying, knowing that at times in the future I will look back we nostalgia and longing for the opportunities I have now.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


As I said in my last post a month is no time at all. I've now been back a week and had all sort of plans as to the work I would get done- but time has passed by and little has been done. That's not to say I've been sat doing nothing. One of the problems has been deciding what to write about. Decisions on essay titles made a couple of months ago- or even longer seemed irrelevant and boring now and I came back from placement with so many other ideas I wanted to explore. fortunately my tutor is around college working this week so I was able to set up a meeting with her and have now sorted out new titles and a plan of work for the enxt 6 weeks. Now I'm reorganising my reading to make sense of the new subjects.
Time and its passing has been on my mind for other reasons. A year ago I was on the Isle of Wight with my son having a few days holiday before starting to pack for the move north. The time since has seemed to fly by and yet at the same time that time on the IOW seems a life time ago. I suspect its because I've changed as the year has gone on and so it feels as if it happened to a different person. This time next year i will be a curate working in my first title parish- and at the moment I have no idea where that will be. each morning I eagerly await the postman in the hope that he will bring em the elusive letter inviting me to contact an prospective training incumbent. So far I've been disappointed. Yesterday as I walked back from locking up the village church I found my self singing a very old song- from my first days as a student- The words are
In your time Lord in your
I will wait and not be anxious at the time
And though some prayers I've prayed may seem unanswered yet
I will wait and not be anxious at the time
In your time Lord in your time
It obviously came out of my subconscious as I haven't sung it for years ( and probably have some of the words wrong anyway) but it was at the heart of my prayer yesterday. Time is passing but god will bring it all to pass in His time- not mine. A lesson you would think I had learned by now.
Yesterday was also a wonderful time of meeting up with a friend who was ordained 5 weeks ago. it was a real joy to hear him share about his experience as a curate and settling into a new life and home.
So off to make a start on the reading for my essays. I'll be back when I've made some progress :)