an olympic chaplain ….

It’s been am amazing week – but then you have probably guessed that by the lack of action here on SHP.

I am one of the volunteer chaplains at The Olympics covering a couple of venues. My role is to support and be available to the workforce and volunteers that are giving up their time to help ensure that ‘the games’ run smoothly. The days are quiet varied – although I am in the same venues the number of volunteers and shift patterns means I meet an come alongside a great variety of people.

I have met loads of people, had loads of conversations, been surprised, been humbled and found myself in some amazing situations and places. Some of these I will share a little more of after the Olympics have concluded. In every conversation or encounter I have had (and there have probably been over 50 already) people are really ‘touched’ or ‘intrigued’ that there is a chaplain on site for them. Everyone has been pleasantly surprised rather than suspicious and we are quickly being seen as a support to people.

One particular highlight of last week was being one of the lucky people to attend the rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Stadium. It was stunning … I can say that now as we are past Friday and you have all seen it. I came away thinking ‘Danny Boyle is a genius’. The sound, smell and atmosphere did not really relay that well through a TV screen but it was still exciting to watch at home.

The next two weeks I will be continuing as a chaplain at the Olympics and really can’t believe how cool and exciting this role is. The role is rewarding, I love meeting new people and being a listening ear and being … well … a chaplain to them … and for the next two weeks I’m part of the Olympic Family! Wow!!!

the queen and the nuns

I clawed back a day off yesterday and went to London as a family. We went especially to watch Sister Act which was simply amazing – and a surprise for our children. Many will know that at Christmas we and Andrew and Sarah buy each other 5 tickets for the same show as a Christmas present … this year we have been a bit slow but my Sarah got a good family deal 2 weeks ago and the dates worked.

We were in row D which was brilliant. I have never been so close to the stage before and being able to see, close up, the facial expressions as well as the voices gave a whole new experience to our families. Sheila Hancock played a fantastic role as we expected and hoped she would. The show was great and I wondered about talking to Scott, our Director of Music, about stealing some ideas for our Eucharist service on a Sunday …. who knows what might happen!

Before the show we, as a family, visited Buckingham Palace – another first for us. The day before Sarah booked tickets after wondering what we could do with the children during the day as it seemed a shame to miss out on a day in London and just go up for the show.

I must admit I was not that impressed with the idea. Being a good socialist who really is not a fan of the Royal Family the last thing I wanted to do was wander around the palace and rub shoulders with lots of Royal Family fans! I was, however, very impressed. The hand held guides give loads of information in an incredibly accessible way and the rooms were simply stunning! I guess we all know they must be … but to see them was quite breath taking.

I guess, for me, the most interesting thing, and stressed a fair bit by the guide, was that this is a ‘working palace’ and that there are very few of them around in the world. Beautifully crafted items that would be museum pieces elsewhere are in everyday use in this setting which is pretty impressive – even to me as an anti-royalist! I did wonder about the many churches that could learn from this philosophy – of making sure we use the things that are precious to do us, rather than just lock them away. There is something that enhances the beauty of an object when that object continues to be used for the purpose it was designed for. When it becomes a ‘show piece’ it seems to lose dignity. But … I digress!

Walking around the state rooms was a pretty good experience – even for someone like me! So I guess I am saying it’s worth a visit!

my wednesday

The meeting with Bishop Brian and bishop’s staff seemed to go well this morning. It was great to see these people giving good time to pioneer ministry and asking questions that led be to believe this is definitely high on their agenda. Clearly it is something I feel passionate about and I hope this is an early stage in the diocese coming up with strategy for pioneer ministry – that would be a really cool achievement.

Catching up with colleagues of the past at the YFC meeting in London was also a great experience. It always surprises me how the buzz of London really excites me; I could feel my energy levels rising as the train pulled into Victoria, and walking from Euston to CTIE just made me regret a little that I do not come to London as much as I used to.

The purpose of this day was to ask some good questions as YFC is in a key time of its ministry. I was particularly interested by the discussion we had around recruiting trustees – these people are key to things continuing and it’s an area where good investment is needed. It was also good to chat with friends – and to see that YFC really is the family organisation that it thinks it is!

A curry with these wonderful people brought a great end to a good day.

social light

http://www.youtube.com/get_player
I had a great day in London with Joe today. We visited the Science Museum, had lunch in a coffee bar and then ‘did’ the dinosaur gallery at the Natural History Museum. It’s great to see all these museums still being free – I hope they continue to be so!

There is a lot of ‘hands on’ stuff at the Science Museum which Joe totally loves. One activity in the Launch pad which was fun is Social Light by Scott Snibbe, being called an interactive artwork. Snibbe using ligh in various ways, and in this in particular art piece (or is it science?), he uses shadows. The idea is to play with your shadow in front of a screen which is continually being videoed. The cool thing is that then you can ask for your pesonal piece of art to be emailed to you. I’ve posted Joe’s here for all to see. I think it displays well the joker character of my youngest son!

Days out with just one of my children are quite rare and I find them pretty unique experiences. It’s unusual to be with just one alone and have the chance to interact and learn new stuff about them. I’m not sure that today I learnt anything new about Joe … we just had a great time1 Thanks Joe for a cool day!

captivated

It was my birthday last week and my family decided to take me to London. We visited HMS Belfast and then climbed the monumnent which are two things we had never done before as a family.

Later in the afternoon we went for a walk along The Southbank as the weather was stunning and were met with throngs of people. As it was still holiday time there was loads happening with some pretty great street entertainers as there always is. This particular guy had us gripped for quite a while. There was something about his portrayal of Chaplain that had us all captivated.

I noticed too, that the interest was infectious and crossed both age and cultural barriers. It is as if this character had universal appeal and people could not help themselves, they simply had to stop, stay, watch and smile.

man with a wooden leg

We had a great day in London today. We drove to Greenwich North, parked the car and tubed to Covent Garden.

Joe and Beth loved the street entertainers and market before we grabbed a pizza hut buffet to give us energy to walk around the London Transport Museum. The picture shows them on top of one of the trams on display.

The museum was excellent (and all children are free!)and brought back loads of memories of what the tube used to be like. It was fascinating to see how the Victorians developed the tube and the funniest video quote of the day was on a small display explaining the use of escalators …. as it was all new and unusual people were scared to use the escalator and so ‘a man with a wooden leg was employed to travel up and down the escalator all day to show how easy it was’. It’s quite bizarre experiencing the values of past societies.

The weather was so great that we walked from Covent Garden along Southbank to the Tate Modern to grab a drink in the members room and sit on the balcony before tubing back to Greenwich and driving home.

strangers

I had another great (but much drier) day in London today to meet up with a few people and spent some quality time with Simon at Flat White before having a fantastic buffet for lunch in China Town (YFC ministry is a tough life!)

After meeting with Simon I had arranged another meeting near the Tate Modern which meant I was able to pop in on The Street and Studio exhibition which runs until august 31. This a great exhibition and well worth the visit if you have a chance.

There are a whole series of photos called ‘strangers passing’. Photos have been taken of people walking along the street, some realising that they are being photographed, and some not. I found this room quite stunning in its simplicity. The anonymity of these people was quite intriguing and I found myself wanting to know more about their stories, where they were going, what they had come from, what the smile was about, what had caused them to frown.

This natural human inquisitiveness was awoken by just a few photos. I was struck also by how just the odd visit to London (or is it everywhere) can force us into the anonymity that I was uncomfortable with in the photos. It does only seem to be in London where I can travel in such close proximity with people and yet be universes away from each other as we avoid any eye contact like the plague! It is like we all think we are going to spontaneously combust if we dare to make eye contact with each other.

On the way home today I tried to look at people – but no one was having any of it, people would rather stare at their feet than make eye contact with each other! Seems weird that in the lonely city people chose to protect that loneliness.

Munoz Humour!

I had a great day in London yesterday – it’s good to be back to normal and having my (at least) weekly YFC day in London.

I had a couple of good meetings before starting my final module at SEITE on Spirituality which I’m looking forward to. I will have a great excuse to get to grips more with Ignatius.

I had quite a big gap between my last meeting and lectures and so I was able to make a decent visit to the nearly over Juan Munoz exhibition at the Tate Modern. While there I spent a couple of minutes watching Shibboleth being filled in – its going to be quite an eerie looking scar on the floor.

Munoz was superb – love the humour of the pieces which brought smile after smile to my face. A genius with a great sense of humour. My favourite pice was ‘Many Times’ which is shown in the picture – 100 identically dressed figures with different expressions with groups joking, listening, whispering. As you wander around th groups of figures you can again ‘taste’ the humour and pain of the conversations. As you ‘listen in’ it is easy to be sucked into this amazing piece of art. If you get a chance to go before it ends – which is only in 4 days time.

Birthdays

It was my birthday earlier in the week – 43 yet for many of you I know this will be so hard to believe due to my youthful looks and playful attitude to life! But … alas ’tis true!

The day started poorly as I was ill th night before and went to bed at 6.30pm only to wake up in the morning still ill enough to feel the need to go to the doctor.

When I opened my cards and presents, though, I was given a great incentive to get better quickly as they had secretly bought tickets for all of us to go and see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph in London that evening.

It was a fantastic show – a big thank you for my wonderful family and a massive RESPECT for being able to keep that so secret from me for so long – I never had a clue!

Prior to that on the Saturday before Tom had arranged for a birthday greeting to be given out over the tannoy at Gillingham’s home of football before the match started.

As well as Joseph tickets my wonderful brother and sister in law bought me tickets to see Lady of Burma in Maidstone – I’ll obviously be looking forward to that – what an amazing present!

And yesterday I was able to meet up with a good friend over a beer and opened still more cool presents!

As I look back I feel as amazed as Joseph must have when he received that coat – just hope and pray no one’s gonna pick me up and through me in a pit now!

Impressing who …?

I had a fairly long day working in London yesterday and while reflecting on my various meetings I became aware that the one thing that connected yesterday together was dreams, some great, some ok, and some plainly ridiculous!

The start of the day was at the chief execs meeting of NCVYS where the first part of the morning was given to a Tory MP and his team to share with us their ’emerging youth policy’. It was interesting to hear but quite saddening as they outlined a dream of all 16 year olds having a 5 week residential to look at citizenship and stuff (I must admit my mind drifted a bit!). I was amazed at the arrogance to think that all 16 year olds should go on what I think it basically a boot camp! After Tom’s GCSE’s we will want to go on holiday, not say goodbye to him for 5 weeks, and I’m sure (and hope) many other parents would feel the same.

After a few challenges on how this would happen the MP said they would make it happen and actually said ‘this is going to happen’ – thankfully he has to get through an electorate first and the odds of that happening are at very best 50:50!

My meetings in the afternoon were with YFC people to hear about their dreams. I met with Dione to hear about the progress she is making in Wandsworth. The experience was so different to the morning in hearing a dream that was well thought out and had the interests of young people at its core and was manageable if a little challenging. I then met with others working in London and heard of their aspirations and dreams for their areas. Again it was like being in another world – meeting with people with nothing to prove and only God to impress.

At the end of my refection (call it Examen if you like) I reflected on how releasing it is to have only one person to impress – that one being God. I do not need to think up ambitious unattainable sound-bite dreams to impress a group of people – I simply need to be wanting to impress my creator.