Direction and Hope

fullsizeoutput_b2b.jpegYesterday was a day when I felt some things had been accomplished.

I have been seeking a new Spiritual Director for far too long and yesterday Brother Sam from the Franciscan House in Plaistow agreed to be that person for me. We had a great conversation and gelled almost immediately. I hope as we meet over whatever the next period of time is that I will be challenged and able to think differently and experience  more of God and of contemplation and how it relates to who I am and the mission I am involved in.

After our chat I joined the other Brothers for Eucharist and then for lunch. The atmosphere was incredibly warm and welcoming and I was excited to see 2 young men who have joined and are novices in their first and second years with the order. We chatted lots about the world, the religious life, Fresh Expressions and New Monasticism. Essentially we told out stories and listened to the stories of other.

It was a really special time to be able to hang out with these guys and just ‘be’ together. I plan not to be a stranger at this wonderful place of life and peace and reality.

Later in the day I was able to meet with some of the groups which use the church space and chat about what doing on into the future might look like. From these 2 meetings I have good hope that we can move in the same direction with some things being done differently but our joint mission(s) being more accessible because of it.

During the evening I met with another gifted person who I hope may be able to support me and St. Barnabas more in the Sunday stuff. We discussed things over a beer or two, so now we will do a bit of ‘wait and see’.

It’s interesting that after my last post of wandering without direction, that the very next day I see some inklings  of a possible direction …. maybe, and receive some little ray of hope. Still … it’s not a very discernible or strong ray of hope at the moment. But … it is there …. piercing the darkness  … in its own fragile, sleek, but determined way. But piercing the darkness nevertheless.

I’m wandering … not lost …

life_s_journey_by_annakoutsidou-d6f3c0zI don’t know what to do.
I’m not sure where to go.
I have no idea where to start.
But I feel comfortable with all of that as I wander around this new place of mine searching for signs … of something … i”m not even sure what I am looking for!

My thinking has been challenged as I have tried to communicate in some of the shops. I was quite shocked to find myself thinking ‘why don’t people understand me?‘ …. after all it is me that has moved in to a new area … the correct question to ask myself is ‘why don’t I understand people here?‘; surely I have some responsibility to work out how to communicate in a meaningful way.

So … I seek to undertand.
The only way I know how to do that is by rubbing shoulders with people in the locations around me. I don’t quite know where these places are yet. To find them I wonder, purposefully but aimlessly, not sure of where my journey will take me, but going nonetheless. So I wonder, in no particular pattern, looking, listening, waiting, watching and responding when it’s right to do so.

I always find this stage of ‘starting anew’ exciting and terrifying. Some days I can be out easily doing that watching and waiting stuff. Today I hid in front of the computer. I was doing necessary work … well not necessary but work for Sunday … but it has not helped the wandering and discovering. Sometimes, it is just too hard to go out again … to put myself in that place of vulnerabilty … waiting to see what happens …. but tomorrow will be another day … with more opportunities … and more chances to wander.

So I may look lost.
I may seem Idea-less.
(maybe I am!)
But I wander intentionally, with purpose, while I search.

A prayer that I hold on to at this stage is that of Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.


i could write about …

IMG_1079Ok … I know I’ve been quiet
It was forced on me … no broadband for nearly 7 weeks has been a challenge to me …. so tethering to my phone has forced me to use data wisely.
blogging does not fit into that wise use when you need to concentrate on emails and stuff!

Since yesterday, however, I have been connected again.
No more data watching …. but now I have too much to put into a post
I don’t know what to blog about …

I could write about …
– the excitement of meeting with the Serbian Orthodox church who meet in the St Barnabas lady Chapel twice a month (see the pic)
– the amazement of visiting the Trinity Centre that does an outstanding amount of of community work and support
– my thoughts on how I feel about being in the minority as I walk around this beautifully diverse neighbourhood and try to understand
– our first PCC meeting where we had loads of laughter and sharing of great stuff
– the wonderful cakes that are baked my people of the congregation and they way they just love hanging out together (our service finishes at around 10.30 and people were still drinking coffee/eating cake/chatting an hour later …. that is so special to see!
– the fact I am already on first name terms with a local landlord and talking about Christmas
– getting to chat with great people from the Schools Trust and exploring how we can work together
– the pub theology group that meets in the morning in the pub …. coffee only being drunk of course!
– visiting the Tate to see Shape of Light and The Clock alone and with friends
– having the honour of good friend Rikard staying and now having a copy of the beautifully painful book ‘Look, I’m wearing all the colours’ which makes me smile and cry in equal measure

Maybe I will go into more detail of some of those over the next few days
It’s been a pretty active time

so … seems I am back in the world of blog … it feels good!


cramped space

IMG_0995It’s easy to do … and I think already, now 14 days in, I fell into a bit of a cramped / space / busy situation trap. As I kinda said in my last post without actually saying it; there is a mass of stuff to learn here. The juxtaposition of a rich array of different cultures, values, interests, concerns, lifestyles is pretty mind-blowing.

In that desire to learn, to gather info, to meet people, to make friends, to start to put roots, to seek to understand, to find people and places of peace, to watch God, to ask more, to think ‘what is God doing here?’, ‘What is church in this setting?’ and also ‘what does ‘mission’ look like here?’ ….. it’s easy to pack a diary and leave little room for thinking or for processing what is being said.

Yesterday was set to be a busy day.
I had a sermon to think on, reading to do and appointments to make.
A BT person came to sort out the faulty phone line in the church.
I was waiting for Virgin Media to give me a phone line and internet connection.
At about 8:45 am, after Morning Prayer in the chapel, I left the vicarage with the church keys.
I closed the vicarage door. As my arm was pulling closed the door my brain was shouting ‘Noooo!’ My arm ignored my brain.
No keys
Well … wrong keys … church keys … not vicarage keys
No phone
No wallet
and really rather dire …. I was outside with NO HAT!

I stayed relatively calm, after a little panic and angry with myself moment,  and felt God say …. ‘I need you … just you!’
As I pondered what that meant I started to chat with people who stand outside the vicarage waiting for the bus. I chatted in the vestry with the BT engineer. I chatted with some of the congregation who were passing. As I sat in the vestry I suddenly realised I had unexpected space to think about what I was hearing.
The space allowed ‘stuff’ to settle, to work it’s way into my thinking.
i chatted with more people and was more ‘available’ …. which is something I may have been fooling myself into thinking I was being.

On the situation … my amazing church warden had an old key to one of the locks on my front door which worked. And I have learned a valuable lesson … In this new space it is vital and important and imperative that I meet people, watch things, see what is going on and learn as much as I can … but all of that is lost if I allow myself to be cramped by meetings and the urgency of the task without having space to think, to reflect, and come up with more questions and maybe some ideas.

I think it’s not so much a new lesson learned … but an old secret remembered … for the next few days at least!

12 days


The parish of St Barnabas Little Ilford 

This is my 12th day as the priest here at St Barnabas.

Everything is still new … life here is soooo different than anywhere else I have experienced life up to now.

One difference that I like is that the High Street wakes up later and rests later … so much later …. I could even get a haircut here at midnight if I wanted to! (no unkind jokes now!)

The streets are still pretty vibrant at 10pm at night and the variety and quality of food is pretty stunning. There are plenty of other differences too …. all which seems to feed, or breed, a certain personal vibrancy that I can feel is retuning.

So … these 12 days have been mainly full of listening. I have met people in the church and we have chatted about things we think St Barnabas is good at and may be called to be involved in. Poverty is a major ‘in your face’ reality here. In my last post it was obviously present but hidden … there is no hiding here and I am close to tears when I see so many people clearly sleeping in doorways, under trees, in churchyards …. wherever there is shelter. I don’t want to get political … but a government I voted for a while back virtually eliminated homelessness …..  it’s back and looks worse than it did under the Thatcher regime.

So maybe we will discover from God that our mission is to be involved in poverty in some way …. or maybe we will discover something else as we continue this journey of listening and hearing and trying to discern what God is doing.

I am merely focusing us and asking,

‘What is it that God doing here … whatever it is, lets join in!’

That’s a Rob translation of (ex) Archbishop Rowan’s gem of a quote!

In these 12 days I have also met a few people from the community and some of my fellow vicar colleagues. Today it was amazing to visit the Trinity Centre and have a chat with Paul, the Operations Director,  about all the amazing stuff that is going on there and the incredible heritage that it comes from. As I left Paul very kindly gave me a gift of New Londoners, an amazing photo story book written and photographed by young refugees. It is a beautiful book which is an indication of the beauty and love that may be found in this area.

As I look ahead, after 12 days, I am often daunted at the tease, sometimes scared, usually excited … but always aware that I am one small cog in this story that was being travelled and will continue long after  have gone ….. and in reality, for now, for me …. that leaves me with a lot more prayer walking (if anyone fancies joining me …. we can have a great lunch after!) and listening to people.

This could take a while.

resilient and primed

IMG_1020I attended my first Chelmsford Diocesan training event yesterday as part of the process of being a new incumbent. The day, run by Cognacity, was particularly useful for me, 4 days into the role. Looking at strategies and ‘tricks’ to avoid stress and look after mental health after a 6 weeks break and, as such, still very much ‘unstressed’ is, I think, a great time to do this course.

As an outcome of this course we have had to choose one or two little things to do for the next 21 days. These would be something that we have not usually done but would be very manageable … like going for a 10 minute walk at lunchtime, rather than eating lunch in from of the laptop. I’ve never been good at keeping to tick sheets, but I am trying to ensure my two targets become a habit and so looking forward to seeing how that goes.

In my experience we all work too hard, all tend to think we are indispensable (and possibly indestructible as that is what auto-correct tried to change that to!) but actually burn out and inefficiency and cynicism become a real risk when we push ourselves too much. So … I’m going to attempt a healthy way forward …. with this space!

After my brief trip to Chelmsford it was great again to meet up with Richard as my MA supervisor … and he gave me some great pointers to start thinking for our next batch of assignments … so I feel kinda primed for a new term … but more than that it was just great to catch up with an amazing good friend.

All in all a pretty good day.

starting again and deep water

It’s been too long since I wrote something here.
It has been an age since I wrote anything here about how I was feeling and what I was up to …. for a number of reasons I was simply not able to.

But today ….
I start again
as I begin to explain a new chapter.

licensedMany of you know that on Thursday evening I was licensed and installed as the Priest in Charge of St. Barnabas Little Ilford. There’s pictorial evidence here to show it really happened as I look semi terrified as to what has just occurred and what I now have to do as I stand next to Bishop Stephen.

Yesterday was our first Sunday service together which had an amazing warm and community feel about it… even though it did start at 9.30am.

As we gathered in a  giant circle of nearly 40 people around the altar and shared bread and wine I felt this was an incredibly special moment for us as church. People have worked hard and prayed over the last 16 months for a new priest … and they got me! I feel amazingly honoured and already love being part of this community … many of you will feel sorry for them!

Bishop Stephen challenged us at the licensing.
He used the story of the fishermen going back out in Luke 4 after Jesus tells them to return to the deep water and cast out their nets again. This instruction came after they had been fishing all night with no catch. I wonder what the dynamics were on that day … a young carpenter telling experienced fishermen how to do their job. It must have been ‘interesting’ at bare minimum! Anyway, we know the story and that they caught so many fish that their nets started to break.

Bishop Stephen used this to challenge and remind us that our task is to put out into deep water, put down our nets, and expect a catch. This means stepping out of our comfort zones and finding new ways of being church and engaging meaningfully with people.

So … its an exciting and scary time … exciting as we know we are called to set out and do some new stuff (I’ll say more of that later) and scary as we are all in this boat together, setting out, with no clue whatsoever where the boat will go or what we will find as we set out ….. but that’s what we are called to do …. so … off we go!