Category Archives: Belief

And yet… a story of ordination

Stella’s story

Well, it has happened. After a process lasting several years. I was ordained as a deacon at Guildford Cathedral by Rt Rev’d Jo Bailey Wells, Bishop of Dorking, on July 3rd.

This is both the culmination of a long time of discernment (the process of talking , thinking, praying about whether I had been called to be a minister in the Church of England), followed by study (more talking, thinking, praying and some writing too), and the beginning of new phase as I become a curate in the parish. This means a lot more learning, both on study days and on the job – learning to take services, including funerals, preaching more, being involved in pastoral care and the like – as well as doing my admin and communications job. As an Ordained Local Minister I don’t receive an income so need to carry on working.

Those are the bald facts, but behind these everything is slightly less fixed. It often is when we are trying to follow God. The path to this point has been winding, with hints of it many years ago, and if there had been women priests around in those days I might have started the process earlier. Then again, that might have been the wrong stage in my life as I have changed a great deal since then. I was pretty certain that the theology I heard preached in the churches I frequented then had to be true and it was only my lack of faith and discipline that caused me to doubt. Even as I delved deeper into faith I thought that I could somehow know the truth about God, could squeeze God into a box and then all I had to do was obey.

As you have probably guessed, it didn’t work out that way, and God somehow wouldn’t fit into a box or even a list of beliefs that I could tick off. The more I grasped at God and thought I had it sorted, the more God slipped through my fingers.

And yet. There is always an ‘and yet’. God is the ‘and yet’, the presence who can’t be grasped but is somehow here, around us, sustaining us, shining light through the cracks in our lives, piercing the darkness. Over the past few years I have become more at ease with the idea that there will not be clear answers on this side of death at least, but that this is OK.

I wish, in many ways, I could give you clear answers, ones you could tick off. I know how long I sought them. But if I gave you those answers you would probably find 100 reasons why they didn’t work for you, or maybe you’d tie yourselves in knots trying to accept them in the way you think you should, regardless of whether that was what I meant. I’ve been there.

I am more content these days to know that I won’t know everything, that I can’t define God. God continues to be more than the answers, more than a set of doctrines, more than orthodoxy. God continues to be, well, God, the source of being and of love, lifegiving and creative, extraordinary but rooted in the ordinary, rooted in community, in our relationships with each other.

One of my favourite stories from the New Testament is that of the two disciples who, after the death of their master, Jesus, were walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32) and hadn’t heard about the resurrection of that same master. Jesus, the risen Christ – the Messiah – walked with them and explained what was said about the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures (what we now call the Old Testament) and how he would suffer and then ‘enter into his glory’. They still didn’t know that he was talking about himself and it wasn’t until he was with them for a meal and took the bread and broke it that they recognised him. Then, just as they would have asked him a stack of questions, he disappeared.

How frustrating, and yet… And yet they knew him deep within, for they said that their hearts burned within them as they walked and talked with him. They knew on a deep visceral level and they recognised him in a simple, shared act of a meal together. After that meal, their lives could never be the same again.

God for me is found in mystery but is also found rooted in the everyday, in community, in simple, embodied acts, in what we do together as a church. That is something we all work out together and I look forward to doing so with you more and more.

Stella Wiseman

Pictured top: Stella (centre), family, friends and Bishop Jo (far right).

Joyful confirmation at St John’s

There was a joyful atmosphere at St John’s Church on Sunday evening when we hosted a confirmation service at which the Bishop of Dorking, the Right Rev’d Jo Bailey Wells, confirmed 11 people from four parishes, including five from the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale.

Freddie Brown, Ollie Beckett and Tracy Boyce from St George’s, Richard Myers from St Mark’s and Simon Alexander from St John’s were all confirmed in a service which also involved a baptism, renewal of baptismal vows and a lot of splashing of the congregation by Bishop Jo as a reminder of our baptismal vows.

In a sermon which reminded us of the importance of simplicity and rootedness, Bishop Jo preached on verses from Psalm 1 –
‘They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper’ and Mark 9 –
 ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’.

Each of those being confirmed had arrived at the decision following their own path with their own stories, stories which Bishop Jo encouraged then to share over refreshments afterwards, refreshments which had been provided by a team from St John’s led by Sylvie Burrows.

If anyone would like details of confirmation or about exploring faith, contact Lesley Crawley. There will also be a new Questioning Faith’ series starting on Zoom on October 26, and running for six weeks. Again, contact Lesley.

Easter Drama and Reflections

Every day from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday we will be posting extracts from our Easter drama, Company on the Road, written by Mary Gibson, here on the website and also on social media. Each evening we will post some questions to reflect on, along with the video.

Today is Palm Sunday.

The story of Jesus’ last week is told by his friends, disciples, bystanders and other key witnesses, from his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, to his death and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Follow the story here and find us on social media:

Instagram – @badshotlea_hale
Twitter – @B_Lea_and_Hale
Facebook – @badshotleaandhale

The Benefits of Meeting in Person

I have heard a number of people saying how wonderful it is that life has carried on as it has, and how once this is all over (all is a long way away) we don’t need to travel as much as we can do all our meetings by Zoom (other video conferencing apps exist).

I want to challenge this. I believe that we have been able to do it so far because we are living off relationships which already exist. I know there are stories of couples dating on Zoom and then getting together, but I believe that there is a fundamental difference between meeting with someone online who you already know, and forming a new relationship in that way.

This applies to both personal relationships as well as professional ones. The personal ones are perhaps more obvious with the obvious lack of touch, but I believe the professional ones also need physical presence, at least some of the time.

For example, my daughter is returning to work next week after maternity leave, and will be working from home for the foreseeable future. She will be managing staff she has never met before, as well as those she managed before she was off. There is no doubt in her mind that the former will be much harder.

Another issue that I foresee, although one which might now be a fact of life, is the “small stuff”. Twenty years ago the company I then worked for tried out video conferencing, and it did save a significant amount of travelling. However, personally I missed the conversations that took place because I was physically with someone, conversations that weren’t worth making an effort to have, but which when we were face to face cropped up. They were the times I discovered how well our service was working – it might have been well enough not to be complained about – but there were issues which if not addressed would come back to bite us. Similarly, when visiting a site I would speak to lots of different people; video conferencing it would just be the person on the call.

So, yes, when this is over lets look to change things, but please let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater and lose the personal interaction.

Humility

Joan Chittister has written a commentary on the Rule of Benedict, and this is serialised on the web with a daily reading from it http://www.eriebenedictines.org/daily-rule.  Today (22nd September) the chapters on Obedience and Humility start.  I find these a most inspiring set of chapters and would suggest that they are a good place to start with this.  If you don’t see this post in time, it is possible to see the previous days reading by clicking on the date above the image.

The Orthodox Heretic

I have just started rereading this book for our book group, and whilst I remembered many of the “parables”, I had forgotten the introduction.

In it Peter Rollins explains that the purpose of the book is not to provide answers, but to pose questions (I paraphrase).  And that the point of these questions is to change our behaviour, not to gain our assent to some ideas.  He goes on to point out that so often people will assent to an idea, but then behave as though they don’t believe it; for example saying how terrible materialism is, but then living in a materialistic way.

Amen!

More thoughts on Remembrance

I recently posted some thoughts on Remembrance Sunday, and yesterday I had some more that I thought worth sharing.

In the previous article I commented on an article by Simon Jenkins, and he suggested that we should make next year the last Remembrance Sunday because too many use remembering as a means to keep past hurts alive.  However, it struck me that the problem is not keeping the memory alive, it is keeping the animosity alive.

Desmond Tutu has written a book on Forgiveness with his daughter Mpho.  This puts forward a four step approach to forgiveness, summarised here:

Telling the Story
Naming The Hurt
Granting Forgiveness
Renewing/releasing the relationship

It strikes me that at Remembrance the difficulties come because we are good at the first two, but don’t always move on to the third or fourth.

I would suggest that until we have mastered those two steps as well the nursed grievances will remain whether or not we abolish Remembrance Day.

Reading the Bible

Today’s post was inspired by Pray as You Go (not there for long), and by last Wednesdays  group discussion on the Bible.  The reading was Luke 16:9-15, and began:

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

This surprised me as it was a memorable phrase, which I did not remember!

Looking it up I discovered that it follows on from the Parable of the Unjust Steward, so when I usually read/hear it it is in a particular context.  The words are the same, but the context is different (not that the unjust steward is an easy parable to interpret).

It isn’t in the same league as theatre bill boards (see here), but reading something out of context can give a misleading perception.

The question then comes – how do we use the Bible without taking it out of context?