Tag Archives: Alan’s Blog

It’s a metaphor!

This Sunday the set reading is this:

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

So Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven in 5 different ways – can you spot the similarity between them all?

Sorry – its a trick question.  Why should there be a similarity?  When we are looking at parables we are looking at stories to spark the imagination.  Rather than narrowing God down to what all these things have in common, why not see them as descriptions of different facets of God?  Indeed – why not see how many different images of God you can get from each one?

Over 40 years ago I recall seeing James Burke on the telly asking a number of people how many uses they could think of for a brick.  The number of different answers they came up with varied enormously – one of those with a large number thought it could be something for a mouse to hide behind!

So get thinking – and don’t limit your mind – expand it.

Vacation leads to Vocation

I heard the title of this blog recently, but can’t remember who said it :(.  However, having just returned from two weeks holiday and had time and space to unwind I found myself thinking about my calling.  There is something about being away from the treadmill that allows us (me?) to put our heads up and look at the bigger picture. (3 stone cutters)

Last year Lesley and I cam back from holiday, having put our heads up, having bought a house!

When you go away, will you have the opportunity to lift your head and dream?

Celebrating Priesting

At this time of year lots of people are made deacon or priested, and there is much celebration.  Our curate Hannah has just been priested, and this caused me to think about this celebration.

For me, we are not celebrating priesthood per se, instead we are celebrating the fulfilment of someones vocation; just as we would, and have done, for those fulfilling other callings.  The reason that I feel this way is because I believe in the priesthood of all believers, and that we should all be working together collaboratively on God’s mission in the world.

My first training incumbent told me that he was selected, trained, and carried out most of his ministry in an era of “Father knows best” (and it was Father in those days), and found it difficult to move to the more recent idea of collaborative ministry (although he worked hard to do so).  However, I trained in industry in Total Quality, with its emphasis on empowerment, and trained for ministry in a later time when collaborative ministry was more embedded.

So last Saturday and Sunday we celebrated, and welcomed Hannah into the next stage of her ministry.


What do we pray for?

When we pray for people who are ill or bereaved it can be tempting to pray that God will be with them.  However, as Joan Chittister points out:

The Hasidim tell the story of the preacher who preached over and over, “Put God into your life; put God into your life.” But the holy rabbi of the village said, “Our task is not to put God into our lives. God is already there. Our task is simply to realize that.”

Instead I pray that people may know the presence of God in their lives.


After a long wait the Church of England has published new safeguarding procedures, and as a Diocese and Parish we are adopting them.  They are going to make our processes considerably more onerous, and I know that there are those in the Parish who don’t see why we have to follow them, but if we look at the recent history of the church nationally it is imperative that we protect children and vulnerable adults in church

If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Yesterday I spoke about this at one of our churches, expecting some push back, and received very little.  However, it is the church with the largest proportion of people in work, and of course safeguarding as we now know it has only been with us for fewer than 20 years, so for many in our other congregations safeguarding (and Health & Safety) has not formed a significant part of their working lives as it has for those still in work.

It will take us a while to work through all of our own procedures (what is done when and by whom) and it will no doubt impact how quickly we can do things, and some of the regular hirers of our halls.  However, the choice we have is in how we implement the new procedures – not whether we do – and that is right and proper.  There have been too many problems in the wider church to say that things were OK before, or that we can trust people.

We are still working out how this will all work, but if you have any concerns about this please do not hesitate to contact me.


How do you know your vocation?

Most of the clergy I know (and I know quite a lot [puzzle – one day I became really close friends with over 20 clergy – how?]) ran away from their call to ordination for varying lengths of time.  There were some really bizarre stories – Lesley thinks mine was one of the best – I went to a vocations event to prove I didn’t have a vocation – and look where that got me!

Joan Chittister writes:

The question, of course, is how do we recognize the Will of God? How do we tell the will of God from our own? How do we know when to resist the tide and confront the opposition and when to embrace the pain and accept the bitterness because “God wills it for us.” The answer lies in the fact that the Jesus who said “I have come not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent me” is also the Jesus who prayed in Gethsemane, “Let this chalice pass from me:” The will of God for us is what remains of a situation after we try without stint and pray without ceasing to change it.

(Answer – I was really good friends with over 20 people who became clergy on the same day!).

At our ordination, once we had arrived at the Cathedral we were told that was it – they were locking the door, and we were going to be ordained whether we liked it or not, and I know one very good priest who says they would have run away without that.

Finding our vocation (whether it is to ordination or something else) is not easy, it is not certain; we have to step out in faith and listen to the wisdom of others along the way, and then, when we own it there are times when we are still not sure; but there are other times when we are absolutely certain that we are where God wants us to be doing what God wants us to do.

Am I my brothers keeper?

This article made me wonder about the theology behind caring for others.

There is a long strand through the Bible about care for the stranger the widow and the orphan, and dealing unfairly is condemned in Amos.  It is perhaps easy to see the need for regulation to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  Who would choose to live in a fire trap, unless they either did not know, or could not afford anything else?  In either case it is an abuse of the figurative stranger, widow or orphan to let them.

However, we also have a God who gives us “free will”.  Where does this fit into the equation?  Whenever “free will” is invoked by politicians it is usually used to mean you can always earn more money to have what you want – and if you don’t earn it then it is your own fault – perhaps I caricature, but I fear not :(.  This is not the free will that God wants for us, nor is it caring for the stranger, the widow and the orphan.

Who are we thanking?

Yesterday we had a thanksgiving service for our stewardship campaign at which all the pledges were brought back.  People had been saying, particularly in one of the churches,  that they didn’t want to report what they already did because they didn’t do it for thanks, they did it as service.

And I agree – the for me the thanksgiving service is thanking God for all that he has given us – the gifts and skills with which to serve him, the opportunities to do so, and the things that he makes out of our meagre gifts.

Since we have been in the parish we have been trying to use the gifts that have been available, rather than coming up with a cunning plan and looking for people to carry it out.  It has meant that some things have ceased, but also that other things that we wouldn’t have dreamt of have begun.  We want everybody to discover their calling, and to find a way to exercise it – it does mean that we don’t know about everything that is going on – but that is a good thing.

But it also never does any harm to say thank you to people.

Tim Farron

Today I feel sorry for Tim Farron, and I feel sorry for our society.  I do not agree with his theology, but if it becomes impossible for people holding those views to take part in politics whilst also holding these views as well

I’m a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

then we are the poorer for it.  And if the following quote is true

Farron’s problem was not that his creed could never be squared with the policies of his party – there is a long and noble history of liberal Christianity. His problem was that the culture of contemporary liberalism is avowedly secular.

again we are diminished as a society.

As Tim Farron himself said:

I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

You may say “so what”, but if as a church we are trying to find our way to good disagreement for ourselves should we not also desire it for society at large?

Of course people are entitled to vote for who they like, and parties have to adapt to that – but wouldn’t it be great if people were able to deal with the nuances of two conflicting beliefs in a candidate/leader and look at their record rather than the insinuations that are thrown at them?


Calling Something that it isn’t

You may think that this is about the political situation, but it isn’t!

Our Diocese are reviewing Parish Share, the way in which money is collected for ministry in the Diocese, and more widely (as a rich Diocese we give to the Central Church to redistribute to poorer dioceses).  It is not a comment on my view of the rights or wrongs of either the new scheme or the old; instead it is a complaint about the way that it is described.

The new proposal describes itself as being split in two, what you get and what you give, and it is this description that has annoyed me.  The what you get is to include the cost of Archdeacons (and there are no doubt plenty of jokes to be made here), curates training, and other elements which are thought to be for the benefit of the parish.  So far, so good.  However, these costs are going to be allocated on the basis of what is called “core clergy”, that is those paid by the diocese from Parish Share.  Sounds fair?  Except, employed clergy paid directly by a parish don’t count, employed youth workers don’t count, SSMs don’t count, OLMs don’t count, LLMs don’t count – and all of these have been trained and incur support costs.

The implications are that a parish with one incumbent, and a parish with one incumbent, an associate priest paid for by the parish, a youth worker, two SSMs and two LLMs will pay the same for what they get – even though they are “getting” very different levels of support.

This post is about the fact that it is called “what you get” – it isn’t, and calling it that is misleading.

Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”