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Alter Ego · Dana Delap's Blog

A member of the prayer group has received an all-clear after treatment for cancer. We had laid hands on her and prayed for healing. The group are buoyed up that our prayers have been answered, and filled with faith that other prayers will be answered, and other miracles will occur.

I’m still grieving for my sister in law Sarah, who died at Christmas.  There was so much prayer from so many people, so much faith that she would be healed, and yet 4 1/2 years after her diagnosis, Sarah died.  A very unwise person tried hard to cheer me up by suggesting that ‘At least God is looking after her in heaven’.  The person who made the platitude got very short shrift and a very cutting retort – God may be glad of her company, but I would prefer her to be still in mine!

Synagogue NazarethAfter Jesus has opened the Isaiah scroll in the Nazareth synagogue, he began to teach that not everyone, even those righteous in God’s eyes, will be healed (Luke 4).  God healed Naaman the Syrian, but not the myriad Jews with skin infections who no doubt besieged Elisha for a cure.

But just becasue I don’t understand why the answer for Sarah was not the one I wanted, does not mean that God was oblivious to the cry of my heart (and the prayers of so many others too).  Oh, for some answers, and a view of the bigger picture.  In the meantime, I shall attempt to pass through the midst of the outrageous doubts and sadness, and go on my way.

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10425457_10101075313365803_1316164460450323518_nIt’s early spring in the Cotswolds. The gardens and roadsides are covered with snowdrops and early daffodils. The warmth of the sun promises that the buds on bushes and trees will soon open, and the fields are beginning to green. We have lived in Blockley for 6 months now, and we feel like we belong.

We arrived in the late summer, to a series of generously-shared gluts: courgettes resulting in cakes; beetroot resulting in relish; raspberries resulting in trifle; and green beans which went into the freezer. Then the autumn brought the leaves from the trees and we discovered new views.

Winter and clear skies opened up the fields and woodland to the widest vistas of the parishes that are my land, mine and the Bishop’s and God’s. The cold drove me to buying slippers for the first time in my life! Either it is colder down here (unlikely) or I am getting older.

And now we have spring and summer to look forward to. I love this place, I love the people and the churches, and I feel so blessed.

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930 BCE/2015

200px-Rehoboam._Fragment_of_Wall_Painting_from_Basel_Town_Hall_Council_Chamber,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.The reading at Morning Prayer from 2 Chronicles 10 reminded me of the dangers of power, and the forthcoming general election. Rehoboam inherits a powerful kingdom from his father Solomon, but a kingdom which was less politically stable than it appeared. When a delegation appeals to their new king for tax breaks, Rehoboam decides to follow the advice of his foolish young friends rather than that of his father’s advisers, leading to the division of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. War between the two kingdoms drained the resources of the land throughout his 17 year reign. 12-tribes-of-israel-infographic

A number of things are worrying me about the state of British politics – regional fracturing and autonomy; the disillusionment of the electorate, especially younger voters; and the ever growing disparity of wealth between rich and poor. But today my concern is about the scheme colloquially known as pensioner bonds.

Baby-boomers have enjoyed so much already (if you are in any doubt about this, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/pensions/8840963/Baby-boomers-are-very-privileged-human-beings.html), and the pensioner bonds look to me like a pension pay-off to those who might be persuaded to vote the current government back into power. I’m not sure we can afford to pay back 4% over 3 years, and even if we can SHOULD we? The baby-boomers present a significant voting block – if only they would encourage the government to help others. To those it have, it seems, more shall be given.  I am reminded of Psalm 49:13-14.

_80531580_libby_kneel_paLast Monday, the Bishop of Stockport was consecrated in York Minster, with an exceptional number of bishops queuing to lay hands on her. It was a glorious and joyful day, and the necessary elements of the sacrament were present – the authorised liturgy, the appropriate symbols, the intention of the ministers and people, and the willing heart of the recipient.

Hooker, the 16th century theologian who defined so much of what it is to be an Anglican, admitted that it was not possible for the human mind to understand how a sacrament is effective, describing a sacrament as a “visible signs of invisible grace.”

The consecration of Philip North as Bishop of Burnley next Monday will be a more muted affair, and Archbishop Sentamu has decided to withdraw from laying on hands during the service. But do we as Anglicans really believe in apostolic succession in such a linear way? If Sentamu was recognised as provincial archbishop and could consecrate last month, if the elements are present, how will his abstinence from the laying on of hands help? We are in a theological mess. The archbishops have not brought this to be discussed by Synod, and a damaging precedent is being set.

The BBC tells us today that far right activity is at its weakest in 20 years, but that is not the experience of the hundreds of Jews who emigrate to Israel from the UK every year.  Anti-Semitic attacks have increased over the last year, and in a recent YouGov poll over 40% of people (everyday ordinary peope like you and me) were found to hold anti-Semitic bias. French Jews are fleeing France for the UK, only to find that the racism they experience here means that this nation is no longer a safe haven for them either.

My 12 year old asked about the latest, post-tragedy, edition of Charlie Hebdo – was I going to buy a copy? I had thought about it, becasue I want to affirm their right to free speech. But the magazine has been consistently abusive to everyone of faith – Christians, Jews (a cartoonist was prosecuted in 2009 for anti-Semitism), as well as Muslims. And just becasue they can publish a picture of the Prophet on the front of the magazine, should they? Is it appropriate?

For my 12 year old, to flaunt the power of free speech and the moral high ground (as well as the publicity of the awful tragedy they have experienced) is unnecessarily offensive as well as provocative. I agree. And the publication does nothing to honour the memory of the Jews and the Christians and the Muslim who also died in the Parisian terrorist attack. Enough already, Charlie Hebdo!

IMG_9188This week we took a trip down Ouseburn beck to the Victoria Tunnel which runs for 2 1/2 miles under Newcastle city centre. It was built by the Victorians to transport coal from Spittle Tongues Colliery to the river Tyne, and fell into disuse in 1860 until the city engineers converted it into a WW1 bomb shelter.

Dark, damp, cold, and ousing ferrous oxide, the tunnel guide regaled us with stories of bravery and cowardice, and the horrors of war. We walked under the city for nearly a mile, making our way past blast walls and holes left from the bunks and benches that lined the walls. For many nights, the good people of Newcastle, and the bad, sat and waited out the bombing of the city. Nights were especially long when planes made their way across the Pennines to the north western ports and factories, and dropped their remaining load as they returned.

In every place of fear and darkness, Christians seek to bring light in the name of the Light of the World. In the Victoria Tunnel, nearly 100 feet below the streets, and directly below St Dominic’s Church, we found a small metal cross on the wall. I was moved to think of men and women touching it as they passed, praying for peace and salvation, for body as well as soul.

St Matthias, whose feast day we celebrated yesterday, was not chosen for his abilities. He was not chosen because he was the right ‘fit’ for the team or because of his preaching. He was not chosen because of his ability to relate to children or youth or the elderly. He was not chosen because he had an excellent academic background or particular skills for the role (Acts 1:15-26).

Matthias was chosen by lot, because he knew from his own personal experience that Jesus was alive, and that God had raised Jesus from death. He had been a follower of Jesus from the beginning, and was steeped in the language and ethos of the kingdom. It was for his ‘being’ and not for his ‘doing’ that Matthias was chosen.

A good and important lesson for me as I prepare to move on to a new ministry in a new place. Knowing Jesus though personal experience is the most important thing for my ministry. God will give the gifts needed to make that relationship know in the right place, and in the right way.

This week I have been thinking about what skills and gifts I can bring to ministry. There are a number of attributes that those called to leadership in the church should be able to demonstrate – for me, love and enthusiasm are two of the key components, as well as the ability to communicate and to handle conflict. But leadership must surely also include the ability to see the bigger picture, or the tenacity to search for it, if it isn’t immediately apparent.

In my current role, no one on the PCC has a clear overview of the changes in the parish, but the clergy probably have a clearer idea than most. The PCC know more than I do about the streets immediately surrounding each of their homes, and the changes and challenges that are happening. But there are few who are able to put that together into a bigger picture. The clergy have contact with people over the whole area, and of course, we benefit from the wisdom and overview of the church leaders in surrounding parishes.

This is quite a responsibility. If the church is there for the benefit of all, then the overview must inform how we use our resources for the wider community. For example, our church gardens could include a children’s area, which would benefit one group, but could be a quiet reflective space, which would benefit another. We need to continue listen to all the voices, even those that are generally silent, so that we can reach the better solution, one that leads us nearer to God’s heart.

Quality Street

Just before Christmas, the kind and thoughtful manager of the local Sainsbury’s gave me a tin of sweets to share as I thought appropriate :-) This week I found them, and faced a dilemma. With whom do I share these sweets? It was not a painful decision, but one that caused me to think about who I wanted to bless with Quality Street.

I could have given the sweets to the Initial Ministerial Education curates who had to attend a conference I was running on Saturday as part of their training. A Saturday! In a coldish cathedral! On a derby match day! Sweeties would have been a bit of a sweetener.

Or I could have given them to the social committee for the Saturday night raffle at the quiz. It attracts lots of people from the local area, many of whom don’t come to church. And it’s important that they are welcomed and looked after, and the evening is special. Sweeties always help that!

But in the end I gave them out after church on Sunday. I love my fellow curates, but they are paid employees of the church and training is part of the package. And I am excited about the quiz, but the Social Committee is more than capable of making the evening go well, without my sweeties.

But church on Sundays is full of volunteers – welcomers, and missioners, and cleaners, and those who are prayer warriors, and enquirers, and those who offer hospitality, and children, and adults, and the ill and the hurting, and every week, faithfully they come to worship God and serve one another.  They are wonderful, God’s amazing family, and they got the sweeties, becasue of their generous, loving, care.  Thank you all.

 

I’m home alone – my training incumbent is on sabbatical. One of the things I’m trying to do is to write down a summary of my weeks so that he knows what I’ve been up to! And I’ve decided to do it by blog. Hope you don’t mind!

This week has been an emotional one. There has been a confusion over church booking in March (hours of phone calls and a certain amount of blood and sweat!), a very sad funeral for a family friend (tears), and the news that I need hearing aids. I’m amazed at how many people have made jokes about my hearing loss. I’m know I have in the past; justice falls upon me for my previous insensitivity.

According to my Myers Briggs guru, ENTJs don’t like to appear incompetent. Tell me about it. My failing hearing, when added to a couple of asthma attacks and a tummy bug this week make me feel very incompetent (yes, some of you will rightly argue that this is not incompetence, but it sure feels like it when I have to say “What?” again).

Tomorrow starts a new week, one in which I define myself as someone with hearing problems. May God give me the grace to be vulnerable.

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