boundaries,

I’m currently sitting upstairs in my house avoiding the ‘home group’ (aka. growth groupconnect groupcare group,life groupfellowship groupsmall group, cell group) that is currently meeting in our home.

Part of me wants to go down and sit in the living room because I like everyone but part of me still doesn’t know how to sort  boundaries and if my wife being called to work in a church means that I am also called to work in a church by default.
I feel called to being an artist and would love to work at that now up here in my room. I don’t feel like there is ever enough time to get things sorted and who knows what I could come up with in the next few hours? 
If someone was on the rota at a hospital to work now they couldn’t come to home group.
I have to put myself on a rota of sorts and I know that I work best at this time of the day. So it would naturally be a good time to work on stuff. But I can’t concentrate as the people downstairs know that I’m upstairs and I know that they’re downstairs.  There is a guilt that I’m being a poor witness and a terrible minister’s spouse. It’s the boundaries. 

There is also a feeling sometimes that H is bringing her work home with her. Maybe it’s a little like a doctor bringing home his patients  or school teacher her kids every few weeks for a cup of tea and bun? Again it is OK but I find the boundaries in my head hard to manage sometimes. I know  church is a place where we should love each other and be open, where I am called to be a member and to love people, to be a friend and to worship. But I’m also an introvert who likes his own space, who needs time to reflect on things rather than sitting in a room rushing through an ice-breaker and 5 questions before working out how this applies to us to today and then praying and having a cup of tea and a bun. Even the way my beloved asks the questions in home group confuses me. Most of the time questions in the living room are asked naturally and without a small booklet. They have  context about what to have for dinner or’ what are you doing this afternoon?’ There is a certain tone of husband and wife just doing the day to day business. Then when home group comes it’s not the same tone and questions aren’t asked ‘naturally’ and it doesn’t seem so much to being my beloved but a minister, which confuses me and adds to the general feeling confusion or chaos but this time its not in the church, but in our home. It’s the trying to work out the boundaries or if there should be the boundaries and that sort of thing.

not taking the kids out

This weekend I had the strange experience of pining for my old church as I remember it growing up, a place where people wore suits and remained deadly silent for the service. Sure it was dull but at least you knew exactly what to expect, you didn’t have mess or chaos.
I was thinking that while picking up bits of chicken bones that had been stood on or emptying Lucozade cans down sinks and running up to Dunnes Stores to buy tea towels and shouting at the teenagers who had just been ‘confirmed’ and who where running up and down the stairs in platform shoes. I think that when people always come late (an hour late) and pass up notes of paper before the sermon or don’t take the really noisy kid out to the smaller room.
This not taking the screaming, noisy child out to the smaller room thing seems to have really caught on. Dad says that it now regularly happens in my austere  home church. He doesn’t blame the kids, but the smiling parents who don’t seem to mind that nobody can concentrate on the minister. A local parish priest was saying that it is the same with them.I don’t get it. Why not take the kid out? I’m not a parent, is there something I don’t understand about this?

What I miss from my old churches is the efficiency of it all, the ability to swing in 5mins before the start and swing smoothly out an hour later without any stress being added to my life. I miss that sense of everything being under control, no alarms and no surprises. Perhaps I especially now miss that sense of efficiency because I’m married to the minister. If there is less messiness and chaos in the church it means that life might be easier for them which in turn means that  life might be easier for me.

On the other hand and despite my frustrations the mess and chaos seems to me to be more in keeping with the  Kingdom of God. For years I craved for more reality in church and the ability to come without dressing myself up (literally and metaphorically). So if single parents (of which there are many) are finding it hard to keep their kids quiet during church yet still make the effort to come each week I need to show more compassion.

flying snow

There is sleet sliding down the living room window, wind blowing down the chimney, silence in the house. My thoughts are grim.

There is so much broken around me,broken in me.

Someone called to the house last week, a single parent . Watching him drive off with the kids I thought how black and heart-breaking to loose someone you love but have to carry on, carry on, carry on picking up the pieces carrying on for the kids.

Thinking about it some more there are many single parents in ‘our place’. Then there are those who are currently separated from children not through choice, but because of having to flee persecution in their native land.
Imagine not seeing your children for many years ? Then imagine not being able to afford bring them over when free?
Then you keep picking up other bits of sadness  from an infinite sea and adding them together. Imagine that happening? What if that happened?
Spotting some report about the threat of bird flu on the corner of a website or wondering how we will cope whenever death comes makes me feel ill. Basically it’s scary out there. Basically I wonder how we’ll cope.

I appreciated reading this  Wendell Berry poem the other night in bed and for moment thought about the seeds I plan to plant in the garden come spring.
I’m not sure why the sight of garlic appearing through the water logged soil or imagining the smell of broad beans  calms me a little, but it does.

February 2, 1968

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

Wendell Berry

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why bring an ad into this world?

kids

There was an advertisement on before Christmas that you may or may not have seen.

It used to appear a lot on Youtube just before the video of a juggling cat on a unicycle or some trampoline going off shopping in Asda or the footage of a referee in Brazil getting tickled to death by angry footballers with a baguette after a contentious disallowed goal.

I think it was for Unilever but can’t say for sure as I never actually watched it the whole way through. I hated it.

It starts with some of that  tinkly-emotional-scene-in-a- movie-piano then the words appear ‘Why Bring a Child into this World?’

I hate/d this ad because it assumes that it is an option for the people watching, like deciding whether to buy a new lawnmower or some other consumer product.
It shows little tact for the viewer watching the video who would love nothing more than to ‘bring a child into this world’ but for whatever reason can’t.

Perhaps the single lady watching in the cinema would love nothing more than to bring a child into this world but has never met the right guy, or perhaps circumstances just didn’t work out for the couple watching in the cinema.

Life isn’t that simple for people, things don’t work out sometimes like we like. Have a look at your Facebook friend list and see how many people might struggle , will struggle, have struggled.

Thinking of a family I know I count the numbers. 11 brothers and sisters, 2 unmarried and no kids, 2 married and no kids, 7 with kids and those numbers  aren’t going to change now.

Most people would agree babies and children are wonderful, beautiful, we love to journey with them growing up. I love my nephews and nieces, the kids in the church. We celebrate the joy of families. We love friends and family. We love children.

Still, what is it like to sit through Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day in church when you’re not one? Or if you are single  and have always wanted a family and the church is having a Family Day? Baptisms? Singing lines in songs like –

‘How sweet to hold, a new born baby, and see the pride and joy he brings’

What if you can’t hold a new born baby? Shame and despair?

Or if you continually see pictures of happy mums, families with smiling babies on Facebook, scans? You want to journey with people and see kids growing up, new babies, etc but it might be sore for people, maybe for more people than we realise because it is hard to talk about, a taboo subject.

Part of the reason I left Facebook was that I didn’t feel particularly free to say something like this.  Despite Facebook saying that it has revolutionized our social interactions over the past 10yrs it is hard to say that you might be struggling with something whether it is depression or eating or gambling.

Again, this isn’t necessarily about me/us, more about ‘us’ in the larger sense – people for who to ‘bring a child into the world‘ is more than an advertising campaign but may be a struggle and hurt or complicated, an impossibility, or who knows?

Blogging with even a small degree of anonymity helps, even though most of you reading know who I am. If you are reading this and have kids, or are expecting a child I love you and your sprog or future sprogs. I hope you know that as well!

blurred lines

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There was a point after church yesterday when I was talking to one man from South Korea, another one from Malaysia and yet another from India. This would not have been my experience of church growing up in rural Tyrone.

I know that there had also been a couple of men from Turkey who are learning English and had come along. Then there are all the Africans from different parts of that huge continent that make up the majority of the church.
I don’t know whether I am coming or going.
Galway seems to be that type of city. Always in flux with visitors, tourists and students.
It could be a bit overwhelming.  How do you put down roots in a city that seems to be so fluid?

Now that I think about it perhaps that explains the need to paint the repaint the house we’re living in and get things planted in the garden ASAP, to get the curtains down and new ones up. There is a need to somehow change it from a house to a home.  In a city with so much flux and movement it feels like having a place to call home is important, a place where things are familiar and comfortable.
Part of me feels guilty that I can’t just make do with the colour/patterns of the carpet in the hall and landing. There are refugees that have slept the night in tents across the world. There are people who would love to live in this area near the sea and in the west of Ireland. Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining about the look of a mahogany chest. Stop driving the wheels of consumerism! Stop wasting the churches money!
But living in our last house nearly drove me crazy. It had no natural light. We made do with paper thin short curtains that didn’t block out the street light depriving me off many hours sleep.  It was hard to heat so we froze.

There is also the weird dynamic at play that it is also a ‘manse‘.
So it is our house but it is also the churches house. They are your landlord. In another sense they are  your landlord who is also your spouses boss.  Blurred lines.

road trips and stuff

I’m disorientated, we’re just back from a road trip to ____ via_____ with a stop in ____ all through the traditional Irish weather of grey murk and mist with a spot of mizzle thrown in.

We’re thinking about the future and where we might be ‘called’ to so we went to check out a place or two. It has been a fairly unsettling process so far. Or that might be just my perspective. What are you supposed to do and how are you supposed to do it?

I was trying to think of an analogy but couldn’t come up with one. I was thinking along the lines of ‘It’s a bit like being a married to someone in the Army when you have been wondering about pacifism‘.
Perhaps you could add ‘It’s like being married to a woman officer in the army wondering about pacifism and knowing that you’re going to be posted somewhere else not being able to control where you might be posted next
So you not only have questions about the organization you have links with and how they do things sometimes but you’re doing things slightly differently to how they have been done by virtue of being married a woman. Also the woman might come from a different culture to the main centre of culture, if that makes sense.

In one respect our church allows more freedom in the process of finding a church when a minister has finished their training as you won’t be sent to a specific parish by a bishop or some high ranking committee. So if you have always loved the country and grew up in the farm you might be able to find a rural congregation that fits in with your natural gifts and outlook on life. You won’t have a bishop sending you to an inner city parish.

But on the other hand there is a weird zone in which you don’t know if it’s good to be pro-active and set your heart on a place/s as the congregation mightn’t want you. Do you wait for them to call or do you go knocking their door? There is also the fact that you will have less options if you are female as some congregations wouldn’t consider having a woman as their minister as they believe that Paul in the Bible doesn’t allow that. So if there are say 20 congregations that needed a minister,maybe 10 of those might see a female name and automatically rule them out or think them less than ideal or a second choice.  I would be reluctant to class that as sexism but I’m not sure how to term it. It is hard whenever you know our church officially ordains both women ministers and elders but doesn’t seem overly pushed about it. Even in a congregation that mightn’t be completely closed to the idea of having a woman minister you wonder if the preference would still be for a man. What if the woman decided to have a family for instance? That might disrupt things and the swing of church life might be broken up. It might just be easier with a man. I’ve a feeling the next while is going to be tough going.

CS…aye right.

I wasn’t expecting C.S. Lewis to have an opinion on woman priests when I randomly grabbed a book of the bookshelf for some bedtime reading but there you go, he did and old C.S Lewis. wasn’t in favour of them back in 1948.

This was an unexpected turn of events as I’ve always been used to  Lewis quotes being used on other people in sermons and talks, in blog posts and books. I’ve never really appreciated his writing that much but always appreciated a well placed quote or soundbyte used on someone else at a the right moment.
But now he has gone and made it all personal or something like that with me being married to ‘a priestess’

‘To us a priest is primarily a representative, a double representative, who represents us to God and God to us. Our very eyes teach us this in church. Sometimes the priest turns his back on us and faces the East – he speaks to God for us: sometimes he faces us and speaks to us for God. We have no objection to a woman doing the first: the whole difficulty is about the second.’

I’m not really going to loose sleep over this.
Well actually maybe I am, because here I am typing this at 2.26am loosing sleep over this. I’m not sure if it’s his saying that a woman can’t represent God or his idea of what a priest is or should be that has me loosing sleep.
Are priests, ministers and pastors special people who’s job it is to represent God?
That maybe unsettles me more that the women shouldn’t be priests line.Because it seems to play into the notion that ministers should be special people and all the pressure that brings as well.That whole congregation is watching you and looking to you for inspiration. It plays into the notion that the most important person in a church is the minister and that the priesthood of all believers is just a catchphrase. It also might play into the idea that the minister represents God more than other people represent God as he (or she these days) is the expert.

Right, got that out of my system. Time for sleep.