We took time to discuss what we did at our Harvest Festival last year (asking the congregation to provide food for the refugees in Calais), what we have planned this year (no spoilers), the homeless and vulnerable of Hereford and A Vicar’s Live Live on September 8th.
You can use the media player below to listen to the interview, or listen to the whole show via the BBC’s iPlayer.
This week sees me quoted in an article in Church Times “The Generation Game“. The article talks through some research from the US where there is a feeling that a war is brewing between millennials and the boomers within the Episcopal Church.
Dr Hannah Matis, Assistant Professor of Church History at Virginia Theological Seminary, described it in an article for the magazine The Living Church as “two armed camps: those 65 and older and those 35 and younger, facing off with mutual incomprehension and occasional hostility, the divide manifesting itself in a thousand micro-aggressions in Sunday-morning coffee hours across the country.”
It’s an interesting article that debunks a lot of what Dr Matis says with experience from across the Church of England. I talk briefly within the article about finding our Training Incumbents to be on fine form – but that we do have a cultural gap with those who were trained for a different mission field. That’s not to denigrate the fine work that has gone on in that mission field but rather to accept that millennials interact with faith in a different way and need different ways of engaging with us. I point out the fine work Priests of previous generations have carried out (and that we should be hugely grateful for) but call out a growing sense amongst my age group (and younger) that perhaps some of the reforms of the 60s & 70s threw the baby out with the bath water and that we want to explore a deeper sense of orthodoxy. I point out that this will obviously be difficult for those who fought for those reforms.
Interestingly this article – in an industry newspaper – has garnered significantly more reaction from people in the Church than my recent comments in The Guardian and on BBC Radio 4 – which rather underlines my concern that we may be a little inward focused.
As always with John it was a relaxed and I hope informative interview over the hour of his show – I’ve clipped up the salient parts which amount to about 15 minutes of conversation. I hope you enjoy it and as ever – any questions, leave a comment or get in touch.
It’s been a busy old week. As ever at this time of year the now annual debate about the style of ordination photographs got raging on Twitter. My contribution to that was pretty limited – a reply to a friend (see below) which was then picked up by the Guardian. They asked for a quick interview and what I tried to convey was that the annual ‘jumping’ or set up photographs (see dabbers from Leicester) simply fail to communicate the depth of joy and seriousness of what has just happened. This is no reflection on those in the photographs (let’s not forget my own ‘jump for joy’ caption competition moment in Church Times a couple of years ago) but rather a criticism of the people putting the photographs together – forcing in some cases – people to engage in a set-up and rather forced ‘joyful’ photo in an attempt to grab the front page of the Church Times.
The issue is not one of taste, but of the discomfort I feel at enforced fun – and the thing is – that comes across in the photographs themselves. The second point is that they’re just so creatively dull. They’re as expected as the shot of the beautiful blonde school girl opening her A-Level results and make me groan through sheer lack of creativity. What I did find interesting is that the Church Times last year published a wonderful picture of a father throwing his son(?) into the air – a moment of sheer joy beautifully captured – it was different and really did communicate the deep sense of joy. On their website they decided to lead with an image of the Hereford Deacon Ordinations – a formal photo – but taken by a professional photographer that had stunning colour and depth and leap from the page.
Yes, call my grumpy. Fair enough. But think on this… when was the last time a Priest was in the Guardian (front page) talking about Ordination and the wonder, splendour and honour of that call? When was the last time a Priest was on BBC Radio 4 PM talking about Ordinations and the joy of being called by God? I mean no offence to anyone, but come on people, we’re more creative than jumping in front of the cathedral.
BBC Radio 4 PM Interview
What I found interesting about the photographs from last year was that whilst the Church Times had a wonderful joyful face on their cover (great!) they used a beautiful golden image – very sensibly set – from Hereford as the lead on their website. (then ‘others’)
John Hellings from BBC Hereford & Worcester asked to speak to me last week at All Saints in Hereford city centre. It was a good opportunity to talk about the TV show and what people thought of it – how All Saints is a thriving, living and loud church and why I call myself Father.
Last Sunday I was asked to do ‘GNS’ interviews for BBC Local Radio Stations. What that means in practice is that you sit in a small studio at your local station with a microphone and a small black box and every five minutes or so a BBC Producer from a different Local Radio Station calls you and you do an interview down the line.
I spent two hours talking to stations all over country about what a huge privilege it has been to open the doors to the BBC Documentary team behind A Vicar’s Life. To show them, and in turn other people, what the daily life of a Church of England ‘vicar’ looks like.
I did quite a few interviews but this one from BBC Radio Cumbria is a good representation.
It’s a bad title. I know it is – I’m a Deacon on my way to becoming a Priest and if I am signed off from my training I may become a Vicar… or a Rector… or something else. Right now – I’m an Assistant Curate.
But this post isn’t about that – it’s about answering the question that has come up most often during the filming of A Vicar’s Life for BBC Two.
Why did you want to do this?
It’s a question I answered for a Church of England video talking about my faith and calling which you can watch below. I hope it may help you start to perhaps look at what it is that God has in store for you.
I was asked back (amazingly!) to BBC Hereford & Worcester to deliver a Thought For The Week. It’s a huge privilege to be able to speak to so many people about what it is that God may have in store for them – prompting people to sit in prayer and seek the path God has put before them. Listen to the Thought here, or read the transcript below and if you have questions about vocation then do get in touch.
What are we called for?
This coming Friday you will see me featured in the new BBC Two documentary “A Vicar’s Life”. Amongst other stories you’ll see how I left college in Oxford and came to Hereford to become an Assistant Curate – a Deacon, a Servant – in the Church of England.
That path was the culmination of four years of prayer and exploration of what it was that God had in store for me. There’s no one path to finding what God calls us to do. There’s no neat way that enables us to see the path before us other than to ask God to show us.
We often talk about ‘vocation’ in the Church. We generally use it as code to mean a process by which somebody becomes an ordained minister. But vocation is really the action of God’s love through us each and every day – and finding what that action is, is at the heart of figuring out the path God gives us.
So how do we even start to discover that path? We start with prayer. We end with prayer, everything that God wants to share with us he does through the sacrament – through communion – and through prayer. As we spend time with God we discover the spark of His love inside us and as we fan those flames we start to discover what it is, or who we are called to be.
It could be ordained ministry, it could be teaching, nursing, becoming a doctor or a carer – all those roles that we already understand as a kind of vocation – but there are other things that we’re less good at exploring and being open to. It could be that you’re called to be a good neighbour, or to be the person who smiles when others frown, or to be the person who holds the hand of somebody who is frightened.
Whatever it is that God has in store for you – try to find it. Be still, know that God loves you – that His spark is inside you – and fan those flames with prayer and with the sacrament.
This morning I delivered my very first ‘Thought for The Day’ – it was a little scary… It’s a short reflection on death, autumn, the continual gifts of death and the presence of God.
At 4pm this afternoon I will be preaching at a memorial service at Holy Trinity in Hereford. This service takes place twice a year and we invite those who have lost people in the previous six months to come, sit, be quiet, to sing, to pray, to light a candle and to give thanks for the lives of those loved ones who have died.
At this time of year it’s especially moving, we’ve just celebrated Halloween, then the day after – All Souls Day and then All Saints Day. You’ll hear stern warnings from some Christians of the danger of what Halloween has become – and there’s strong truth in that – but what follows – All Souls Day – is at the heart of a week of remembering the dead – at the heart of a changing season around us.
Now autumn is my favourite time of year. Leaves fall, fields are bare, we are past the rush of September. There’s a peace in this week of All Souls that allows us to take a breath, to see the beauty of what is around is, what is now dead or dying and to take in the great gifts we have had from that bounty. The food from the fields, the beautiful vistas of the countryside, the fruit from the trees… the cider in our cups.
But, Autumn – death – continues to give us gifts. As the evenings draw in, the clocks go back we start to shiver at the colder weather we start to see frost on the windows, it feels a good time to remember those who have died. We can recall our loved ones with a smile, we can remember that phrase they used, the way they made tea or the way they told us off. We can smile, but that memory is tinged with the sadness of loss, those memories are sometimes bad or hurt, there are tears – there is pain. Leaves fall.
But just as we see the beauty in those fallen leaves we should embrace the pain of our loss and in doing that we accept that whilst our loved ones are gone, we understand that they are not gone forever. That they are loved by God and that just as Autumn goes through the pain of winter – spring always comes.
God looks for us in the firmament of heaven, knowing the pain we are in and offering us a warm hand – here on earth right now we feel that as just the tiniest hint of a warm breeze on a cold autumn day – compared to the full-blown howling love that awaits us in death.
So as we leave Halloween, all souls day and all saints day behind, appreciate the warm breeze, appreciate the good and bad memories of those who have died – and know that whenever you need it, in pain and in happiness – God’s warm hand is always there to be held – all you need to do is reach for it.
What is God calling you to do?
Listen to my Thought for The Week on BBC Hereford on Worcester about vocation and what God may be calling you to be or do