Saturday, 12 December 2015

I am not a blogger...

For the 4th time in as many years, my attempts at some kind of daily Advent discipline have ended up lost in a frantic household, forgetfulness, chocolate coin wrappers and screen overtime.

I should probably learn, but I don't. My life is not a pretty blog of creative parenting, spiritual disciplines and daily space for charting it all. It's a place of limited space, tiredness, differing priorities and beautiful chaos. This week particularly, despite no London commute for me, it's been a mixed bag of essay marking, sick children, school events, cabin fever and manic youth work, plus some quiet times of writing cards, filing and other necessary stuff which quite frankly didn't stir anything very profound! The realisation (maybe I'm slow but I'm also a bit of a silly idealist) is that those who do daily blogging are giving it far more time, across the whole of the year, that I will ever have, or want to have. The realisation too that, much as I love to write, I'm not overcome with the need to write in the way that those whose blogs I follow seem to be.

I'm a resourcer, I like to find things, try things and share things. So I'll stick with that. I'm more interested in connection and conversation and at this time of year, there are enough other Advent blogs and hashtags trying to engage us so I don't need to add to the list just for my own guilt inducing lunacy.

So, apologies if you've returned here since last weekend hoping for something else on my self imposed advent journey. As I head into my daughter's ninth birthday weekend with climbing wall parties to manage and cakes to make, party bags and celebrations to put together, I acknowledge I've failed one task, but not in the things that are really important. So I'll pick myself up and get back in the saddle again when I'm next ready to write. I'm not a blogger....well, not every day anyway!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Advent Daily #6 Traditions

A day off from posting yesterday - very necessary as I don't think I had a spare minute in the day to write anything! Having written the day before about hurrying, I fell under that spell and rushed from one thing to another and collapsed about midnight....and now I'm wide awake at 3.30am having probably eaten something I shouldn't. So in a way, I haven't missed a day, am just posting late!

But it's a welcome bit of space none the less. I have done some catching up on Advent blogs that I had bookmarked for future reference, one of those being from our friend Jack who blogs at He says this:

The seasons of the Christian year lead us into depths that human beings will neither exhaust nor fully comprehend. The essence of any God-given mystery is that there is always some new dimension awaiting our discovery. We will never touch the bottom of this sea. 
Yet each season of the Christian year invites a deeper discovery of the mystery of salvation given through Jesus. Entering Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter is not simply a rote rehearsal of what we already know about Jesus. Each season summons us to explore that which we have not yet seen about the beauty and mystery of God.

Under today's word of Tradition, I've been wondering how those things we do year in, year out, bring depth to our Christian year. Certainly at Christmas it's particularly noticeable but each of us has our own different and distinctive ways. Just as each season of the Christian year shouldn't just become a repetition of what we did last year, so too our Advent and Christmas traditions should form a reflective basis for our own deepening faith. 

Yesterday I took my kids (and M's friend P) to see a production of A Christmas Cracker, performed by the Riding Lights Theatre Company. In amongst the great storytelling, funny slapstick comedy, songs and puppets was a realisation - that a great story is where you always find a nugget of undiscovered truth in amongst all the drama and embellishments and hyperbole.
The setting of the show was a stable, not in Bethlehem but a field somewhere in England, owned by Mrs McGinty and the storyteller and her sidekick dog shelter there for the night. Mrs McGinty wants a story all of her own, and the two visitors proceed to tell the story of Jesus birth and those who visited him - the marginalised, the unexpected, the wise and the celestial. An age old, traditional story and one which certainly the 8 and 9 year olds in my company already had a good grasp of, embellishments and all. But the comments of P afterwards showed how the traditional story had come alive in a new way: "So, what she's saying is that, if Jesus had been born now, I could have been one of the first people to visit him?" she says.......#sniff

The Coming

And God held in his handA small globe. Look, he said.The son looked. Far off,As through water, he sawA scorched land of fierceColour. The light burnedThere; crusted buildingsCast their shadows; a brightSerpent, a riverUncoiled itself, radiantWith slime.
                 On a bareHill a bare tree saddenedThe sky. Many peopleHeld out their thin armsTo it, as though waitingFor a vanished AprilTo return to its crossed Boughs. The son watchedThem. Let me go there, he said.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Advent Daily #4 - Hurry

Today's word is HURRY....

Hurrying is a hard thing to avoid as a working parent. I always feel like I'm on catch up. The kids pick up on it. My big girl, nearly 9, regularly asks on a Sunday "What are we doing after church?" - and her preferred answer to the question is "We're coming home and not going out again."
In the midst of busy family life and in a clergy household, we still need to learn again how to slow down and do Sabbath, to do nothing, to do rest. To live without the TO DO list.
The newness of commuting to my new job at St Mellitus hasn't worn off yet - I love the 1 hour 15 minute journey I get on the train and then the tube each way on a Monday and Thursday. It gives me space in the day which I haven't been able to use before now. I travelled a lot in my last job, but it was all in my own timings as I was usually driving. So I could take a back route, or press the accelerator pedal harder. But now I'm within the train timetable. There's nothing I can do to make my transportation go any faster. And it's making me view time differently. It's full of opportunity, to read, listen to music, sleep, write, think, chat.
As I've been thinking about this word, I came across this beautiful post from Ruth Haley Barton which I share with you today.
Take it slow:

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Advent Daily #3

Today's word is WINDOW

I picked the words for these daily blogs rather at random, a bit of a Mallet's Mallet word association exercise! The inspiration for this work came via a Facebook post in which my former employer, Chelmsford Diocese, was unveiling their building's Advent Calendar, using the front windows to countdown the days until Christmas Day.

The daily windows of an Advent Calendar can perhaps hold another meaning - of transparency, of opening ourselves up to this revelation of Christ's coming, perhaps also being more honest and vulnerable about how he might find us at this particular point in our life.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Advent Daily #2

Today's word is Countdown:

It's inevitable really. With a birthday in December and 10 days later, Christmas Day itself, we spend much of November and December in countdown mode.
As with anything that children do, it is in turn both hugely exciting and very cute whilst also being intensely irritating! Constant questions of 'how many days?' can grate but I also remember too, as a child, just how much I wanted Christmas to just HURRY UP AND GET HERE!
So, we try and channel it a bit - with a mix of fun activities each day so it's about the preparation, the waiting and the countdown which builds to something, something which we know is great but is after all, just a day. It's more about how this Advent is going to make a difference in the rest of our days to follow.
The beauty of many of the Advent traditions we've employed over the years is that they allow us to constructively countdown. Tonight we had our usual evening meal and then had some family time with lighting the Advent candles, opening the calendars and reading a Christmas book - of which we have a box full! Other days will include some other treats, 1;1 time with each parent, opportunities to bless others in our community and creative prayer activities. I'm looking forward to them all, despite the sometimes irritating overexcited craziness!
I'm struck by the connections between yesterday's word WATCH and today's COUNTDOWN. Jesus is pretty clear, at the end of the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25, and elsewhere in the Gospels that we should “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
I wonder if we really understood these two contrasting but connected parts of Advent, we'd be so excited about the second coming?! We're caught in the tension between the certainty of Christmas Day being celebrated on 25th December and the uncertainty of much else that is promised to us in faith and which is foretold in the Scriptures. And in this current climate of wars and rumours of wars, that uncertainty requires us to look inwards to our own souls as followers of Jesus as well as to our communities and our neighbours and be generous with this good news of Jesus' coming. 

Would love to know your reflections on this word and how it relates to you!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Advent Daily #1

Starting today, I'm motivating myself to write a daily short thought, reflection, pondering on a particular word associated with this Advent season. I'm not going to think about it too much, edit, just pray, think and write and see what comes.  I'd love you to join me so feel free to comment or write your thoughts elsewhere on social media too to keep the conversation going.

Today's word: WATCH
In the ebb and flow of the year, the beginning of Advent and the beginning of December certainly has a 'starting gun' feel to's permission giving for decorations to go up, detailed preparations to be made, conversations about 'what are you doing for Christmas' to happen more frequently. But in some ways, as disciples of Jesus, we're also having the starting gun fired on what could be and should be a transformative 25's a sombre time in some ways in the Church. A time when we look back and look forward. A time of both reflection and anticipation. It demands patience and the ability to watch, to focus, to participate. Not an easy task....

John Henry Newman wrote this:
We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what?  For that great event, Christ's coming... 

At the moment, my kids are waiting and watching the letter box expectantly for the newest Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible CD to pop through our door! Its a family favourite and I highly recommend it to you if you have school age children (pre-teens probably!) 

One of the songs on the first album perfectly sums up this watching being both active and passive....check out Be Dressed on this link with the words, which formed part of our Advent Carols service on Sunday night:

(Luke 12:35-36)
Be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
Like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet,
So that when he comes and knocks
They can immediately open the door for him.
It will be good for those servants
Whose master finds them watching when he comes.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

the first few weeks at SMC....

On a rainy and distinctly chilly Autumn morning, I'm sat in my usual spot at the dining table, at home in Basildon with lap top, notebook, various books; reading, browsing and thinking. It's not an unusual position or view for me, but it is a new job and a new set of priorities.
3 weeks into my new job at St Mellitus College and I'm getting to grips with module guides, academic timetables, formation groups, 13 new first year Youth Ministry students (not gripping them literally, obviously!) and beginning to work on my first lectures for the Youth Ministry Foundations module.

It's challenging in many ways - full and busy days but the push to make me think, wonder, apply and problem solve is very welcome. After 9 years in a job I knew so well, this is certainly keeping me on my toes and I feel revitalised for it. It was lovely to see new students arrive last week, along with some familiar faces and to also welcome supervisors for student placements yesterday, including many clergy from Chelmsford Diocese and youth workers from other churches who I know of old. So lots is new, but such a great welcome that it already feels very much like home and there is a sense of this being both familiar and stretching which is a good balance.

Alongside the 3 days with SMC, I'm also doing some other bits and pieces - interviews with those on the discernment journey towards a Bishop's Selection Panel; training to be a Bishop's Selection Adviser; and working with a couple of churches as a consultant in their review of youth ministry, training, mission and employment in their context.

And the wonderful bonus in all that is that weekends are free and evenings are largely free, all of which makes the balance of family, ministry, personal and rest so much more effective.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A new role....

In case you haven't heard through other channels, I'm starting a new part time role in September as Tutor in Theology and Youth Ministry at St Mellitus College in London.  I've been part of the teaching team for the Youth Ministry degree for 3 years and I've loved it! I've spent time in the college too as a 'ordinand's spouse' while Andy was training and so I have a love and a loyalty to St Mellitus and what they are about and it is wonderful to be part of the staff team come September!

The decision to move from my Youth Adviser role happened in April - I knew it was the right time to go, giving a long notice period and was content to have a summer off and wait and see what happened with self employed opportunities come September, all within a more slimmed down work life.

And then, in late May, this vacancy popped up! An email from the college, booking me for a few sessions next spring included a link to the vacancy and 2 other people alerted me to it in the same week. I spent much of May half term wrestling with whether this role was for me, if it was indeed the role I had left my Adviser position for or was it was a red herring, a distraction from the new direction God was leading us on? I honestly didn't know, but agreed with Andy, during a long coffee date one morning that to not apply wouldn't allow either me or St Mellitus to discern the way forward under God. So, on the last day for applications, I rather speedily put together my supporting letter and updated my CV and pressed send.

After a thorough process - 3 interviews and quite a lot of questions (from St Mellitus and me!), soul searching and advice from wise and wonderful people, I accepted the position of part time Tutor at the end of July. It has a great sense of peace and a comfort of God's timing. A sense that I did hear the call of God right - to move on, be obedient and be available for the new path which is forming in front of us. A lot of the thinking and wondering about 'can we afford this?', 'what do we need for family life to work?' 'what is the long term picture for my ministry?' 'what is God saying to us?' had been thought through over Easter, prior to my formal resignation so there was a transparency at being interviewed and honestly being OK about whatever outcome, especially if this wasn't to be. But it is to be! And I'm really delighted, excited, daunted. I know I bring a lot of experience, resource, wisdom, ideas as a youth minstry practitioner from the last 15 years but being in an academic environment will be a very new experience. I'm looking forward to being stretched, challenged and learning a lot from those around me as well as the students I'll be responsible for.

I'll be in London for 2 days a week at the College and another day of flexible working, leaving me 2 days a week, weekends and evenings at home (which will be rather wonderful!) The role involves developing the Youth Ministry course and teaching on it, pastorally supporting the students (about 20 in each year of the three year degree) along with other Tutors and providing a link between college and placement. It's my first job EVER where I haven't had to have DBS clearance before starting!

I'll be continuing to lead youth work in the parish with 14-18's as well as being part of a local group for 11-14's. I'm also giving a few hours a week voluntarily to Loss UK supporting young people and families facing loss in any way, helping them to develop their business plan and fundraising strategy.

So, I've enjoyed my month off; a great holiday in France with the family, time with friends and our local church; various jobs at home and fun days out locally. But I'm readying myself for this new path!

Friday, 10 July 2015

"There is a time for departure, even when there is no certain place to go...."

A wiser person than me once said: "There are 2 ways to jump off a cliff:

1. Stand at the edge, look down and tentatively step off.
2. Take a running leap into the abyss"

I've definitely done a bit of the former in the last 18 months or so but the decision back in April to go for the latter has been an exhilarating and daunting experience and one in which we have seen God's immense faithfulness and confirmation as well a good number of bumps and bruises!

In the midst of lots of 'lasts' - various meetings, Forums, visits and such like, I'm preparing for some more significant last events.
Firstly, the two monthly Hub gatherings which happen early in July (and have happened in some format or another, every month for the last 9 years!) where employed and volunteer workers gather for mutual support, prayer, input, encouragement and lots of tea and laughter! These 2 hour sessions once a month have been a safe and essential space and have retained my sanity and renewed my hope on many occasions!
Secondly, my official leaving do in the Bishop's Garden just before the end of term, which I'm looking forward to and dreading in equal measure!

Part of my preparation for all those events as well as for my own processing and moving on has been in taking some time to reflect on those last 9 years - youthworkers who have been and gone, groups I have been involved with starting and supporting, initiatives I've been part of, areas in which I've seen growth. frustrations and challenges and devlopments in my youth work practice and understanding, as well as reflections on what I have learnt and how I see things 'now' as opposed to 'then'.

I was just shy of 28 years old when I began in this role. I'd had two other main roles in my career but had been doing youthwork already, in a paid capacity, for more than 10 years. I'd worked as a Parish Youth and Children's Worker for 3 years after graduating and then, after doing my PGCE, had managed a supported accommodation project for homeless young women. I was married but we had no children, in fact we'd been told it was unlikely we'd be able to. We'd done the 'first house purchase' which is always a significant thing but it had been incredibly stressful, with dodgy builders, a flood and a project which sapped our energy and our finances. We knew that God had called us to move south, Andy got a job quicker than me (in the secondary school in the parish where he is now a curate!) but we didn't really have any idea what was in store for us in this great county. Without kids in tow we could move quickly and spontaneously - those were the days! And the rest, as they say, is history!

So here I am, 9 years later, living 300 miles from those first jobs and very settled in Essex. We have lived in 3 houses in those 9 years, added two children to the gang and learnt a huge amount along the way.

This post is an attempt to make sense of some of those lessons, observations and thoughts. None of it is fully formed, it couldn't be as we're still being formed in so many ways. But for what it's worth, these are some of the key factors or headlines for me which have helped to navigate through these 9 years - and I reckon these are a good guide for longevity in ministry generally. And although some assume you're employed as a youthworker, many of these should be relevant regardless of your role. If you're working with young people, I want to encourage you to stick with it and these are my starting points....

Some keys to stickability:
  • Pray, lots: I'm happy to confess, at this point in my career, that I was terrified when I started this job. I really didn't think I could do it! I was suddenly responsible for seeing youth ministry flourish across a massive geographical area, with 186 churches in my patch, countless congregations, clergy, youth leaders and young people all out there somewhere and I hadn't a clue where to start! Since I'd come to faith at the age of 15, I'd been exposed to and tried many different forms of prayers and spiritual discipline and obviously, I knew it was important. But it really came into it's own at the beginning of my time as Youth Adviser! And it's developed ever since. This role exposes you to the breadth and depth of the Anglican church, from silence and taize style chants to praying in tongues, from liturgical daily offices to sung eucharistic glorias, choral and charistmatic, traditional hymns and band led choruses. I've honestly loved it all. Personally, as the children came along, our formality of regular prayer gave way to chaotic attempts to do something which mildly resembled thankfulness, praise, adoration and supplication. I'll leave you imagine what that might look like. We've become members of an Anglican religious order in the last 9 years too (The Order of Mission) and that has given us the focus of a rule of life and a rhythm of prayer, joining with others across the world using the Moravian Daily texts as well as our own Common Worship. This is the foundation and the surrounding walls of your ministry. Much as we might not have a 'stipend' and therefore be paid not to work, we are, as Christians working in full time ministry, paid to pray. It's the very least we can do. "His grace is sufficient for me for His power is made perfect in weakness."
  • Get a mentor: someone you commit to meeting regularly, who listens, processes with you and challenges you. Someone a bit further ahead on the journey. Invaluable. Doesn't really matter who it is, just get one. 
  • Understand that youthwork is intergenerational: yes, its about 11-18's, of course. But if we ignore those who are 'nearly' there or who are just above that bracket, we're unnecessarily dividing ourselves. The connections, influences and understanding of the generations is crucial to good youth work. 
  • Live in the truth that young people are a gift to the church. Obvious, of course but they are a gift from the minute they are born, as are we all. Its dangerous to see youthwork as the holding place where young people are entertained and contained until they are grown up and able to 'cope' with big church! Evidence shows us, they don't stay around that long. If they are a gift, we need to live and function in that way - use them, include them, don't try and keep them wrapped up out of the way....
  • A passion for youth ministry is not always instinctive but it is teachable and it is catching. I'm pretty comfortable with saying that I'm instinctively a good youth worker. I have always felt able to relate and connect with young people quickly and develop appropriate relationships, even as I've aged and they have stayed young! And I'm clear that this is my vocation - I've heard God speak on this path for my life in a way I've never heard Him speak about anything else. But I've also had great training, brilliant (and less brilliant!) examples to follow and lots of spaces for experience, mistakes, disasters, funnies, third, fourth and fifth attempts. It's all invaluable and I've noticed that just as I had good people who I watched and copied, so others do the same with me. It's humbling but ultimately, just the way it should be. Instinct +  great equipping = great youth work. 
  • Understand that you are constantly being formed (otherwise known as blagging!). Blagging is also an instinctive skill which can be caught and taught! It's not cool to blag too often but it's often very necessary in any youth work or ministry - you never know what might happen next!
  • Realise that you will probably have to 'manage up' and get on with doing it well. Often, employed youth workers, particularly in church settings are line managed by non youthwork practitioners. Its not unusual in other sectors too - but it can be tricky. I've learnt through the years that line management is something which both parties need to take full responsibility for. It's obvious really but if you don't communicate how you want to be led or share how someone can get the best out of you, it's going to take a lot of trial and error before you find the right medium. Personality profiling, Myers Briggs, Belbin etc can all help to understand one another better and really see both you and your line manager thrive.
  • There is no substitute for sharing life with young people beyond the events. This is about home, family, inviting shared space. We've always run a youth group of some sort in our home ever since we were married. It's something quite intimate really but we've found it invaluable in connecting deeply and showing how we genuinely love and care for them. They see the reality of life, chaotic kids, piles of laundry, stress and how we handle it! and yes, appropriate boundaries are key but those shouldn't prevent or hinder this type of deep ministry. It also has an impact of numbers, of course. 15 or 18 young people in our lounge would be tight! But the quality of relationships with the 3, 5, 10 which are the usual numbers are precious. How can you recycle time, maximise the work with young people in other areas? Could you invite them with you during a supermarket trip and have a coffee afterwards? Could they help you out with a community responsibility? 
  • Recognise your role as a significant adult beyond the 11-18 age bracket. This is something I've only recently noticed for us but realise how key it was for me as a new Christian and as an adolescent. As young people who have been in our youth groups grow up, move on, move out, we've kept in touch with many in their next stages of life. Some have headed to Uni, work, travelled, are exploring ministry, have got married. We've been introduced to fiancĂ©es, been asked to be godparents, given many references and shared countless cups of tea, coffee and other beverages with young people who were once in braces or dressed as Goths but who now work in the NHS or teach or programme MRI scanners! It's a privilege to move from being a youth worker to being a significant adult to being a friend. If the church as a whole can grasp the power of this, we could be on to something!
  • Get a handle on administration. Sounds boring I know, but there is only so long we can continue to rely on the stereotypes that youth workers don't do finance or admin and just float around playing uni-hoc or other random games and occasionally being a bit spiritual! Particularly in the Youth Adviser role, I have had to develop skills around project management, developing and monitoring budgets, setting up processes for various schemes and writing training programmes. At the core of all these things were young people, their leaders and their growth development and nurture. But to make that happen, the back room stuff had to work. Boring I know, but good skills to take into the next thing. 
So, for now, that's my list. I'm sure there are other things you could add from your own experience! Feel free to share, discuss, debate!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Departure Time

Today, through my email networks and other avenues, I've announced that I'm leaving my post as Area Youth Ministry Adviser for the Bradwell Episcopal Area and Basildon Deanery at the end of July.
You may have come to this extended post via social media or have read my more formal announcement elsewhere and clicked through. Either way, you're very welcome!

In case you haven't seen it already, this is the 'formal' announcement that has gone out to my Crucible mailing list and to other groups of colleagues:

An Announcement

I’m writing this morning to let you know that I'll be leaving my role as Area Youth Ministry Adviser at the end of July.  After nine years in this privileged role and in this great Diocese, it’s time to move into some fresh challenges whilst also focusing more on family and local priorities.

I am incredibly blessed to have worked with so many inspiring people in that time - namely YOU!! but also Bishop Laurie and Bishop John, the wider Area Team and my Youth Adviser colleagues Ray Gibbs, Andy Poultney and Rachel Brett as well as youth officers across the country. It has been my privilege to serve such incredibly faithful, committed and passionate youth workers, clergy and leaders across Essex and East London, all looking to see young people flourish and grow in our churches and wider communities. 

I’ve worked full time for the last fifteen years, with two brief breaks to have our children, now eight and three. As our youngest begins pre-reception in September and full time school in 2016, it's become clear that God is leading us towards a change of gear for this next academic year,  affording me the opportunity to change the speed setting and to further invest in our family life and local mission.

Yet my calling and passion for youth work will not cease! This is a deep calling for me, first acknowledged in the early months after coming to faith. So I’ll continue leading youth work locally in Basildon and our Falcon Camp in Tollesbury each summer, as well as exploring a variety of freelance possibilities and partnerships, ranging from coaching, leadership development, training and retreats.

There have been many highlights and unforgettable moments – recently, the Celebration of Youth Ministry and the launch of the Authorisation scheme have been big projects with moments of great joy. Developing the Encounter: Young Leaders programme has been amazing, journeying with young adults full of such potential. The Deanery Youth Champions Network across the Diocese has enabled huge growth in the profile of Youth Ministry. But amongst all those key projects and initiatives, important as they are, the greatest joy is the day to day parish support of youth workers and clergy; the mentoring of leaders; the monthly Hub gatherings; the regular youth group visits and the training sessions which are the bread and butter of the role. In these I'm reminded that youth ministry is about community and friendship amongst all ages - being significant adults to young people is a privilege and in this privileged position, we are afforded a glimpse of the fullness of the kingdom which we look towards.

"1 Timothy 4: 12 Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but be an example to the believers in your speech, your life, your love, your faith and your purity."

There will be further updates as time unfolds so keep an eye out for future Crucible editions (sign up here if you don't receive already.)
I sincerely hope that I'll be able to catch up with many of you in these next three months of transition. 

Andy and I, along with Matilda and Isaac hugely value your prayers and support as we step forward in trust and thankfulness.

Nine years in any one place, job or role is a long time and many of you reading this will be both co-workers and friends. Whilst it won't interest everyone (!) I thought it might be helpful to unpack a little more of the process of decision making and some personal thoughts at this stage - for those who are interested and for those who have journeyed with me/us and want to know a bit more. As always with these type of announcements, you can't always tell people personally in the right order - so hopefully this will serve to give some more detail and answer some questions about the what next for us and for the role I leave.

Unusually for me, this is certainly not, at this stage, a well formed plan! Our priorities in making this decision have been about recognising what is best for family life, sustaining sanity as well as acknowledging where my call to youth work and church leadership fits in to the new world of a curacy family. 

At this point, all I'm certain of, in this initial academic year, is that my time will be spent primarily with Isaac who is 3.5 years and starts pre-Reception for 3 hours a day in September. Alongside that and as appropriate, I'm looking to develop a number of possible avenues in a self employed capacity. I've recently completed my training with 3dm Europe in leading online Coaching Huddles and I'll be exploring some avenues into delivering training and leading retreats as well as volunteering with charities whom I presently serve in other ways. Through all that, I'm open to what God presents in this path within the parameters we've set for the family. It allows for flexibility and being able to say both yes and no to whatever may be offered in terms of future work.  I will need to earn some money at some point, but all in good time!

For me, this shift is a progression which makes sense in this season. It's a shift we've considered at a number of junctions over the last 9 years - when Andy began discerning ordination; when he was selected and training; when I had Isaac and was considering my return to work; and most recently as we considered the curacy offered to us in Basildon where we are now. 
The stability and income of my role is not as crucial now that Andy is ordained. That offers different choices to us and the restlessness I've felt for about a year, particularly around God's call to us to be embedded locally, feels resolved in choosing this 'extended sabbatical'.  Along the way, when I previously considered moving on, other events took over - Andy Poultney's appointment to Young Vocations Champion meant that it was not timely for me to go as well - and I wasn't ready to go either! Various projects within my job description kept momentum going too - all the changes with SOLID, the new Authorisation scheme, Deanery Youth Champions, training commitments, all the good stuff, involving brilliant people, which makes this role so varied and fulfilling. Again, as a family, the stability of my role in the midst of moving house, new church, settling children into schools etc. was very important. Sometimes, it is better to continue doing what you've always done when everything else seems to be rapidly changing and because I love my job and enjoy (nearly) every aspect of it, it wasn't a hard choice to stay at all!

But in a number of ways, it has been confirmed to us that now is the time for me to move on. This being the last year with Isaac before school kicks in has been a big factor, as well as recognising how hard it is for two parents to both be in full time, anti social hours, ministry focused roles in a paid capacity. I'd love to be the one who is able to say 'we managed it!' but the effect on the children, on our marriage and on our sanity is not worth it. It would really be 'just managing' rather than being the fullness of what God has for us. Our priority as parents is to one another and the children - and our commitment in covenant to the Order of Mission has also helped us to process what our vows of 'simplicity, purity and accountability' really mean in this context.
The reality is that, in a year's time, with two children in full time school, the season shifts again. But for now, this season is to be invested in, enjoyed, cherished and offers a foundation for the way we now do family life as we see the ways that God is shaping us and go with that. 

I'm leaving my current job, but I'm in no way leaving youth work or ministry! From the day I came to faith, I've always been involved in youth and children's ministry of some sort or another. During my year out ('96-'97!) when I was discerning the next steps and whether to continue with the plan for University, I sensed a very clear call to youth work as a full time ministry, through a sermon at my home church and confirmation through a letter from a spiritual mentor. It's also given me an expectation - I know what it is to hear God's call and until He says otherwise, I'll stick with it! Alongside that, I'm passionate about enabling longevity in youth ministry in others - having been so fortunate in all my employment to have great supervision, line management, stability and support I want to make sure that is available for others. Sadly, youth work is often the cinderella ministry in our churches and amazingly gifted and servant hearted, creative individuals move on all too soon, because the money runs out, they have damaged with ill treatment or because of unrealistic expectations. I wonder where that passion will take me in the future, but it certainly hasn't gone and I'll be praying about how I can continue to support youth workers without treading on future toes! 

So, as I'm writing this post I'm feeling such a mix of emotions. Looking back on the 27 year old Alice who moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to Essex back in 2006, I am amazed by how much I've learnt, how many people I've met and friends I've made and how far we as a family have come. I have had 2 Bishops for bosses, 4 Area Deans as supervisors, lived in 4 different houses and gone through 4 different cars (and probably done, I reckon, about 7000+ miles a year!), worked with 3 brilliant Youth Advisers plus the wider DYO Network and lost count of the amount of youth workers who have come and gone and stayed (I intend to work out how many before the end of July!)
Obviously, I'm sad to be going and will hugely miss my Youth Advisory Team colleagues and the many friends I have made across the Area and Diocese and beyond. But friendships endure and I'm looking forward to remaining in touch and continuing to support from the wings and in different ways.
Bishop John has already confirmed that he will be seeking to reappoint a Youth Adviser as soon as possible so watch this space for more information about the recruitment process.

It would be dishonest for me to say I'm not daunted by the 'what next'! I'm hugely excited about what might happen but I'm definitely battling my need for plans and fixed structure and going with the flow! I'm looking forward to space, but worried I'll be bored! Above all, I know God is faithful, his promises are good and he's holding out a new and exciting challenge. I've just got to follow.

One Life Conference with Young Leaders programme
National TakeOver Day with Bishop John
Bishop John visits The Hub

Colossians 3:13-17: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thanks for getting this far - and for being part of the journey. See you soon.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Bye bye Daggy

On Thursday 5th March, I received a phone call to tell me that my dear Daggy had died, earlier that morning. I cried. It wasn't a surprise that she had passed away, I knew that she'd been ill and struggling to shift a chest infection. But it was a shock none the less.

I'd just returned from a 2 night residential with a bunch of youth workers and it took me a while to get my brain back into home, kids, family life that evening.

When Grandad died, back in August 2013,  it took me a while to gather my thoughts enough to write anything and I've found it to be the same this time too.

Daggy (my sister and I struggled to say Granny and Grandpa as toddlers, so the names Daggy and Bompa just stuck, much to the amusement of my cousins!) had been in a specialist home for a while, but had suffered a nasty fall leading to broken hip just before Christmas. Whenever we used to visit she would be especially pleased to see the children and would enjoy the way they interacted with other residents and staff. Matilda once joined in with a circle catching game, to their great delight!

As younger children, my sister and I used to stay quite often at Daggy and Bompa's home, as they lived just round the corner from both our home and our primary school. I remember when my parents went to Rouen for an anniversary and Daggy made us ham and ketchup sandwiches - one of her many interesting food combinations! I'd often pop in on my way to or from church, sometimes timing it well and getting a cup of tea, other times interrupting Daggy watching Wimbledon or snooker and less hospitable!

I have fond memories of the double bed in the spare room where my sister and I would sleep; of games of Beetle of an evening or Gin Rummy; of the biscuit tin usually containing shortbread; of a cupboard in the kitchen which had a tin of buttons and a box of colouring pens, the like of which we wouldn't be allowed at home!

Her driving was hilarious - in a white Mini and a white Micra. I never quite knew whether she loved driving or hated it!

Daggy had strong values and strong opinions - faith wise she was pleased when I started going to church but less impressed with the modern style of the church I chose! Her traditional views were firmly held, some of them focused on tradition but underneath it all was a firm faith too. Her fascination and interest in Andy's journey to ordination was something she enjoyed discussing and it is fitting he was able to take her funeral, with elements of the 1662 graveside service as she requested! 

Daggy leaves behind 4 wonderful daughters, 8 grandchildren (Justin and Sarah Phillips, Alice and Eleanor Hodson, Amy and Elizabeth Crosthwaite, Angus and Isla Parton) , 9 great grandchildren (Kaelyn, Emily, Bailey, Matilda, Isaac, Freddie, Thomas, Owen and Max) and many happy memories I will treasure. Rest in peace and rise in glory. X

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Sofa, the Toaster and the Saucepans....

The erratic posting continues - work, family, church and general tiredness defeat me when it comes to regular blogging.

However, in a coaching session last week with the wonderful Johnny Douglas I was reflecting on the changes of these past few months. At Johnny and his wife Julie's suggestion, we've recently had our sofa and armchair, a gift from Andy's parents and my grandparents for our first home 13 years ago, reupholstered, rebuilt, restuffed and returned to our new home.

Our previous sofa - purple corduroy, saggy, worn, ripped in places and with evidence of every stage of our children's lives stuck on the fabric - has been in 4 houses and 2 storage units in that 13 years and had done well to survive this long considering.

It was a big deal, sending it away in a van to Shadrack and Wallace - and amazingly it was returned within 2 days looking as good as new, just a different, and possibly slightly more grown up colour. We're awaiting the completion of our bespoke cushions, offering a burst of colour and some pattern, tying in with some lovely prints Andy bought me last Christmas which now adorn our expanse of white walls.

Since we moved to this house, the 2 other items which stem from the beginning of 'us' have also been recycled or repurposed or just had to go.

Our pan set, bought by Andy's grandparents from our wedding list, had also done it's time. Years and years of use, many meals cooked, many guests fed as well as our growing family, many times through the sink and dishwasher;  now replaced by a lovely anodised glass lidded set. It's lovely....! (Thank to mother and father in law for clicking the link and bringing to us all wrapped up at Christmas!)

And our toaster - a birthday gift in May 2001, the weekend I introduced my parents to Andy, before they knew we had plans to marry. Now replaced by a 4 slice, copper coloured toaster which, rather excitingly matches the kettle!

I'm not sure why this all feels so significant, but Johnny reflected 'there's a blog post in that' when I told him - so here it is! Our life is moving on in new ways and as we settle in this new home, church, community and clergy family life, there is something more grown up about how we're needing to think about our space, our potential future homes and the quality of what we buy, ethically, environmentally, practically.