A bit of news.

I’m really pleased to be able to say, God willing, that I will serve my title post (translation= continue my training at) St Edmunds Chingford with Revd Lesley Goldsmith. Ordinations are on 25 June. I will be in Chingford for about three years. Please pray for the parish, for me, and for all those who are in the process of finding their first posts at the moment.

I know there will be a few people reading this who usually get their next job by more traditional means… so by way of explanation…

The process by which an ordinand (what I currently am) is matched with a training parish is a bit like a blind date – the Diocese look at your details, and the places they have identified as training posts, find a likely match and send you off to meet the incumbent (=current vicar and person who will be mostly responsible for your training). There’s a bit more information here and a whole bunch of questions about what being a deacon or a priest or a vicar or what ‘being ordained’ means here.

We’ve had lots of help from Westcott House in terms of identifying the ‘first date’ questions, possible things to think about, and what might be ‘warning signs’ that it’s not a good match. The piece of advice though, that most people gave, was that the actual context (rural vs urban, modern vs old church, etc) was far, far less important than whether you can get on with the incumbent. My first date (back in June!) was a very encouraging experience, I went back in August after I’d finished the Manchester placement just to check as I was pretty sure in June I wanted to train with Lesley.

In the first instance, I am ordained deacon – and for the best job description of what that is, here are the words from the ordination service:

Deacons are called to work with the Bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.

Deacons share in the pastoral ministry of the Church and in leading God’s people in worship. They preach the word and bring the needs of the world before the Church in intercession. They accompany those searching for faith and bring them to baptism. They assist in administering the sacraments; they distribute communion and minister to the sick and housebound.

Deacons are to seek nourishment from the Scriptures; they are to study them with God’s people, that the whole Church may be equipped to live out the gospel in the world. They are to be faithful in prayer, expectant and watchful for the signs of God’s presence, as he reveals his kingdom among us.

So what next? For now, I’m just getting on with it. Like last year, I have a busy round of lectures, supervisions, essays to write; fun to have; plus Sundays in the Lordsbridge team ministry (Harlton, Barton, Coton and Haslingfield). I’m helping to organise the ‘tat fairs’ when we final year students will choose and buy our clerical uniforms (Liz writes about the emotional and sartorial trauma of that one…

On the art of unrunning

Regular readers will know I am not exactly keen on the idea that spirituality is associated with the need to sit still and concentrate for any length of time. Quite apart from the objection that I don’t have hours spare in the week, I also have sneaky suspicions that all the reported spiritual benefits are only the result of meditation-type techniques. Other religions seem claim spiritual intervention or experiences when still & relaxed so there’s nothing to convince me that an experience of the Christian God is actually anything more than the side effects of a particular physical state of being. Tricky. There’s also my general worry that by not being any good at this sitting lark, I’ll therefore never make the grade as a Proper Christian. Answers on a postcard as to what a Proper Christian might be.

Last week I had a very interesting conversation with a very calm and wise person who helped me see the inability to sit still in a new light. She asked me how far I ran the first time I went. She asked me how much of my running was habit and practice. At this point the penny dropped. I know this has been obvious to lots of people but I realise that what I am being asked to do is learn to unrun. So on one end of the scale I’m off and running a half marathon. On the other end of the scale I’m finding stillness and peace. But whilst I can get to the first end easily, because the steps are practised and they flow, it’s harder for me to move in the opposite direction. And it will never get easy if I don’t put time into practise. Suddenly the physical process makes sense even if my internal jury is out on the spiritual process.

The very next day I met with @rosamundi who carefully took me through the steps of praying the rosary. I’ve only just touched it again and said a tentative few Hail Marys but this could well work out as a useful method of unrunning training. As long as I get past the bit of my brain that’s quizzically looking at me with an unfamiliar thing in my hand.

For my next challenge…

I’ve just signed up for the Great Bentley half marathon in February. It’ll be two years since I ran that, my first proper long race. I came 27th from last – there’s photographic evidence elsewhere on this blog.

I have a different set of challenges this time. 13.1 miles doesn’t sound the terrifying ordeal it once did when I had yet to run ten. But this time I will be training on my own, through the darkest bits of winter, whilst juggling more commitments at home and work. I have more experience of races and I know how cold and windy it can be!

Running in daylight!

I came home from work last night and had a snack and got changed and went for a run for 40 minutes AND IT WAS STILL LIGHT when I was done!

It’s so nice to be able to run through Castle Park instead of being stuck to boring pavements, to be able to watch the swans and the ducks, and mark the progress of the greening on the budding trees. I love hearing the birdsong and chasing the squirrels. I’m looking forward to being able to run in Highwoods Country Park again (the squirrels there are much cheekier there).

It would only have been bettered had Mark not been at home with a cold and a dodgy foot. Still, I’ve got the whole summer to race him and the squirrels.

Running – again – finally

In the last ten fairly hedonistic days I have run only as far as the gym and back. Prior to that I had done two 4-mile easy jogs round the block; which took 3.5 miles for my sack-of-spuds-on-legs feelings to wear off, just in time for things to start hurting.

Tomorrow, I’ve got another 4 – or maybe 5 – miles planned and I am really looking forward to it.

10am banana at the Great Bentley half


I wasn’t last – but not by a lot. Still, I was still ahead of the other 50million people who spent Sunday morning not running 13 miles… Times aren’t up on the club website yet, but I expect to be something like 670th out of 700 runners. Do I mind? I would if I had been training for months, doing lots of carefully planned sessions. But as it’s only nine weeks since I started and I couldn’t run two miles without a breather, I think I can be pleased with myself. I’ve got a good solid background to work from, knowing I can do the distance and it’s ‘just’ a matter of getting better.

I think this was also a really valuable learning experience (sorry if that sounds glib and cheesey). But I didn’t have that ‘extra’ banana scheduled for 10am, I didn’t drink much before – and I had trained with sports drink, I need a pocket in my running shorts, my hat is too warm – and a hundred other things!

At the start of the race I was feeling really competitive and minding a lot about being right at the back of the runners. By mile five I was out of that mood and more realistic about what I could achieve – after all I was racing me, myself and I and not the top club runners using the flat course to set a PB. I overtook a few people, was overtaken in turn by a few more. Including a speed walker which I would have minded about if he hadn’t been so encouraging. My family were at the halfway point to cheer us on, and had been encouraging runners for half an hour before I appeared so had given plenty of people a boost. I could hear Mark’s family shouting me on at the finish even though I couldn’t see them, head was well down into the wind and not looking at the finish.

Mark beat me by a good five minutes – I had to stop and walk three times in the last three miles and couldn’t catch him after that. And now I am going for a little lie down until it’s time for church this evening.

Glumness and surgical tape

Disaster has struck. Not a sufficient trauma to see me pulling out of the race on Sunday before it’s even started, but an extra cause for concern I could really have done without this week.


I had no running planned this week, but as Sunday was a beautifully sunny day, I thought I’d walk the 7 miles from Colchester to Alresford. Mostly the walk takes me along the river, and it’s a popular footpath. I have well-broken in walking boots and decent socks. I set a cracking pace and enjoyed the fast walk in the open air.


However, for some evil reason of their own the boots rubbed both my feet. I finished with a blister on the sole of my left foot. which has almost gone. More worryingly, and so annoyingly I could almost weep, the blister on my right heel broke, and I have a 1” square of raw skin – just where my heel flexes.


It’s getting lots of TLC – today I have a ridiculously over the top tubigrip bandage doubled over to reduce the aggravation from my shoes. But I don’t think it’ll be healed by Sunday morning.


I’m glum about this, and have had a rotten day because of it.In fact it was a two-trips-to-the-vending-machine sort of day, so I shall have to make nutritional recompense tomorrow,

Friday reflections part 1 – running

Last night was the final 10 miles before next week’s race. I didn’t time it or take any heart rate readings; I just wanted to run the distance however I felt like it.

It went well, despite straying onto conversation topics that rile one or both of us. Running and ranting tends to have the effect of speeding me up, that’s how come I could do a 10k in record time a few weeks ago. Mark even changed the subject at one point onto something controversial just to speed us down Ipswich Road on the power of the rant.

On average we seem to have stuck to 10min miles. It’s slow, but a good companiable pace I now know I can maintain over a fair distance. I don’t suppose Paula Radcliffe gets much conversation in on her training runs, but then I’m not doing this for a living. I am content to know I could retrieve a piece of case law from a legal database faster than she could, and that’s what I get paid for.

It’s only 8 weeks since my first faltering two mile circuit, when I had to walk part of the way. However, that was along the horrrendously dull part of Ipswich Road so in retrospect I am not surprised. What I am surprised at is how I’ve been able to increase the distance without suffering any of the aches and pains I have developed in the past, and even how some niggling pains have gone right away from running and strengthening different muscles. It’s the benefit of keeping it slow, I suppose.

What’s also great is that my perceptions of distance have changed. Last summer I struggled on a 2-mile there-and-back run from my flat whenever I tried it. Last night the first two miles felt like a warm-up. Now I am confident that I can jog up the hill to the park, run for a strong 20-30 minutes and jog home. And that’s great for a trivial reason too. I love the park, but when I’m walking there by myself I always feel somehow that I ought to have a dog with me…


That 8 miles last week was awful

Well, we did it, four laps of the two mile circuit including bounding up the ‘Steps of Triumph’ – a small set of concrete steps up to the local shops (to the chippy, which we have to run past, in fact!, which always feel like a much bigger climb than they really are). However, it was horrid. I was tired, and hadn’t had much of the right food to eat. I was also really wound up about being in my new job. I felt like a sack of potatoes trying to ballet dance when running along.

8 miles in 90 minutes, including stretching at the end of each lap, wasn’t too bad though. Not as slow as it felt. And we had a really fast last half mile when we met a bunch of lads who called us joggers – that was a definite incentive to speed up! Shame that both Mark and I were far too knackered to retaliate that we’d done 7.5miles by that point, hardly just a quick lap of the estate.

Tomorrow we go for ten. Five attempts at the Steps of Triumph.

Getting lost in Highwoods

This morning I ran for 1hr 20, 4 miles of pavement sandwiched around a lot of fun, boggy, wet leaves running in Highwoods Country  Park. I saw a deer, and plenty of squirrels, which was great. But the route I’d planned (or thought I’d planned) went a bit pear shaped – a slight failure of sense of direction. It was a bright sunny morning, very few people around, a real treat to be out and enjoying the park.

The reward for this is a nice Adnam’s Explorer.