Greenbelt 2014

It’s next week! This time next week I will be packing… and will have finished work as a librarian. Eek! and possibly eek! again. 

I’m speaking again – part of a panel session with friends, talking about transition. The title is Moving swiftly on? Handling the baggage of transition and we’re on at 7.30pm on Sunday, in the Living Room. Nope, I’ve no idea where that is, either, but then not many people do at the moment. It’s odd thinking about Greenbelt and half imagining places and then remembering that those places aren’t there any more. If the conference call we had this week to plan the session is anything to go by, it will be silly, profound and useful in equal measure. 

Panel members are Claire, Kathryn, and Emma. The idea came out of a conversation in the pub (as all good ideas do) about the nature of ministry and how one is temporary (backed up by the 18th camel idea). As I’m about to start training, Emma is settling into curacy; Claire has moved from curate to incumbent, and Kathryn’s gone from parish to Cathedral ministry. We are all part of the chain, moving along, letting go, picking up new things, wanting curtains that fit. 

So. Will I see you in the Jesus Arms? 

End of an era. Got time for a pint? (That’s not a question I’ll stop asking any time soon).

A few people have asked if I’m doing leaving drinks before moving to Cambridge. So I thought I would. One last opportunity to experience the dash across Bishopsgate to Liverpool Street from the Shooting Star? Why not? Even if I’ll not be heading back to Batty Towers, but an as-yet-unconfirmed destination. And as I’ll be in London in any case being trained on using social media I figured 25th was as good a day as any.

So, if you’re around, and you have time for a pint on Thursday 25 September, do please come along. I have reserved a bit of space (it being a Thursday night & everything) so a rough idea of whether I have hugely under- or over- estimated the number of people who are going to be glad to see the back of me, sorry, would like to mark the occasion would be helpful (use the comments to RSVP). The Shooting Star serves quite yummy food (pie).

If I’ll have seen you at Greenbelt or in Colchester or you’re helping me move or I am using your spare room then I really won’t be in the least bit offended if I don’t also see you in London – seriously, don’t travel On Purpose. Does that sound odd? I hope not – I would not want anyone to feel obligated (and my inner critic is already suggesting that I’m out of order expecting people would want to come anyway…which isn’t a cue for you to all tell me nice things, just trying to explain!)

Second ever sermon.

I was asked / invited / strongly suggested it would be a good idea over a pint (take your pick of the most convincing scenario) to preach again before I leave for college. I had nice comments (“my attention didn’t wander” “you weren’t lecturing us” “I couldn’t hear everything you said but I thought it was all right.”)

This is what I said.

Today’s readings at the Eucharist were 1 Kings 3.5-12; Romans 8.26-39; Matthew 13.31-33,44-52.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength, and our redeemer.
When Teresa and I talked about possible dates for me to have a second bash at preaching, I didn’t look at the lectionary – I just went by the calendar. So when I looked at today’s readings, it was rather overwhelming; three passages which all have much one could talk about. It took me quite a long time to decide which bits to focus on and halfway through I wished I’d chosen different elements, which probably serves me right. I’m not going to pay much attention to Solomon’s request for wisdom (‘understanding to discern what is right’) except to note that in this case earlier discernment would have been helpful.

And that for once I think I may have just had enough insight to know that of all Paul’s writings to the Romans, the one bit I’m wise enough to leave well alone today is the topic of predestination. But perhaps I always knew that.

I think first I’m going to look at the quick-fire parables, then look at Paul’s letter. I can’t pretend I am an expert in any of the passages but reading these parables again, and borrowing all the vicar’s books, has given me something to go on.

Firstly, a reminder that these stories were like performance art. Parables were spoken, not read. Hear it; understand it – or not – and then we’re on to the next one. I do wonder, given how much we know the disciples got wrong, just how many of them really had ‘understood all this,’ (from verse 51) or whether any were, possibly, just stretching the truth a tiny amount? If they weren’t, they’re luckier than me and possibly also one or two of you. We can hear these stories many, many times and still be left wondering what the actual point is meant to be. How do we understand Entering the Kingdom of Heaven, for example? For me, it’s not a separate place; but it is what we do when we align ourselves with God’s will, and do his work.

The idea of a tiny seed that grows into a great shrub – well, we can cope with that, I think. And Mia’s work with the junior church garden gives us very concrete reminders of that on a day-by-day basis. Small beginnings, great outcomes. Plants that give us, and the birds of course, food or shelter. And an idea that isn’t mine, but I loved when I read it – the success of the plant might not be in its stature, but in how good a job it does in providing that food or shelter.

Jesus used everyday examples that would chime with his audience. Domestic baking, farming, fishing; a man in commerce and trade. Perhaps we’d have call centre handler, teacher, librarian, mechanic, IT consultant or accountant as the jobs that we’d understand.
I’m sure you all know that leaven came from previously fermented bread. We tend to think of it as yeast, but it was a bit different – still an active ingredient, though And my reading tells me that because fermentation was associated with something evil (think about Passover, when Jewish folk will clean every atom of leaven from their home) this would have surprised Jesus’ hearers. The Kingdom of Heaven likened to something bad? Well, not quite, but the illustration – the unseen action of an active ingredient – might well have been remembered more clearly because it had shock value.

The thing about living in Colchester is that there’s always the possibility of finding a nice hoard of Roman coins at the bottom of the garden. If we did find actual buried treasure would that be life changing? I’ve always felt a bit sorry for the original owner of the field, until discovering that Jewish law operated on a kind of finder’s keepers basis – so what looks like apparent underhandedness was actually perfectly legitimate.
I think there are two things we can take away from these parables. One, perhaps the obvious point, is that the Kingdom of Heaven is worth giving everything for. Remember, I think ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ means ‘understanding and doing God’s will.’ Whether we discover the kingdom on purpose (like the Pearl Merchant) or by accident (the chap digging in the fields) the result is the same. It is worth selling everything for. Everything. Really everything? That’s a tough call – as one who is currently assessing every single thing I own to decide what to do with it, I know for sure there are some things I really don’t want to let go of. Am I falling short, right there?

What are we prepared to abandon, in order to find the Kingdom of Heaven? What might be getting in the way? Does it feel too hard? So do we just rebury the treasure, walk away, get on with the day job? Perhaps ‘doing God’s will’ sounds like such a major undertaking we forget that our small actions are vital. Tiny seed, big result.

The other point is that God is working with what is there. That tiny seed needs soil, water, and sunlight; the bread has flour and oil, and the chap who just happened to be furtling around in someone else’s fields certainly didn’t have a shiny beepy metal detector. It’s us – we are the raw ingredients – whatever shape or form we take. We are the raw materials that God has to work with. We who have much faith and we who have little. We who have tried to follow and we who have failed. We are not waiting around for a better version of ourselves or a perfect community to evolve before we can get on with it. And that invitation to get on with it, is an invitation for everyone.

The final parable in today’s Gospel talks of fishermen, bringing all their catch ashore. The kind of dragnet fishing that was common in Jesus’ time meant that all kinds of fish were gathered in at once, and the good, the bad and the ugly were separated at the end. In the same way, we cannot discriminate against those for whom the Kingdom is open – which, by the way, is everyone: the keen & the reluctant; those who we like and those we constantly struggle to try to love; the nice and the annoying. It’s not our job to decide who is a Proper Christian.

And this is my neat link into the passage from Romans, where Paul reminds us of this point. We don’t condemn, for it is God that justifies – I understand that to mean that God decides who is in or out, not us; based on our faith and our relationship to him. A bit like predestination, I’m parking that one there for today.

It’s enormously encouraging to be able to return to the idea that it is OK to not know how to pray. Sometimes the world just feels like too big a place, too violent a place to know where to start. I weep over one child killed in Gaza and already my heart and my head are too full of the other hundreds at risk that day elsewhere from violence or disaster – in too many places to be able to do much more than say ‘God, help them, help us to stop this, God, why is this happening?’

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.

We are not alone, left to work out ourselves how to be the transformation in the world, doing God’s work. I guess if you film a loaf rising in stop motion it would be obvious that there was something going on when you played it back. But standing next to it for a few minutes, you might not notice a difference. That’s sometimes how life feels, I think. We notice the major changes, but not, perhaps the smaller ones whilst they’re in progress. When we are brave enough to allow the Spirit to work in us we might find ourselves doing things that feel pretty obvious – we are called to be counter-cultural, to swim against the tide, to stand up and be counted (pick your cliché). Jesus was not one to stay quiet and not draw attention to himself: and he was a troublemaker. Being a Christian will make trouble for us. Paul pretty much promises us that. We, here in our safe suburban community, can only guess at the horror the Christians in Iraq are facing. Legal scuffles about workplace dress codes or who does what in a bed and breakfast fade into nothing compared to this real, frightening, life-taking persecution and we are helpless in the face of it. Protest feels futile – so all we can do is pray.

If I’m honest, I’m not a big fan of people quoting chapter 8, v 28 (We know that all things work together for good for those who love God). It can look like it is used a sticking plaster by people who don’t want to engage with someone else’s deeper pain. But, also, I know the sense that life isn’t random, and God is in control does need to be reinforced from time to time. Daily, perhaps, or hourly in those real times of crisis.

Paul really does mean ‘all things,’ not ‘all nice things’ or ‘all things with a happy ending.’ Look at the list of things in verse 35 – hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword. He wasn’t expecting Christians to have an easy time of it; and if this is a list of things we can expect – and that is after we’ve given everything up – he’s not exactly selling it, is he?

But. And it’s a big BUT. We are more than conquerors. And nothing, none of the nasties in the world, will separate us from God’s love. I do love the list here – neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation – just in case the list wasn’t comprehensive enough; Paul tacks on the ‘catch all’ at the end.

So, whoever we are, whatever is happening – we are assured of God’s love for us – it is up to us to decide how we respond.

Amen.

Quick blog post about the news about a change of direction

Discernment Process

This may or may not be the worst-kept secret in Christendom. Judging from the response from Twitter & Facebook, there are plenty of folk who were still surprised.

On this diagram, which more or less explains the process, I’m at the ‘buy a new pencil case’ stage. In September I move to Westcott House in Cambridge to begin training for the priesthood. Which in plain English means I am (probably) going to become a vicar. And I began at the bottom left corner of said diagram in about January 2012. (Thank you, Dave Walker, for permission to use this).

I have known since mid-March this year that I had been recommended for training after the selection panel, but my plans were not 100% definite until I had confirmation that I would receive a grant enabling me to study full-time. Confirmation of that arrived last week, and so today I could resign.

It explains, if explanation is necessary, why this blog has been quiet for a while. So much of what I have been doing that was bloggable was related to the process of discernment – deciding whether the idea that I might be called to ordination was inspired, or just the result of too much cheese close to bedtime – that I have had to self-censor. I have blogged, more or less anonymously at changeschangesfleeting.wordpress.com but as I now can be more public about what is happening, that will be mothballed from now on and the story will be picked up here.

And it also, I think, explains why I haven’t picked up the threads of professional library activity again after the post-PhD ‘year off’ I promised myself. The space has just been taken up by reading, preparation, activity related to the discernment process. Watching the tweets from Vancouver, and being at BIALL in Harrogate was A Bit Weird. I would have loved to have been in Vancouver, but I knew it was not a sensible way to spend time or cash, when I don’t need to ‘invest’ in my library career. Knowing there are great SLA colleagues I might not see again was hard, though. Just one last cocktail with the Kentucky chapter, or one last BNA/Bloomberg breakfast with Legal Division…? (Quick edit: am looking forward to final bash with SLA Europe colleagues on 16 July).

In practical terms, I will be handing the keys back on Batty Towers on 8 September, and I finish work at Linex on 21 August in time to go to Greenbelt on 22 August. Most of my belongings will go into store for the time being. I go to Cambridge on 27 September, for two years, probably following the BTh programme.

Many, many people have encouraged and cheered me on over the last two or three years –thank you for those who kept confidentiality. It is now Officially Common Knowledge, and I can breathe easily. It’s not been terribly easy leading a double life – lucky I am headed for the C of E, and not the CIA…

Book review: Jesus the Storyteller


Jesus the Storyteller

Stephen I. Wright
2014
9780281064373
SPCK Publishing

I guess I should have paid a bit more attention to who it was that provided cover quotes for this book. If I had noticed they were all academics, perhaps I wouldn’t have been quite so surprised at the scholarliness of this work. For all that this is described as an ‘accessible’ work, it is first and foremost an academic thesis.

I knew from the first couple of pages I would be out of my depth. I could perhaps have used a more gentle introduction – this felt very much like diving in the deep end of the thesis. I clearly recall being absolutely daunted by the first few PhDs I read in my own discipline of librarianship when I was relatively unfamiliar with the subject area – the same feelings resurfaced here, feeling I ought to know more about what is being discussed. However… once I had gotten over that initial shock I began to see the arguments and pointers and get a much better feel for the shape of the book. This review probably does not, therefore, do this book justice as I’m not really enough of a theologian to be able to locate it in the wider context.

So here’s what I made of it. The central idea is that over time, the parables have been picked at, pulled apart, and analysed to within an inch of their lives. The first few chapters present an overview of how the parables have been dissected and discussed in recent and older literature. Theological viewpoints are contrasted. The idea that in telling parables, Jesus was revealing many layered truths is challenged. Wright’s thesis is that these layers of meaning have completely obscured the point that the parables were performed as stories, and he therefore aims to encourage us to think about what parable-as-story means.

The formal form of storytelling is discussed – something else I’d never really thought about – as is the role of performance in an oral culture. That Jesus’ culture was predominantly oral was not a new idea – but the idea of the stories being ‘performed’ as they were handed down was. The explanation of the dynamics of storytelling set lots of interesting trains of thought off in my mind.
Wright moves on to give an overview of how the parables are treated in the Gospels, weaving in the idea that they can be seen as ‘scripts for performance rather than literary texts.’ In other (my) words, after rather a long time of the analysis of the text of the parables, we can benefit by going back to first principles. And one of those first principles might be ‘performed, not read.’
The latter part of the book presents the parables and invites us to think about character, setting, plot, point of view for each one – plus a reflection on the point or significance for the original hearers. It concludes by suggesting there are two overall conclusions about the role of parables in our understanding of the historical Jesus. Firstly that they perhaps tell us less about theology or message or thinking than has been supposed. Secondly that they tell us more about Jesus’ praxis – not least that storytelling was part of his way of being.
This is a careful, academic approach to a significant aspect of Jesus’ life. It is an accessible read – it is clearly structured, with good links between ideas and sections. The path of argument is well laid out for the reader to follow, as befits a book based on a PhD thesis. I’d like to have time to read this book again, more slowly and carefully (and with a theological dictionary). I’m intrigued by what is a glimpse into a wider world of scholarship that is unfamiliar to me and I’d like to be able to explore it more fully.

Who would I recommend this book to? I think Sipech would enjoy this as a read.

Extremely windy Great Bentley Half

I haven’t blogged about running for a while. I only have a tale of woe here! That was my fifth Great Bentley half, and the hardest by a long shot. 2.21.30 is chip time – the Runkeeper is more or less the same, but I had it running a little bit before we started because it was so cold. And windy. I’ve not mentioned the wind yet. It was windy. The sort of in-your-face-make-it-feel like you’re hardly moving kind of wind. The course loops around, so some parts were pleasant – out of the wind, with the sun out, it might almost have been nice. There were snowdrops, and daffodils starting to show themselves, should you have been interested. But, oh my, when you turned a corner and hit the wind head on it was dreadful. Sapping not only energy, but the will to live. I think my split times show pretty much that this happened somewhere around 7 miles. Not sure why. Mentally, I didn’t feel like the Inner Sergeant Major had deserted me, as happened during the Royal Parks in 2012. Maybe I am more tired than I have noticed. Maybe it’s the first time in ages I’ve run a long race on my own, and I had forgotten how that feels like. None of my tricks to myself seemed to make the slightest bit of difference: hit the wind, legs stopped wanting to run. The final 0.1 mile on grass was awful! It might be more fun when you’re finishing in a crowd but by 731st you’re on your own.

Splits (watch times, not Runkeeper)

1       9.53
2       9.53
3       10.06
4       10.11
5       9.49
6       9.42
7       10.43
8       10.51
9       11.12
10      12.07
11      12.43
12      11.10
13      11.51

Westcott Foundation: Resources list

SOCIAL MEDIA, HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS, MISSION & EVANGELISM IN TODAY’S CHURCH

RESOURCES

Website design

Church 123.com: commercial site offers advice on what to avoid.

Ideas on using colour.

Email newsletters

Mailchimp: create, send, and track email newsletters

Blogs & websites

Tumblr: Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors to your theme’s HTML.

Pinterest is a pinboard –style photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies.

WordPress for websites: web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. You download it to your own host.

WordPress for blogs: a hosted version of the open source package where you can start a blog in seconds without any technical knowledge.

Drupal – free software package that allows you to easily organize, manage and publish your content, with an endless variety of customization.

Vine: mobile service that lets you create and share short looping videos.

Soundcloud: audio platform that enables sound creators to upload, record, promote and share their originally-created sounds.

Audioboo is a mobile tool for audio producers to record, upload and share audio.

Further ideas

Diocese of Norwich

Useful blogs

Ideas from the Cartoon Church.

Churchmarketingsucks.com (US)

Commercial providers

Church Insight

Church123.com

Useful sites for importing/ linking to content

Basic information on faith from www.rejesus.co.uk

Beginners’ guide to prayer from the C of E

RSS feeds

C of E for daily prayer

Methodist Church daily prayer

Accessibility

Abilitynet – links to a number of resources to help ensure sites are accessible

RNIB

Dyslexia

The most Mondayish of Mondays. 5 January 2014

(This is my first – and possibly only – attempt at a sermon, and it is for Epiphany 2014. The Gospel reading is Matthew 2: 1-12, the part where the magi show up. Thank you to the many, many people who helped me with preparation for this). 

Tomorrow is probably the most Monday-ish of Mondays. All celebrations may seem long past, as we join the school run traffic jams or shiver on a platform or begin any one of the mundane jobs which mark out the rhythm of a normal week. Will we expect to see God in that ordinary-ness and familiarity?

This Gospel story is very familiar, isn’t it? We know about the wise men: there weren’t necessarily three of them, they were astrologers, they showed up a long time after the shepherds.

Wise men nearing the end of their living room journey
Wise men nearing the end of their living room journey

Is it just me who sets up their nativity with the holy family on one side of the living room, and the magi on the other? They travel across the living room bit by bit between Christmas and Epiphany. Which since they’re only an inch high, can take a suitably dignified length of time.

So what do today’s familiar readings have for us afresh?

I think we have two ways of looking at the same thing. Paul is writing to the Gentiles, telling them how they are included in the kingdom. It’s not just for Jews.

And we have the example of the non-Jewish, pagan astrologers turning up to worship Jesus, king of the Jews. From the very beginning, all can approach him. His kingdom is not just for Jews.

So of course the message we have here is that the good news is for everyone, not just the chosen Jewish people, which I guess isn’t new news to anyone here. But I think it is also about our sense of place: where we expect to find God in the world, and what that means for us as Christians, facing a dreary Monday morning.

The wise men went to Jerusalem first – and frightened the natives by asking for the King of the Jews. They made sufficient noise on their arrival that they were summoned by Herod – who told them what he had learned from the scribes and the chief priests – and sent them on their way to Bethlehem.

Actually, I’ll confess that having heard this passage a gazillion times I only noticed this bit of chronology for the first time this year. I’d always assumed the wise men went straight to Herod, let the cat out of the bag, realised their mistake, got their bearings and ploughed on to Bethlehem and the right king to worship. Not that they actually landed in Jerusalem with no specific destination.

The Chief priests and scribes stayed put, though, after interpreting the prophecies. This is also perhaps puzzling.

Their own scriptures had just told them where their next king had been born. Did they take Jesus’ arrival for granted? Were they so caught up in their role as Chief Priest or scribe that the disruption was one they wanted to ignore?

In my line of work we talk about disruptive technologies – things like smartphones or satnav that change the way things are done.

If you ignore those changes, one day you discover that the old ways are no longer there – you can no longer assume people learn how to read a road map, for example, if they rely on sat nav.

So for me the idea of the Chief Priests and scribes ignoring Jesus and sticking with their source of authority in Herod is a bit like a map maker not realising the power of sat nav as a disruptive force and being put out of business by the new technology.

We, on the other hand, need to pay close attention to the arrival of the infant Jesus – like the wise men – so we can see, and amplify, and be, the disruptive elements. If we are charged with nurturing God’s Kingdom (as we pray every time we say the Lord’s prayer) we need to challenge the status quo, or injustice and unfairness when we see it.

If we ignore those signs, perhaps we will find ourselves as caught out by an apparent troublemaker as the next generation of chief priests and scribes were by the adult Jesus. So, the wise men arrived in Jerusalem looking for a king. They would perhaps not have been surprised to be summoned to Herod’s palace. Because that is where you’d expect to find a king, right? But the one thing I take away from this passage every year is that God isn’t only in the obvious places.

OK here is the bit where I get to say, ‘when I was in the Holy Land…’ When I was in the Holy Land what struck me was how little I was interested in the churches. Where a whole landscape resonates with the life of Christ, I didn’t need to be in a building.

Back in dreary England on a dark midwinter evening then yes – a beautiful church built to the glory of God is one of the best places to be to help to orientate myself and my thoughts and prayers to the proper worship of an infinite creator.

But they are not the only places and if we save our expectation of God for one hour a week in a particular building, are we limiting our experience or understanding of what ‘God with us’ really means? Do we limit our ideas of how we can approach Him?

In today’s Epistle Paul tells us we can approach God with boldness and confidence. He doesn’t say that we have to approach with boldness and confidence in a specific place, at a specific time.

He just says, I’m here to tell you Gentiles that you are fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus. Which is lucky for us, really. Oh, and Paul wasn’t writing from a grand temple, or the palace of an exalted religious leader – he was in prison.

Yet church is still an important place – over Christmas we welcomed more than a thousand people through our doors for their celebration of the birth of our Lord. And we didn’t, I hope, turn anyone away or ask for a certificate of qualification. A friend tells me that in India the church is respected across all religions because the cross is seen as a sign of service. And for us the church as a building does, I hope, still stand for something in the community – a place where all are welcome, regardless of their circumstances.

We should not limit ourselves and our faith to only what happens in this building and we need to be open to see where else the light is in the dark places out there.

It is an interesting tension for our church leadership to maintain the building as a beacon, and nurture us regulars to be mission-inspired. There’s probably going to be a lot more talk about that in 2014 as the Diocesan anniversary year kicks off.

So, tomorrow, as we face the most Monday-ish of Mondays, let’s live with the idea that we don’t have to look for God in the obvious places. Every time there’s a bit of extra love, or compassion, or generosity, we see a bit more of God’s work in our lives and world.

It’s easy to look at a beautiful sunrise and praise God and his creation. It’s easy to feel virtuous and heroic for the faith if we do something obviously self-sacrificial for a stranger.

I suspect the challenge is in allowing ourselves to see God in the other four hundred interactions we have during the week – on dismal days, on the phone to the call centre, in the queue on the A12.  Because he is there. So let’s approach our God with confidence and courage. Let’s be like the wise men and let’s be prepared to find him in the ordinary.

Amen.

 

Janathon 2014

And so it begins. Janathon 2014 is here. The challenge: to run (or exercise) every day, and to blog or tweet about it.

Juneathon was a bit wonky on account of going to Israel. Janathon 2013 wobbled because of injury. Janathon 2014 is only going to work if I am not lazy and I walk to and from work (1.5 miles each way)… but it’s a great incentive to re-establish weekday evening running in my not-so-new work routine.

And we begin with a New Year’s Day ParkRun.

Changes, chances and identity.

Who am I?

I blogged a little while ago about finding ghosts of my past self in Hatton Garden (not hard, they were in the pub where I left them).

Something else has been going on, too, about my whole identity and who I am, and what I do. The first person, by the way, to tell me that my identity is in being a loved and chosen child of God, is in line for a hard stare. That isn’t helpful – because it only asks the question afresh.

I was described as an ex-law librarian recently… I suppose I am… am I an ex-librarian? I don’t think so – I think being a librarian is a choice for life – but in moving away from the City law firms, I’ve left behind a few things I had come to take for granted. At first I thought this was only about external appearances, but now I am not so sure.

I don’t wear the same clothes to work any longer. I still have the dresses and jackets and smart flat shoes, because I may well make site visits to clients in the future. But it’s not core. So what do I wear when I no longer have that ‘uniform’? When I can actually make choices about what I look like, no longer an identikit businesslike person – it feels odd…

I’ve almost forgotten how much Iiked wearing boots and skirts. Or boots generally. When your weekday wardrobe is so smart, weekends become jeans-time. So I have nothing much in between, really. People in church have really only seen me once or twice in a skirt- in four years. Do I need to dress differently? I am not sure. But something is changing around the edges.

At home, I would have clung on to things that define where I am and who I am. Again, now, I am not so sure where, or who I am – so what are the important things? I’m not intending to part with the run of Chalet School books; but what about the back issues of BIALL or SLA journals? Continuing the clothes theme – what about all those things I loved, but don’t quite fit?

I have been so afraid of over-consuming, and of having no money to replace things in future, that I have perhaps forgotten how to pass things on or reuse them. Or frankly just be able to recycle or throw away. I’m hoarding ‘just in case,’ or ‘for memories,’ or ‘because this has been important.’

It doesn’t help that a lot of things are needed – ironing board, sewing kit, hammer, saucepans – just some of the things I’ve never quite found a home for in the flat but that help life run properly. They get in the way, clutter up, making it hard to find things in a hurry, falling on my head…that sort of thing. I have someone coming in on Saturday to help me with this – I fully anticipate it making me feel horrendous. But it is probably necessary…I have lost the ability to see the wood for the trees.

I suppose I am just uneasy at the moment…waiting for criticism of things I have done…answers to questions I can’t look up in the back of the book…wondering what the near future will hold. Sand has shifted since I moved jobs. I’ve looked again at ideas, routines, meals even – that were helpful to me in previous lives and am wondering why I had forgotten them. In turn, I wonder what is important now that I will forget in the future – and that makes this moment feel very transitory.

And that sends me straight back to one of my favourite prayers.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Changes, and chances.