Sunday, December 31, 2006

Quote for the day:

Growing OLD is inevitable,
growing UP is optional

(or so says a birthday card I received... I think it's right! :-)

another year clicks over

Today is my birthday.

This year I celebrate my "Meaning of Life Birthday" ... and if you don't know what that means, I suggest you read The Hitch-hikers' Guide to the Galaxy, and look out for numbers of significance. (and Man of Steel, if you are reading this, and scratching your head wondering what on earth I'm talking about, I will lend you the book/s when I get home, as this is part of your popular culture awareness training that cannot be overlooked!)

This is only the second time in my life that I haven't been in Sydney (or Hobart) with my parents on my birthday, which feels a bit strange, but not all that bad. The folk here in Launceston have been very warm, and I have been invited to a gathering this evening to celebrate the new year and my birthday, so that should be fun.

I used to think that people in their 40s were old... but now that I'm there myself, I don't feel at all old, in fact I feel like I'm only 30-odd (and probably act it too- or at least the "odd" bit! :-) It's interesting how your perspective can change over time.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

In the formal quiet

One of the experiences I have been privileged to have during my placement was to plan and lead a mid-week communion service at Pilgrim UCA (in the centre of Launceston city).

The mid-week communion service happens each Wednesday at lunchtime and is usually a simple, 45 minute service, led by one of the Launceston UCA ministers on a kind of roster basis.

As I'm not yet ordained, I am not able to preside over the communion itself, but I led the bulk of the service, and Tony Duncan, the minister from Pilgrim, presided over the communion, and I helped to serve.

It was a lovely experience, and reinforced the growing appreciation I am developing for worship using a formal, reflective liturgy. We sang a few songs, mostly Taize chants, and one simple hymn, all unaccompanied.

Through experiences such as this, and a few others I have had during my placement, I have also come to really appreciate the great gift I have in my voice, and what an important tool for ministry that it is, and will be in my future ministry. Whilst I have no delusions or aspirations to diva-hood, I am grateful that my voice can carry a tune, and is strong enough to be heard, and to lead in such situations where it may be the only 'musical instrument' available.

Advent, a time to reflect on the coming of Christ

Advent is described in the Uniting Church's version of the Revised Common Lectionary, as:

A season of preparation, beginning on the fourth Sunday before
Christmas, in which the church recalls its hope and
expectation in the coming of Christ, past, present and future.

This is a great description, and certainly, as I participated in the life of the congregations at Newnham and Lilydale during the season of Advent (in preaching, leading worship and other things), I worked hard to encourage people to do this; set aside time to reflect on how Jesus comes to us, again, and again and again...

However, it occurred to me as I was going to bed at around 2:30am on Christmas morning, after a midnight Christmas Eve service (the third service for the day), and anticipated getting up early to lead an 8:30am Christmas morning service, that as ministers (or 'trainee ministers'), at Christmas, one of the most significant times of the Christian calendar, (
which also tends to be one of the busiest times of the church year), there is little time for us to actually do what we are encouraging our congregation members to do, that is, to draw aside from the busyness of life and reflect on the wonder of the coming of Christ.

I see this as a tad ironic, but am unsure what, if anything, can be done to change it. At theological college we have the importance of 'self care' drummed into us, as ministry is hard work, and emotionally demanding, and so it's important for us to learn to draw appropriate boundaries, have outside interests and take time off to refresh and recreate, so that we don't burn out. However, at times like Christmas and Easter, it is necessary for us to be on deck and working hard to serve those to whom we minister.
My supervisor commented to me that Christmas is a time when we can't always be as creative as we would like to be, as there is just so much to do (with extra worship services and other seasonal activities) that there often just isn't time to create something out of nothing for every occasion. The "don't reinvent the wheel" policy was used to great effect in the fact that I got to deliver my Christmas Homily 4 times (at two different Carols services, at a chapel service in an aged care facility and in a special service in a dementia unit)- each time slightly modified to fit the congregation, but essentially the same base message.

Perhaps this is one of the sacrifices that is necessary in this line of work and ministry (and allowable, as opposed to the more general, unhealthy workaholic tendencies that the college is trying to train out of us), and it may be that as I move into life as a minister, I may need to get used to having a personal 'belated Christmas' when I do actually get a chance to sit down and stop and reflect.

Time flies...

Almost a month has passed since I last blogged.This is due partly to the fact that I have been flat out busy working in my placement, and partly due to my erratic access to the internet whilst away from home. I am currently in Hobart having a few days off, and staying with a friend, with good access to a phone line to connect my laptop, so I am hoping to catch up a bit with some tidbits of news and reflections on what has been going on.

Rather than writing a long spiel, I will try to do a series of briefer blog entries, with headings, which will hopefully make things easier for you, my beloved readers, to follow.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

It's all in the timing...

The reason for my sojourn in Launceston is because I am doing an 8 week field work placement, working with the Launceston North and Lilydale congregations of the Uniting Church. My supervisor is Rev Brian Cole, the minister of these congregations.

On the day I arrived, Brian took me to visit Lilydale, to see the church building and visit some of the parishoners. On our way back to town (ie Launceston) we encountered a police road block and were diverted via a back road, to avoid the scene of an accident.

It turned out that a 9yo boy from the local District School had been killed when he was hit by a car after he got off the school bus, and ran across the road to where his mother was waiting for him. The whole community of Lilydale was affected by this tragic accident, as it is a rather close knit country town, and most people knew someone who was somehow connected with, or witnessed, the accident.

Brian was asked to take the funeral, in the Lilydale UCA church, and I accompanied him on some pastoral visiting associated with the accident (although we felt it would be an imposition for me to visit the grieving family with him, so I wasn't involved there). I also attended the funeral, and provided whatever support I could on the day.

It was certainly a very intense time, and an invaluable (if distressing) experience for me (as Brian said, "you never really get used to this kind of thing; there will always be 'firsts' no matter how much experience one has in ministry" ).

I am very grateful for the learning experience of following Brian as he planned and conducted the funeral, and learning from his wisdom and experience there. I hope too, that my presence may also have provided a bit of collegial support for him, as he had to deal with holding things together and caring for the grieving family and friends, despite what was happening in his own feeling world.

Greetings from Down South

I am in Launceston, have been here for just over a week now, and am enjoying being "home" (well, kind of).

I am also working on a rinky dinky little laptop (Lord! give me a proper keyboard!) and dialup access to my ISP, which is really making me appreciate my broadband at home :-)

It feels a bit strange to be in Tassie, but not Hobart, but I'm getting over that, especially as I have my beloved Chickenfeed to frolic in! (It was one of the first shops I had to locate in beautiful, downtown Mowbray last week! :-)

(yes, I know I am tragic :-)