Category Archives: Church

Tries to look repentant – fails miserably.


About a month earlier than in previous years, the collapse of the weekly routine has begun. Normally, this would be stressing me out significantly, for this means less work, and less pay until at least the end of October. But, this time, I am completely unfazed. For, Wednesdays have been shrouded in a veil of gloom all year, and the hours have been silly anyway. Only 3.50 of them, but such stressful ones. I’ve mostly managed to get to do some organ practice on a Wednesday afternoon, mainly as a de-stressing tactic, but some weeks those 3.50 hours felt like about 50 hours, and I was too tired to go. Which I have not liked one little bit.

Today, however, the veil of gloom has suddenly completely lifted, as we realised it was going to be counter-productive for all concerned if we maintained the routine for another seven weeks, and the day was officially removed from all our timetables.. I’ve agreed I will work if needed for cover on Wednesdays, but otherwise, I will be using them for music-related work until the end of the academic year.

I couldn’t believe quite how excited I got about it. In  fact, it’s possibly just as well I am off to talk to the one to whom I talk about all matters of great and vital importance next week, because I am quite convinced it’s very significant. I’m sure I’m not supposed to be excitedly showing my line manager in my main job all the music I’m going to go and play, and work on, because I’ll have more time to practise. Fortunately, I’m quite well known for such enthusiasms now. But, it is also suggesting to me that I ask strongly to stick to my contracted hours in my main job next academic year,  and get more music-related work. For, Main Job does earn me enough to pay the bills, just, and Music Stuff earns my fun money. But music nurtures my soul in so, so many different ways instead, it’s more than worth creating the room and the space for it.

Some days later than planned…

Blinks… Yawns… Wha…!

OK, so I’m on the 12th day of 16 days away from main job, but on the first day with nothing planned, nothing to do, no distractions (I’ve spent the past two days doing something I’d offered to do a while ago, but only got given the files to go through this week! Think I’ve found the issues…)

Yes, yes, yes, I have a list of around the house tasks I could be doing, but I don’t want to do any of them. Well, not today or tomorrow, or even the next day, at any rate.

I always knew in my mind when I took on the organist’s job, that Holy Week would be the pivotal point. Starting in October meant getting Christmas and Holy Week in the first six months. Oh, and the Sundays I dislike most, and have managed to avoid for the last three years. (For the curious, that would be Remembrance, Harvest, Mothering Sunday – Mothering Sunday merits a whole post of its own, but when I’ve processed it a bit more.) I’ve done a couple of funerals, some schools services, and some other types of services and got a good idea of how the clergy and readers work now. (Very useful, that one.) I’ve got some ideas up my sleeves for changing some things, but nothing drastic. I’ve found out what works, and what doesn’t, and it feels like that organ is my instrument now. I still have occasional moments of pressing the wrong button, but there are less and less of them. I still occasionally  drown everyone out by making too much noise. But, if the vast majority of the congregation will sit at the back, right under where the sound comes from, then I am completely unrepentant. The only cure for that one is to move and sit in the pews nearer the front!! [Editor: Come on, these are Anglicans. you know they don’t sit in the front pews unless forced to do so.]

I’d attended Holy Week services in whichever church I’d been in over the previous three years, (long term readers will be aware there have been several!) and apart from one or two moments, never felt part of the proceedings. Yes, I would’ve described them as “good”, and looking back at the blog posts of those weeks that’s exactly what I did. But, it was from the point of view of someone who was looking in and assessing, someone with a tick-sheet noting what was and wasn’t done. Someone who was there, appreciating, but not really a part of the whole. Which, I guess, sums up those three years in the church wilderness beautifully.

This year, I was kind of expecting to be an observing, assessing type again. I had a clear role, appropriate music, and hymn accompanying to be provided, without distracting from the liturgy. I think, on the whole, that was all done pretty well. The errors were all my own, and mostly hidden ones. I’ve always tried to remain fairly detached emotionally during Holy Week, if only because the emotional roller coaster can be huge, and it’s flipping hard work playing the organ or any musical instrument, if  you’re crying so much you can’t see the music. (OK, so that so nearly happened on Mothering Sunday – except, I managed to delay it until coffee time, then just stayed at the organ and played and played and cried and played and cried…. )

The biggest difference was that I seem to have become a part of the church community in much deeper ways than I’d realised, and going through Holy Week with your community is one totally different experience from the attending everything in Holy Week in the hopes that this bunch of people will become your community. Because, they didn’t. But this lot have. Maybe battling the week together through snow helped… Or the complete and utter fit of the giggles we nearly all had around Tuesday, no, I can’t remember why either, but I do remember thinking “I do love you lot!”.

No, I didn’t choose this lot – in fact, this church had been on my list of churches to avoid at all costs because of past connections. They didn’t really chose me either, (well, they agreed to the suggestion!) but they seem to have got used to me.

So, not only did I provide the music, I went through the complete gamut of emotions on the roller coaster with everyone else as well. Indeed, it was all very good.

What I have been doing about lately

I am rapidly losing patience with my gas supplier. The saga of the meter inspection, which I thought was over and done with, has a new chapter. How they can decide I need to arrange for a bi-annual inspection only fifteen days, seven hours and fourteen minutes after the last one, I am not sure, and neither is the customer services person.

The accuracy is due to the start of the time I made the phone call after incredulously opening both letters informing me of the need for an inspection, and the threat of court action if I did not arrange for this.  [Edited to add: This saga is in addition to the safety checks I’d been having done in the previous post. But, it still involved me taking an unpaid day off work, which, on this occasion, was totally avoidable if I’d been given the correct information the first time round.]

I had my first Mothering Sunday in church since 2009. My feelings about it haven’t changed since writing this post. It was every bit as awful as I thought, but I did pretty OK until I suddenly couldn’t cope with the post service refreshments, went back to play the organ whilst I was waiting, and couldn’t stop crying for ages… oops. Ah well, I got a lot of practice done whilst waiting for my equilibrium to be restored.

It didn’t help that there had been a bit of an interesting week previously where it had to be explained clearly to some of those I work with that being single and living alone by choice did not constitute grounds for writing someone off as clueless about relationships, and the human race in general. Neither did my religious convictions contribute to my supposed cluelessness. Actually, in retrospect, my colleagues and I reckon I am probably far too clued up for the liking of this lot, and it was easier for them to decide I couldn’t possibly understand them, as I seemed to live in such a totally different world. It’s done some good, as we’ve broken through whatever barrier it was that was preventing me working effectively with this group, and we’re back on a reasonably even keel again. Until the next time.

Then, I’ve been gearing myself up to do things I’ve been holding back on doing whilst getting settled into being an organist again. Like, sorting music out properly, clearing out files of papers dating back to 1995 (so far!!) working out how best to organise myself… Days in Holy Week will, I think, be spent in getting myself properly organised now I know what works! I’ve also formally requested for my main job to be contained to 4 days a week from September, rather than the hours spread over five days. It can be done, I know, especially given the departments I’ve been working in. However, I’m applying for similar jobs more locally. It would make sense!

But, mostly, I just seem to be trotting along, contently and enjoying whatever comes along.

Whilst there’s a lull…

So, term finished, and organ playing took over!

It’s been one of the nicest terms ever. Even with the group that seemed to be really awful at the start of the year. We’ve come to a set of amicable agreements, and it mostly works. They’ve just provided me with my extreme moments!! (There was a week we concluded they may not want me directly involved in their group conversations, but they do want me to hear them, as I’ll then do something about whatever I’ve heard…but the day they all settled down to do some serious work on a Friday afternoon, and produced it, was a real highlight.) I could’ve done without the pressure of possibly being observed at any point in the final two weeks. I was quite miffed that this never happened, but relieved as well!

Then, term ended, and organist duties started. One Christingle, (well, that was really on the Sunday before term ended) one end of term service, (for a school that finished after me) one funeral, one Nursing Home carol singing and one Sunday service down. Crib service, Midnight and Christmas Morning to go… Should have been another service in there this afternoon, but it’s changed time, day and type of service.  One re-ordering of the music files in church, one contemplation of a washing of the currently redundant choir robes, one grapple with the lectionary/hymnbooks for January, and some of February. (Yes, I know – it’s scary, but I’m done with hymn choosing until Lent, then will have a glorious Lent/Easter choosing in February.)

I’ve even cleaned the house, sorted some of my own financial matters out, and done a shopping spree whilst it was relatively quiet. Sometimes, it’s definitely worth working in a different county to the one in which I live when the holiday dates work in my favour!

Then, there’s the fact I am settled in a church, and it is the right place to be. Which is probably the very best Christmas present of all after these three years of wondering if I’d ever be OK with being an active part of a worshipping community again.

New routines

It’s taken a month, but I’m now well and truly in the swing of the two job thing again!

Main job has settled down, hours have shifted around, and a bit of a clear space has been created so I can get some organ practice in on a weekday. I’m fitting in some regular piano practice and that’s helped loads, but I do need to practice regularly at an organ.

I have learnt  I also need to readjust some food routines – I definitely need to eat more breakfast on a Sunday, and have my main meal when I get home from church at midday, especially if I’m going back for an evening or late afternoon session.  I also need to consider eating more substantially at lunch times in the week, or a more substantial breakfast. I’m getting home later, and it’s not great eating later these days.

It’s busy, but good.

I think it was all OK.

…after a lot of practice yesterday and today, then playing for Harvest and Evensong, I think I can describe myself as an organist again. Will need to do lots of getting myself acquainted with the vagaries of the instrument, but it’s coming.

Am tired now.

It’s good to be back where I belong, though.

Am I quite mad?!

So, sometime in the summer, I accepted the post of organist at a church I’d not been going to, but knew of. I’m due to start that soon, with Harvest Festival.

I’d anticipated a work timetable similar to last years, as I already knew I was highly likely to be returning to the same curriculum area. But, I was not anticipating one of the lowest level groups, and therefore, several hours a week of time with students outside lessons, waiting for them in the morning, and seeing them to their transport home in the evenings.

So, I have 35 hours a week of solid contact time. This is partly because we have a staff crisis… as we always do at this stage of the year, and partly because we didn’t anticipate my student to be quite so needy. One day, I would like those who work in education in our government to shadow me for a week, and then try to do my job, on my salary, for a term. As I was heard to say yesterday, in a moment of frustration with moving goalposts, mixed messages and impossible demands from a hierarchy who have never worked in a classroom, “I love my job, I enjoy my students, I work well with my colleagues, but boy oh boy, do I hate the politics.”

I’ve also got what I’d always dreaded this year – a group of giggly girls. However, I seem to be making better progress with them than I thought I might. I work well with naughty boys, but I appear to have a very well behaved group of them this year.  The girls are intent on educating me in matters of fashion and music. I’ve not had the heart to tell them generations of teenagers have tried, and failed. They will learn to accept me as I am, as I accept them as they are… mysteries as we are to each other.

So, combining what is now a real full time job, hours-wise, with a Sunday commitment at a level I’ve not done for three years or more, and the hellish commute does seem to be a little insane. Luckily, I’ve got a month of term to get the full time work off to a good start, before picking up the Sundays.

Whilst it’s all going to be a bit hectic time-wise, what I’d not banked on was, when I’m in practice, how much music energises me. More and more, I am grateful I have the piano at home, and will be able to have regular access to a church and organ. For, that will also be a huge help. I have missed having a church I feel at home in, and a church where I can  just go in to pray.

I’m also now in my fifth year of the main job kind of work, and tiring as it can be, when it’s going well it feels less and less like “work” and more like fun. (Yes, despite the ridiculousness of this past week, and the heavy load of hours, it’s still fun when it’s going well.) So, ultimately, I think the combination will work. I am going to have to be strict about my off time, though.

Mind you, I’d not expected last nights nightmares about muddled hymn lists, confused mass settings, and my feet not able to reach the pedals. (They do, it’s the best organ I’ve ever played for that one.) I am going to make cake as an antidote!

Trying to untangle the complexities of a Japes and church

So, what are these truths about me and church?

I seem unable to settle into a church of my choosing. If I tell myself it doesn’t matter where I go, church is church, where two or three are gathered etc,…. Trouble is, for the last five years or so, church has rarely been the place when I’ve found  God or more crucially where God’s been able to get a word in edgeways. There have been tantalising glimpses, there have been moments when I thought this  barren stretch of boringness and monotony was over, but no. I’ve stuck with going week by week, especially when I made a promise to go to communion every week, even if I didn’t want to or feel like it, even when the temptation was to give up. I’ve maintained some kind of Bible reading and prayer routine, which has been patchy and variable at times, but which has been there. Just. Luckily, a couple of decades or more of praying the Daily Office meant a routine was pretty strongly engrained, and even if it was just a couple of Psalms or one of the set readings for the day, and some mumblings, an effort has been made

What has not gone away over these years is the strong, strong sense of God having a purpose for me. I still don’t know exactly what that purpose is, and I only know I’m fulfilling it when a sense of all being right with my world clicks in. I do know that purpose changes… Some of it hasn’t – I still seem to thrive best in working environments which horrify others. So, my unruly, scruffy, unemployable, but mostly loveable teenagers are kind of stuck with me. I  I kept trying to change jobs, it hasn’t happened! But the job keeps growing with me. (I know, this is education, this is a horrific economic climate – I am possibly the only person who seems to have a safe job!) It would seem God wants me there!

I tried to counteract my working life with a very different kind of church. They all happened to be nice, middle of the road, middle-class churches. All excellent churches if they are what you are looking for, or where God wants you to be. Once, I’d’ve really enjoyed them, and happily found a place as part of the church community there. I’ve really stunned myself by being totally unable to settle. Week after week, I”ve been forcing myself to go, forcing myself into exchanging the Peace, force myself into going up to communion. I gave up on coffee after standing around too many weeks being ignored, or feeling I was being rude by trying to strike up a conversation with someone. There was a growing feeling I didn’t fit in, was never going to and wasn’t wanted being a single middle-aged person, on a low and erratic income, with little spare time.

A large part of me is desperately stubborn and independent. An equally large part is of the understanding that I can do anything I want if I try hard enough… There are strengths to this, but also weaknesses. One of which is I am determined to see a thing through, when the time has long gone to give up! I’m also very good at talking myself into “enjoying” something I am really hating.

Several pennies have recently dropped with resounding clatters.

  • If the church I am going to is not one I would feel comfortable taking any of the teenagers or my colleagues to, then it’s not a church for me.
  • The Peace only makes sense to me in a church or gathering where I am a part of the church community. It so does not make any sense in a church where people are very insistent on exchanging the Peace with me, to the point of prodding me to make me aware of their presence, (but that’s for a different post) but won’t talk to me afterwards.
  • Communion also only makes sense to me when I am part of the whole.
  • If a church asks newcomers for their contact details, then only uses them to make them feel even more guilty about having a low income, and unable to contribute much financially, well, that’s really not the church for me either.
  • The onus is not all on the new person in church to do all the work at becoming part of the church community.
  • If I don’t feel I can be honest about myself from the beginning, which I haven’t been, then it’s not the church for me.It’s a difficult one this. There were good and sensible reasons for being somewhat reticent and the reactions I got when I did explain them were exactly the ones I was wanting to avoid.

Like I said, I’m a very slow learner. I’m very hopeful the next phase of this whole church stuff will be very different.. It already has a very, very different feel about it all. There is a strong sense of God in it all, and a strong sense that I can be myself, and if need be, bring my scruffy, unruly kids along with me and they will be welcome.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve learnt a little more about trusting God, and a little more about forgiving myself for not being able to do what I thought I could. But, somehow, God knows better. I do need to remember that!

Wherein I have surprised myself..

Goodness me. I have been gardening for much of the day. I have quite enjoyed it. When I say gardening I don’t mean anything complicated, I just mean tidying the front hedge, attacking the third of the grassed area with the shears (it does not deserve the name of lawn at the moment) so that when a dry day comes along and I can get the grass cutting machine out, it won’t die of exhaustion (it is on it’s very last gasp anyway) and weeding the paths.

This odd state of affairs may have come about because I have been office bound for weeks now, and it really doesn’t suit me. I know this, my team know this – the team I’d been lent to for two days a week now know this. So, a day of relatively strenuous activity has been very pleasant.

I have also been enjoying  the Olympics. I was staying with friends the opening weekend, and really loved the Opening ceremony, and the events we watched. Now I’m back home in my TV free zone, I’m enjoying the occasional on-line clip of the best bits, and catching the news about it on the radio. It’s sufficient. Actually, I surprise myself every four years by enjoying it more than I think I will!!

I have also, after taking nearly a month to calm down, claimed a most satisfying victory.

I’m also giggling at myself, after realising several truths about me and church. Dear me, I am a slow learner. But, I’m getting there, which is what matters, and, more to the point, I’m getting to where God wants me.

Back to the sofa

It’s the only sensible place to be on a wet, miserable Bank Holiday Monday. As a result, I’ve finally done something I’d been wanting to do for a while – watch the last two Harry Potter films as a whole. I do enjoy the books more than the films, but have enjoyed most of the films, with one exception, in their own right. Also, providing I’ve not read the books recently and have the details in my mind again.

Happy Easter, by the way, to those who are celebrating, and hope Holy Week is going well for those still going through it.

Holy Week was a good experience, on the whole. The bits I was less convinced by were matters of personal preference, rather than incompetence, so I’m not going to dwell on them. Though, I’ve made a note to myself for next year that I am a Dawn Vigil and Eucharist kind of person, not Vigil on Saturday night, and Eucharist the next day.  I’ve probably caused confusion by turning up to most services during the week (I was one of four or five who did so) and am now on smiling/saying “Hello” terms with a few more members of the congregation. I’m happy to leave it that way, though will try going to coffee after the service. I think three months of avoiding it is long enough! Or not… I shall see.

Tomorrow, regardless of the weather, I’m taking myself off out! Not sure where yet, but out. Not having been anywhere but home or church for the last ten days, apart from a supermarket trip, cabin fever is just beginning to set in!