Category Archives: Church

So, how’s it all going?

You know, getting pregnant and giving birth would’ve been quicker than the process of getting this sitting room decorated!!

What started out nine months ago as a “Keep Japes Occupied” exercise over the summer when work dropped to half time hours until the new academic year began,  looks like being completed tomorrow. If I’d not decided yesterday to re-do the ceiling, it could’ve been finished today, but all I’ve got to do tomorrow are the skirting board, the door frames and the meter cupboards.Yes, for some bizarre reason, both gas and electricity meters have their own little cupboards in a room that is, ooooh, 11 feet by 12 feet at most. They do add to the awkwardness of this room!

Still, I remind myself that there has been major structural work done in this room and it’s a much nicer place to be, as a result. I also remind myself I am away from home for long hours, and work in what can be a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding job, and I’ve done a much better job of the decorating as a result of insisting I only do it when I’m home on weekdays, rather than wearing myself out by working on it every Saturday.

It’s also been good to have the discipline of knowing I’ve been going out to the  Holy Week Eucharists at church every evening, so I’ve had to stop and get cleared up, when I might’ve been tempted to keep going… and again, do a poor job because I was rushing.

So, tomorrow should see this job completed, and the ground floor of my home restored to order, just in time for the Triduum. Which was the plan.

That was… unexpected

Work was very unexpected… I will be signing a new contract this week, which is working massively in my favour. Not something I expected at all on being summoned to meet the head of department and her sidekick. (My boss’s boss was how I described it to my students, who wanted to know where I was going, leaving a lesson five minutes early. Outrageous behaviour.)

So, I’m staying put until a more ideal job comes along, and as I’ve no clue what that is, I’m taking this as a Sign I’m in the right place, doing the right thing for now. I’d been half heartedly job hunting, as I do want to have a job closer to home, but maybe this is how it’s meant to be.

Then, yesterday dealt me the interesting blow of a problem in the roof space, one that I don’t think is going to be solved easily or quickly. I think it’s been a problem for a long time… then there was the frozen pipe, but I’ve learnt my lessons very well there, and with the help of three hot water bottles and a hairdryer, that one was solved.

It being Education Sunday (no, I’d not really heard of it either, but it exists) we were in the interesting situation of being a very full church, lots of children, teachers and parents from the church primary school, with very few regulars. I was moved to think it was just as well, as there really wouldn’t have been enough seats otherwise… I may have gone to the Quakers next door in that case! I was charmingly entertained by a beautifully well behaved toddler, who responded well to smiles, and peek-a-boo when it was all getting too boring up front… I think I have a new friend. The intercessions were entirely predictable – prayers for teachers and pupils in schools and universities. I prayed fervently for all the support staff and admin staff, of any kind,  and those in FE and higher education establishments that are not universities.

The weather has brought unexpected entertainment. Well, it was much more interesting watching cars struggle and fail along the little hill, and unexpected bend outside my house. No damaged parked cars, fortunately. Locals know not to park this end of the road, if it can be avoided, in the snow.

We won’t discuss the Rugby. I despair.

Here’s hoping the snow doesn’t freeze overnight. I’d rather work this week, than have to make up hours during half term! I’ve got plans for half term!!

Ideas shake up..

ALERT – this is me thinking out loud, which may not be  a good idea, as I can go round in circles, and confuse myself and others. This post may also get deleted, or I may not react well to comments! You have been warned.

After a long, somewhat depressing conversation with a best friend last night, I am horrified to discover a few things I am deeply not happy about.

One of the things I’ve been finding most difficult over the last couple or years or so is the treatment I’ve been getting  as a single person in the churches I’ve gone to. It would seem that people turning up on their own to church are deeply confusing. I’ve got a long, long list of some pretty inept comments, and attitudes from churches who do pride themselves on being inclusive and welcoming.  I don’t think I go in with a bad attitude, but I’ve often got one by the time I’ve left. I used to be very confident about walking into a strange church and settling in. In fact, I’ve never had to go round churches to find one, wherever I’ve moved to, and I’ve moved a lot. I was always welcomed, and made part of the “family” . But, then in those days, I could do much voluntarily, and when I couldn’t it was understood why I couldn’t.  Now, I work long hours, and commute quite a distance, and have neither time nor energy to offer, I’m brushed to one side and ignored. When I do have time, things have ground to a halt, (I’m horrified at how tied to school terms churches are, and how anything I could get to or do stops in the school holidays.) So, now I’m very wary, and keep myself to myself. From preferring small friendly congregations I can be a part of and contribute to, I’m finding  large ones I can hide in, and slip in and out at either end of services without being noticed far preferable.

My friend suggested to me that what I’ve been experiencing is nothing other than she had been getting all her life in church as a single, competent woman. I was deeply puzzled, as  I have always regarded myself as single for my whole adult life, so why this sudden change of attitude that I’ve been encountering. I’d been blaming myself totally, (for I freely admit I was not at my best for the first year or so) and beating myself up for not being more sociable, more out-going. It could only be my fault I was finding church so hard because churches had not changed, had they?… BUT… After further conversation with best friend, however, it would appear others have not regarded me as single apart from for the last 2.5 years. (when the difficulties started) OK, so I’ve not been married, or in the kind of committed relationship with anyone else that would cause others to regard me as unavailable but I have spent  20 years as a  member of a religious community, 14 of those in life vows. No, I did not regard myself as available if the right man happened by, but I didn’t regard myself as married either.

It’s a sad fact but I’m not that keen on revealing the fact I’ve just revealed. I’m mostly hoping people skim past it, and  move onto more interesting things. But no, they grind to a mental halt, and insist on interrogating me… What, why and how.  As they did for those 20 years. Then the question were about why I chose that way of life. now they are about why did I leave….

A quick ring round of various single friends confirmed my suspicions.  As a member of a religious community, I did not count as single. I was safely part of a group, and therefore not a problem I was clearly identifiable from the moment I stepped into the church. As a single person now, who is much more anonymous, I am a Problem to be solved, a person to be watched, someone to be given Things to Do because I have time, as a single person has no responsibilities. (So, just who exactly does my housework/gardening/finances/shopping if I don’t?) I am a dangerous person who might be after any single man or woman. Or I might be in need of introducing to someone because I don’t want to be single, do I? (Um… yes, I do. If the right person was to arrive in my life, I would change my mind, but for now single suits me fine…)

Or I might be like Adoha, in Rev, fixated on the vicar. Please, I’ve spent way too much time around the church and seen the worst.

Children are to be avoided now, because I might be grooming them, or preying on them. I occasionally ponder bringing my vast collection of enhanced CRB or Disclosure Scotland pieces of paper with me to church every week. Whereas, once upon a time, I’d be surrounded by them in church, because as Sister Japes, I was a safe adult. To be fair, I also don’t want to be involved with children’s or youth work, as I spend my working week with teenagers who are draining. But, it hurts that I have concluded I don’t get involved any more with the odd stray child wandering past, as I used to.

Then, turning up to most services to pray is also regarded as odd for a single, lay person. I’m used to praying with people every day, twice on Sunday and occasionally in the week is not a lot after 20 years 4/5 times a day, 6 days a week. I’ve got a reasonable routine on my own, but it’s not the same.

Sighs… not sure where I go from here. I need to think about it all more. I do think I’ve found somewhere that will be OK, but if it gets too family orientated I may need to slip out for a while. I have found a kind of alternative prayer group which I can slot in and out of. Hopefully, just acknowledging it all may help shift things mentally.

God’s sense of humour..

So, ever since I moved to this bit of the world, I’ve been resisting going to one particular church.  In fact, for the first couple of years here, I think it was a wise choice. Spending most of your adult life living it according to the ethos and charism of a particular saint, (who in my not so humble opinion did a pretty good job of following Jesus, and living his life according to the Gospel, albeit in a bit of an extreme manner at times, and a good few centuries ago now) and on changing that, going to a church dedicated to that saint, well, it wasn’t going to happen!

This year, around favourite saint time, instead of resisting, sulking, hurting like mad, I prayed the offices for the day in full, as I had done for a couple of decades prior to this. It was all OK. It was the start of my toddle back home, church-wise.

But, the question was – where? I’ve been going to one that’s an awkward bus ride away, which didn’t work on Christmas Day, there being no buses!Anyway,  I was still getting the what was now becoming familiar losing the will to carry on at critical points – and despairing. Was I just going to have to accept this as part of church for me now? Was God trying to tell me something and I was just not getting it? Anyway, there were buses today, but I felt like trying this one within easy walking distance I’ve been avoiding!

And, joy, I got through! Crucially, no-one forced me to share the Peace once I’d sat down after shaking hands with my nearest neighbours.

I swear that icon winked at me as I went up for communion! I grinned back… it’s nice to know I’m back on speaking terms with my favourite saint again as well as feeling I’ve found a church that may become home after all.

Going home

The experimental phase has come to a conclusion… I am far too much of a liturgically minded soul to cope with singing a Christmas Carol on Advent Sunday, far too uncomfortable with 45 minutes worth of sermon which seems to me to be almost totally regurgitated Bible commentary and I don’t like being shouted at from the pulpit, and basically, I’m far too Anglican to change…I’ve needed this break from all things Anglican to learn that!

So tomorrow, with the start of the church’s New Year, it’s time to go home.

Brain-ache, bright ideas and “Oh bother it”!

After much deliberation, checking of timing, and being ready to leave as soon as the result was declared,  it was deemed that this morning’s following of the Scotland Argentina game prior to going to church was the plan. It was just as well I had a 25 minute walk to church to recover from the match.

I now have complete and utter brain ache after trying to work out what’s got to happen next if Scotland are to progress… and that’s after reading the Scotland v England Permutations on this page. I have grasped the essentials. I think. I’m also sure Ben and Tom will explain to me tomorrow in great depth. (Ben and Tom, aged 18 and 19 respectively,  may have a poor grasp of basic skills in Numeracy and Literacy, despite all our efforts, and somewhat interesting social skills, but they have an excellent grasp of the important matters in life, such as who needs to do what to get through the Pool stages. They are saddened that I have not put my impressive ability to spot a missing capital letter or full stop within 2 seconds of glancing at their work, to better use. But we get on very well, and Monday morning breaks are devoted to the finer analysis of Rugby during World Cup and Six Nations seasons.)

In between times, I’ve been having Bright Ideas – about where to go next with the painting and decorating, about what to do about Church stuff that continues to bother me, but is no longer overwhelming, and the Getting a Life thing… they’re all percolating!

On the “Oh bother it” front, I’m hoping today’s excessive noise from my new neighbours is an occasional rather than regular event. I have to go to the library on the way home from work tomorrow, as I can’t renew my books on-line again (I was planning to go next weekend!) and who gave my nephew permission to have his 21st birthday?

 

It’s not been what I thought it would be, but there are bonuses.

It’s been a bit of a manic start to the year, but nothing  like the stress of the previous two Septembers. So far, I can cautiously say I am enjoying the new timetable, apart from the three mornings extra early start, (and the corresponding wilting by 9.00 p.m., which I dislike intensely) though I am missing the department I mostly worked in last year. (And, they have been kind enough to say they miss me!)

So, the bonuses? It’s less physically tiring work this year, but there are more stairs to climb. I get home slightly earlier two days a week, to compensate for the hideously early starts. So far, I’m not working to my limits, either mentally or time-wise.

In fact, this might be the year, if this continues and (I’m under no illusion that it will remain this way), that I begin to get a bit of a life outside of work during term-time. In a lot of ways, the summer of three days a week in work and two days a week painting/decorating, meant I kept to a good pattern of work hours and it’s been less of a shock going back to full time work three weeks ago.

In the meantime, I’ve had sufficient energy on Sundays to test out a few theories… which have been interesting.

Disturbed Equilibrium

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

I have been bad-tempered ever since I returned home yesterday, and it’s only just begun to wear off. I haven’t dared do much more painting or decorating for fear of doing such a bad job that I’d have to re-do it when calmer. For starters, I was deeply annoyed to discover a huge chuck of wallpaper has detached itself from the wall in the most awkward place, but not completely, and had been getting cross with the whole stairwell painting anyway. It’s also got to a really bitty lot of things to do, and ideally I need to gloss the woodwork in the room I’ve just finished painting, move as much stuff as I can into that room, then go mad and do the other three rooms, and stairwell all in one go!

Then, I was philosophically (well, as philosophically as is possible when in the kind of strop I’ve been in) blaming my hormones, and currently just try to ride it out by repeating to myself it’s only a short time… but it’s inconvenient, because if I’m that hormonal, doing heavy work is not a good plan.

But, no, on calmer reflection, I think it’s all really a combination of seeing what damage was done in Birmingham City Centre yesterday, knowing the area where the three young men were killed really well, and a friend who “treated” me to her opinions as to what should now be done and who is to blame (for the rioting/disorder/looting as a whole!). I left her feeling really shaky, and wishing I’d not called round. And additionally, there are some old, old sore spots rubbed the wrong way…left me feeling very un-peaceful. Or rather, it’s torn away the veneer of calm, and exposed exactly what it is that’s been bothering me that I couldn’t or wouldn’t name.

There’s a peace vigil going to be held in the park near to where the young men died. I’ll be going. I’ve deliberately not set foot in that park since moving back to this city. I have few happy memories of the time I lived near there, but not only do I need to do something to mark what an awful week this has been for so many, I need to make my peace with some of my own past in that area, and my own teenage years.

At some point, I also need to go back to at least three churches and make my peace there. For, until I do, I will never settle in another one.

The perils of owning up to the strangest things

Oops… confessing to using chocolate as reward for going to church and surviving church was possibly opening myself to splutters of outrage and accusations of a terrible underlying theological grasp of the Eucharist from the one listening to my incoherent account of just why I was changing churches! (Mind you, owning up to knowing how many holes there were in the floor grates in a church because I’d spent boring sermons counting them may not also have been a good plan, either…)

So, am I a theological dimwit? (Possible!) Or is it more that things have shifted and what once fed and sustained me in a church context no longer does? For, it’s true to say that once upon a time the church I’ve been going to for the last 18 months or so would’ve been fine for me. A regular ordered service, with weekly Eucharist. Occasion trips for saints days, or feast days. Sensible, basic  church diet, but somehow, no longer nourishing.

It’s also true to say my relationship with food as a whole over many years can only be described as, um, interesting. One of my reasons for needing to change my life completely was just how bad that relationship had got, and how poor my eating habits had become. This time of living on my own has more or less got me back   to eating in a proper, sensible way again – except on bad Sundays when I’d been detouring to the shop for after church treats in quantities that were not good. I’d noticed it was happening, but because it was really only every  few weeks I’d been kidding myself it was OK, until it suddenly became every week after an occasion when the pressure was put on me to do something I really didn’t want to, and the answer wasn’t going to be allowed to be “No” without a lot of emotional blackmail, and the quantities began to soar, then I knew I had to do something more radical.

So, for the time being, I’m switching to a different denomination. Not an unknown one, it’s the kind of church I was sent to as a child, so I’m familiar with how it works, and comfortable enough with it. Some of the same difficulties will be there, and in a way that’s reassuring. It’s helping me make more sense of what the problems actually are.

Strangely enough, being the perverse creature I am, I have, as a result, reverted to the custom of years of praying the Daily Office, having had the best part of a year of not doing so, and ending up feeling slightly but permanently  discombobulated as a result… it seems you can take a Japes out of a setting where such prayer routines are an embedded part of life, but not the routine out of a Japes.

[Editoral tangent – I love the word discombobulate. I did not realise it was of American origin. At least according to the OED it is. I am spending a lot of time looking up words at the moment, having discovered the marvel that my membership of the public library gives me access to the OED on-line at home.]

And, no, I am not going to give up on church, just because I’ve hit a longer than expected rough patch with  it, and indeed I do not want to give up on church. It’s a difficult place to be, but then no-one ever said this turning your life over to God malarkey was ever going to be easy!

 

Continuing with the “No Messing About” theme

Since I was on a roll after yesterday’s delightful and successful attempt at meeting new people (something I’ve been almost phobic about for a while now) I decided to grasp the nettle firmly, and take myself off to a new church. For, it  is patently obvious, after 18 months of trying and now dreading Sundays, it just isn’t going to work where I’ve been going. There is no blame or fault attached anywhere, it’s just not right.

So, after careful thought, and consideration, I took myself along to a church I’ve been looking at for a while, as I’ve gone past on the bus. It’s just finished a rebuild, and I was interested to see how it was going to work anyway. (Plain nosy, me!) It’s not going to be fair to make any detailed comment on today, as it was an unusual day anyway, but the gentle, unfussy welcome, without any pressure to do anything other than take part in the simple, well done service was exactly what I needed. It was also the kind of mixed congregation I’ve fitted into well in the past. A glorious muddle of all God’s people. So, I will go again over the next few weeks, and see how it is on some more normal Sundays.

More importantly, I came out of church feeling happy, and not stressed.