Sunday, January 29, 2006


A couple of people have asked us why we have come back to Sheffield. A lot of people have asked us what the time in Australia was all about; and how long we're around for now we're back.

Q: Why have you come back to Sheffield?
A: This is our home, and the home of our Order. Wherever we go from here, we would envisage returning to here. It is a point-of-reference - geographically, relationally, spiritually...

Q: What was the time in Australia about?
A: I think there are layers to the answer to this question that will only become visible to us with the erosion of time. But I think we can make a partial answer, as the trip related to people we met there, and as it related to us.

I do believe that God led us to Perth, and that it was His timing. For example, once there we were able to hook up with one church we had no previous links with but whose leaders had been watching St Thomas' for about six months; and we arrived on the scene at a point where they were making big decisions about their future and were able to meet with us - as people who had been very involved in one of the models they were looking at - in person to ask questions and get a better feel for what they were looking at. That was probably the most timing-specific event, and completely unplanned by us or by them. It was also great to meet up with some people who were interested in The Order of Mission, and/or LifeShapes; again, the face-to-face dynamic is much better than written words alone.

For me, it was great to meet with some people I'd first 'met' through the bloggosphere; for both of us, probably a good thing to take a break from leading after having been leaders-of-leaders for over seven years; for all four of us, great to spend a lot of time hanging-out together before our children started the school years. But none of that really merits selling our house! I think the biggest part of what God was doing in us was changing the nature of our relationship with Sheffield/St Thomas'/the Order: severing some ties (such as being on the staff team at St Tom's); loosening others; tightening still others. I think it was important to be able to differentiate between St Thomas' and the Order (which are not one-and-the-same thing but overlap a lot when you are on the staff at St Tom's); and that it would have been harder to do that if I'd left work but we'd stayed in Sheffield, or even kept and rented-out our house.

Q: How long are you back in Sheffield for?
A: The short answer is, we don't know. But, as far as we can tell, we'd hazard a guess at eighteen months. At that point, Susannah will have completed infants' school, and Noah will be about to start school; so, it would be the next obvious window of opportunity. There are a couple of other factors that also tie-in, but I'll save those for future posts.

God has been really good to us since getting back:

  • we've been able to rent a lovely house (we move on Wednesday), which exactly meets our requirements (unfurnished, but with all the kitchen white-goods included; we stored most of our furniture, but sold or gave away our kitchen appliances), and is just a few doors down from some friends of ours.
  • the pub at the end of our old road, which was a very violent place, applied for and was granted an extension until 3am every night just after we sold up!
  • there was a place for Susannah in the catchment school for the house we will be living in, which has a much better reputation than the catchment school she would have attended before (we would not have sent her out of catchment); and several of her friends are there to (whereas none of the children she was at nursery school would have gone on to the school she would have attended with her).
  • there was a place for Noah at the usually over-booked nursery at the end of the road we will be living on.
  • although I am looking for work, it has actually been a blessing that I haven't got a job at the moment, and won't have one until after we have settled into a space of our own again.

Anyway, I hope that answers some of the questions people have been asking. More to follow as things unfold...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Getting Gritty With Integrity

Westminster politicians and sleaze go together like fish and chips, beer and peanuts, picnics and rain…The association is thoroughly cross-party; but right now it is the Liberal Democrats who are taking centre stage.

Charles Kennedy’s position as party leader became untenable not because he had a drink problem (that didn’t prevent maverick genius Winston Churchill from being a great war-time Prime Minister), but because he had repeatedly denied it. In other words, he lied.

Mark Oaten’s hopes of succeeding him were scuppered not because he had a three-year affair with a male prostitute, but because this family-man led a double life. In other words, he lied.

Simon Hughes’ hopes of succeeding Kennedy might or might not fail not because of being forced today to admit to being gay, but because he had previously and repeatedly denied it. In other words, he lied.

Having a drink problem should not bar one from office in a parliament that has deregulated licensing laws. Having a relationship with a prostitute should not bar one from office in a parliament that is considering allowing small brothels to operate legally. And being gay should not bar one from office in a parliament that has recognised homosexual partnerships in law. The issue in question is simply, and fundamentally, a matter of integrity.

As a nation, we do not deny those in public office a private life. No-one – not even the tabloid press – is calling for politicians to life in Big Brother-style 24-hour televised observation. We do not decry privacy; but we do expect transparency.

And here lies the real moral dilemma: why do we, as a population, demand a greater transparency of those in public office than we are willing to accept ourselves?

Bed-time Story

Charlie and Lola is great - a CBeebies cartoon, combining a great retro '70's look with hugely entertaining knowing '00's children.

This is one of my favourite episodes, adapted for the internet. Don't forget to follow the interactive prompts on some of the pages...

Instilling Values, Part 2

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men." Luke 2:52

Yesterday I looked up and saw the words inscribed over the other door at Susannah’s school: GRACE – Infants – TRUTH. Where ‘grace’ and ‘truth’ walk hand-in-hand, they form a literary reference to Jesus.

Grace is a word that has been popularly defined in certain Christian circles of late as “freely-given and underserved gifts from God.” And that may be a partial definition; and useful in countering a Protestant Work Ethic or Catholic Guilt Complex. But if every good thing in life comes from God (as James 1:17 suggests), freely and undeservedly, then grace, on that definition, seems somewhat redundant. And if Jesus himself is a freely-given and underserved gift from God, then for him to be described as being full of grace seems tautologous…

At least amongst other meanings, grace, to the generation that carved the word over the school door, referred to social poise – in movement, and conversation. That might not feel ‘religious enough’ for some Christians today; but I think we lose something by excluding it. What did it mean, in practice, for Jesus to be “full of grace and truth”? In part, at least, I think Luke gives us the answer when he wrote that Jesus “grew in wisdom…and in favour…” He possessed the social poise to be a popular party guest; and yet – even, in spite of the fact that – he often challenged his hosts and fellow-guests in uncompromising ways on such occasions. There was something very attractive about his personality, that resulted in his finding favour, which we might describe as being full of grace. And then there is the truth: not knowledge, but wisdom; not so much learning information – the whats? wheres? whys? hows? and whos? – as learning right from wrong, and how to act in any given situation in order to bring blessing to others.

I do not wish my children to leave school having been moulded into dutiful and orderly citizens; but I do hope, and pray, that in the rough-and-tumble of the school experience they will emerge possessing the grace that results in favour, and the ability to use that favour to speak truth into the lives of their generation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Instilling Values

Susannah is loving school. And the School Gate is a whole new parental experience for me.

The school building is an imposing Victorian one (purpose-built for a Victorian education; though, obviously, it has gone through various internal re-workings since then), intended to impose a certain sense of Education. Today I happened to look up - always risky in a playground milling with small people moving at high velocity in random directions! - and noticed for the first time three words carved in the stone above the entrance. Now, carved words are not unusual in this context: in schools of this era there were commonly three doors marked, respectively, GIRLS, INFANTS, and BOYS (i.e. segregation). But the (three) words over this (one) school entrance are different. Directly above the door is the (expected) word INFANTS. To the left is the word DUTY; and to the right, ORDER. A particularly Victorian view of how children ought to be moulded.

The word 'duty' is so emotionally-repressed, so passion-less. It used to be one of the highest-held British Values. One did one's duty because it was The Done Thing - whether or not it is the right thing. Dutiful citizens do not rock the boat; they do not confront or challenge society; they certainly do not engage in public protest against the Government - let alone peaceful Civil Disobedience. Dutiful citizens do not petition against the role of Western governments in global poverty; or wars judged to be illegal by the UN.

As a member of a religious Order, you might expect me to be more favourable when it comes to 'order.' But the kind of order that hangs around with duty is no better. It is not ordered, but orderly. Orderly citizens do not Step Out Of Line; do not give in to base emotions such as joy and wonder. This is the hushed order by which one catalogues nature, rather than the vibrant order of creation itself. It is, I suspect, dull (which is an abuse against the inquisitive minds of children).

I'm glad things have changed. I do not wish my children to be dutiful and orderly. I hope, instead, that they will be faithfully connected, to their generation and, yes, to God.

Maggi Dawn has some good reflections on how we might raise our children, here.

Have You Ever...

...been thinking of someone - someone you know, as a friend or an acquaintance; but don't see or hear from on a regular basis - and then you bump into them on the street or get a phone call or email from them, completely out-of-the-blue, within the hour?

It happened to me this evening (see the comments, here). (Alan and I have never met, but visit each other's blogs from time to time; coincidentally, he's known "in-person" by a good friend of mine who lives in Lexington.)

So, are such things random events? Or divine promptings?

Monday, January 23, 2006

(A Qualified) Hurrah!

My sister rang me this evening. She's been discharged from hospital (she'd been there since Christmas Day, this time around), and gone home today. This is good news! She is understandably nervous that something else might go wrong - if nothing else does go wrong, she's home for good - but, other than that, seemed in very good spirits. It was (as British Telecom used to say) good to talk. Hopefully we'll go up and see them in a few weeks.

She asked me to keep praying; and I'm asking those of you who have been praying with us to do the same. Thank you.

Everything I Learnt, I Learnt From The TV...

I watch a lot of TV dramas. While several of the bloggers I read write about what they've seen at the cinema, I just don't go to the cinema very often. And I think that what is on television both reflects and shapes British culture more than cinema does, and so is worth reflecting on.

This afternoon I was making a tower out of magnets with Noah, when he asked, "Is it a virgin queen's castle?" Hmmm. That would be the subconscious power of the trailer, then!

The Problem With Heresy

Following on from the previous post:

Last night I watched the first part of the BBC’s latest adaptation of the life of Elizabeth I, The Virgin Queen. The princess Elizabeth was a rallying-point for the new Protestants, at a time when to be Protestant was to be a heretic. The episode included a scene in which two Protestants were burnt at the stake, and another in which it was reported to the imprisoned princess that 300 Protestants had been burnt in 300 days. And this highlights the problematic consequences of Christians labelling other Christians ‘heretics.’ For while angry agnostic scientist Richard Dawkins can only accuse religion as being responsible for most of the world’s conflict by conveniently failing to recall the Nazi Holocaust, Stalinist Gulags, Killing Fields of Cambodia, Disappeared of South America, Rwandan Genocide…(perhaps he has an under-evolved history ability), the liturgy of Christians murdering other Christians in God’s name is an undeniable tragedy. It always comes down to one party claiming their own orthodoxy as opposed to another party’s heresy; and typically comes with an end result of Inquisition and bloodshed.

Any Christian leader who accuses others of heresy is a dunce in the class of Church History, however much a dux they may be in Doctrine. They would do well to go back to their books, rather than throw their weight around against the younger, smaller kids in the playground.

The Problem With Truth

There's an interesting discussion going on over at Hamo' s blog.

Perhaps because my upbringing was conservative evangelical, and so I have some sort of filial loyalty there even though it is no longer a neighbourhood in which I choose to live, it bothers me that conservative evangelicals are so hung up on truth. It is not that I do not think truth matters; but that I see truth very differently. It bothers me when well-respected evangelical writers and speakers such as DA Carson and Ravi Zacharias accuse those grappling with what it means to be Christian and post-Modern of having a low view of truth – by which they actually mean, “understand the nature of truth differently from themselves” – and a low view of God’s Word – by which they mean the Bible, and the Doctrine of its Inerrancy – thus creating a breeding-ground for aberrant Christianity.

Jesus claimed that he was the truth. That implies that truth is not synonymous with ‘facts,’ but is a person; and that, therefore, truth is not something to be learnt intellectually, but something to be experienced relationally. Not doctrine to believe, but a person to get to know over time (and into eternity). That is, I would argue, a very high view of truth. And I would add that my knowledge of truth is both partial and provisional: partial because this side of heaven I cannot fully know God as I am fully known by him (though we are promised that this will change); and provisional because my expectation (based on Jesus’ expectation) is that my faith should grow, not remain static. But, again, I would argue that that is not a low view but a high view of truth.

A little generosity would concede that there are aberrant views in every tradition, denomination, movement and schism of the Church. Perhaps most of these are children of their own time. Those parts of the Church that do not baptise the infant children of believers did not – and could not – have existed in any significant extent before the advent of Modernism. Likewise, within Anglicanism, neither Liberalism nor Evangelicalism could have existed before the Modern Era. Liberalism, with its Higher Criticism, denies the literal nature of miracles, ascribing solely symbolic meaning instead, because miracles are un-natural and un-scientific. And in so doing, it denies the immanency of God. Evangelicalism defends the literal nature of biblical miracles, but creates the Doctrine of Dispensationalism in order to occupy the same ground as Liberalism in denying the miraculous today. And in so doing, it also denies the immanency of God. (The not unprecedented irony of the Pharisees and the Sadducees coming together to remove Emmanuel…) Two sides of one coin, minted in a given period of history that is losing currency.

I’m naturally cautious when it comes to Doctrinal Statements to be adhered to as a measure of orthodoxy. Specifically, I’m uncomfortable with evangelical claims that the Bible is the only Word of God – because the Bible itself claims that Jesus is the Word of God…And I don’t accept inerrancy, either. For a start, it requires too many caveats. Well, no: for a start it goes beyond any clear claim that the Bible makes for itself. That said, caveats. Clearly the Bible is not inerrant in a literal sense when it speaks in a poetic voice: the earth does not rest on pillars; the sea is not held back by gates. Therefore inerrancy claims that the Bible is inerrant [in relation to matters of faith and conduct] [when taken as a whole] [in its original languages] […] Too many caveats. But there is a more serious issue: there is no inerrant interpretation of the Bible (unless you accept the authority of the Pope, which Protestants don’t). And that means that if inerrancy is required in order for the Bible to be inspired and authoritative as a revelation of the nature of God and his creation, then it isn’t a revelation at all: it is, rather, a concealment. And, as I understand the Gospels, I’d rather hold to a God who chooses to reveal himself, than to a book that is inerrant. And again, only a Modern definition of truth requires such convoluted doctrinal positioning…

The fundamental difference here is between a Modern view – in which truth is propositional, and empirical (concerned with the physical, ‘natural,’ world) – and a post-Modern view – in which truth is relational (which, contrary to standard accusations, is not the same as relative) and ‘soft’ (embracing the emotional, spiritual, ‘super-natural;’ capable, say, of thirst, or of being moved to weep). And ‘my concern’ with those who are ‘concerned’ about people like me is that they may well be more defending a Modern understanding of the Gospel than the Gospel itself…

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pooling Or Scattering?

This, from my friend Christoffer's blog, seems to resonate with some of the ideas I've been thinking about over the past couple of days...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mobility / Locality

Following on from here and here...

What sort of dynamic might effectively engage in mission to a society that is both highly mobilised and highly localised? Drawing historical parallels [from my previous post], we might suggest:
  • an outward-looking but gathered/clustered community;
  • offering a quality contribution to the wider population (a 'product', such as youth work, for example);
  • delivered through networked small-scale diversity, rather than a monopoly;
  • having a stable critical mass at its core, but a high turnover of individuals;
  • moving in multiple directions between connected communities in other cities.
We might even go so far as to look for churches that bought/leased several houses or business premises on one street, rather than looking to fund a purpose built worship or community centre...

It would be interesting to collate some examples: if you know of any, let me know.


While the population has always been mobile - in part, highly mobile - day-to-day community tends to be extremely localised. [This applies equally to geographically-distanced virtual communities: bloggers put permanent links to other blogs they read regularly on their sidebar, but, how many do they visit - as opposed to monitor through RSS - on a daily basis? In my case, only three or four. That's localised.]

Historically in English towns and cities, traders arriving from the countryside or the Continent set up localised communities. We can trace these through street names, such as Threadneedle Street, where seamstresses and tailors lived and plied their trade. The pattern was later echoed by Quaker entrepreneurs building model neighbourhoods for their employees, such as Bourneville in Birmingham - and even by the contemporary trend in city planning to designate Quarters, such as the Jewellery Quarter, also in Birmingham. This concentration meant that anyone arriving from outside the city with a particular trade had an immediate starting-point for employment and relationship with like-minded people. They did not set up ghettos, in the sense of self-imposed segregation to maintain the 'purity' of their community. They didn't form one big monopolised workplace either, but clustered a trade together, regulated by Guilds (apparently the advantages of such clustering outweighed the potential problems of too much direct competition).

Broadly speaking, churches - and pubs - took a different approach, spreading through the city rather than concentrating their resources in one area - long before, say, schools did the same. (Though the Quaker entrepreneurs provide an interesting alternative model.) And that is valid, of course. But the rub lies where mobility and locality collide: as a friend said to me not long back, [something along the lines of] "We spent two years getting to know the neighbours, building relationships; and then a couple of the families who had been most open to us moved out in quick was like a kick in the teeth."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


We followed Sheila Hancock - actress and widow of actor John Thaw - as she traced her family tree on Who Do You Think You Are? tonight. This is a fascinating programme (now in its second series), and Sheila's story was one of the more interesting episodes I've seen.

One of the things Who Do You Think You Are? highlights for me is how mobile people have always been. We often hear pop-cultural commentators - such as the media - talk about the rise in mobility since the Industrial Revolution, conjuring-up images of previous generations whose horizon was just beyond the edge of the village. But, though we can trace geographically-stable families down census reports, there has always been a counter-beat. Humanity has been incredibly mobile (restless, even): usually for economic reasons; often (also) for reasons of persecution. It is that trade mobility that spread ideas - in every sphere of culture - sometimes over vast distances and across multiple language/etc. barriers. We have our contemporary expressions - from asylum seekers to blogging hubs - but none of this is new under the sun.

The spread of Christianity across Europe, the first time around, and every time around since then, is as much (perhaps more so) the story of such mobile traders and refugees carrying their faith as it is the story of set-apart 'professional' missionary monks. Somewhere along the line that confidence has been lost - in no small part because of an increase (or perceived increase) in competing ideas and voices. But moving our ideas, beliefs, values around is part of being human. Perhaps it is more the sphere of the apostles and evangelists - the pioneers and enthusers - whether apostles and evangelists for the Gospel or anything else. But that doesn't entirely rule everyone else out. Let's be human. Let's be carriers. Let's network.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Blogger Of Distinction

Andrew Hamilton is a friend, and one of my favourite bloggers. It was great to see some of what he is doing on the northern-most growing edge of Perth, having read about it for over a year now.

I'm often asked what is distinctive about The Order of Mission and/or St Thomas'? That is a hard question to answer because - although there are distinctive elements, and combinations of common elements - I don't think the distinctives should be distinctive.

Hamo's post The Importance of Losing our Distinctives is a really interesting read. Thanks for sharing it with us, mate!


Last week we were at a friends house, and the children were threading beads on plastic string. Susannah decided that she would make a bead necklace as her birthday present for Noah. She did, and put it in my coat pocket to bring it home; where she made a card; found a gold-paper gift bag to put them in; and hid the bag in the back of her underwear drawer so Noah wouldn't find it. All of this was entirely her own initiative; and I was both impressed by her thought-process, and touched by her thoughtfulness.

A few days ago Susannah was playing here with a friend. They were playing with beads, and Susannah wanted more...unbeknown to me, she raided the gift bag...

This morning Susannah gave Noah his present. He looked in the gift bag; took out the card; and there, on the bottom of the bag, lay one turquoise-coloured plastic bead. One bead.

My adult conditioned response was, "Where's the necklace?" Noah's response was, "A bead?! For my birthday?! Awww, fanks!" I don't want to sound ungrateful for the other presents he received, but he was so grateful to be given a bead [that, technically, already belonged to him already...] that my adult perspective was confronted by something greater.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Enjoying... - especially having my own photos streamed to my blog sidebar.

A Lifetime Ago

Life on Mars is shaping up to be very, very good. Nineteen-seventy-three is a lifetime ago [I was born in November '72; Jo in June '73]. Even allowing for artistic licence, period drama gives a fascinating insight into the past; and the Seventies are a particular past that resonates with me, because it is my collective, cultural childhood [even though I didn't actually live in Britain until the late Seventies]. The clothes are great - I wore those over-sized collars in primary school; and I like brown and blue - as are the cars. Each episode is full of the absence of things we take for granted today - much pertaining to police procedure and resources; but also things like ambulance crews being paramedics, not just drivers, these days; mobile phones; and the ever-evolving English language...

Collective memory interests me. It isn't really about claiming to remember something that you didn't experience firsthand and at the time; more about being able to experience something second-hand and after-the-event. Not denial; but identifying. Collective memory is a key component in creating culture, because culture is shared. I wonder what collective memories will shape the future of the Church in England?

Year In Review

Each year on the eve of our children's birthdays I write them a short bullet-point letter, recording some highlights of the year they have just lived through - milestones, interests, events. I don't know how much Noah will make of it tomorrow, but he'll be able to look back on it in the future; and anyway, it is a good exercise for me...

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Noah has been obsessed with guitars for as long as we can remember, and we'd decided ages ago to get him one for his third birthday. So we had a family outing yesterday, and introduced him to the Secret World of the Independent Guitar Shop...

Back at the flat, he and Susannah busked worship songs and nursery rhymes for us. And fiddled with the tuning-pegs, just like he's seen "Daisy's Daddy" do...Well, he is at the bottom of a learning-curve!

But it is a learning-curve for which it is already clear he (unlike me) has 'natural ability' - one of the elements that combine to make him him. That 'becoming process' is fascinating to watch; and humbling to invest in. That 'becoming process' - becoming who we are created to be - is the heart of our story.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Localised Increase In The Cost Of A Stamp

Buying a book of 12 self-adhesive second-class stamps from a newsagents is a convenient way of having a stamp to hand when you need one...

...until Noah - who still has time not to reach his 3rd birthday on Tuesday - comes across it and sticks 11 of them to the top of the coffee table.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Making Adjustments

While Susannah is getting used to going to school, and Noah to not having Susannah around as a play-mate, I'm spending my time filling out job application forms. It is a long time since I have been in this position. At the moment we see the bigger picture clearer than the detail; the longer view better than the foreground; and I'm pushing doors and seeing which might open. It has been interesting to think through those areas I might like to gain experience in, and the transferable skills I would bring to a position outside of my immediate previous experience; and at times it is quite intimidating, too.

An update on my sister: she had several really good days looking after her baby in the mother-and-baby facility, but has since had to be readmitted to the neuro-surgical ward, as there is still too much pressure inside her skull and the medics aren't sure why that is. So it is a game of snakes and ladders.

Big Wide World

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Past, Present, Future?

The BBC/science fiction theme continues tonight, with another new series (comedy, this time; and decidedly Geeky), Hyperdrive. But before that on BBC2, the return of Who Do You Think You Are? in which well-known personalities trace their family trees.

What links science fiction and social history is the idea of connectivity: whether of actions or of character traits. Because behind exploring our past is the hope of gaining some insight into ourselves. Which is why genealogy is so important in the Bible, including the records of Jesus' family line in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 - though that importance has largely been lost to his followers since...Genealogies, and family trees, are short-hand representations of blessings and curses outworking themselves - including curses being redeemed - down through the generations. Because, however broken down our society has become, we are (whether we like it or not) fundamentally connected to our relatives - and the rise of the step-family adds extra layers of connection. In the context of family 'nature' and 'nurture' intertwine in shaping us, in an inevitable - though not deterministic or fatalistic - fashion. The Good News is that, though we cannot escape our past, our future does not have to be imprisoned by it.

Who do I think I am? Who do you think you are?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Time Travel

The BBC has its fair share of detractors, but it has its fair share of good drama, too. Last night we checked out the new series Life On Mars - basic premise: a policeman is hit by a car in 2006, and comes round in 1973...Interestingly enough, Jo had just finished reading The Time Traveller's Wife, which also explores the idea of chronological displacement.

Science fiction certainly has its Geeksville element, but it also has a place of affection in the broader British national psyche. Other than the fact that so many of us grew up watching (the - brilliantly - recently returned) Dr Who, I'm not really sure why that should be the case; but it would seem to be so. We seem to have a fascination with the genre, that takes us beyond the weighing, measuring, cataloguing, and physical-horizon-pushing of Science into the warmer realm of the intangible elements that make us human.

It is too early to know what I think of Life On Mars as a story-line. But the concept of time travel, with the attending moral dilemma of whether or not to change a bad past (might an even worse future ensue?) is a fascinating one. It reminds us of the connectivity of all our actions; that we cannot fully know what our actions might set in motion, nor should we take full responsibility for the subsequent actions of others; but, we might give our actions more thought as a result…

Monday, January 09, 2006

Starting School

My little girl starts school tomorrow!

At least, she'll go along for an hour, and we'll take it from there...She'll be at Lydgate Infant School, in the same class as her friend Jake, and with a few other friends in other classes too. Susannah has been looking forward to going to school for some time now, and it has come together really well, having thought she wouldn't be able to go yet. We only found out this afternoon. I bought her a dozen miniature red roses (her choice) to mark the Rite of Passage. And we look forward to the joys of an exhausted little girl by the end of the week...

A week ago we were in need of a house, a school, and a job. Two down...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

After Epiphany

Over the last few years, the Feast of Epiphany (6th January) has come to be one of my favourite dates in the Church year. [this year has been a-typical; but here's how we celebrated, and what I shared on the closest Sunday, twelve months ago]

No self-respecting nativity set is complete without three kings and a camel - though the gospel account, in Matthew 2, keeps silence on how many Magi there were, their regal-or-otherwise status, and transportation choice. Indeed, there are few details of any sort, though enough to hint at a journey of adventure the better part of two years in the making by the time they arrived at a destination they didn't realise was their goal until they got there. I've loved the implied scholarly research, and practical preparations, that went on behind the scenes; the setting-out-not-knowing-where-you-were-setting-out-for; the choosing and giving of gifts...

...But this year I have been struck by a fresh realisation that the epiphany was not the end of their uncertain journey. I imagine their angel-guided journey home, avoiding obvious trade routes so as to slip past the soldiers of a vengeful paranoid megalomaniac, hiding by day and journeying by night; like Aragorn leading Frodo and his companions cross-country under the noses of the Ring Wraiths. The outward journey was blind; the homeward journey no simple retracing of now-known steps.

Friday, January 06, 2006


We have found a house to rent for 6 months in Crookes. Hopefully we will move in at the start of February, by which time Susannah should be in a local school and Noah in nursery. Until then, we're staying in a flat belonging to friends - we were there, briefly, before, when we sold our house last summer.

Although I lived in Sheffield for 14 years, I've never lived in Crookes. Jo did for a year when we were students. But we'll be well placed for friends around us as we try to discern the longer-term future. And in the meantime, I'm looking for work locally.

If all went according to plan, my sister - who is still in hospital - moved to a mother-and-baby accommodation within the Psychiatric Department today. It is, apparently, the only such facility in the country, and will allow her to have her 10-week old baby with her - supported - while the negative effects of the steroids work their course. Rachel did her psychiatric rotation (she is a GP) there not too long ago; knows the team; and is happy with the arrangement - which should be good for everyone involved.

A friend of ours is in the Hallamshire Hospital at the moment, with a painful condition the doctors can't, so far, identify. And just before Christmas another friend found out that she has breast cancer. I'm sick and tired of what feels like a massive increase in serious illness among those around us. But I'm not going down without a fight. Rally the Prayer Warriors! Like the imposing Gates of Mordor, the Gates of Hell will not prevail...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

From Finland

My friend Christoffer Perret has started blogging, from Finland. We've got together several times, in Sweden and in England, though not - so far - in Finland. I'm looking forward to what he will add to the blog-based conversations on re-imagining the Church in Europe...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Getting Stuck Into January

Belated Happy New Year! (I haven't had access to t'internet over the past several days.)

Things have been fairly low-key anyway. It's a quiet time of year; not an easy one to network face-to-face in, though I guess things pick up again now. With our future still up for grabs, or at least discussions, we need to bed-down here - Sheffield is our 'base' - for the time being. Today we've been following leads towards finding a house, on a six-month rental. Hopefully we'll get something fairly quickly, and be able to get S into a school.

I've never seen the New Year as a time to make grand Resolutions, but I think I'll make a moderate one this year: to get a friend to initiate me into the darker arts of blogging - such as tags! - so as to take it all a bit more seriously. Apparently there are people out there who like to keep an eye on me...

There's nothing to report on my sister - keep praying.