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Sunday Pause for Thought – The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 19

 

Exodus 14.19–31 Israel saved by Moses parting the waters
Psalm 114 or Israel fled from Egypt to sanctuary in Judah

 

Canticle: Exodus 15.1b–11, 20, 21 Moses’ song after the Exodus
Romans 14.1–12 Do not judge, for we are all accountable to God
Matthew 18.21–35 Seventy-seven times forgiveness? The unforgiving servant

 

The parable in Matthew is terrifying and brings dramatically home the message of the Lord’s Prayer – to forgive readily as we ourselves are forgiven by God. Christians, like others, can squabble and divide about matters that seem to be in the end of minor importance. Paul reminds us that only love can restore a true sense of proportion. It is hard to trust that, even despite all appearances, all shall be well. Pray always to hold to the great signs of God’s love.

 


 

The Moral Heart of Public Service

The Moral Heart of Public Service

The Moral Heart of Public Service – Edited by Claire Foster Gilbert Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2017) ISBN 9781785922558  £18.99

Westminster Abbey takes its location to serve our national life with utmost seriousness. As well as attracting visitors from across the world the Abbey also seeks to engage with a range of major institutions and public figures, not least the British Parliament.

The Westminster Abbey Institute was founded in 2013 to build and develop mutual concern about the world we live in and what values might shape policy and politics. This volume of essays, carefully organised offer insight into the shape of some of these conversations.

Claire Foster Gilbert is a reflective, engaged and creative public theologian. She sets the scene in the introduction by outlining the shape and content of the book:

‘The essays and dialogues can be read individually or as a collection. They will appeal in different ways. None is intended to moralise, rather to share the skill, the effort, the camaraderie and the humour involved in making robust moral decision, in everything that is involved in sailing the ship wards a good destination, which should, after all, be seen as a profound and defining human endeavour for us all’ (p23)

The first essay, by the former foreign secretary William Hague explores the role of Britain as a moral force on the world stage. He asks us to think about our political vocation has one of service to the international community. There is a refreshing questioning of dogma and a restless openness in his reflections.

Three essays follow, written by Foster Gilbert, with a practical focus offers a framework for moral decision-making with some measure of sophistication and subtlety as the text reminds us that almost all decisions cannot claim moral perfection or indeed understand the consequences of the decisions that we make. There is in the process both virtue and truth but an implicit call for a deeper reflectiveness on analysis, perception and practice. This section of the book asks us all to consider how we nurture moral character.

Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland is in dialogue with John Hall the Dean of Westminster in a chapter which explores building communities (p93). This need for reconciliation and the absolute necessity for emotional intelligence as we engage with one another is failings offers a deeply attractive appeal to the nurture of shrewdness and humanity. These are so often qualities lacking in some of public life including within our religious organisations.

Vernon White, Canon theologian at Westminster Abbey, offers three pieces, in a section entitled idealism and compromise. How do we live up to our convictions and ideals in a way which understands human fallibility and limitedness? There is a subtlety and depth to White’s writing which demands careful attention.

One of the great public thinkers of our nation, Rowan Williams, offers a reflection on the relevance of Benedict and his example and teaching in the public space of Parliament Square. Benedictine values in public life are then explored by Vernon White (stability) Andrew Tremlett (community) and Claire Foster Gilbert (the conversion of manners). The flow of this text in narrative is carefully integrated across the social, political, cultural, theological and spiritual worlds within which we all move.

Finally, one of our great political historians, Peter Hennessy is featured in conversation with Claire foster Gilbert, which took place during the profoundly destabilising political events of 2016. Here we see the value of a wise and reflective historian infused with a quiet confidence in the abiding transformation of spiritual values.

In the light of this positive review it would seem churlish to pick at (perhaps) obvious limitations ? However there are fundamental questions to be asked about the traction and purchase of such dialogue and reflection. Whose voices matter? Who do we listen to ? Where does power lie? What are the dangers of class complacency as public service is a matter (literally) of life and death for some. How far does our context collude with our view of what might need changing in order to really recover a moral heart? In a nation so divided geographically what hope might there be for a greater diversity of colour, age, sex and experience and an attention to their narratives?

This is of course too much to ask for – but the book stimulated these questions about what needs to change and how it might change. Dialogue and reflection, are important but only one step in building a better future where there is justice, equality and freedom for all.

Jessica Kingsley has done us a great service in publishing this book. It is to be hoped that those of us taken by its quality and depth might find ways of helping individuals and communities access both its content and the quality of its reflectiveness.

Professor James Woodward

Principal of Sarum College

www.sarum.ac.uk

 

 

On Inhabiting Creation Tide ( on taking notice)

On Inhabiting Creation Tide ( on taking notice)

Almighty God

We stand before the mirror of your eternity, within

the radiance of your majesty.

Through your Holy Spirit, enlighten the darkness of

our minds, challenge the comfort of our perception,

giving us a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love;

that the world may behold your glory

through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Creationtide ’or the ‘Season of Creation’ is the period in the annual church calendar (from 1st September to 4th October) dedicated to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life.  I will post some further information about the resources available in due course. This is a personal reflection and part of a number of blogs where I want to reflect about the meaning and possibility of attending closely to this season.

I am fortunate to be able to walk into work each day and so experience a little of the joys, wonders and unpredictability of creation.  The season is changing. The leaves are turning and the rain is bringing out the colour and texture of the grass and slightly fading late summer flowers.

 

       

It has been damp this past week but amidst the rather drab weather there are glimpses of colour and life!

        

So my first simple and potentially life changing action is this. We should slow down, stop, look and notice what is around us. On your next journey – what do you notice? What strikes you about what lies in your pathway? What does creation, life, our world mean to you?  How do we each stand back and  behold the glory of God in the routine, the demanding, stretching and sometimes overwhelming busy lives we lead?

How are we to see the glory of God in the changing shape of Autumn? As we consider the uncertainty of our world – threats and counter threats between Korea and America, natural disasters of hurricanes and floods in India and beyond, together with the political uncertainties of Brexit and the battle for power – as we rest and look we become aware that we cannot know the future.  Karl Popper said in ‘The Poverty of Historicism’, the future cannot be predicted, because how it will happen depends on discoveries that cannot be predicted, because if they could be predicted they would already have been discovered. That is why every attempt to foretell the shape of things to come is at best guess work, and usually bad guess work.

We cannot control the moment. We can rest and be still and look and reflect.  We do this in faith and trust. . We are called to be a community that does not live on the basis of probabilities but rather possibilities.  Jonathan Sacks speaks of faith as the defeat of probability by the power of possibility. All the great human achievements in art and science as well as the life of the spirit, came through people who ignored the probable and had faith in the possible.  This means – I think – that we might want to engage in some social action that might safeguard creation – as people who aspire to making the world a better place for our children. Perhaps if we journey with trust in the God of all life and all seasons, then it’s bound to be a process which takes us beyond the knowable, beyond that which we can be certain of in advance beyond doubt.

As Jonathan Sacks puts it:

“Faith is a risk and there is no way of minimising that risk, of playing it safe. Hamlets soliloquy: “for in that sleep of death what dreams may come?” – tells us that there is no death, let alone life without risk. Those who are unprepared to take a risk are unprepared to be fully alive.”

So ask yourself  are you becoming more relaxed, more comfortable and more at peace with your world – with what you see – with what you know ? God has called you by name and made you His own and God wants you to find your own particular and unique way of walking the abundant life with your community.

  

It is in paying attention that we will perhaps come to see more of the glory of God. We learn that we may journey through the world as those who are valued and loved. Despite what we are. Despite all life’s unpredictable and sometimes cruel nature. We are not to doubt that we are loved.  We  need to have learned and learned again to see ourselves with love.

 

So :

stop –

look –

listen

and know the love of God refracted through creation.

 

 

Almighty God

We stand before the mirror of your eternity, within

the radiance of your majesty.

Through your Holy Spirit, enlighten the darkness of

our minds, challenge the comfort of our perception,

giving us a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love;

that the world may behold your glory

through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 18

 

Exodus 12.1–14 Instructions for celebrating the first Passover
Psalm 149 God is on Israel’s side
Romans 13.8–14 Awake from sleep – put on the armour of light
Matthew 18.15–20 Reprove sinners; bind and loose on earth and in heaven

 

We all live with the past – a wonderful combination of blessings and burdens. Let us pray that we commemorate past blessings with joy. The Passover meal tells of the great release to which the meal was the preview and gives us a promise of Jesus as active redeemer. Paul reminds us of the commands to love and to live the good life, always in the setting of the urgency of God’s call. We need to heed the wise teaching that we hear and to ask others to support us on our journey of discipleship.


 

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

 

Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 17

 

Exodus 3.1–15 God reveals the divine name to Moses at the burning bush
Psalm 105.1–6, 23–26, 45b* Seek the Lord, make known his deeds
Romans 12.9–21 Let love be genuine; overcome evil with good
Matthew 16.21–28 Jesus predicts his death; ‘Take up your cross’

 

In Exodus, Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush is crucial – a sacred moment with the name of God. Jeremiah reminds us that the service of God is not an easy ride and we can protest to him at its impossibility, but he will surely see us through. Paul gives simple and basic moral teaching and we are asked to accept and follow in God’s grace. The Gospel reading asks us to consider whether we can bear to become nothing for the sake of having everything in the end. Let us pray to accept ill from others with true patience.


 

Poetry on Sunday

Poetry on Sunday

 

 

 

a lyrical manifesto for large-hearted living.

 

 

Walk through life

Beautiful more than anything

Stand in the sunlight

Walk through life

Love all the things

That make you strong,

be lovers, be anything

For all the people

of Earth

 

You have brothers

You love each other, change up

And look at the world

Now, it’s

Our’s, take it slow

We’ve got a long time,

a long way To go,

 

We have

Each other,

and the World,

Don’t be sorry

Walk on out through sunlight life

and know We’re on the go

For love

To open

Our lives

To walk

Tasting

the sunshine

Of Life.

 

LeRoi Jones, better known as Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934–January 9, 2014).

 

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Saying yes to Jesus leads straight into a practical role. Peter, the rock, signifies the church in its day-to-day life – its ultimate victory on behalf of God is sure. We are reminded in the Old Testament readings that the greatness of God dwarfs us all and that we are constantly being challenged to choose death or life. Paul tells us that we should be a distinctive presence – in the world but not of it. Perhaps we should reassess our sense of importance before God. We pray that confession of Christ leads us to an active part in his purpose.

Readings :

Exodus 1.8 – 2.10

The Israelites in Egypt are oppressed; Moses is born
Psalm 124 Our help is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth
Romans 12.1–8 Present your bodies as holy, for we are members together
Matthew 16.13–20

Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah

 

 

 

Lingering Ghosts and the challenges of Public Art

Lingering Ghosts and the challenges of Public Art

 

For those of you who know Sarum College you will be aware that we have a long tradition of exhibiting Art. At the moment we are showing some arresting and disturbing portraits crafted by Sam Ivin (pictured above)

Sam Ivin is a photographer whose work focuses on social issues and the people connected with them. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport, graduating in 2014.

This exhibition, Lingering Ghosts, consists of hand-scratched portraits of those seeking asylum in the UK. These are people living in a state of limbo as they await news of their application for months or even years. Their stories recount the experience of lost identity and frustration as they wait to learn their fate. Yet as we learn from the documented conversations, we recognise them as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters – human beings, after all.

Sam chose to scratch the portraits by hand, rather than altering them digitally: ‘When you systematically scrape at the image of a person’s face, it is very visceral way of expressing what it means to lose your identity.’

Look closely at this picture and consider some of the thoughts expressed by asylum seekers that Sam has gathered together:

‘I feel it is very difficult, honestly. I mean, I can’t enjoy my life because I don’t know what is coming up for my future. I am scared.’ (Afghanistan, 8 years waiting)

‘Life has been like up and down for me and it was really frustrating, me coming here in the UK. I don’t want them to treat me like a King or whatever but like a human, you know.’ (Cameroon, 6 years waiting)

‘You’re not forwarding your life. Which means you’re just like stuck or somewhere. You can’t do nothing. You can’t study. You can’t work. If you are qualified you staying at home and waiting for benefit. No one come down here for benefit, they want to make their life better.’ (Sri Lanka, 8 years waiting)

 So – what is Art?

As I pass these pictures and pick up a sense of the some responses to them it is  intriguing to consider what the purpose of art might be.

We all too often imagine that art should be limited to the portrayal of the beautiful, the rich and glorious world we live in. Art is partly about hope – the holding of and picturing  the colour and beauty of the world around us – the countryside, a vase of flowers, an iconic building. We need this kind of hope in a complex, disturbing and sometimes fractured world.

And while of course, there are many other purposes to Art, we might consider within the context of Sam’s work the role of Art in protest.

Sam asks us through these pictures to consider what kind of world we want to live in. How high are we prepared to build our walls to protect us and our world against the stranger, the alien, the asylum seeker? What are the limits to our communal and societal hospitality? What might we learn from someone who is so completely other or different? In our post Brexit Society reconfiguration of alliances and, perhaps our fundamental cultural values, Sam’s work might best be described as prophetic images for our day. He challenges us to think about what we do to the humanity of others and how easily it is for some to lose their identity through depersonalisation and a lack of compassion which fails to engage with fear and genuine aspiration.

We might even  go one step further and suggest that the process that Sam undertook in altering the portraits and removing some of the key features of these human beings faces reflects the restricting, shocking, depersonalising attitudes that seem to be so obviously present in the public domain.

I keep on asking as I familiarise myself with these portraits – what can I do to change what we do to those waiting for asylum: hoping for a better world? Sam’s work leads us into an important social and political engagement in the shaping of a society that might be different for those we marginalise. In our unimaginative attempt to connect with their vulnerability we surely are changed for the good? Hearts and lives enlarged and sympathies deepened. what would you like to change about the world ? How can Art empower us to change?

 

Come and see these images  at Sarum College for yourself and decide what art is for and look closely to see what might be revealed through them.

 

http://www.sarum.ac.uk/lingeringghosts

 

Grateful thanks to Fabrica for the loan of these nine works from their collection.

www.sarum.ac.uk

 

Padre Addison VC and Sarum College

Padre Addison VC and Sarum College

It was a great pleasure and privilege yesterday for us to welcome guests to Sarum College to mark the centenary of the award of the Victoria Cross to one of our former students ( The Reverend William Addison )

  

                    William Addison                         Addison’s Medals (VC far left)

Here are my opening remarks

Memory and Meaning in the Commemoration of the First World War

Padre Addison VC

 

A warm welcome to you all this afternoon and especially to those of you who are visiting Sarum College for the first time.

 

The 2014–18 Centenary Commemoration cycle has given us rich opportunity to develop public knowledge of the First World War. The events that have surrounded the commemoration have captured our imagination. And so it should. In this place of learning we might bear in mind that factual knowledge of the wider history of the war among the broader population of the United Kingdom remains problematic. A survey reported in the Daily Telegraph in November 2012 found that only 46 per cent of respondents aged 16–24 were able to correctly name 1914 as the year that the First World War started, and only 40 per cent knew it ended in 1918. This surely has changed as a result of our resolve to remember the people and events of the Frist World War?

 

In our modest way, as part of remembering, we gather here at Sarum College to commemorate Padre Addison, and his award of the Victoria Cross one of just three awarded to army chaplains in the history of the medal. William Addison became an army chaplain in WW1 shortly after he trained for the priesthood at Salisbury Theological College in these buildings. He is one of our most distinguished alumni.

I should like to express my gratitude to Padre Addison’s grandson, Tim Addison, for bringing us this medal to make this a very special commemoration and for his presence with us. Gratitude is also due to Allan Mallinson, a military historian and friend of the College for his support and encouragement too. We shall hear from Tim in a moment and see the original VC but just also to remind you that there will be a permanent display of the replica VC, and thank the Army Museum Ogilby Trust for this

 

After a Curacy here in Salisbury William volunteered as a Chaplain. He accompanied a number of army regiments landing in Basra in March 1916. He experienced at first hand the human price of war and in April over five days endured the horror of hundreds of men massacred in appalling conditions. On April 9, 1916 Padre Addison carried a wounded man to cover and assisted others to safety under heavy fire. His Victoria Cross citation reads: ‘by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.’ Padre Addison was awarded the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on August 3, 1917.

In remembering William Addison what reflections might we  have on the nature of Christian Ministry? Though his story of valour is exceptional, it reminds us that Christians – and especially the clergy – are called to stand alongside their fellow human beings in all circumstances of life – and especially in times of extremis- sickness, injury and death.

Also Christian ministry takes on practical shape – it is not sympathy expressed from afar, but involvement in concrete way. This can come at great cost, and requires sacrifice. We should reflect therefore that this award for valour is expressed in the form of a cross – the emblem of suffering and salvation of Christ.

The ultimate message of the commemoration of War and the sacrifice, bravery and courage of such individuals like William, Tim’s grandfather, is that we must both learn lessons for the future – the shape of tolerance, the meaning of justice and reconciliation, as well as lamenting the vast cost of War in the tragedy of lost lives.

At Sarum College we are proud to have William as one of our former students and we shall continue to remember his life and legacy.

 

  Tim Addison, grandson of William Addison VC, who brought the VC to Sarum College for us to celebrate the legacy of this distinguished priest.

Sunday Pause for Thought – Tenth Sunday after Trinity 2017

Sunday Pause for Thought – Tenth Sunday after Trinity 2017

These lectionary resources were originally written for RSCM Sunday by Sunday magazine and are reprinted here with their permission.

For further information about their work do visit

 

Sunday by Sunday

https://www.rscm.com/music-and-resources/our-magazines/planning-worship/sunday-by-sunday-magazine/

 

Sunday 20 August

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity/The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost/The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 15

 

Genesis 45.1–15 Joseph is reconciled to his brothers
Psalm 133 How good it is when kindred live together in unity!
Romans 11.1–2a, 29–32 God has given the Law so he can be merciful to all
Matthew 15.[10–20] 21–28 The Canaanite woman’s son is healed

 

Human beings seem always to be putting limits of some kind on our sense of God’s love for creation. Paul reminds us that in the light of Christ we can hold on to a conviction of the role of Christ for everyone. This is a lord and master who serves all, and who seeks to rescue us from our brokenness. The Canaanite woman serves as a test case for Jesus’ ministry of rescue to all. She perseveres and her need is met. Do we need to persevere more doggedly in our faith in God and not be discouraged?


 

Sunday Pause for Thought : Ninth Sunday after Trinity 2017

Sunday Pause for Thought : Ninth Sunday after Trinity 2017

 

These lectionary resources were originally written for RSCM Sunday by Sunday magazine and are reprinted here with their permission.

For further information about their work do visit

Planning worship

 

 

Sunday 13 August 2017

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

 

Common Worship Lectionary/Revised Common Lectionary

Proper 14

 

Genesis 37.1–4, 12–28 Joseph dreams he will become great and tells his brothers, who sell him into slavery
Psalm 105.1–6, 16–22, 45b* Praise for God who rescued Joseph from slavery and Egypt from famine
Romans 10.5–15 Confessing Jesus as Lord leads to salvation
Matthew 14.22–33 Jesus walks on water and rescues Peter from sinking

 

 

The Gospel reading gives us a picture of God’s utter reliability in life’s storms. Yet on our part, trusting God can always be strengthened, as testing may show. The family strife that led into Joseph’s being sold into Egypt’s will in due course reap huge benefits for his people. Paul reminds us that God’s acceptance is open to all – Jews and Gentiles alike can join in the faith of Jesus. We might therefore pray to accept gladly that God has no favourites, and that we should all deepen our trust in God’s love and power.


 

Confused Angry Anxious?

Why working with older people in care can be really difficult and what to do about it

Bo Hejlskov Elven, Charlotte Agger and Iben Ljungmann

Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2017 192pp ISBN: 9781785922152

Positive Communication

Activities to reduce isolation and improve the well-being of older adults

Robin Dynes

Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2017

200pp ISBN: 9781785921810

 

 

A part of each one of us fears getting older because we see some of the consequences of age in our neighbours, friends and loved ones. This week I came across an older woman in my local shop who was completely lost – unaware of why she was in the shop and what brought her into this part of the town. Amidst the activity of those of us who were shopping few noticed her intense isolation, anxiety and frustration.

Another friend and colleague is struggling with older parents at a distance knowing that their quality of life continues to deteriorate partly as a result of their isolation. Of course this is not to argue that all old age is problematic – an inexorable and irreversible process of diminishment, decline and death. Some enjoy a good old age with health and vitality supported by family and community.

Recent initiatives in raising our awareness of dementia and its consequences has perhaps enabled us to realise some of the challenges that face us all as we befriend age in ourselves and others. It could be argued that what we need is a revolution in the care of older people similar to those who initiated a radical change in the culture of pain control for people living with cancer. This change will only come about if we open ourselves up to a more emotionally and spiritually informed understanding of old age and indeed a readiness to adapt and respond to different approaches to social care.

As ever Jessica Kingsley publishers demonstrate their commitment to innovative and ground-breaking narratives in our approaches to the care of older people.

I was especially interested to read the first book, Confused, Angry, Anxious? which emerges in part out of the experience of engaging older people in Denmark. I was especially impressed with the entrepreneurial approach to housing solutions for older people when I visited Copenhagen about 10 years ago. With characteristic care great attention had been given to design, independence, safety and sense of freedom in this particular community of older people. With similar care these authors explain why it is that older people in care, especially those living with dementia, can become difficult and therefore test our patience. The book aspires to a high aspiration of both longing for kindness and patience that can solve problems both for the older person and those who seek to care. Grounded in psychological theory the authors seek to offer a very wide variety of practical solutions to irrational, aggressive or unreasonably repetitive behaviour. Grounded in the real experience of individuals there is a quality to the organisation of each of these 17 chapters.

Part one sets out some principles. We are led firmly into the arena of identifying the problem alongside an affirmation that we must hold on to the belief that people behave well if they can. Carers must develop self-control for cooperation with the community of care holding onto the possibilities of maintaining self-control.

Part two offers a range of cases and action plans reminding the reader and practitioner that there are a range of social needs to be met and that the older person must be seen within the context of their family unit.

Part three explains with some admirable clarity types of dementia, person centred care and finally offer some study material indicating that the book is clearly informed by a grasp of the range of literature in this area.

 

 

Positive Communication is a working handbook designed for facilitators and older adults who want to explore how we might develop self-esteem and encourage personal expression and independence. The activities are all ready to use, practical and to my mind clearly tested out in practice.

A number of areas are tackled. The subheadings of each of the activities are: identifying strengths, interests, hopes and dreams; difficult topics; creativity; communication; memory; spirituality; social communication; writing; remaining active; building confidence and reminiscence. These will give you some indication of the range and scope of each of the 100 exercises.

The author is to be commended for such clear and systematic organisation and the publishers for printing this book with a careful eye to detail, typeface and design. I shall certainly be using some of these exercises in my work as a theological educator in the area of raising consciousness about age awareness and importance of moving beyond information overload in our digitalised age to good human connectivity.

 

James Woodward

Sarum College

www.sarum.ac.uk

God Curious & the Importance of Theology

God Curious & the Importance of Theology

God Curious: Exploring Eternal Questions

Stephen Cherry

JKP 2017

 

Over 30 years ago I trained for Ministry alongside Stephen at Westcott House in Cambridge. There were three particular things that I remember about Stephen. The first was his reflective intelligence. The second was his readiness always to look beyond the immediate into a broader and wider horizon. The third was his ability as a wordsmith and poet.

 

Now the Dean of King’s College Cambridge he brings these gifts to bear upon theology and offers us an exploration of the history, shape and relevance of this discipline for our understanding of the world, God and human flourishing. I promise you that these pages will stimulate, irritate and enlarge your thinking. Stephen asks us to go beyond the surface of the soundbite, the sentimental and even trivial world of religious narrative into a compelling and adventurous exploration of religious truth. He shows us in these 10 short chapters what imagination, religious literacy and enthusiasm for God might look like.

 

Theology is a subject for study in higher education continues to diminish and change much as classics did over the last couple of decades. What we need to do is to recapture commitment and energy for a subject that might equip us to move beyond reductionism and fundamentalism into a way of knowing that enables us to understand and interpret the world. To do this Stephen demonstrates how the Christian tradition can be put to work in a way which is both serious and enjoyable.

 

Congratulations to Jessica Kingsley for publishing this book and at a reasonable price. I already have a list of people who will receive a copy in due course.

 

James Woodward

Sarum College

www.sarum.ac.uk

A Cry of Absence ?

A Cry of Absence ?

 

A Cry of Absence

Reflections for the winter of the Heart

Martin E. Marty

W IPF 1983

 

This narrative emerges out of a particular experience, that of the death of the author’s wife, Elsa, from cancer. Marty narrates the life changing trauma at the opening of the book in the preface and then allows this sad music to shape a reading of Scripture which is searching, searing and strong.

 

A leading US academic, Marty is widely regarded as a key interpreter of religion in America. An ordained Lutheran pastor his theological and spiritual world is shaped by the reformed tradition but not limited by it. Throughout these eight skilfully written chapters he reminds us that institutional and organised religion can so easily mask the face of God and offer an inauthentic spirituality.

 

The central metaphor, ‘the winter of the heart’ which is captured and explored through the Psalms as a movement of the heart in embracing the loneliness and chaos of pain, loss, evil and the mystery of death. In every chapter the reader is urged onto and into a deeper search for truth; to new horizons of meaning; of attention to unanswered questions together with pain filled silence.

 

This is, by usual standards and old book, secured via Amazon and printed by them – rather expensively and unsatisfactorily – and I was recommended it by a friend knowing some of my own particular story and some of the theological questions that I continue to ask. At the moment I’m not entirely sure that we are equipped, engaged and open enough to the sheer horror and nothingness of suffering. In this digitalised age we attempt to capture meaning to quickly, to briefly and without enough readiness to stay with the winter, the darkness, the silence. We skate over the ice without being ready to plunge into the dark, cold waters below.

 

I cannot say whether this book helps in any immediate or obvious way. It reframes some questions and helpfully puts all human struggles into an economy of time and space for those of us who whole to the anchor of faith for hope. There must be, for all of us, a careful attention to the parts of our winter that we too quickly wish to pass through into another season. Perhaps our modern age, our religious and ecclesiastical life are over dominated by the summer at the expense of winter. Our world and our lives need a spirituality that can embrace abandonment, despair and defeat. A winter of the heart may be a source of renewal and change for us and the communities we build. Communion and community are always stronger and wiser when formed out of the trauma of some of our profoundest experiences of loving, living and losing. Love – even in the winter of our hearts – is always stronger than death.

 

This is, above all, a meditation on the character and presence of God. Is God present? Why is God silent? What does the soul long for? How is God hope for us? These are constant, truthful and searing questions as we attempt to articulate the rhythms of life in a way that trust can be nurtured.

 

In a world distracted by triviality and the church that can so often fail to be appropriately serious this is a sober narrative of wisdom. Reading books may fail to change the world – but this narrative has transformed my perceptions. For us as early summer blossoms the work of the winter experience of our hearts perhaps begins?

 

 

James Woodward

Sarum College

May 2017

Embracing our Mortality ?

Embracing our Mortality ?

 

Marion Carter

Helping children and adolescents think about death, dying and bereavement

Jessica Kingsley publishers 2016

£16.99

ISBN 9781785920110

 

Carlo Leget

Art of Living, Art of Dying

Jessica Kingsley publishers 2017

£14.99

ISBN   9781785922114

 

In the UK in recent weeks there has been a great deal of discussion about the ‘British stiff upper lip’ partly enabled by Prince William and Prince Harry talking openly about their struggles following Princess Diana’s death some 20 years ago. Their honesty about the stark reality of bereavement and coming to terms with unexpected loss has been widely affirmed as part of and need for all of us to pay attention to our inner life and to be honest about our emotional and psychological health.

Of course many of us are sheltered from direct experience of death and dying as the population grows older and, death, perhaps is much less a part of everyday life. It might be interesting to ask whether in past centuries when death was much more part of the experience of people in communities we  were more in tune with the rhythms and changes of life – more ready to talk and reflect. Put another way does direct and regular experience of death make us more able or empowered to reflect on loss and deepen our emotional and spiritual intelligence?

One of the organising questions for any of us who write or teach in this area is this: what kind of narrative best enables us to dig more deeply into the human, cultural, emotional and spiritual realities of loss, change and death? What kind of bridges need to be built so that knowledge can be put to work in and through our experience?

 

Marion Carter is a wise guide putting to use many years of work as an experienced chaplain and theological educator. She has a gift for good organisation, clear description and the constant eye and ear open to practice. Her book is a helpful resource that asks how children can begin to understand death and how adults might support and engage with children as they encounter this complex and bewildering subject.

This volume fills a much needed gap in the literature. Chapters cover the following subjects: What is death? Grief and Bereavement; Factors influencing Grief; Truth telling with children and adolescents; Schools coping with death; Funerals; Continuing care of children and Caring for carers. All of these chapters are supplemented with helpful appendices, a comprehensive reading list and an outline of useful websites and organisations.

Alongside this accessible narrative is another key feature which strengthens the helpfulness of this book. It is the way in which Carter draws in, users and explores experience. The voice of those who are facing bereavement are never very far away from the text. There are helpful activities used to elicit the reader’s experience at the end of each chapter.

 

Carlo Leget is an ethicist working out of Utrecht in the Netherlands who brings his experience of philosophical discourse and theological narrative to a reader who wishes to create some inner space within which to explore the many faces and meanings of death. He demonstrates that a spiritual care model can help us to discuss and engage with existential questions about death and dying. The aim of this book is to offer a framework within which we might interpret these questions. The author draws on extensive experience and uses his practice to offer a guide to deeper and wiser conversations with both religious and non-religious patients.

The first three chapters open up the framework by exploring the art of dying and our complicated relationship to death. Chapter 3 asks that we attend to the inner space within which the following questions might be explored (these form each of chapters 4 to 8) – who am I and what do I really want? How do I deal with suffering? How do I say goodbye? How do I look back on my life? What can I hope for?

The final two chapters imaginatively and insightfully discuss the mediaeval Ars Moriendi as a model for relating a wiser embrace of life in the light of our mortality.

Leget proves himself to be a wise guide and this book deserves the widest possible readership. I congratulate the editors at Jessica Kingsley for securing the text for publication.

These are good books that need to be read carefully and slowly. However – and in the end – this work of befriending death, embracing loss and change, being more emotionally intelligent about the relationship between living and mortality remains our responsibility. Those of faith would do well to consider how we build communities where this wisdom is part of the nourishing Wells from which people might drink for life and the letting go into new life through death.

 

James Woodward

Sarum College

Understanding the Spiritual Shape of Older Age

Understanding the Spiritual Shape of Older Age

 

The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing 

Elizabeth MacKinlay Jessica Kingsley Publishers  2017  £19.99

With a background in nursing and specialisation in gerontological nursing much of McKinley’s focus over the past years has been on age and spirituality. Her preparation for Ministry nurtured priest and nurse in a commitment to deepening our understanding of the ageing process, its physical and psychosocial needs, and the common disease conditions of older adults. Her body of research work and books have been a fundamental  and important part of the growing literature in our developing understanding of spiritual care.

MacKinley has brought into this commitment her own belief system and managed to hold both Christian conviction within the context of a secular environment in such a way as to demonstrate the core significance of the spiritual as part of enriching human flourishing for all older adults.

The book has 19 chapters with a number of helpful figures and tables illuminating a range of discussions which include the relationship of spirituality to health and well-being; meaning in life; images of God; the spiritual journey in ageing; humour and laughter and spirituality in ageing; isolation; cognitive decline and the nature of professional engagement in this area of support and care.

The second edition of this book is a welcome resource for all of us who are teaching, learning and research. MacKinley puts her learning to use in a meaningful, coherent and insightful way. Those of us who know her work will bear testimony to its capacity to change thinking and practice.

 James Woodward

Sarum College

Sarum College Presentation Day 4th March 2017

Sarum College Presentation Day 4th March 2017

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(my opening remarks at the Ceremony)
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all this morning to this ceremony for the presentation of academic awards for Sarum College. Thanks to St Thomas Church for hosting us and to a former student, Roger Wilcock who is playing the organ.
It is good to see so many familiar faces and to share in this celebration of your achievement. Behind each name on this programme is an individual story that is characterised by effort, creativity, engagement and a deepening of learning and wisdom. Alongside each one of you there are a whole number of people who have encouraged, supported and journeyed – putting up with long nights, scattered piles of books and paper, times spent away and those meals you cooked while deadlines were being met. Thank you for your achievement in the gift of care and patience.
For Sarum College this is also a significant event. For the first time we have a joint ceremony of students from our MA programmes with students from the Centre for Formation in Ministry. I want to thank my team at Sarum working so hard to be part of your academic achievement. The hospitality and housekeeping staff, those who have produced the food to sustain our learning, Jayne Downey and her staff, all those who help us navigate Moodle and the mysteries of Sarum Learn ; but especially the academic team whose enthusiasm, skill and carefulness have supported and enabled each one of you in your learning. Thanks go to you our teachers and the journey you have taken us on.

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Sarum College stands in the shadow of one of the most magnificent mediaeval buildings in the world – Salisbury Cathedral. We are indebted to this physical place which also plays a part in the richness of nourishing the human spirit. The Cathedral, a vibrant worshipping, growing and witnessing community, are partners and friends in this venture and on your behalf I welcome the Dean of Salisbury, June Osborne. When the history of this particular and sometimes turbulent period of church life is written I am confident that June’s name will appear as a person who has made a difference through her perseverance and witness to enabling a richer, wiser and more inclusive spiritual economy. June’s contribution to the development of women’s ministry into the whole life of the church is incalculable. I also believe that she remains one of today’s eminently skilled narrators who communicates like few others. Unafraid to grasp the nettle; a fearless preparedness to name some of those things which prevent us all from flourishing; a restless desire for us to go deeper; strong and bold leadership all characterise June’s ministry. June thank you for your presence with us and we look forward to your address in due course.

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I wish you a happy day. Bidden or Unbidden God is present and into that presence we offer this stage of our journey

James Woodward
Principal
Sarum College

Photographs copyright Ash Mills http://ashmills.zenfolio.com/

Sarum College Grads Highly Distinctive

Alongside the usual Saturday morning shoppers Salisbury’s High Street on March 4th was a procession of more than 50 Sarum College graduands in robes and mortar board hats making their way from the Cathedral Close to St Thomas’s Church to be awarded academic degrees.

‘Presentation day is a time for the College to come together to congratulate our graduates and those who have supported them in their considerable achievements and it is good to see so many young people at the ceremony to affirm their parents’ achievements,’ says Sarum College Principal, The Revd Canon Dr James Woodward. ‘Nearly half of our postgraduate students have earned merits or distinctions and all have worked incredibly hard. I am delighted to congratulate each individual but also to take pride in being part of a team here at Sarum that supports such excellence.’

‘Well done to you students for all you have achieved in gaining your award,’ said The Very Revd June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, who gave this year’s Presentation address. ‘But an even greater accolade is due to you for exercising the gifts of moderation, without which human communities will not find solidarity or glimpse the character of God.’

On Presentation Day, graduates, their family and friends and Sarum College staff come together to celebrate their achievements. For the first time, the awards ceremony combines those who have earned postgraduate degrees across Sarum’s five MA programmes as well as those being formed for ministry in the Churches.

About Sarum College
Founded in 1995, Sarum College is an ecumenical study, conference and research centre situated in historic grade 1-listed buildings in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close.

Welcoming people of all faiths and none, Sarum’s educational programmes are organised into seven centres of learning: Centre for Contemporary Spirituality; Centre for Leadership Learning; Centre for Liturgy and Worship; Centre for Theology, Imagination and Culture; Centre for Encountering the Bible, Centre for Human Flourishing; and the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Ministry studies became integrated into Sarum College’s education programme after the merger with the Southern Theological Education and Training Scheme in February 2015.

There are four postgraduate programmes validated by the University of Winchester. Ministry courses are validated by Durham University and students can choose full-time, part-time or practice-based study and training. These courses create opportunities for all to learn, to think, to speak and to act with greater theological confidence and can lead to a postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma or an MA degree.

Guest bedroom and meeting rooms also can be hired by the general public when not in use for courses and college events.

For more information about Sarum College’s postgraduate study programmes, call 01722 424827 or rnicklen@sarum.ac.uk

The Age of Potential

The Age of Potential


An address given to the pupils and Staff of Bishop Wordsworth School

Salisbury Cathedral Shrove Tuesday 28th February 2017

I wonder what your perfect age is? What number would be your choice? Perhaps that number – your ideal age – uniquely individual as it will be reflects something of your relationship to time, your priorities and values. Your ideal age might also reveal some of our fears and even prejudices about age. They are rare people who are able to say simply and believe it deeply – that they are perfectly happy being just the age they are – 14, 17, 30, 55, 80. Part of what it means to be human to is to work out what age means for us. We are constantly defining and redefining what age means.

Perhaps few of us here would want to turn the clock forward and like the voice in Emersons poem (Terminus) as they reflect on the course of life as it approaches its end. Who would want to face their human fragility and its essential boundedness? In those lines there is a beauty and profundity of a reflective life – that looks backwards – articulates what is important and is able to face the things that most of us fear: failure, fear, limitation and regret. There is a quiet peacefulness and wholeness to a reflective life, well lived and lacking self-dramatisation or regret.
Lowly faithful, banish fear
Right onward drive unharmed;
The port, well worth the cruise, is near
And every wave is Charmed.

I am all too aware that this maybe just a step too far into a world that needs not to be contemplated at your age and so relatively early in the morning. I am bidden to ask you about your relationship to age and especially and particularly older age. Your generation will expect to live longer than mine and so what do you do with age and how you relate to age will fundamentally shape the life you live and society you build. If we continue to be fearful, dismissive or just prejudiced about older people then we run the risk building walls and barriers in a world that needs older age and all ages to thrive. Perhaps one of the profoundest of moral questions that we need to face together across the generations – regardless of belief – is this: What are older people for?

Today is Shrove Tuesday – and in the Christian Church prepares for Lent: Time to stand back, reflect and where ever possible deepen our inner life, our spiritual wisdom, our desire to build a better world founded on love and justice. The Bible takes a longer view of our journey, on our spiritual pilgrimage and the place of time within the horizon of living. It is called eternity and part of our calling to be truly and freely human is to get our timing right!

So – those of you more observant might wonder (perhaps) about the theme of this cathedral service – the age or potential. And this is where I end. Whatever your age or indeed your relationship to age –locating and naming our relationship to age is an important part of understanding our potential. And whatever else you remember from this morning, remember this – your school, your parents, Your friends – your neighbours here in Salisbury Cathedral close, especially Sarum College, want you to thrive and fulfil your potential as flourishing human beings. Your potential is never limited to one stage of our life. There is potential at every age to thrive, unlock our capabilities and make a difference.

So: consider the following individuals who at various ages fulfil their potential and left the world a better place:

At 3 Wolfgang Mozart taught himself to play the harpsichord.

At 18 Norwegian mathematician Niels Hendrick Able prove that it was impossible to solve the general equation of 5th° by algebraic means.

At 32 Alexander the great had conquered almost the entire known world.

And to remind us that we keep on fulfilling our potential at all ages:
Consider –

At 55 Pablo Picasso painted his first masterpiece.

At 68 The English experimentalist Sir William Crooks began investigating radioactivity and invented advice for detecting alpha particles.

At 77 John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space

At 88 Marc Chagall became the first living artist to be exhibited at the Louve museum.

At 93 PG Wodehouse worked on his 97th novel and was knighted.

And just to encourage you – and a final reminder that we can fulfil our potential at any age – as 100 Frank Shearer continues to be the oldest active waterskier in the world!

So my hope and prayer for each one of you is that we might be more reflective and wise about the nature of age and the shape it takes within us and in the process we might fulfil our human potential at every stage of our life to shape the world for good.

So – what is your ideal age?

Lent Books 2017

Lent Books 2017

Here is my wander through a number of Lent books offering you a little glimpse into some of what is available.


Justin Welby, Dethroning Mammon.
This short book well organised into six chapters and offers the possibility of a basis for lent study on the challenging question of what might a Christian make money and materialism. It is focused and grounded in Scripture and asks persistent and searching questions of the reader. How do we handle the power of money? Who will direct our actions and attitudes and how does following Jesus bring hope and freedom in a world ever obsessed with individualism, consumerism and materialism.

Ian Adams, Wilderness Taunts
This is an attractive collection of 20 meditations in word and image focused around the theme of being a hopeful human being. Adams asks his reader to listen to their fears, embrace and name them and in doing so work towards transformation. He is ingenious and creative in using the 40 days in the wilderness of Jesus as a springboard for exploring taunts and difficulties that face us today and so often throw us off balance.

David Bryant, Glimpses of Glory
This is a wonderful book written after the author was diagnosed with terminal cancer and published following his death. He draws widely on poetry, literature, art and music. The text is grounded, refreshing, moving and revealing. Forty short chapters cover a very wide range of themes such as kindness, laughter, guilt, alienation, peace, voyaging and possessions. There is an intensity and focus which you will find transformative. The book will work well for a home group at any time of the year.

Paula Gooder, Let me go there: the spirit of Lent
Sarum College bookshop supporters will be familiar with Paula’s work and approach to opening up Scripture. This completes her series of short books tackling various seasons of the churches year. The question for us is this: how does God meet us in the desert? Written certainly with an eye to providing resource material for lent groups each of the chapters offers a focus of questions for discussion and pointers for further reflection. Accessible, clear and engaging – are part of this writer’s attraction for the general reader.

Samuel Wells Hanging by a Thread: the questions of the cross
The arresting and compelling organising theme of this book is this ‘there was a time when the cross was an answer – today the cross is a question’. This short, tightly argued but fluent book considers the risk, cost and suffering of the cross in the light of six key contemporary concerns. They are the reliability of history; the fragility of trust; mortality; meaning; the nature of power and the character of love. Rich, engaged and stimulating – this book would make a good base for a study group at any time of the year. It is easy to see why Wells is such a popular communicator in today’s church.

Mark Oakley (editor) A Good Year
Talks do not easily translate themselves into the written word but Oakley has gathered together seven bishops who explore the simple question: what can we do to make the seasons good? Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost are all looked at from a rich diversity of perspectives. The final chapter on Pentecost is offered by our own Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne. Stimulating and mostly helpful this book could be profitably used for private study or as a base upon which to explore our journey through the seasons of the churches year

Stephen Cottrell The things He did
Cottrell continues to engage and communicate with an energy and connectivity which are attractive and stimulating. Six chapters concentrate on the events around holy week from Palm Sunday through to Good Friday. The writing is focused and reflective and digs deeply into Scripture. There are helpful pointers for reflection around passages of Scripture at the end of each chapter.

Paul Cox No Body but Yours
For the reader who wants to put their Christian faith into practice this may well be the book that enables and empowers such social action. Cox users the prayer of Teresa of Avila to open up the simple but profound question: how do we show Jesus? This book is written specifically for groups and includes a short act of quiet and worship. Scripture is often used to be read dramatically and for the participants to reconnect with familiar passages. At all points the reader within the study group is asked to think about action.

Amy Boucher Pye The Living Cross
This carefully organised and well written book attempts to get inside the freeing and changing nature of forgiveness. Forty Seven reflections cover the whole of Lent grounded in Scripture and tradition offering a searching and challenging engagement with the heart of our faith.

James Woodward
Principal Sarum College

Relationship-Based Research in Social Work

Relationship-Based Research in Social Work

Relationship-Based Research in Social Work : Understanding Practice Research

Edited by Gillian Ruch and Ilse Julkunen
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016,

I write this short notice after a brief look over the Sunday newspapers. Misunderstanding, disconnection, prejudice and sometimes sheer blindness seem to characterise our human relationships. The information technology revolution does not seem to have enabled us to deepen our understanding of making human relationships work. Although this book, technical in its scope, will be used mainly by social work students and practitioners the implications of its methodology are far-reaching.

The book draws on psychodynamic, relational, discourse analytical and systemic understandings of research and practice. The thesis grounded in a range of accessible and stimulating case studies suggests that as we dig deeper into our understanding of roles and relationships we move into the heart of a co-creation of knowledge in practice research. As a teacher and facilitator this collection of 12 essays has enabled me to look at learning and the way in which we are both enabled and disabled into new areas of knowledge by our own limited views and perspectives.

The essays examine a number of case studies of research projects carried out in England and Finland. In an age when we do not examine with enough wisdom and intelligent critique the dependability of sources of knowledge this useful and insightful collection of essays will deepen and integrate knowledge in the teaching of research and practice.