Rector's Blog

Addicted to busy

Letter to the Parish | Thursday 4 July 2019

Dear EOFG Parish,

My name is Clare Shepherd and I am an addict. I admit it. I am addicted to being busy. So this period of getting better and trying to go slowly is not easy. I don’t like waiting around. Patience isn’t one of my greater virtues.

I have had to learn to slow down a bit in these last months. In the first week after my heart attack I went to visit my friend Alice, who is also a priest. She had something to do in one of her churches for an hour, and so I had an hour to spend on my own. It was a beautiful day, and all I had to do was buy Alice a cup of coffee. I went to the local coffee shop and stood in the queue.

It was the slowest queue in the world. I couldn’t believe it. The lady behind the counter was in no rush at all. I felt so frustrated, I almost offered to get behind the counter to give her a hand. My breathing went shallow, my palms got sweaty, I almost walked out of the shop. And then I realised. I am addicted to hurrying up. I have a need to be busy all the time, to be going from one thing to the other. I hate being bored so much that I will fill my time full of distractions in order to avoid boredom. And maybe, just maybe, it makes me feel a bit important to be busy all the time.

I’m doing the assembly at Ewhurst Infant School on Thursday this week. They are learning about emotions this term. This week they are learning about pride and they have asked me to tell a Bible story about this. Straight away I thought of the story of Jesus being baptised. This can be found near the beginning of all of the Gospel accounts. As Jesus is being baptised, the voice of God can be heard saying ‘You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased’.

God was pleased and proud of Jesus even before he had started his ministry. He was proud of him just because of who he was. We are told that as Christians we are adopted children of God. He loves us just as much as he loves Jesus and he is just as proud of us. Nothing we can do can make God love us any more than he already does.

I have become a bit better at allowing myself to be not busy. I’ve always found that the best things in life tend to happen when I have time to stop and chat with people. It has been good to have time to remember some of the things I like doing. I’ve been reading a lot, and have been walking, and just sitting in our front garden which is one of my favourite places in the world. I’ve also enjoyed watching Will work - he is creating some patio areas in our garden which will make it easier for us to entertain people here.

But now I’m coming back to work. My work hours are going to be gradually building up. I can feel it coming back, this feeling that I should be rushing around, trying to solve all of the problems as quickly as I can. I need to remember that God’s love for me is not in any way relative to how busy I am. God just loves me and is proud of me. God loves us all, unconditionally. I wonder what a difference it would make if we really believed that.

With love from Rector Clare

 


Rethinking Leadership

Letter to the parish | 30th June 2019

Dear EOFG Parish,

What a glorious week we are having. Somehow everything seems better when the sun shines. It has been a good and productive week for me. Quite varied. It’s frustrating to only be working a few hours but this has made it necessary for me to think about what my priorities are. One of my big tasks has been to think about our leadership structure here in the parish. 

Our Monday Ministry and Mission (MMM) team has been meeting every week, after the 10am Morning Prayers at St John’s Okewood. This has been open to anyone who wishes to be involved in leadership in our parish. This has been the main forum for leadership and vision in our parish on a weekly basis. I am very thankful to all who have been faithfully attending these groups. 

I am changing this team slightly. From now on I would ask that all who wish to attend the Monday Ministry and Mission team do so after coming to the prayer group. This will enable is to have our meeting in a spirit of prayer and unity. I understand this will mean more of a time commitment. Please do not feel you need to attend every week. 

The MMM team will henceforth deal with the day to day running of the parish. We will review the previous week and we will plan the next week. This is still an essential part of our parish leadership, especially at this time as I am not working every day and I need to be kept up to speed on what is happening.

Longer term planning and vision setting will be done by the leadership team. This team comprises the Church Wardens and a few others. We are looking forward to moving our parish forward to find out the plans God has for us. We will be shortly sending out surveys to see where we are now as a parish.

I would welcome your ideas about new ways to create community and improve our church services and our presence in our community. If you have a bright idea please fill in one of the forms attached to this email and send it to will.shepherd@me.com

I am pleased to announce that we will be running a Confirmation class for those who wish to explore taking this important step of faith. We have a group of mixed ages. I am proposing to run this course in September in readiness for confirmation in our Deanery on Sunday the 20th of October. This course will likely run on a Monday or Wednesday evening from 6-8pm for 4 weeks. Please contact me on revclareshepherd@gmail.com if you are interested. 

My recovery is coming along well. I had my first session of cardiac rehabilitation on Wednesday and I pushed myself physically for the first time since the heart attack. It was great, and now I am pretty tired. It’s such a skill, learning how to listen to my body’s needs on a day to day basis.

With love from Rector Clare


Why I Love Mondays

Article for News & Views | Summer 2019

Did you know 37% of job applications are submitted on a Tuesday (abcnews.com)? That's how powerful Monday can be. But I love Monday because it's the day I reset for the week and that reset starts with prayer.

At 10am on Mondays you'll always know where to find me: at prayers at St John the Baptist, Okewood. Usually there are around 12 of us, sometimes we've had as many as 16: folk from all around the parish, and many who stay for the Ministry & Mission meeting afterwards. 

We pray in all different styles - in silence, out loud - using the Northumbrian Community words and structure. It's just a way of getting together with others and talking to God. There's no special skills required. I'm reminded of Sister Wendy, the nations favourite nun who said, "Accept that God is good and that our relationship with Him is prayer and you must conclude that prayer is an act of the utmost simplicity." She's right!

I've said it's about talking to God, but - and here I also need to be better - it's also about listening. This is where being silent and sensitive to the small, inner voice - the Holy Spirit - is important. When we've reached out in prayer and asked for guidance or healing, we need to wait and trust. Sometimes we get feelings or impressions. Other times we get promptings: "Go and call so and so, she needs a call". Sometimes words from the bible, poems or songs can enter your mind. When I returned from hospital recently, I prayed and was immediately reminded of a song with the refrain, "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know that he watches me." It was incredibly comforting. A word from God that he was with me. Praise him!

We also need to hear from God to know where he is leading us. Jesus said:

“‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” - ‭‭John‬ ‭10:14-16‬

So come and listen to God. You see, prayer can be a wonderful conversation with our Creator. On occasions, as well as blessing and comfort, you will get tough convictions: "Stop behaving in such and such a manner", "Start giving more generously". These can be hard directions to hear but I can guarantee that God will be patient, merciful and kind. And the only consequence I've experienced of being obedient has been a radical sense of freedom and very often subsequent blessings. 

Whether you come to Monday prayers or not, I encourage you to pray. Keep checking in with "Big G" as Will's Dad calls him. He's always there with a loving word. He's always got your back. He gives you the dynamism and direction to a fruitful future: a life to the full.

Of course I keep praying through the week, and we get together for a second session in Ewhurst on Thursdays at 10am. But it's because prayer starts and surrounds the week that I look forward to Mondays so much. 

With love from Rector Clare


A Parish United
Article for News & Views | Spring 2019

In response to President Trump’s call for a wall between the USA and Mexico, Pope Francis said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” I like that. And only two weeks ago I was preaching on the “unity of the body”, a passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. It’s all about combatting division:

 “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptised into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”

That bit about Jews and Gentiles for us could read: “Some of us are Ewhurstians, some Okewood folk, and some are from Forest Green.” But today, we are one parish: one community. And I hope we can be increasingly bound together with one spirit.

Unity is what our new logo is all about (see fig 1.).

It is made up of two trinities (see fig 2.).

The earthly trinity of our three communities is - in my vision at least - united with the heavenly trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When these two come together graphically, a wonderful flower shape emerges.

For me that symbolises the growth and hope that the unity of our parish will bring to our community. And I love that, though united, you can still see the three individual churches represented by three colours. Rest assured, unity will never mean uniformity.

Of course a logo is just a symbol. And very much a symbol of intent. But I hope you take away from this explanation of its creation that we can do amazing things as a united parish  - working together, serving one another, and, of course, walking in union with Jesus Christ.

With love from Rector Clare


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Page last updated: 16th Jul 2019 8:36 PM