Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Collared!

Weird, weird, weird.

Those of you who have been tracking my progress through Edgehill knew this moment had to come at some point (a little earlier than for Jools, who had to abandon his flipflops, poor thing)...


The time arrived in July when I put on the clerical shirt and collar in public for the first time. I found myself going through a whole range of thought-processes: For one, I believe that a clerical collar is regarded by many people within the church as some sort of mark of extra holiness - believe me, that isn't necessarily true! I do believe that leaders are called to model Christian discipleship and holiness, but I wonder if the collar puts a normal person onto some sort of super-human pedestal from which the only way is down. For the first weeks when I was on my way to the hospital or church I took out the white tab, I felt like everyone was watching how I drove, walked, waited...

For those outside of the church, the collar seems to bring either nervousness (I'm not aware of having the gift of words of knowledge, but a lot of people treat me as if I can see into their very soul) or a certain level of ignorance - there are a large number of people who seem to feel that they've 'got away' from religion and prefer to ignore any symbols of that religion at all costs.

But then there are the many people in the hospitals and homes that I visit, for whom the collar brings an element of assurance and comfort. In their moments of disturbance, pain and loneliness, the collar - and the one wearing it I hope - can bring a sign of God's peace into their situation.

Most of the time, I don't wear the collar. Practically, shirts have to be ironed and we're not particularly into the practice of perfect laundering. As just one member of the Body of Christ there are plenty of other Methodist 'ministers' in these towns who show by their daily actions what it means to love and be loved by God. But at times as I encounter people, representing the whole Body, the collar is an appropriate expression of God at work.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Flood

Saturday 16 August saw the heaviest downpour of rain in the whole of Northern Ireland for quite a while. Newcastle was particularly badly hit, around eighty people had to be evacuated overnight as floodwaters rose and entered their homes. The road outside our development pretty much disappeared:


It is a surreal experience to see a lifeboat being driven around a town to be launched at various places to rescue people from a cul-de-sac.

The strange thing is, we were in the house all day, thinking, "That's a lot of rain". We went for a walk when it stopped, to take pictures of the river and sea only to discover the trauma that other people were going through. How often do we miss the pain of others because we're not looking in the right place, or we're not there at all?

And where is God in all of this? I believe he walks with us through our 'trials and tribulations'... At the end of the day he gave a sign to the town that the ordeal was over - red sky at night: shepherds' and all of our delight - no more rain for a while.

What incredible beauty in the midst of turmoil! God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Allow me to take a moment to thank the personnel of the Police, Fire, Mountain Rescue, Ambulance, Coastguard and Council services. They worked hard throughout the night to keep Newcastle safe. We went to bed secure in the knowledge that they were keeping an eye things.

Lift me up - Flood