Tag Archives: Church

Holy Sweat Glands

I don’t often say much about my work here, but if I had to sum it up in one word it would be ‘challenging’. Phyiscally challenging; intellectually challenging; emotionally challenging; and spiritually challenging. And most of the time I enjoy the challenge, but after 12 hours of being on my feet and often a few difficult conversations, then I’m usually glad to stop. This can include watching TV, meeting friends in a pub or collapsing with a takeaway. Last night it included gazing up at Jesus’ armpit.

I’d cycled up the hill after work to go to the alternative worship service, and because I’d got out of work late then I was late for the service, but I sneaked in and sat on the floor in the middle. As I recovered physically from the effort of getting myself and my bike up the hill and entered into the spirit of the service, I lay down. It soon became clear that most of the service was made up of stations around the church. Given that I had missed the explanation and didn’t quite have the energy to walk around the church yet, I opted to stay where I was – soaking up the background music.

I’d been lying on the floor with my eyes closed for a minute or two, when I opened them. And found myself looking at the crucifix from below. This Anglican church has a fairly large, Catholic-looking, cruxifix handing from the ceiling at the front of the church. The front of it, being brought up in a low church, really doesn’t do anything for me. Its far too fancy and cringe-worthy for my liking. But from where I was lying I could see the back of the cross, as it hung dramatically above me, and Jesus’ armpits; and it was strangely spiritually stimulating. It was a wow moment, when I first saw it. And then I could use it as a centre point in my thoughts and prayer. I think it was the way it was hovering above me (if it had fallen, the base of the cross would have landed on my legs) and the way it was completely unplanned, than specifically the armpits. But still, the holy sweat glands caused some laughter in the pub afterwards.

I love church connections!

Not only has it sorted me out with the house, which got 100% confirmed yesterday, we’re also being given 2 double beds and a couple of other bits of furniture from a mutual friend at church! 😀 Will just have to make sure I take down any pictures before transporting them!

Am I turning Anglican?

When I moved to my New Home, I was taken to a Methodist church by a friend who had been brought up in that church, but has since moved away. It was relatively similar to both the church that I was brought up in and the church I attended in Swansea. Within a couple of weeks of going there, I met for the first time, someone who I had known for a long time, via small world connections. He told me about an alternative worship church which meets on Sunday evenings in a parish church up the road. So I went along, and found myself settling in quicker than I could have settled in the Methodist church. The average age is much lower, with most people being in their 20s and 30s, and they still have their regular elderly members. We meet at 8pm for a hot drink, the service starts at 8.30 and is led by members of group, and afterwards we all go to the pub. There is instant socialising incorporated around worship, which meant that I made friends quickly. One friend there nicknamed me ‘Trouble’ within 2 weeks of meeting me! (I don’t know where he could have got that impression from… (A) 😉 )

For a little while I was attending both churches. But around my shifts, this grew increasingly more difficult. I can go to the alternative worship church after a day shift in work, and even after some weekends away. The only time I tend to miss services is when I’m on nights. Whereas the Methodist church service not only requires me to not be working, not be away, but also awake! If I’ve worked several long shifts in a row, and then I have a day off on Sunday, I’d often not wake up till after 10am, making getting to a 10.30 service (20 minutes walk) interesting! Consequently I haven’t been there since Christmas. I do feel a little bad about this, like I’m going against my roots and all I’ve previously known. But on the other hand, it doesn’t feel like my church. It never has done.

This alt worship church, although separate to the parish church its held in, is part of the local diocese and its official ‘leader’ is one of the vicars from the parish church. In practice the vicar doesn’t do a huge amount to lead it, I’ve never known him to lead a service and he even delegates the job of chairing the recently formed church council meetings. And services don’t bear any resemblance to traditional Anglican services. Its kinda ecumenical, although most members could be classed as ‘post evangelical’.

Because of the close connection with the parish church, we’re often invited along to events and special services there. The alternative worship church didn’t have a service on Easter Sunday, so I went along to the Anglican service instead. Being a Methodist, I’m not used to the ‘bells and smells’ (as a friend puts it) of traditional Anglican services. But my friends were going, so it felt the natural place to go, rather than the Methodist church which I haven’t been to since Christmas.

And its just a bit odd. All my life I’ve been involved in the life of a Methodist church. Except now. On the other hand, the alt worship church feels right for me at the moment. As much as I love a traditional Methodist service, they can get to the point where they rarely stimulate you. And around my shifts, both spiritually and physically, the ‘God time and space’ that the alt worship church provides, is often just what I need. Especially after a Difficult Week in work. As well as stimulating me spiritually, its also provided me with a friendship group, a boyfriend and a house (which has just about been confirmed!).

Down South

As most people who know me will know, I have recently moved Down South and started a new job. For obvious reasons my current location and details of my work will remain anonymous on such a public blog, but at the same time I am very aware that many readers will be wondering how I’ve been settling in, etc. So I’m going to try to give you an update, without disclosing too much.

Basically I feel that I am settling in fairly well. On my first proper day here, I went for an explore and within half an hour I found a kite shop and a Christian Aid protest – and I had a warm feeling that this could become home. I’m slowly beginning to find my way around and find the necessities. Work is going well – the staff are friendly and I get on well with my mentors. I’ve been receiving quite a lot of teaching and information overload often comes to mind, but at the same time I’m enjoying the challenge. I’m currently living with other NHS workers, who I get on reasonably well with, in a fairly decent flat – it has a much bigger kitchen than my old student house, not that that is hard! 😉 This morning I was kindly introduced to a local methodist church, where I negotiated offers to join the local student groups and help out with the Sunday School!

So generally I’m feeling positive about settling in properly. I do miss Swansea a lot, but I will be back to visit and my friends are planning trips Down South. I have to go back in November as I’ve organised an SCM gathering there, but I should get a quick visit in before then. My bike is currently in a friend’s garage, so that’s my excuse to go back and visit! Having found a secure and dry place for my bike at both home and work, I’m looking forward to being able to cycle to work and explore a greater distance with it.

Leaving / Arriving Church

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Another fantastic cartoon from Dave there. And so true, in so many cases. I remember when I was searching for a church in Swansea, when I first moved away from home. I wanted to have the chance to experiment, try out a various of churches and decide *myself* which type/denomination / tradition, I was most comfortable with. I tried numerous churches, on several different occasions each. For a little while it was a toss up between a local Baptist church, which was well attended by students that I knew, and the local Methodist church which felt more familiar in its service structure, sermon length and general atmosphere, but didn’t have the students and young adults. For a couple of months I was chopping and changing between the two – not feeling settled or happy in either church, although I did feel more at home and comfortable at the Methodist church.

One weekend however, I went away to the Methodist Youth Conference, where there was a big discussions about how to bring more 20/30 year olds back into the Methodist church. On the train, on the way home, I decided that I couldn’t not got to a Methodist Church, just because it didn’t have many people my age in regular attendance. How was this supposed to be improved, if I didn’t go in the first place?! You can’t encourage 20/30 year olds back into the Methodist church, if you’re not going yourself! How can you improve anything within a church, if you don’t stay there for long enough, because you don’t like the way it’s done?!

The following Sunday I went to church and met, for the first time, Sarah and Mike – two regular student attenders at the church, at that time. Since then the numbers of students and young adults have increased – there is now usually a good handful of us, even though we’ve sadly lost Mike in that time.

I am very glad that I chose to make Sketty Meth my home church, and I’ll certainly miss it when I move away. Will just have to add to the numbers of 20/30 year olds elsewhere…

Update

As one friend pointed out the other day, I haven’t blogged in over a week, which is quite unusual for me. So I thought I’d come and give you a quick update.

The main reason why I haven’t blogged much, is because I’ve been really busy. We’re doing a critical care module in uni at the moment which involves intensive lectures on ventilators, suicide, IV therapy and burns. Tomorrow and Friday we have two whole days on ‘the care of the dying’. Hmm. Not exactly the most thrilling of topics. But generally I am enjoying this module. Its at a harder level than anything we’ve done before, as you’d expect in third year, and its good to be challenged.

On top of my lectures and all the work that comes with it, I have started work on my dissertation. It is split into two halfs, each 5000 words long. The first half is a literature review, which can be written on any topic of your choice, and is due in at the beginning of January. The second half is a ‘Management of Change’ – basically saying what you would change about current practice, using the evidence from the literature review. But I don’t have to hand that in till next May. I have decided to do mine on the communication between nurses on the ward, and children with special needs and a severe communication impairment. Over the summer I started doing initial research and thinking about it, and then the other week I spoke to my supervisor about it, and she was really enthusiastic. I was given this particular lecturer because she is specialises in this field, and when I explained to her my idea, she was v.excited and claimed it was much better than the ‘run of the mill’ dissertations! She was very keen to do her best to support me with it, giving my half of her bookcase to read, her mobile phone number in case of difficulties and claimed that if i put the work in she would guide me, so that I reach my full potential. So yes, its all quite exciting… but the amount of work is more than a little daunting. Hence the recent lack of blogging.

And then of course, I’m also running an SCM group, planning alterntative worship for church this Sunday, as well as all the normal church stuff and social life, etc. Sigh. Life’s never quiet. Its ok though, at the moment I’m managing to juggle everything. My work is given priority. But then I also ensure I have one full day off a week, where I try to relax, but often end up doing everything that isn’t work, that needs doing! Its going to get erm, interesting, in a few weeks when I’m working full time on the wards, writing my dissertation and trying to keep up with church stuff. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it…

Offloading burdens

As I said yesterday, I was down south this weekend and on Sunday morning I went to my Gran’s Methodist chapel. It was a family service, but I have to admit, I didn’t hold great expectations for its ‘family’ aspect. All my life, i have attended that chapel whenever we’ve been visiting my Grandparents. And there have never been more than a small handful of children. If that. The congregation has always been largely made up of my Grandparents age, and there were many a service when I was the only child. (Admittedly this could have been because we were always there during the school holidays, so hence the regular children could have been away.) But yesterday, I was completely amazed. There must have been about 20 children there, and most of them had come with their parents, which lowered the average age considerably. What stunned me even more, was when my gran commented over dinner that there weren’t as many children there, as they usually have! Apparently they have a new, younger minister, who has gone into the local primary school and set up a ‘fish club’ after school. This has proved very popular, and through it many of the children have begun to attend church.

The local preacher that took the service must have known about the vast quantity of children, because it meant the entire service was very much all age. There were numerous activities which the children took part in, and the preacher also ensured there was a clear message that would be of benefit to both adults and children. The theme was journeys and the baggage that we tend to carry around with us. She demonstrated this very nicely, by asking a couple of the children and an adult to carry a heavy bag across the front of the church. She made the point that it would be a lot easier to travel anywhere if the bag wasn’t so heavy. She then opened up the bag, and took out a number of books which had been wrapped up in brightly coloured paper and had a word on the front. They each represented ‘baggage’ which we often carry around on our jounrey with God. Anger. Worry. Fear. Stress. She said that He will take all our baggage off our shoulders, enabling us to enjoy life and effectively do His work.

I definately found it a very useful service. It reminded me of this which Sarah wrote. Its one of those things that you know, but often you need reminding of, or presented in a different way, before you actually lay your burdens down.

Pray Without Ceasing

Last night I went to the Pray Without Ceasing vigil at Sketty Meth. This is part of the Methodist church’s year of prayer, which was initially sparked by the Methodist Youth Conference in 2003, which I attended. At this conference the young people of the Methodist church decided the 24/7 prayer movement should be encouraged, and not only did delegates resolve to organise 24/7 prayer events, but we also took a request to the big adult Methodist conference in 2004 to organise a national Methodist prayer event. Thankfully the adults in the Methodist church still felt prayer was important and organised a whole year of 24/7 prayer within the Methodist church.

Having seen and followed this movement from its roots, I was pleased to be able to attend the 6 hour slot my church had last night. My health visitor told me yesterday I could take today off, simply because i could not go along with her to the meetings she had. My initial thoughts were “YAY! I can stay up the whole night praying!!!” The evening began with a service at 11pm, the prayer vigil started at midnight and ran through till 6am, when another church in the circuit took over. We had optional ‘gatherings’ every hour, which made the night pass very quickly. There were a number of rooms which were each set up to stimulate prayer in different ways – a quiet room with calming music, candles, bibles and newspapers; a creative room with graffiti prayer wall, art materials and a ‘missionary bridge’; a Labyrinth room for quiet mediation; musical instruments were available to express prayer through songs and chants; and of course the kitchen was always open for tea (or water), toast and fellowship.

I found the whole night amazing. I spent most of the night making a collage in the creative room, because I suspected I would fall asleep if I didn’t keep myself busy. But I did ensure there was time and space for personal conversations with God. Its incredible how much stuff you can sort out in your head after a substainal, uninterupted quiet time with Him.

Many thanks to Richard and helpers for organising it, it was well worth staying up for, although I have to say I was glad to curl up in bed at 7am!