Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lenten trials and encouragements


How different life would be if church law required each parish to have an administrator to support the community and its pastor. There was a time when each Parish church had its full time Virger, who took care of both buildings and much parish administration. Back in Halesowen in the early nineties, during my stay, the last Parish Virger retired and was not replaced because the church could no longer afford to employ someone under modern pay and conditions. Managing a mix of volunteers and part time employees subsequently was quite a task, and not really a change for the better.
Getting a Lent programme together proves to be a struggle each year I do it. No matter how early I start drawing up a programme and recruiting speakers, getting responses to invitations is a bit of a nightmare, despite email, telephones and parish offices, colleagues are often reluctant to commit early to a set programme, not because they don't really want to do it, but because a lot more of us working in the church are overloaded, juggling times and opportunities, and almost fearful of becoming too tied down, as finding people to cover for absences gets harder. This is also a problem with making arrangements to cover absence on holidays. It absorbs time and generates anxiety.
At the last date possible for getting Lent programme publicity out on time, I succeeded, but with five Friday lunchtime lecturers this year instead of the usual six. I simply ran out of time to find someone for the first Friday in Lent. So we began our series: 'Spirituality for Today', with Monica Mills, the Cardiff Bay Lightship Chaplain, speaking about healing, and stimulating some good audience contribution.
I wasn't very pleased with the turnout, just over a dozen. Also the church was cold. It made me wonder why I bothered. She deserved a better audience than this. However, the first of the half-hour Wednesday lunchtime Johannine meditation services drew eight people, and the second today, fourteen. A woman came last week whose face was unfamiliar, though she said she was an irregular visitor. She said she had been reading some of the Christian apologetic leaflets I'd written, under the title 'Christianity for 21st century people', which she found in the tract case at the back of church. She'd found them helpful, and asked if I'd published any books!. This is the first feedback I've had on these leaflets in the three years since I produced them. I was amazed.
I told her I had a book on the Internet. She wasn't impressed or interested, but she did turn up to worship.
The book, 'Stones into Bread', an account of Christian faith for adult enquirers was completed in the middle nineties, re-edited to the bone over several more years, and uploaded to the Web over a year ago, after my few feeble attempts at finding a publisher had foundered. A few friends and family have read it in the past, including my late mentor, Dean Alun Davies, who said of it what he always said reflectively: "Interesting", followed by silence. I've caught myself saying the same about things in situations where I have been reluctant to elaborate. I daren't ask him what he meant by 'Interesting', just in case I didn't like the reply.
A month ago, someone thinking about confirmation asked for something for an adult to read in preparation, and so I handed them the copy which Dean Alun Davies returned enigmatically, which had sat on my shelf for three years unread. To my delight, it was returned a few days ago with a touching note to say that it had been there to read just at a moment of personal crisis and self-searching, and that it had been helpful.
Then a couple of weeks ago, someone else told me that they'd found reference to the book on this blog and had ventured to browse it, and had then downloaded it, printed it out, and read it. I was amazed by this, and even more delighted to learn that it had been helpful.
And it's left me wondering.... does this mean that the time is arriving for others to read it? Should I make a few more braver attempts to publish? I love writing and this blog has given me back a taste for telling of what I know and see.

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