Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Decisions decisions

Blood pressure check up first thing Monday morning - the worst time in the week after a long hard Sunday. It was down, but still not as 'normal' as the Doc would like it to be. He is being very pastoral towards me and trying to understand the pressures and demands. But then life has far from returned to being normal. Coping with crisis just goes on and on.
I was supposed to go on a (mandatory) Leadership Training Course run by the diocesan Continuing Ministerial Education team during the daytime Monday to Thursday, but the week's diary was out of control before I got the details (late) of where and when, so I had to send an apology. Pity really, as I'd decided I was going to spend the four days protesting that I was tired of being in 'church leadership', and would happily hand over all my 'leadership' responsibilities to someone with more energy and competence, in order to return to a simple laid-back life of prayer and pastoral encounter.
Anyway, it wasn't to happen. I couldn't even get someone to take my place to celebrate the four regular weeday Eucharists, and I wasn't going to cancel them if I could help it. I wasn't going to give up playing guitar for 'God on Mondays' either - it's a precious moment of meeting with families finding what church can mean outside the conventional expectation.

There was a Tredegarville school governors' meeting, straight after 'God on Mondays' at which I had formally to seek permission to hold Parish worship services in the school, once St James' is closed down. Not everyone is happy about what we propose. There are anxieties which arise from failure to recognise that we are trying to care for people who are outside the existing congregation, plus those of the congregation who have stayed loyal but do relish being welcomed by near neighbour churches, and losing touch with each other an the fellowship of their distant youth. Anyway, we don't know where this venture will lead, and won't unless we give it a try.
I was contacted by the Representative Body's Properties Office to inform me that it was my duty to put in a request for planning permission in relation to the tidy-up works planned for two weeks hence at St James' which will give the school more play area and a secure boundary. I thought this was routinely done when the church want through its faculty procedure, but apparently not. This was something special to do with the transfer of a strip of land a few feet wide and fifty feet long from one Church in Wales organisation to another. City Planning would be interested - interested in what? A theoretical and internal change of ownership of a gap between buildings filled with rubbish, excrement, occasional needles and dossers, sordid enough to be mentioned in a modern novel about Cardiff low-life. Just the thing to make my blood pressure soar.
I got on to a local councillor whose planning consultative group I am a member of, and explained what had happened, asking his advice about whether turning an eyesore into a bit of extra school-yard space was really an issue for the Council as it seems to be for someone in the legal bunker (which seems to be making a bid to become the Church in Wales command and control centre, rather than its servant). His response will be ... interesting.

News of SD Two
Tuesday morning, I had the pleasure of taking my new colleague Chris to sit in on the monthly Retail Partnership Board meeting. People were, as ever, welcoming, and there was lots of interesting input, especially as we were being treated to a first look at the latest designs for the Grand Mall of the St David's II shopping centre. DHL, the meeting Chair was on the ball as usual and said astutely: "Now that looks like the main Mall I visited in Dubai recently, or was it Singapore?" A great discussion starter on the theme 'How are shoppers going to know they are in the Capital city of Wales, without overkill on dragons and daffodils?' Tricky - the designers and architects are not really on the same planet as the rest of us. Their enterprise is still far too London based. I never forget how when the first architects model of the city centre was unveiled, the tiny model of St John's church had been placed on the board recto-verso, with the tower at the east, not the west. It was great to joke about, but a serious side effect of remote control management and design.
Worries about the effect of redevelopment on the supply of shoppers' parking space in the city have been with us for the past two years. A big effort is being put into providing new 'Park and Ride' schemes, but a bit of brilliant lateral thinking has produced an enterprising solution. IKEA in Grangetown is too big for the region's needs and its parking twice what is needed. Five hundred of them are to be taken on for weekday Park and Ride - ten minutes ride from the central shops. IKEA's big retailing time is weekends and holidays. No doubt their restaurant will get extra business from tired and hungry shoppers on the way home. Another site in the Bay promises an additional 350 parking places to ease the loss of central multi-storey parks. City centre site clearance starts in earnest this coming November, a demolition and excavation exercise that will produce enough rubble to fill the Millennium Stadium. It'll all be up and running for Christmas 2009, so they say. While we are waiting, teams are preparing to excavate a new main sewer route through the back streets using underground boring equipment. This report was also the butt of jokes and puns. It's a great meeting, never a dull moment.

Look Who's coming
In the afternoon following the meeting, I had a meeting with Patrick Schweizer, a BBC site manager working for the Doctor Who Production team to finalise details for a two day film crew use of St John's to stage a wedding scene as part of this year's Christmas special. The team would like to have been left to its own devices, but we insisted that weekday worship would continue as normal, and that there would be several 'welcomers' from the church team around during both days, to keep an eye on things and be helpful to the crew. This seemed to me to be the most suitable way of avoiding accidental misuse of the building or its furniture, and was accepted meekly. Taking the church out of use and restricting public access at the height of the tourist season is not the best thing to do, so it was important some of the locals were around to explain politely, rather than leave the task to some BBC security gorilla in a hi-viz vest. It also meant that we were seeking more compensation than the BBC were offering as a starting price. A bit like haggling in reverse, they met our reasonable demand in the end, though some thought we should have held out for more.
Eventually, the publicity will help augment our visitor count. We've noticed more visitors coming in because the City Centenary town trail (in which we feature), its guidebooks and markers are now in place. We have English, French, German and Welsh guidebooks for taking away, and they are disappearing at a pleasing rate. It's a nice quality product.

To be or not to be?
The day ended with a Parish Church Council meeting, to discuss suggestions by the Bishop that the Parish be split to relieve me of some responsibilites and allow Chris and to concentrate on city centre work. This would put Jenny's successor in charge of a Cathays pastoral area, containing St Michael's and St Teilo's. I have misgivings about dividing up something that's working well. There are all sorts of issues, financial and organisational that will be rendered less easy by a separation. But what do the people want? The clergy helped establish the pros and cons and withdraw for the laity to discuss freely. Much to our surprise they agreed to go with the Bishop's proposal. Several key voices in leadership were absent, and St Teilo's under-represented, so this can't be a final position. After the meeting, I emailed a report to the Bishop. My brain buzzed with unanswered questions all night, so I got up at seven and emailed him a memo with nine questions arising immediately. No doubt there will be more!

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