Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Church reaching out to women...

Today, like many people - women, men, bishops, priests and lay people - I am still in shock about the decision by Synod last night to narrowly reject the legislation that would have paved the way for women bishops as early as 2014.  Like many, I am waiting to hear what Synod will decide as the way forward.  Like many, I do believe the discussion will continue and I prayerfully hope, concrete plans and clear leadership will take precedence.

But today, I am deeply touched by what I am seeing and experiencing in the church.  Many, many women are deeply hurt, angry and feel betrayed by last night's decision but today, I am seeing women who are choosing to obey the call of God on their lives and who are putting on their clerical collars anyway and continuing to minister to their congregations and the wider communities around them.  I am seeing women who may be wiping away their tears but who are determined to stand together and to be faithful.

This morning, as a college community, we gathered together in the chapel and shared in the set Morning Prayer service from "Common Worship" - the book that shapes a great deal of worship in the Church of England.  Today's service spoke deeply of acknowledging hurt, betrayal, shock, confusion and judgement and of finding a way forward not by our own righteousness but by God's grace.  I experienced and saw people praying for each other - and not just praying for comfort for those who are hurt but praying for those who have made this decision and who must meet again to consider a way forward.  

I have seen people - women and men - reaching out to one another to say, "How are you doing today? How are you feeling?" and expressing love and support towards each other as we struggle with this decision.  I have seen, heard on the news and read online, the many statements by bishops who are expressing deep regret with this decision and who are committing themselves to find a way forwards that will include women fully in church leadership.  These same bishops are expressing a deep desire to care for those who are hurt by this decision.

I have received, and sent, a wealth of messages online and through Facebook expressing love and compassion to those who today are struggling.  I have received personal emails from friends and leaders in the church expressing sorrow for the decision, validation of the church's commitment to our vocation and calling as women and the offer of support for those who need time to talk.

In other words, contrary to some of the news headlines, today I see a church who are truly reaching out to one another, truly caring for each other and truly trying to love one another even in the midst of such deep disagreement.

It is true that I personally am shocked and angered by yesterday's decision and yet at the same time, I am deeply touched by the level of human concern and caring that is flooding our church today.  I pray that in the midst of this deep challenge, we can continue finding each other, caring for each other and talking - not for eternity on the same issue, but as a method to find a way forward.  And in the midst of it all, I pray we continue to show each other how deeply we care and love.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

"No" to Women Bishops

File:Logo of the Church of England.svgThis blog clearly is about Adam, but tonight the decision by the General Synod of the Church of England is weighing so heavily on me that I want - need - to write about it.  Many of you will know that I am an Ordinand for the CofE (training to be a vicar) and so the issue of how and if women are accepted in ministry within the church holds particular significance for me.  The issues involved in today's debate, and the debates occurring for generations now, are very complex and while I could attempt to explain them all, others far more suited for the task have done so already.  

I fully understand that this issue is not one purely of gender equality, but one of theological conviction - in other words, people read the Bible in different ways and interpret those readings equally differently.  But tonight, what I see in the women around me, women at college training for ordination, women already ordained as priests, and women serving at all levels of the church is utter heartbreak.  Tonight is not, should not, be for continuing to debate theological differences but for recognizing that fellow members of our church are deeply hurting.  It has been said that after the vote, it was inevitable that someone would be hurting or angry but it breaks my heart to see so many faithful women who have sacrificed so much to follow the call of God on their life who tonight are in tears.  Who tonight are ragingly angry.  Who tonight are despairing.  Who tonight, for some, are considering leaving the church.  Who tonight, for others are struggling to find ways to remain faithful to a church which appears so bitterly divided.  Who tonight, are trying to touch the edges of what they will preach in their churches on Sunday.  Of what they will say to women in their congregations seeking Confirmation.  Of how they will walk through their towns and villages wearing their clerical collars.  Of how they will continue.

I am heartbroken at how many women are feeling utterly devalued and worthless in the eyes of the church.

It will come as no surprise for me to write that I am in favour of women bishops.  I believe men and women are equal in the eyes of God and perhaps more importantly, I believe that if God calls a person to ministry, then we as humans should not stand in their way - of course the church must test and weigh that calling to be sure they are in agreement, but I believe it is self-evident that God calls many people to ministry, including those with whose viewpoint, others may disagree.  Tonight, I have seen women whose ministry, leadership, character and gifts I greatly value and appreciate, crying.  This is a sad day for the church.

Prior to being recommended for training to the ministry, I regularly worshipped with a congregation in which some members felt unable to accept women in ministry.  I disagreed with those people...but I still respected them.  I was still willing to worship alongside them.  I disagreed with their views but I never stopped liking them as people, nor of respecting their right to hold these views.  Now, based on training for ministry, I only rarely am able to attend this church but this has not changed my view of these people as committed Christians.  As faithful members of the wider church.

Yet for me, it comes down to this:  42 out of 44 dioceses in the Church of England voted in favour of this measure.  So why has it been rejected?  I ask this question not to gain an answer because I have sat listening to the live feed from Synod all day (when I should have been researching my latest essay).  I have heard the many arguments for and against, I have heard the passionate disagreements...but in the end, I see the tears of women all around me.

This is a sad day for the Church of England.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Best Bits

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the challenges of parenting my complicated little toddler, and there is of course good reason for that considering how much he has turned our life upside down with his journey from death to life.  Life will never be the same because of GBS; however, GBS doesn't consume our lives, our journey is also filled with joy so I want to write, today, about ten best bits of being Adam's mother.

1.  Waking up (at a generally ungodly hour, but we won't go there) to hear a piping little voice calling through the darkness, "Hurro?  Hurro!  <<insert some baby babble here then>>  Hurro?  Hurro!"  

2.  Watching and hearing my precious boy continue to develop - despite everything - and lately to see things like carefully counting, "Ah, Oo, Ee" either with his building blocks or along with Numtums on CBeebies.  Listening as Graham, his Teacher for the Deaf, hands him a toy and he says carefully, "Tan-kou" - the look of delighted surprise on Graham's face was pretty good too!

3.  Arriving at nursery after a long day to pick him up and seeing a huge grin split his face as he pumps his arms up and down in delight shouting, "YAH!!" before running, giggling, over to me and lifting his arms to be picked up.

4.  Playing silly, nonsense games as he giggles like a lunatic with that infectious laughter that only a toddler can produce.  For the record, there is no shame in crawling around the house on all fours chasing the baby, no matter how old you are!

5.  "Dropping" the baby (with body and neck well supported I hasten to say!) as he giggles in delight, then turning endless rolepoley's on the settee until he's hysterical with laughter and simply has to be turned upside down just one last time.

6.  Watching him explore his world....even when it means discovering a long, interesting furry thing that absolutely has to be pulled and bitten.  (Ahem.  No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog....well not permanently anyway.)

7.  The sheer cheek of him - when a friend of mine pops into his nursery to chat with the staff and he keeps coming over to say loudly, "Buh-Bye!" before finally deciding she simply isn't getting the point so deciding to abruptly shut the door, therefore pushing her outside.  Or that moment at college when some students are trying to quietly sneak out of the canteen in the middle of lunchtime notices and a small head pops out of his baby carrier on my chest and a piping voice says loudly, "Buh-bye!" with a cheerful wave leaving at least three tables of students snickering to themselves.

8.  Seeing a small naked boy running and wobbling across the landing as he searches for his bubble bath - his favourite time of day.  It's so wholly innocent and adorably cute then, once in his bath, watching him squirt water out of the hole in the bottom of a rubber duck straight into his face and giggling in sheer delight every time the water goes up his nose.

9.  Snuggling a small person, all wrapped up in P.J's, reading the same story for the two millionth time until I've got every word memorized, as he munches a last biscuit and finishes his day with some milk before being carried sleepily up to bed.

10.  Listening to the soft snores from either the car seat on a long journey home or when popping into a darkened bedroom to check just one last time that he's really asleep before re-covering him with his soft fleecy blanket and whispering goodnight.

10.5 - Doing it all again tomorrow.  :-)