Monday 31 January 2011


It is the European year of volunteering.
I discovered this by accident, which to my mind says quite a lot about how society views volunteering.
Don't get me wrong, UK society uses voluntary organisations all the time, but mostly they don't realise it and so they don't value it.

Here are some fun statistics (as published by the RSPB)
Did you know that in the UK 71% of people volunteer.
11million people do so at least once a month.

11 million peope, that means that approximately 1 in every 6 UK residents, volunteer every month. That's at least one person in every 3 generation family. A lot of people every month. So where do these people volunteer?

Well let's start with my volunteering experience over the years:
- cub scout pack helper
- reading with middle schoolers
- helping at preschool
- charity trustee for preschool
- reading at school
- home start
- miscarriage association
- help the aged
- Sunday school helper then leader
- youth group leader
- self esteem club
- lay minister
- babyloss awareness
- world vision
- oxfam
- rspb

And all of those organisations; charities, schools, preschools, hospitals, hospices, uniformed brigades, churches need volunteers to even start to function. Volunteers are the backbone of much that this country relies on.

So are volunteers valued enough?
Yes, definitely, by the individuals who meet us.
But I would say no; certainly not by society as a whole.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Reflecting through blogging

I have noticed that my blogging has gone beyond factual accounts of training and ministry.
It quite often reflects my thoughts, opens my soul, delves into my experiences.
In fact people reading this blog will, already, know things about me that many of my "real life" friends don't. (though many of them are reading my blog). In real life you rarely open up and reflect, it can seem selfish or egotistical, so only a very few friends enter that world.

The funny thing is, I fondue extremely hard to reflect onto paper; I try every day but it rarely goes beyond the superficial or factual.
So how come I can reflect on very important and deep things through blogging when practising the same on paper has never worked?
Is it a need to be heard?
Or perhaps it seems more open so is more real - a sort of accountability.

I don't know the answer; perhaps you can help with your thoughts.
But I am thankful that blogging is helping me, because these reflections are healing as well as learning.

Friday 28 January 2011

Glee meets Jesus

Come on, admit it, you watch Glee.

What do you mean you don't?
Where have you been that last year?

Ok so maybe you don't like spontaneous singing,
Or prefer not to remember the nightmare that was the teen years,
Or don't own a tv,

But really, you should try it,
I know all sorts of people that are coming out of the closet as Gleeks.

Anyway, admitting it doesn't matter really.....I love Glee!

This week was a Glee I didn't expect; it was all about religion and spirituality and prayer and faith and God.
And it's not just that I'm a Christian that made me love it, it's that it openly allowed the debate, how refreshing.

I laughed aloud at the grilled chessus that when prayed to granted prayer requests
because it actually was stored anonymously in the fridge - God is everywhere.

I loved the banning of spiritual songs from glee club because it might be exclusive,
and yet the kids did it anyway because it mattered to them - religious persecution overturned

The way all the major religions were mentioned and explored, a little, was refreshing
and how there was tolerance and sharing of the mystery of God - religious tolerance

Of course there were also the spiritual songs, slightly religious songs and one mention of God pop songs; and the beautiful people; and the comedy; and the dancing as well - put it all together and I'm thinking I might play it at several youth sessions in the future. I hope they will enjoy it as much as I; but mainly I hope it starts discussions that young people could do with more of.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Open door retreat

This year (to advent 2011) is St Nicolas Earley's year of "going deeper". One activity I am undertaking in this year is an open door retreat.  A 10 week commitment, one 2 hr session every week.  I had no idea what it would involve, other than the time, but knew it was something I should do.

Tuesday was the first session and I was thrilled to discover it follows St Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises.  I have followed them before with my spiritual director but never in a group, or in an intensive every week fashion.

We started with discussing the role of the retreat leaders, our roles and also the confidentiality issues of the group. There was then an introduction to Ignatius before a prayerful exercise remembering back to childhood.

This week, as for the next 10, we each commit to spending 15nins a day in prayer on the subject provided.  This week it is the commitment to the process.

I am amazed already how much stuff came up at the first session and how it is being dealt with.  It's not altogether pleasant, but definitely helpful.

So this is the start of the process, I'm sure I'll be sharing more over the next 10 weeks. 

Wednesday 26 January 2011

I'm proud to say

This was not my planned blog post for the day, but I have seen that one of the UK twitter trending hashtags is #Improudtosay and I have much that I can say that I am proud of, so here comes some of them.

#Improudtosay I love my husband Mike

#Improudtosay I love my beautiful, gorgeous, miracle daughter Rachel

#Improudtosay God and I are friends

#Improudtosay that this year I will be licensed as a Lay Minister in the Church of England

#Improudtosay that I miss my four babies who became angels before they were born

#Improudtosay that I was once a professional woman

#Improudtosay that I chose to spend my time with my daughter and closed my business

#Improudtosay that I volunteer and that the value of that is immense to me

#Improudtosay that I have friends who love and support me in place of family I miss

#Improudtosay that I miss my mum and dad and hope one day the relationship is restored

#Improudtosay that I'm still the "hubba chubba" I was at school, but now it doesn't upset me

#Improudtosay that my relationship with food is a mess

#Improudtosay that I cry at films

#Improudtosay I love reading, books all of sorts are my friends

#Improudtosay I pray every day

#Improudtosay my heart breaks when I watch the news these days

#Improudtosay I have an addictive personality

#Improudtosay that I see a counsellor every two weeks because I need to

#Improudtosay that my gran was my first spiritual guide

#Improudtosay that I think teenagers are no more difficult/ignorant/uninterested that I was; in fact I think they care much more than we did

#Improudtosay that my 5 year old knows that everyone has different beliefs

#Improudtosay that my daughter comes first in my life, why else would I have been given a miracle?

#Improudtosay that I make mistakes, all the time; but I admit them to myself and God and He forgives me.

So what are you proud to say?

Knitting not blogging

It's not that I made a commitment to blog every day or anything, but
I've just fallen into the pattern. But yesterday was crazy busy:

Open door retreat - 10 weeks following St ignatius spiritual exercises
REinspired lesson for year 5 on ten commandments
Food shopping
Pick up Rachel from after school club
Bed (not for me)

And then in the time I would have blogged I got out my knitting needles and started the latest project:
Rachel wanted a blue bag that looks pretty and will hold ducky (her lovey)

Well I got carried away (have I ever mentioned my addictive personality?) and knitted from 6.30 till 10.30 and ....
..... VoilĂ ! It was made.

It was well worth it to see Rachels face this morning, hear her squeals of delight and experience her cuddle of thanks.

So consider this yesterdays delayed blog post, and if I go missing again - look under the pile of wool.

Ps - this website is a life saver (in knitting terms) Learn to Knit

Monday 24 January 2011

Thankful for the permission to fail

This post comes thanks to Maggi Dawn and her blog post

I am one of those people who hates to fail. I have strived to please others throughout my life and am ashamed to say I need quite a lot of affirmation. I know that this says quite a lot more about my upbringing than it does necessarily about me, but still, I like to blame myself. My lovely Rachel was getting the same way when she was three and I have put a lot of effort into praising the action and the effort rather than the outcome, so far it seems to be working, we will see.

But back to the subject I was trying to focus on...
I feel like a failure and beat myself up if I think/do/say something wrong (IMO) even though I would never hold anyone else to such high standards. Just yesterday my cantoring and hymn singing sounded awful to me through the mic; and so I felt the need to apologise afterwards for my voice which is still suffering from the pneumonia cough. why? no one else had noticed. and if they had it didn't matter to them. why was I so afraid to not meet my own high singing requirements?

And today I am preparing everything I need for the charity pre-school committee meeting this evening. As chair of the charity a lot of actions come my way. I have cleared all but one; that's over 20 completed, but all I can focus on is the one I have not managed to complete. why am I beating myself up? this is a voluntary role. I give my time and energy and effort, that is all that is required. I refuse to let other members of the committee become overloaded or self criticise for any issues they might see as failure. but me, well I won't let myself fail, why?

so today I am making a commitment to not focus on the perceived "fails"; instead I will celebrate the good things I manage to achieve. Thanks Maggi for encouraging these thoughts and a possible, hopeful change.

Reflections on yesterday

Yesterday was a pretty big day; it was the first time I wore my uniform in church.

I was running the 11.30 family service and so my cassock and surplus went on. It is so hard to explain how different it felt. the closest I can get is: less like me, more like a conduit for God.

I was much less worried about my appearance, even if I did feel very embarassed by all the compliments and comments. It was a relief to know that I didn't have to worry about my choice of clothes, although I will in future wear much lighter weight clothes underneath - an extra two layers are hot.

I was aware that I was clearly visible as someone in a ministry role, in fact for the first time ever a new family came into the church and made a bee line for me. I hadn't realised this benefit, it does draw attention to newcomers that you are someone who they can approach easily. Of course the down side to this was the massive attention from the church congregation, I guess for the first time it all seemed very real to them as well as to me.

And real it was. I felt unbelievable fearful about walking from the vestry to the church itself, knowing that my uniform would draw a lot of attention to me. A wave of awareness flooded me, this year I will be licensed. Thanks to my lovely vicar and his wife, who prayed with me, this panic passed; what would I do without their support?

Leading the service was also different. I felt more able to trust myself, more willing to take silence at times, more open to where the service went. Of course some who were at the service might see this as a negative since my sermon went from a planned 12 minutes to more like 20 minutes, but no one openly complained.

And then in the afternoon a member of the congregation who I know really well, have done for years, rang me to ask if I could visit a friend of hers who is a christian but doesn't attend church of like vicars too much. She obviously could have asked this previously, but I think she felt more able to ask because she saw me being robed as a stage in my process to licensing.

It has been a sunday and a half.
so much to think and pray on.
so much to be thankful for.
so much to learn from.

Less a white marshmallow; more a minister called to serve.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Sunday, day of rest?

Not for me usually, Sunday is a ministry work day. And today was a big day. But this afternoon I took for myself - knitting. And this evening I've been worrying about Rachel and her cough.

So for now I just want to say; morning if work, afternoon of rest, evening of worry.
That's been Sunday for me.

I Intend to blog on today's sermon tomorrow if all well on the Rachel front. In thf meantim if you pray, please do - that her asthma cough dies not deteriorate.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Thoughts on Matthew 4:12-23

Thoughts on Matthew 4:12-23

- John the Baptist in prison
- Preaching: Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
- disciples called: Peter, Andrew, James, John: fishers of men
- healing the sick

Can you imagine what it would be like if your best friend was taken away?  And taken somewhere they didn't want to be?
How would you feel?

I'd feel sad and scared for my friend and lonely.

I'm sure this was how Jesus felt as well when he heard that his friend John the Baptist, who had baptised Jesus, had been imprisoned.

And so Jesus left Nazareth and went to Galilee.  He left what and where he knew, and he went somewhere else.  And there he started preaching.  

He started telling everyone how the "kingdom of heaven is near".

How do you think he felt?
I'm sure he was a little scared and lonely; in a new place he didn't know, with no one he knew.  He knew God was with him all the time, and he told people, but he had to do that alone.

And then he started calling his disciples to follow him.  Simple men, ordinary men, poor men, fishermen.  Men like any of us.  It could have been you if you'd been in galillee then.

In fact it is you, and you, and me!
We are called to be disciples.

So, what is God calling each of us to do?  Let's think about that.

There is a piece of paper here for everyone, and take a pen each.

I'd like you to write or draw what you do as a job or what you'd like to do when you grow up.

Ok, now turn your paper over.
Jesus said "come follow me, come be fishers of men".
I'd like you to think how Jesus is calling you to follow him.
Now write or draw a picture of what you think Jesus has called you to do. 

It might be visiting sick neighbours, being nice to a friend who is finding it hard at school, volunteering for a charity, helping in church, sharing your sweets with friends, buying fair-trade, giving old toys to charity, or perhaps changing your life entirely by leaving the job you know and trusting Jesus to lead you on his path.

What is Jesus calling you to do?
How can this be started this week?
Not next month, next year, sometime, perhaps later......this week!

And so we pray, Jesus this week help us to keep in mind where Jesus is leading us.  Show us how we can be fishers of men? Amen.

Friday 21 January 2011

Puppet work with children

Puppets work with children.

I have something to own up to, I own far too many puppets.  Finger puppets, story glove puppets, hand puppets, arm size puppets, sit on your knee puppets, size of a 5 year old size puppets and even a few marionette puppets.

It all stems from my soft toy collection.  I have always loved soft toys, the way they are cuddly and comforting, the way they love you no matter what, the way they look at you with their doe eyes, the way you can act our an idealistic life with them.  I always thought that said a lot about my childhood; but unless I'm deluded about my own parenting skills and my relationship with Rachel I now doubt that since she also adores soft toys.  I now think we love soft toys because of our desire to nurture, to love and be loved.  Anyway, that's a sideline.

I had well over a thousand soft toys by the time I felt home.  I finally, at Mikes insistence, gave about 900 to charity, keeping my hundred favourites including my childhood lovey panda and all the ones Mike had given me.  You have no idea how hard that was, sad but true.  And then, many years later, Rachel came along and unsurprisingly I loved buying her soft toys.  But it's pretty much(ish) under control.

I know what you're thinking....what's that got to do with puppets?

I kept all my hand and finger puppets and marionettes.  Rachel had some story hand puppets and some other animal puppets. We played with them a lot.  Then I went to a puppet workshop, it looked interesting and I thought it might be useful at church, at pre-school, with Rachel and with my work with kids.  And it was one of the best courses I've been to.  We made sock puppets (oh yes, I have a few of them too) and had a go with life sized puppets and I realised how fantastically they help people communicate and open up.

I bought my first puppet the next day, an arm sized one, and practised in front of the mirror and with Rachel.  Since then I have bought a donkey, a dog, a large woman (Linda), a smaller mum and her daughter.  I use them to enhance sermons, to help at Sunday school and to tell stories; and they are great fun and work well and often requested by kids.

But the thing I most love to use puppets for us working with children who are finding it hard to communicate.  In this work I use the puppets in three main ways:

1- I work the puppet and usually start off with the puppet being shy; quickly the child will start to engage, wanting to know the puppets name. I then let the child lead the interaction.  Perhaps the first time we stay superficial and then next time we get a little deeper.  Perhaps the child asks questions of the puppet which are questions they really want to answer themselves.  Perhaps it takes a few sessions, perhaps it's immediate, I go with the flow.

2- I let the child take control of the puppet.  I might also have control of another puppet, or maybe not; depends on the child and the situation.  This can be just what a child needs to speak the words and feelings through the puppet that they otherwise couldn't.

3- I let a child, or a child and me, or a group of children take control of a "family" of puppets.  I have a family that fit on fingers (they're a bit more than finger puppets though), and enough hand puppets to create a family of animals.  On a one to one basis it allows a child to show how their family interacts now, and/or how they see their ideal family to be.  As a group it can allow children to show how friendships are or could be, allowing issues such as bullying to be thought about.

Puppets are neutral, non threatening, cuddly, controllable.  They are great story tellers.  But most powerfully, if used properly following training, they are a safe place for children to open up, share and work through issues and experiences.  I am pleased my cuddly you obsession led me to puppets, it's an honour to work with them.  

Thursday 20 January 2011

My ministry: fancy dress and all

My ministry: fancy dress and all

An email has come through "your cassock and surplice have been despatched."

You might think I'd feel excited or ready or perhaps slightly apprehensive.  But no; instead I've gone all nerves, dread and worry.  

What for, it's just some fancy dress.  And I don't say that in a disrespectful way, the blue readers scarf is the sign of the licensing of my ministry, that comes in November; this anyone can wear without any special permission.  But really, I don't know if I'll wear it at family services, can't imagine wearing it outside church except for funerals, so that just leaves the main service a couple of times a month when I'm up front.

Of course I am properly worried that between Mike and I and my very squat/round/curvy build it won't fit - it's the second most expensive item if clothing I've ever had after my wedding dress!  But that's not the real issue, let's get real.

The real nerves and dread are that this makes it all VERY real!  I won't be able to just be me up front, I'll by a lay minister.  By the end of this year I'll be licensed.  I know that my day to day ministry won't change, but I'm sure the coming months and the licensing itself are going to have a profound effect on me, and that unknown is scary.

So today my prayer is "lord, lead me clearly, hold me tightly, love me kindly, amen."

Wednesday 19 January 2011

A caring society?

A caring society?

I have been plucking up courage to share my thoughts about the lack of care provided by many "social care" departments in the UK and today a story has come to my attention which I have to talk about.

This morning mum Riven Vincent posted on a desperate plea "we have asked SS to take DD into care; we get 6 hours respite a week; we've been refused a family link worker, they have refused extra respite, I can't cope.". (SS= social services. DD= dear daughter)

The telegraph wrote about Riven's situation in April 2010 ( when she net with David Cameron.  Mrs Vincent suffers from multiple sclerosis, her daughter is 6 with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and therefore unable to speak, sit or feed herself.

So here we have a family where mum is sick and her daughter is severely disabled.  Social services provides 6 hours of respite care a week; this means that their daughter is looked after by foster carers or similar for 6 hours each week to give mum an opportunity to rest and be with her other children.  But it's not enough, mum needs more help, that's all she wants - some more support, but the system can't/won't provide get with any.

How desperate must this poor mum be to call social services and ask them to take her daughter into care?
How exhausted?
How fenced in?

Can you imagine this situation?
I never could, I had no idea; not until I walked alongside a family in a similar situation, needing respite but being refused constantly.  It's a kind of torture being constantly exhausted, it ears away at your physical and mental health.  All these family's need is some help.  Surely that's not much for society to provide.

If you think this situation is a one off - think again

If you think this is only a problem for one social care department - think again

If you think you are powerless to make the situation change - think again

Please let this situation, and all the others like it, touch your heart.  Lobby your MP, blog about it, share on facebook and twitter, speak about it with friends.  Do something, anything, please help transform our society into one that cares for everyone, especially the vulnerable.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

The death penalty

The death penalty

I have mentioned before how The Kindle means I'm able to read books faster than with the paper versions. I have read three since Christmas and two of these have centred around the death penalty:  The Confession by John Grisham and The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha.

They have got me to thinking.
I have never agreed with the death penalty, how can killing someone by a decision for anyone other than God to make?

However both books have raised two issues:

1-convicted person's preference for death
Both books had innocent men convicted and sentenced to the death penalty; both waited almost 20 years for their sentence to be enacted.  

One kept appealing, wanting his name to be cleared and died knowing his innocence but not being cleared.  How can this be right?  And how can we ever know with 100% certainty that someone is guilty?  How can a society forgive themselves for a mistake like that?  How can God forgive us that?

One stopped appealing and was happy to die.  He knew he wouldn't ever be free and preferred to be on death row where he could be solitary, than the idea of having to share with other inmates.  He was happy to die, to face God knowing his innocence.  But again, how could God be ok with that?

2- victim/victim's family preferences
The second issue is the view and desire of the victim and their family.  I can see how a family of someone murdered would want revenge, but how Christian is this? Is this not vengeance? I don't believe in an eye for an eye, surely it is not our place to judge, that is for the end day.  

And what if a victim or their family don't want the death sentence?  What if they feel guilt over a death sentence?  How does that help anyone?

Basically reading these books has reinforced in my mind how wrong the death penalty is.  I am thankful we don't love in a society where it's an option.

The death penalty

The death penalty

I have mentioned before how The Kindle means I'm able to read books faster than with the paper versions. I have read three since Christmas and two of these have centred around the death penalty:  The Confession by John Grisham and The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha.

They have got me to thinking.
I have never agreed with the death penalty, how can killing someone by a decision for anyone other than God to make?

However both books have raised two issues:

1-convicted person's preference for death
Both books had innocent men convicted and sentenced to the death penalty; both waited almost 20 years for their sentence to be enacted.  

One kept appealing, wanting his name to be cleared and died knowing his innocence but not being cleared.  How can this be right?  And how can we ever know with 100% certainty that someone is guilty?  How can a society forgive themselves for a mistake like that?  How can God forgive us that?

One stopped appealing and was happy to die.  He knew he wouldn't ever be free and preferred to be on death row where he could be solitary, than the idea of having to share with other inmates.  He was happy to die, to face God knowing his innocence.  But again, how could God be ok with that?

2- victim/victim's family preferences
The second issue is the view and desire of the victim and their family.  I can see how a family of someone murdered would want revenge, but how Christian is this? Is this not vengeance? I don't believe in an eye for an eye, surely it is not our place to judge, that is for the end day.  

And what if a victim or their family don't want the death sentence?  What if they feel guilt over a death sentence?  How does that help anyone?

Basically reading these books has reinforced in my mind how wrong the death penalty is.  I am thankful we don't love in a society where it's an option.

"that" B&B case

"that" b&b case

I had planned a different blog post today but this news item just burns me so I have to post.

Before I go any further: these are my views and opinions, I represent no one but me.

A christian couple running a b&b, in 2008, refused to allow a gay couple in a civil partnership to share a bedroom.  They were taken to court and today found guilt of discrimination and fined. They were defended by a christian group saying they are victims of discrimination due to their faith. The case will no doubt come up for appeal but that's how it stands today.

My opinion
- I do not think it's right for anyone to discriminate by gender, sexuality, race, religion, size, disability or anything else.

- I hate the fact that the media are making this look like an issue between the LGB community and Christians.  What about gay Christians?

- Many Christians, me included, have gay friends and believe God loves us ALL no matter what our sexuality.

- they broke the law, sorry but that's what the law is for!

- I don't think that Christians are discriminated against in the UK.  I really think we need to be more open about our faith and confident about our beliefs, but that has to be balanced to cover the broad spectrum of Christian perspectives.  I think the media creates problems with this.

Right, those are my views.  Feel free to discuss.

Monday 17 January 2011

A year on...ramblings going on and on ..,,

A year on.....warning: this post goes on and on...

A year ago today my great aunt (actually my dads late wife's step mum but we were very close to her - she was my 3rd grandmother) died after a short period of cancer.  She was an amazingly sprightly 93 years old who had lived independently until the last month.  I miss her.

I managed to get to see her the day before she died, a true act of God considering i had tried and failed( due to snow) twice previously.  She was as thrilled to see me as I was to see her, although I was genuinely shocked how quickly she had gone down hill.  

We talked, we reminisced, I asked all the questions about her life that I knew I'd never have another chance to ask, we laughed, we cried, we held hands when she struggled to breathe.  

She was an inspirational woman and I miss her; just writing about her reminds me how she's gone.

We had not seen each other alone for many years and so had never really talked faith.  She knew I was training to be a lay minister and I knew she was a very active christian, but that was all.  But that last time I knew we were meant to talk and we did.  As she was recovering from a breathing restriction I was praying quietly and when she could talk she told me how my prayers helped.  

I asked her how she was feeling and she surprised me by saying she was scared.  I didn't expect this of a woman who knew God was ready to welcome her.  But silly me, she was scared of the pain, the unknown amount of time still to come, the unknown; not the eternity she was heading to.  She She was ready to meet God and her late husband, but also sad that she wouldn't see those left on earth.

After this I asked her if she'd like to pray with me and she said she wanted the last rites.  This knocked me sideways; I have never done them, I had no book with me to source them, and honestly I just felt unready.  Instead I said I would pray for peace and calm; and I prayed in a way that wasn't of me, for her calm through the final times, for Gods arms to welcome her, for pain to be taken away.  

We both cried at the end, but from the peace we both felt.  She said she felt ready and calm now.  I hated to leave, knew I wouldn't see her again.  It was so hard, yet I knew I'd done something good that day.

The thing is when my dad rang the next day to say she died it was clear we felt differently about her passing.  I felt relief that the pain and suffering was over. He was angry that I wasn't shocked or very upset.  I tried to explain the conversations we had, but dad doesn't have a faith anymore and he felt I'd given her permission to give up.  

I'm estranged from my mum, and my dad chooses to not talk to me if her and I don't talk, so the whole situation of the funeral arrangements, the funeral itself and the wake was difficult.  My brother (also estranged from them) and SIL managed to get to the funeral which helped, but what I really wanted was to be able to tell my dad how ready she was to die and how she needed the prayers to help her face the end.  But it didn't happen.  

I can't believe it's been a year. And therefore it's also been a year since I saw my parents.  I know my great aunt would like to see things worked out between us and maybe in time that will happen, but it doesn't seem close as yet.  

Reflecting, somehow it is not my great aunts death I am mourning today, although I wish I could see her.  I am mourning, as I do so often, the loss of my parents, or the non existence of the parents I long for.  So much reminds me of that loss, yet I live through it and know it's ok.  One day, I pray before their own last days, things will be better, but for now I mourn.

Next Bishop of Reading

Next Bishop of Reading

Today downing street and the Diocese of Oxford announced the next Bishop of Reading.  Full details can be found here:

In summary:
The next Bishop of Reading is the Rt Revd Andrew Proud.  +Andrew is currently Area Bishop of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.  He will be installed as Bishop of Reading at Reading Minster on Saturday 16 April 2011.

I am looking forward to +Andrew's arrival in Reading for a number of reasons:

1. It seems to have been a long time since +Stephen left and it's great that his successor is now on the way.

2. It's always nice to meet new people and to see their arrival will influence us, both as a deanery, as a town, as a church and as an individual.

3. +Andrew is coming from his previous role as Bishop of Ethiopia and Horn of Africa, and I have a passion and heart for Africa.  I hope that he will share with the deanery some of his experience in Africa.

4. It is nice to wonder which of the Diocese's Bishops will be preside at my licensing.  Perhaps +Colin since he is the newly appointed Warden of Readers/LLMs or perhaps +Andrew as the newest Bishop.

Basically it is exciting to await +Andrew's arrival in April.  I am sure I will blog more as the time approaches.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Just an ordinary member of congregation

Just an ordinary member of congregation

It is very rarely that I am just an Ordinary member of congregation.  Normally I am preaching or presiding or running Sunday school, or even just reading the bible or giving intercessions.  But today I was just me, in my chair, amongst the others and it was lovely.  I got to hear, absorb, pray deeply, settle into God's love and appreciate the days messages for me.

Of course once a preacher, always a preacher; it changes how you hear a sermon.  I am much more appreciative of the work that has gone into it and more aware of the messages that are coming across.  And so, since I am a written word learner, I took notes and here they are:

"We get a lamb; weak, little, dependent.  Not a cheetah or a giraffe or an elephant or anything great, but a lamb.  And a lamb who will take away the sins of the world, what?

Isaiah speaks about the lamb, the obedient lamb going to suffer in slaughter without complaint.  The lamb of Israel, the exodus.  So the listeners knew what the lamb meant.

We are in the likeness of Christ, we too are lambs.  We will have joys, we will suffer, we can bring healing in Christ's name because we are in Christ, for christ and like Christ.  

And we know this because we experience relationship with Christ, the love of Christ.  We experience Christ when we are sick and our friends visit us and care for us; we experience Christ when we share the gospel with others; we experience Christ when we encourage others to be better together.  

Obama in Tucson said that together in unity we are stronger than all the evil we face.  He provided spiritual leadership in that speech.

Come and see.  
Come and experience the lamb. 
Come and enter into a relationship with God.  

Perhaps we are held back by the fact that we want to be shown something, what is that?  All Jesus offers is himself, in relationship with us, cone experience that and your questions will fall away."

This of course won't mean much to you readers, it probably needs to have had the sermon to deliver it's messages, but it says much to me.  Today I heard how it is as a meal, flawed human that we encounter God, are called by God and are used by God in the world.  Today I was reassured that I am good enough.  And I also heard the value of showing rather than telling, and this feeds into my exploration of how the unchurched view "the church" - a process I will blog about in the future.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Woman's group or not?

Woman's group or not?

Is it coincidence or God-incidence that today I have read two blogs on gender segregations in church?  Or perhaps one led to the other, who knows.

I recommend looking at the cartoon church blog his article today entitled men and women.  The cartoon is funny, the article interesting, but best of all are the comments which made me laugh and think.

At St Nicolas we have a mens curry night which is open to any man, my Mike has even gone a few times.  They seem to have fun and it's inclusive - success.  This initiative has been going for about a year and I have to say that I would like to go.  But instead a number of us girls have, every now and then, raised the idea of a Women's group.  Every time it's raised there are lots of women agreeing that it's a good idea and yet it's never got off the ground.

I don't know why.
I wonder whether it's because there are the Mothers Union and the over 50s club and those are both women only; and the younger ones of us have busy lives and child care issues.
Or perhaps it's that we fancy joining in with the men but don't want to say so.
Or maybe it's that we worry that a Woman's group could be a bit boring and we fancy a curry night and a giggle (that's what I'd like).

Anyway, I've taken the bull by the horns today and emailed the blog link to a group of church women and asked if they fancy getting a group going, watch this space to see what happens.

Friday 14 January 2011


I have a dream

Today is Martin Luther King day and twitter is featuring the #ihaveadream.  Here are mine:

That everyone could see the best in Others #ihaveadream

#IHaveADream that all religions can Live together with tolerance and respect.

#ihaveadream that HIV is eradicated

#ihaveadream that one day no one will feel ashamed for their mental illness

#ihaveadream that child abuse becomes a thing of the past and society will be shocked it ever happened

#ihaveadream that bullying will be unknown for our children @bullyinguk

#ihaveadream that "thy will be done on earth"

#ihaveadream that poverty is made history

I could have gone on with many more but that's enough for now.


It seems to be an awful fact of life that infant and junior school life is as full of bullying behaviour as it was when I was the same age. I hated being a school girl then because I was bullied and I hate seeing children going through it now.

However here I want to share a positive story, one which comes from my own Rachel and which has made me extremely proud of her.

I have always taught Rachel that everyone has something beautiful and special about them and that all you have to do is find that special thing. That it not right to exclude someone from playing or to be nasty to anyone. Indeed this tends to be a major focus of my sunday school teaching as well and I admit it's probably based on my own horrid childhood bullying experiences. Rachel is a confident child on a one-to-one basis but much more reserved in a group, much like me; and she is extremely empathic, often telling me how people are feeling or sharing her worries about others, again much like me. She finds it hard to cope with people disagreeing with each other or falling out and tends to try to broker peace deals between her friends if it happens.

Last term Rachel had a hard time fitting in with the other girls in her class. She is a summer baby so had only started school at Easter and when she enterred year 1 still didn't know many people and was in a different class to those she did know. After a few weeks she started saying she wanted me to pick her up at lunch time because no one would let her play with them. Then she said that everyone already had best friends and no one needed her. I was worried sick, but thanks to the fantastic people at BullyingUK and Mike's support I decided to speak to her class teacher who was fantastic. Within a few days of the teacher focussing on groups of friends and noone excluding anyone Rachel was playing with lots of different people. She hasn't looked back since, she now plays with different girls every day and goes to school happily.

Then this week she came home with a beautiful card from one of her friends and told me that this friend was really upset at lunchtime because some girls wouldn't let her play with them. She then told me about some games which were being played and becoming a bit exclusive. She was worried about her friend but also worried that if she did something then she would be excluded. I talked to her about maybe being able to play with both groups or trying to ask the groups to include her friend and she said "I have a plan Mummy, don't worry!"

well I took her to school yesterday as normal, trying not to worry but obviously worrying. And was thrilled when last night she said that she had played with her friend and told the groups that she didn't like how they were being mean and they were OK with it. And today her friend's mum told me that for the first time since christmas her daughter had gone to school happily because Rachel had played with her the day before. She had also spoken to their class teacher who apparently has banned the groups and explained how it is important everyone is included.

I think we have to be clear, bullying will not go away, what matters is that we as a society know how to deal with it quickly and effectively. It is through helping our children move through these experiences that they will learn how to behave as adults.

Ministry is another motherhood

ministry is another motherhood

I have thought for some while that being in ministry is much like being a mother.  The two are surprisingly similar.

They are both manically busy, with constant demands on your time that you know are all important.

They are both nurturing; walking alongside people, leading people closer to God, holding people through their grief.

They both involve learning. On this I have one thing to say: my newborn didn't come with a manual!  Ministry neither.

They both have tears and tantrums, from your kids and yourself.  Mine tend to happen at PCC.

And, perhaps predominantly .....

They are both giving of self.  I believe you can't be a good mother of young children if you don't put your child(ren) first in your time, emotions, life, energy, love.  Ministry demands the same; 
- that you give your time (it's no 9-5 job), 
- you give your emotions (through preaching, pastoral care and caring about the outcome of PCCs), 
- you give your life (ministry changes your life beyond all recognition), 
- You give your energy (physical and emotional)
- You give your love (to God, to others)

Thursday 13 January 2011

UK Female Christian Bloggers

UK Female Christian Bloggers

@RevdLesley blogged about UK Female Christian Bloggers on her blog this morning

I was shocked to see that my little blog was included as one of only eight female Christian bloggers in the UK.  How come there are so few?  If someone as inadequate as me, with so little to say, why don't more women do similar?

Not long later @Boudledidge blogged her thoughts on why so few Uk women blog on Christian issues

She discusses various reasons including lack of profile for female bloggers perhaps female Christians blog about their lives in general rather than being focussed (multi taskers), lack of confidence, fear of seeming opinionated, women are less competitive over rankings so show less in blog rate lists.

Since then there have been a raft of Uk female Christian bloggers appearing, a friend of mine even launched her own blog (  So what are my thoughts?

I think there's a confidence issue.  I blog, but constantly fear no one reads, or if they do then they don't really think much about my musings.  I worry I appear egotistical or uninformed or theological incompetent or boring.

I also think there's a time issue.  Blogging takes me about an hour a day, that's a lot of time in my already busy life.  I'm happy to allocate that time, especially as my confidence to blog increases and the benefits of my reflections on my ministerial development become clear.  I'm a mum, a wife, a minister, a daughter in law, a sister, a friend, a volunteer, a business woman and probably more besides.  Time is not hanging around in my life and I doubt I'm the only woman in this position, so blogging is like an extra job, it's a time commitment.

So what do you think?

Ministerial placement

Ministerial Placement

Part of this year of formation is a ministerial placement.  This is undertaken to show the following:
- understanding a different context of church 
- experiencing a different churchmanship
- learning how worship can vary
- learning about a different congregation and their needs 
- experiencing ministering in a new situation

There are no guidelines above this; no length of time for the placement, no help to find a placement, no guidance for the church who accepts my placement.  Luckily my vicar is experienced in doing and organising and supervising placements so he is, as ever, invaluable in this experience.

There are a number of things I need to consider in selecting and planning my placement.
1. I need to experience a much less formal worship, perhaps with non Eucharistic services.
2. I would like to be able to get involved in the wider church provision outside of Sunday services eg pastoral care.
3. I need to be local to minimise the impact on Mike for the period of the placement.
4. Rachel needs consistency of going to Sunday school whilst I'm on placement.
5. My church needs to organise cover for my roles, specifically Sunday school which has a lack of volunteers.

The impact on my family is of key concern to me.  Mike doesn't do church and therefore asking him to get Rachel to and from Sunday school whilst I'm not there is not a straight forward assumption.  Rachel loves Sunday school but I think a lot of that is her enjoying church as something we do together, as a 5 year old it's a big deal for her to go to Sunday school and then back into church knowing I'm not there.  So in this I will be asking for support from people at my church, to nurture her whilst I'm not there.  This will be my key area of concern and stress.  Not that it won't be daunting to be in a different church, but I am a mum first and Rachel's happiness always bumps my own issues.

Watch this space as I try to figure this out, it'll be exciting!

Wednesday 12 January 2011

What a difference a month makes

It's been six weeks since my last ministerial supervision with my vicar, what a difference a month makes!

Rather than feeling nervous and wary and, very unlike me, timid; I felt confident and knew what I wanted to talk about today.  In fact, for the first time ever, we set out the things we wanted to cover and made sure we got through them all.

It's funny, in my previous life I ran well planned meetings efficiently, ensuring that outcomes were achieved.  But ministry has been so far outside my comfort zone that supervisions have been an alien creature.  Until now, finally I seem to be able to look at my ministry professionally.  Halleluia.

Ninety minutes flew past and at the end I was shocked how much we'd covered, how many decisions had been made, how many of my thoughts had been useful and how open my vicar is to my ideas.  I can really see how my ministry is changing and how I am becoming ever more confident to follow where God leads me.

Tuesday 11 January 2011



Today I had two supervisory meetings; one for my counselling and one for my worn with vulnerable families ; and tomorrow I have my ministry supervision.  What a lot of supervision for 2 days!  

You might think I would look forward to my supervisions, and mostly I do.  But these were the first sessions after my very tough, grief stricken December and I knew the sessions meant bearing my soul and that's usually hard.

So what's the purpose of supervision?
The British association of Counsellors and psychotherapists provides this definition:

"The primary purpose of supervision is to ensure that the counsellor is addressing the needs of the client. It involves many functions including:
- enhancing the therapeutic effectiveness in the counsellor client relationship
- monitoring and supporting the counsellor
- enabling the counsellor to develop his/her professional identify through reflection and guidance
- clarifying the relationship between counsellor/client/organisation 
- ensure standards are being met"

As you can see that involves a lot of sharing about experiences, feelings, problems and reactions.  It requires going back over situations which were difficult and learning from those.

So I was apprehensive.  But thankfully I have great supervisors and they, as ever, steered me gently through the sessions.  I touched on the emotions again but have come through having learned more about myself and how I can help myself better next time.

Tomorrow is my ministry supervision, I will blog on that then.

Monday 10 January 2011

Cassock and surplice

Cassock and surplice

Today was a milestone, today I ordered my first cassock and surplus.  It feels like this ministry thing is becoming mighty serious.

Don't get me wrong, I know anyone can wear a cassock and surplus, it's the reader scarf that will signify my ministry upon licensing; but this my Sunday ministry uniform and it signifies a lot to my church congregation.  I was hoping not to get it until closer to licensing, but I am presiding a lot in coming months and it had been decided that toning would be a good thing.  I guess if I'm honest, the uniform nerves are covering the presiding nerves!

My first shock in the process of ordering robes was the cost; some places are talking £500!  Luckily I got a recommendation to a fantastic place who make to measure (from your own measurements) for half that price.

My second surprise was the fact that there are numerous choices for cassocks - single or double breasted; 3, 4 or 5 pleats; round or square neck; cuffs; pockets; pen holders and more.  I am no seamstress but I muddled through going for whatever was recommended for women (not that most women are quite as cuddly as me).  And then there's the surplus choices, shorter ones (cotter I think) or longer (old English) and then sleeve options.  For this I went for the longer one, mainly because Gok Wan has taught me not to cut myself at my widest.  I'm not sure whether it's right to take fashion advice on surplus selection but what's a girl to do when offered choice.

Of course this whole order could be an unmitigated disaster if my third shock goes wrong.  I had to provide measurements.  The easy ones were fine, but then weird mid back breadth, shoulder to cuff, back length and more got very confusing and did I mention I'm no seamstress.  I pray that it will at least fit me even if it's a little oddly shaped for me.

And so the order has gone off.  I've paid for it.  And now I wait a few weeks for it to be made and sent.  And then it will become very real.  And then I will be robed to preside, but that's another time.

As an aside, Mike keeps asking if church are paying for this and I still don't know the answer, although I'm hoping they'll at least help out.  I hope this doesn't become an extra issue on his view of the church and my role being all giving to them.  Lord please bring the parts of my life together.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Moses for Sunday school

Moses for Sunday school

Today was the first Sunday school of 2011 and attended in force.  My group "God Squad" (they chose the name in September) had 17 kids between 3 and 10 years old today.  We are working our way through the Lion Storyteller Bible by Bob Hartman over two years.  Today was the story of Moses in the reeds "the secret baby" with a brief mention of "the burning bush".

The session started as ever with two prayer songs and throwing of our sins via scrunched up paper onto a parachute.  We then sat in a circle, met each other and quickly caught up after Christmas.  I then read "the secret baby" story to the children, allowing them to see the pictures.  yes, I try to learn the story beforehand to improve storytelling - a lesson I learned from Mr Hartman himself.

We then have a chat about what Moses did in his life, how he was special, how God spoke to him and how his story is very similar to Jesus' story that we heard so much about at Christmas.  At this point the children brought in their own knowledge of Moses, thoughts about how God can speak to us, and some laughter about what we'd do if a bush started burning and talking to us.

I had found on t'internet a fantastic song about Moses to the tune of Incy Wincy spider (a theme this week) entitled Itsy Bitsy Moses.  

Itty bitty Moses was crying in his room,
Then came his mommy and sang a little tune.
"Hush little baby, the Lord will be your guide,
And no one will ever harm you,
for God is by your side."

Into a tiny basket, the baby Moses went,
Placed into the Nile, and to the palace sent.
"Hush little baby, the Lord will be your guide,
And no one will ever harm you,
for God is by your side."

Lovely Pharaoh's daughter saw Moses in the Nile,
Picked him up and loved him, raised him as her child.
"Hush little baby, the Lord will be your guide,
And no one will ever harm you,
for God is by your side."

I taught this to the kids and suggested we make a comic strip, one picture for each verse, of the songs story of Moses.  Luckily the kids liked that idea and they produced masterpieces which we then took into church and showed the congregation with the song.  The comic strip will be in church all week.

The Sunday school ministry is such an honour and pleasure.  It's often hard to prepare to meet everyones diverse needs, but it is worth every second.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Lords Prayer as a nursery rhyme

Here is the modern lords prayer, not a big surprise

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, 
your will be done, 
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us. 
Lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. 
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours. 
Now and for ever. Amen

Here is a well known nursery rhyme: Incy wincy spider line by line

1. Incy Wincy spider 
2. Climbed up the water spout
3. Down came the rain 
4. and washed the spider out
5. Out came the sun 
6. and dried up all the rain
7. Then Incy Wincy spider 
8. went up the spout again!]

And because I love a challenge with words and @Frsimon laid one down on twitter, here is the lords prayer redesigned into the tune of Incy Wincy Spider in 2 verses.

1. Our Father in heaven,
2. hallowed be your name.
3. Your land and will be done  
4.  on earth just as in heaven
5. Give us our bread today
6 and Forgive us all our sins,
7. as we forgive all of those 
8. who might sin against us. 

1. Please keep us straight and 
2. Lead us not into temptation, 
3. deliver us from evil 
4. Within us and without
5. For the kingdom, the power 
6. and the glory are yours. 
7. Now and for ever. 
8. Amen amen amen.

Loss of diocesan advisor for LLMs

Those of you who follow me on twitter will have seen my upset, anger and disappointment at the news that the Diocese of Oxford have made redundant the post of "Diocesan advisor for LLMs".  

My first emotion was shock. Shock that the wonderful lay minister Sheila Lloyd would be made redundant from her post when she has spent the last 2 years regenerating the ministry and community of lay ministers in Oxford diocese.

I quickly moved to anger. Anger that the diocese should let down it's LLMs by no longer employing anyone to be their advocate, support and leader.  Anger that the diocese doesn't seem to value lay ministry if it can leave us high and dry in this way. Anger that this decision has and will continue to cause so much pain for individuals.

Being a practical person my third response was action.  I tweeted quite emotionally to +Alan (Bishop of Buckinghamshire).  I wrote an email to +Colin (Bishop of Dorchester who now becomes the warden of readers) and +John (Bishop of Oxford) explaining how I felt about the decision.  I rang my archdeaconry advisor for LLMs and we had a long discussion about how upset we both are.  I spoke to my vicar about how Christian I felt about the whole situation.

Fourthly, finally (about time) you might say, I prayed on the situation.  This was inordinately difficult.  I felt so let down by the organisation of the church, so distanced from the ministry I feel so called to, so abandoned.  But God is good, God is love, God came through, God held me tight and reassured and brought me back to His calling on my life.  

Fifthly the church itself reached out to me.  +Alan tweeted me a number of times showing true care, compassion and understanding.  +Colin emailed me almost immediately in an extremely affirming way and invited me to meet with him in the spring to discuss LLM ministry.  And I was reminded by many amazing vicars and laiety how the focus of my ministry is all about the local and that doesn't change.

It has been quite some 48hours, a real rollercoaster.  This issue is in no way concluded, I still feel the diocesan decision is wrong, but I feel more able to cope with it positively.  For example,  I am now part of a team setting up a website for Oxford LLMs which should help us support each other as peers.  

This is a time of change, it's not nice but if nothing else it has brought me closer to understanding those in the community who are suffering the same experiences of redundancy and change. In time we will look back and see how we grew through this, but for now we will middle through with our emotions, our concerns and our faith.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

every wondered what you read when training for lay ministry?

well here is my annotated bibliography from the last 18 months of training, and it doesn't include absolutely everything. enjoy

Annotated Bibliography

Adair, J. (2002) How to find your vocation: a guide to discovering the work you love. Norwich: The Canterbury Press.

“How to find your vocation” widens the traditional definition of “vocation” associated with a church calling and instead suggests that everyone might have a vocation to something they undertake at work, in their free time, or both. The chapter which affected me the most was the characteristics of vocational people with humility, enthusiasm and love being especially interesting. As others have expressed their wish that they had been given a vocation I have used aspects of this book in asking them about their lives, true to expectations almost everyone who has raised a desire has in fact been living their vocation, although not necessarily to its upmost. I have used this same subject in a sermon on vocation and had very positive feedback about how it was reassuring and encouraging.

Alexander, P & D (2009) The Lion Handbook to the Bible. Oxford: Lion

The lion handbook to the bible was recommended to me by everyone I spoke to and it did not fail to meet its expectations. This book might become my number one reference on scripture, although it will be hard to leave my study bible behind. It not only provides the additional explanatory text but also includes photographs, drawings, charts, maps and key points highlighted. I particularly like the way this handbook provides information on the way the bible is divided into different types of books, such as stories, wisdom and prophecy; this is invaluable to readers whether new to the Bible or familiar.

Ashwin, A (2002) The Book of a Thousand Prayers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan
This book has been invaluable when I’m looking for a prayer for myself or when I am looking to pray for or within someone else. I have used it as the base of inspiration for intercessions and have found many a prayer which have filled the space when it was needed. The fact that the prayers are provided under specific headings makes it an extremely useful resource.

Barton, J. and Muddiman, J. (2008) The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press
This was recommended to me as one of the few objective commentaries on the Bible, trying not to focus on the authors viewpoint but on the actual text in its entirety. It is a tome indeed, and a little off putting for it, but if I had to choose just one book that could fulfil my understanding of the Bible for personal, preaching, Sunday school and pastoral uses, I would choose this one. It is on my desk, having never made it to the book shelf, a high recommendation indeed.

Bayes, P (2009) Mission-shaped Parish: Traditional Church in a Changing World. London: Church House Publishing
I used this book as part of my background reading for the evaluation of mission at my church which was then presented to the mission and evangelism course. I appreciated the focus on the mission values which the book contains; namely a missionary church is focussed on God the Trinity, in incarnational, is transformational, is relational and makes disciples.

Berryman, J. W. (2007) The complete guide to Godly Play: Volume 1: how to lead Godly Play lessons. Denver, Colorado: Living the Good News

This book is a thorough introduction to Godly Play providing background about the technique, about how to be a storyteller and how to play to bring the gospels to life for young children. It provides full details of a Godly play session from entering the space, building the circle, hearing the word of God, sharing the feast and finally the dismissal. The people, resources and layouts needed are all listed, it is therefore enough to run a session. The workbook also discusses how Godly play can be used with other age groups and the way this would work. I would recommend the book for those interested in knowing about Godly play even if they are not going to run a session, it has much to teach us about the word of God and the way we learn.

Bezancon,J.N. et al (1993) How to understand the creed. SCM Press Ltd: London
I perused a good few books on the creeds before I borrowed this one and I wish I'd found it first. For a blow by blow, line by line explanation and discussion on the Nicene Creed it is second to none. It provided me with a deeper insight into the creed than a purely historical or doctrinal viewpoint would have achieved and encouraged me to finally prepare a meditation on the Nicene Creed. I recommend it highly, despite it being 17 years old.

Blanchard, J (2007) Can we be good without God? Darlington: Evangelical Press
This short pamphlet sized book is an easy read. I was unsure what it would be able to say that would add to the value of other doctrinal books, and in reality it is not in the same league. But what this book lacks in detailed theology, it makes up for in sourcing questions. The book raises the issue of morality and whether this requires God and a religious moral code and became my launch pad for further research and thought on the subject,

Blanchard, J (2009) Why on earth did Jesus come? Darlington: Evangelical Press
This is another easy read, for the everyman, pamphlet style book by John Blanchard. This time the subject is Christmas and the real meaning behind it. The book looks at the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth, the reasons for his life, death and resurrection and what this offers us. The book is one I will keep on my shelf to offer anyone who ever again asks me, well what’s the big deal about Jesus?

Bosch, D. (1992) Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis.
This book takes the history of mission in the Christian church and follows how it has changed, developed, ebbed and flowed over the years. It is an interesting book on missional history although a little heavy for me to recommend to anyone exploring mission.

Chadwick, C. and Tovey, P. (2005) Growing in Ministry – Using Critical Incident Analysis. Cambridge: Grove Books Limited. Grove Book P84
This grove book provides a number of methods for analysing, reflecting on and learning from critical incidents in life. The method which most speaks to me is broken down into eight stages starting with a review of what happened, its impact on the individual and their reactions and judgments. It then asks the reader to relate this to Scripture, ask what God might be saying and what it says about you; before asking you to identify what new learning is needed and what might be different in the future. I have used this system of reflection and learning through my training process.

Church of England (2004) Mission Shaped Church: church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context. London: Church House Publishing
This report outlines the changes in society in recent decades and reflects how our current systems of traditional church may not be meeting the needs of those who wish to meet and connect with the risen Christ. “to be where people are, how they are” is an extremely important quote to me and one that reminds me that it is not the people within the church that we most need to care for, but those who are seeking and can not find. I have discussed this various groups at church and it is a key part of our pastoral care ministry.

Collins, G. R. (2007) Christian Counselling: A Comprehensive Guide. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic Publishing

This book is logically set out with chapters providing different subject matters. Each chapter provides a biblical input, often with scriptural texts, and is based on sound psychological principles. I found the chapters on depression, grief, anger, addiction and anxiety particularly clear and practically helpful; these issues tend to be most commonly occurring when people ask for care and assistance and it is rare to find a text which provides theory and practical aspects for the issues. The chapter on ethical and moral counselling issues is also extremely useful. I have recommended this book to people providing pastoral care within the parish and to counsellors who are Christians.

Cottrell, S (2003) Praying through life: how to pray in the home, at work and in the family. London: Church House Publishing
The strap line on the back cover of this book explains so much about praying through life: “for novices, not experts”; and of course the great thing is that we are all novices when it comes to prayer. Part One looks at what prayer actually is, starting with the obvious relationship with God and then looking at how it is also relationship with others, with others for God and visa versa. It is introduces the benefits of a pattern of prayer, something which I have found myself with my twice daily prayer regime which I value the most when it slips. Part Two looks at how we can pray in different ways and times, for different reasons and with different people. Reading this book lead me to a place where I realised that I did not need to be on my knees with my hands closed to pray, prayer at a red stop light is as valid and real.

Cottrell, S (2007) Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. London: Church House Publishing
Do Nothing to change your life? What happens when you stop? These two things were utterly alien to me when I read Bishop Stephens book and I was utterly sceptical that it could teach me anything. Of course that was where I was wrong. It pushed a button right at the start, the fact that a twinge (or whole hit) of guilt occurred if I sat still. Once I had accepted this fact it was easier to see the benefit of sitting still and allowing life to stop in order to reflect and absorb and know who I am and where I am heading. Of course I still get caught in the frenetic speed of life, but I now make scheduled time to stop, and it is in this time that I focus and make sure the path I am walking is the right one.

Cottrell, S (2008) Hit the Ground Kneeling: Seeing Leadership Differently. London: Church House Publishing

Hit the Ground Kneeling describes itself as taking common leadership statements and questioning them in the light of Christian faith; yes, that is true. It states that it provides Christian perspectives on leadership; again true. But it is so much more than just these sound bites and I would recommend it to anyone. Not only is it pocket size, always a benefit, but it is an easy read which actually encourages you to read it in short bites. I know some might be turned off by the mention of “leadership” in the title, but it reminds us that we are all leaders; of our lives, families, social events or our work undertakings. We all can learn something from this book and its advice to slow down, think more, listen, empower others and only do what you are able. As an additional perk; any confusion about the difference between vision, mission statement and strategy is dealt with on page 40.

Cottrell, S (2008) The Things He Carried. London: Church House Publishing
I used this book as the basis for our church lent course in 2009. We took each chapter a week and provided a service based on the chapter, and therefore the “thing He carried”, for the congregation to pray, meditate and ponder on. The first week we looked at the cross itself; then the crown of thorns; the seamless robe, the burdens that he was given; and finally the hopes and fears in his heart. The simple way that the book goes through the chapters was very easy to apply into services whilst the readings from the book were hard hitting and emotional; it was a true lent experience allowing us to really feel Jesus load and what he did for us all. I would recommend the book especially to be read aloud by groups.

Croft, S; Hedley, F and Hopkins, B (2006) Listening for Mission; mission audit for fresh expressions. London: Church House Publishing

This is a booklet produced by Fresh Expressions, one of a number they have produced. It is easy to read, accessible and something I would recommend to anyone interested in mission. I especially appreciate the focus on how a church needs to listen before it starts to take part in missional activities, they need to understand what God, the local and national community and the church itself needs and then base mission plans on these.

Davie, M (2008) A Guide to the Church of England. London: Mowbray.
An easy to read, all in one book on the Church of England. Commissioned by the Church of England for Christians of other traditions, it sets out the history, organisation, worship and theology of the Church of England. I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend and used it as my first port of call on understanding the Church of England over and above my knowledge at a parish level. It is accessible, with short chapters and an easy style and thorough in its provision, giving pointers for where the further depth of information can be obtained. I recommend this book to anyone who is put off by the number and size of books on doctrine, theology and church history.

Day, D (1998) Preaching Workbook. London: SPCK.
David Day provides an accessible book on writing sermons and preaching. He breaks the book into logical sections about the word itself, the message to be delivered, the sermon and how to deliver it and finally the fact that congregations have to hear the word and message. His section in context spoke to me particularly when I was first preparing sermons, it was easy to speak on a section but loose the context; Day’s simple examples showed me the importance of keeping the words in context of the biblical passage. The other important section for me was about touching the congregation and ensuring that the sermon makes a difference.

De Lange, A. & Simpson, L. (2002), How to Lead the Prayers (GW 169), Cambridge: Grove Books Limited

This is a grove booklet focussed on leading intercessions. It starts with a section on why we pray before moving on to a discussion about whether there is a best way to pray taking into account the type of service in use. Section four provides useful guidance on how to start the writing of the prayers, advising a link to the bible readings and theme of the service. I particularly like the section six entitled “do something different” which encourages action and picture usage, these are issues I am discussing at church for future use.

De Lange, A. & Simpson, L. (2003), How to Read the Bible in Church (GW 177), Cambridge: Grove Books Limited
I like the chapters of this book focussing on why we read in church and how the readings are chosen, however I felt like granny being taught how to suck eggs when reading the rest. I would however recommend this to our young people when they are asked for the first time to read in church.

Dewar, F. (2000) Called or collared: an alternative approach to vocation. London: SPCK
I was advised to read this book when I was exploring my calling. I was unsure since I did not feel called to ordained ministry but followed advice and read. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised the book was discussing all forms of vocation in the church and outside. Dewar believes that we all have a calling from God which we need to fulfil, from this standpoint he asks us to examine ourselves and what we could give in our lives to the work of God. I continue to reflect on God’s call for me by taking time to stop and listen to Him, this is thanks to the lessons I learned from Dewar’s book.

Doctrine Commission of the Church of England. (2005) Contemporary Doctrine Classics from the Church of England: We believe in God, we believe in the Holy Spirit and the mystery of salvation. London: Church House Publishing
I expected a Church of England book on doctrine to be extremely heavy and hard to read, however I was pleasantly surprised to find the book well indexed, written and easy to move around. I used the book through the study course on doctrine, supplementing the course material and other theological texts. It was also the foundation text for the majority of my doctrine writings, providing the accepted doctrine of the Church of England on the issues of God, the Holy Spirit and salvation.

Earey, M. & Myers, G., eds., (2007) Common Worship Today: A Guide to Common Worship – Study Edition, Nottingham: St John’s Extension Studies

This book surely is a “must have” for anyone involved in planning or leading worship. It is excellently written and presented, with clear layouts and focussed information provision. I doubt many people would read it cover to cover as I did, but those who do will come away with a much clearer picture of the development of Church of England worship, the element of worship and the various services that are available. I was particularly impressed with the way the book can also be used as a “dip in” reference text and am sure it will be a well used book on my shelf.

Earey, M. (1999), Leading Worship (GW 152), Cambridge: Grove Books Limited
This booklet is a very easy read, providing an introduction to leading worship. I was immediately reassured with the mention of the fact that worship leaders need to be able to think on their feet; this was in opposition to what I felt was expected of me and allowed me to be more responsive to the situations as they arrived during services. Similarly the idea that services can, and should, respond to events in the world, community and church came as a pleasant surprise. My experience of our church services is that nothing is mentioned outside the liturgy and the lectionary readings with sermon; however I have now felt the ability to bring in life events when they are appropriate and this has been well received. I felt that chapters three and five were of little interest to me since I had already read the CW study guide. Chapter four was fascinating especially in the discussion of worship as a leader and the section about personality types.

Edwards, D.L. (1992) Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue. London: Hodder and Stoughton

I read this book on a recommendation, with the hope that it would comprehensively provide the liberal and evangelical views on key doctrinal issues. I found it fell short since it was not a dialogue so much as two speeches covering the same subjects; in a way that reminded me of politicians refusing to answer each others questions. However it covered the full range of Christian theological issues from two broad perspectives and allowed me to see the range of views that can stand alongside each other within the same faith.

Ford, D (2000) Theology: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press
I expected this to be an easy read; however I quickly realised that a very short introduction does not necessarily mean a very quick read. I was pleasantly surprised though that the book provided a lot of interesting theological discussion and debate around issues such as what is God, what is sin, prayer and what is means to be saved. It discusses the theological issues in each case from a Christian perspective but also provides discussion about how other religions would see it; this is both useful for further discussion reasons and interesting. The book comes from the viewpoint of an intellectual examination, forcing a more detached view of the issues. I have recommended this book to a number of people who are interested in the issues I have been learning and will keep it at hand as my studies progress.

Grams,R.G (2003) Narrative dynamics in Matthews mission philosophy. OCMS lecture
This short paper is the synopsis of a lecture given by Grams on the mission presented by the Gospel of Matthew. This was my first reading on the subject of mission as presented by Matthew’s Gospel.

Green, L. (2009) Let’s Do Theology: Resources for Contextual Theology, London: Mowbray

This book is an updating of the previous edition of Let’s Do Theology written in 1989. Laurie Green manages to bring the academic study of theological into a thoroughly applicable and practical format which can be used by anyone interested in reflecting on their lives theologically. The book aims, and succeeds, to look at how we think, talk and act in the context of how God wishes us to be. Laurie Green takes the process of reflecting theologically as a sporadic undertaking and encourages us to change our thinking so that our theology is a part of our experiences and learning. The spiral of reflection shows how we learn from our experiences and from these have new experiences which are more informed but we can also learn from. The model fully embraces the fact that we are all constantly learning about ourselves, about our world, about our faith and about God.

Rather than starting from a place where by theology is required as a knowledge base, the book takes the fact that we experience as what matters at first. From this we can review and explore theology, reflect on our life experience, respond by doing something different and then learn again. I have recommended this book widely, to anyone who has an interest in the theological view of their life experiences.

Helm, N. and Allin, P. (2003) Finding Support in Ministry. Cambridge, UK: Grove Books Limited.

“I know my ministry is the product of the generosity of spirit and support of God and of a number of key people.” To me this summarises this text perfectly. It looks at how we can not be sole ships in the ocean during our ministry but need to draw on whatever resources we can to obtain support and guidance; be that from mentors, spiritual directors, counsellors or supporters. The text outlines how these people are not just there when times are hard, but should be there as sounding boards, as reflectors and guides throughout our ministry to ensure that we strike the right balance and retain our focus. I know through my own experience of counselling that it is imperative that carers own emotions are identified and worked through if that person is to be able to work to help others; this is well discussed in section three. I found the section on supervisors extremely helpful, the simplicity of the four tasks of supervision (affirmation, restoration, formation and normalising) have been easy to incorporate in my own supervisory sessions.

Hicks, P. (2000) What Could I Say? A handbook for helpers. Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press

I came across this book by accident when looking for a text to bring a Christian influence into my counselling course. The book is not aimed at counsellors or even pastoral carers particularly, it is aimed at the average person who can listen to their family and friends and help them through hard times. The book starts with some tips on listening, not judging, the importance of prayer and understanding yourself. It then lists a broad range of issues in alphabetical order from abortion to work issues. Within each of these issues, the book provides an explanation of the topic, biblical pointings, Christ-like advice, guidance and additional references. I use it all the time as a reference whenever I am asked to help someone, it is the perfect starting place.

Hill, J. (2007) The New Lion Handbook: The History of Christianity. Oxford: Lion
This is the main recommended text for the church history course and it is obvious why, every aspect of Christian history is provided for the reader to see. I used it as a “dip in and out” text and it was very useful for the period up to the fifteenth/sixteenth centuries, when the book divides into geographical reasons to discuss the modern era. I think the book looses something in this, leaving it difficult to relate the global church together. I understand that this is necessary because of the differences in the church around the world, but in the global society we now find ourselves I find it very separatist.

Hope, D; Chew, M and Ireland, B (2009) How to do Mission Action Planning. London: SPCK Publishing

The full title of this book is “How to do Mission Action Planning; a vision centred approach.” This is a must have book if you have any input into mission, mission planning or mission audit. It provides not just the overview theoretical information about MAP process but also includes lots of detailed help in the completion of one. It is easy to read, full of clear diagrams and makes sense of what could otherwise appear to be fiendishly complicated.

Hultgren,AJ (1998) Mission and Ministry in Matthew. Word and world 18(4), 341-347
This paper was written by Hultgren for the Word and World journal. It examines the mission and ministry of Jesus as presented in Matthew’s gospel focussing on the great commission and how this moved the mission of the word from purely to the Jews to all of humanity including the Gentiles. The discussion on this change took me through to further research about how Matthew documented this change in theological teaching and mission.

Jacobs, M. (2001) Still Small Voice. London: SPCK
I have read Still Small Voice many times over the years, looking for different insights into how to understand myself and care for others. At first reading it told me the importance of listening, of having a still small voice which could reflect my empathy. But as my knowledge of counselling developed I read within the pages the importance of knowing and understanding myself in order to care for others. As a pastoral carer and counsellor my own emotions can not be shut away, nor should they since they have much to tell me; but they should be set as a background to the clients emotions which are the subject of all caring relationships. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all who want to be there walking alongside those in need.

Jacobs, M. (2006) The Presenting Past: The core of psychodynamic counselling and therapy. Maidenhead: Open University Press

This book builds on the listening skills provided in Still Small Voice and brings in more psychodynamic principles. The key theory of psychodynamic counselling is that our past experiences, especially those in early childhood, form our psyche and the way we deal with adult life. This book is easy to read, providing many examples of how psychodynamic counselling works. Although it is aimed towards counselling students and professionals I would recommend this book as a way of understanding how our past can affect our present.

Johnson, B. C. (2002) Hearing God’s Call: ways of discernment for laity and clergy. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Johnson provides case studies of callings from God to discuss the understanding of calling, the acceptance of it being correct and what happens which it is time for a new calling to be accepted. His book talks to both clergy and laity and includes exercises in each chapter to help the reader examine their calling. The book is very specific with examples for clarity. I found the majority of the book extremely overwhelming until the appendices on biblical figures who were called; these were fantastic provisions helping both the process of calling and acceptance.

Keiller, J. (1989) Patterns of Prayer. London: Daybreak
This book provides a range of prayer methods which suit different personality types. It starts by reassuring people that everyone responds differently to learning according to their psychological makeup. Some like structure and clear systems, others prefer to be free to see where experience takes them. The book therefore helps the reader to identify their personality type. The chapters following this act as a learning themselves in how they personally prefer to pray and therefore which types of prayer would suit them. The second half of the book take each of four spiritual teachers; Benedict, Francis, Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila, showing how their approaches work and, through exercises, help the reader to develop their own pattern of prayer. I found the book easy to read, fascinating to absorb and extremely useful for helping me understand why I pray as I do and helping me to explore other ways of prayer. I would recommend it to newcomers to prayer or experienced prayers alike, I am sure everyone would learn and grow from it.

Kelly, J.N.D. (1989) Early Christian Doctrine. London: Black
This book is an extremely thorough and comprehensive text of the first five centuries of the church. I confess I did not read it from cover to cover, finding it too heavy, but used it reference style to get further detail on specific historical points and debates. I borrowed the book and am now in the process of trying to find a 2nd hand one for my shelves, I know it is the sort of book that would be useful in sermon preparation.

Knowles, M. (1973) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company

This book discusses adult learning, how adults learn as compared to children, and how this should impact the planning of learning experiences. I found the book fascinating when thinking about how to communicate with adults through sermons, especially in an all-age setting. Knowles is clear that adult learning (andragogy) is very different to child learning (pedagogy) stating that adults need to understand why they are learning, be responsible for their learning, learn from their experiences and that they learn best when something is relevant to them.

Krentz,E (2006) Make disciples: Matthew on evangelism. Currents in theology and mission 33(1), 23-41.

Krentz focuses his paper on the making of disciples call as presented by Matthew’s gospel, looking at how disciples were to be made among the Jews and then among all people by Jesus’ own disciples. How all mankind were to disciple Jesus’ word. I found the paper easy to read and extremely informative on the area of disciple making, it spoke to me and helped me with the essay on Matthew and mission.

Kuhrt, G.W and Nappin, P. (2002) Bridging the Gap: Reader ministry today. London: Church House Publishing This book is written by Readers providing answers to the questions of what Readers are and what they do. From the start I liked the way the authors spoke directly to the reader, providing their own experience of being Readers. This book was good preparation for the start of training and has been sustaining in the months since. Passages which speak to me particularly are provided below:
“Christian ministers are simple ‘stewards of God’s grace’ which will never run out even when the steward tires or wears out” page 5.
“it is one of the precious opportunities that we have to be a regular member of a congregation” page 10
“you may experience something of the rejection that Jesus experienced (Mark 6:1-6)” page 12
“a bridge is what Readers are – between lay and ordained” page 16
“it is important for your own spiritual well-being that you have the time and space for your own worship and Bible study” page 17
“equally significant is the relation of Reader ministry to the unpaid work of bringing up a family …… or voluntary work undertaken in one’s spare time.” Page 19
“all good work is pleasing to God. Most have to find the right balance between their several callings.” Page 21
“the key to success is to recognise that God is with us on both sides of the divide, ‘out there’ in the world as well as ‘here’ in the relative safety of the church.” Page 25
“Readers will increasingly find themselves ministering within the context of a ministry team” page 45
“if God has called you to be a Reader, you can be rest confident that He will enable you to find the time and the energy and the commitment to make proper preparation.” Page 62

Life Application Study Bible: New International Version (2001). Kingsway.
I have used this NIV study bible for many years, enjoying its clear layout, large print and half page commentaries for every aspect of the whole Bible. I have not found another bible which provides such clear maps, historic timelines or simple explanations. However as a church we use the NRSV Bible and therefore this NIV version differs in some respects, for this reason it is not my sole study bible but is the one I prefer for personal use.

Matthey,J (2000) Pilgrims, seekers and disciples: mission and dialogue in Matthew. International review of mission 91(360), 120-134

I enjoyed reading Matthey with my favourite part of the paper being from Pg129 "within Matthew we are called on differing spiritual journeys. We use our own culture's wisdom and science to interpret God's light in the world. If we do this then we are living out our humanity by meeting the needs of the suffering.”

Marshall, H, Travis, S and Paul, I (2002) Exploring the New Testament. Volume 2: The Letters and Revelation. London: SPCK

This series was recommended on the course list but I was slightly disappointed in its content. It is extremely readable and clear but it does not provide enough depth or challenge of the sort I was looking for on the subject. I would recommend this book to someone starting out on a bible study, especially if they weren’t following a specific course since the book provides key questions for thought and essay titles if these are of interest. I found the book a little summary for my needs but it helped me identify the key areas that I wanted to explore further and find the relevant texts.

McGuiness, J. (2009) Growing Spirituality with the Myers Briggs. Model. London: SPCK
“For some the spiritual journey is an individual venture with no focussed objective. They are ready to explore different avenues.” This is how the book starts and it continues by looking at how we can explore our spiritual journey. Having identified that spirituality is a journey, one which has no rights or wrongs or destination but is an exploration; the book moves on to helping the reader identify their personality type. It introduces the Myers Briggs model for personality trait identification and then provides detailed summaries of each personality trait. These details include how each trait deals with social situations, relates to God, prefers to pray, and connects with others. The book reinforces that we are "created in Gods image, we can live with permission to cherish our God-given personality, rather than under compulsion to strive to be someone else." From this standpoint it encourages the reader to understand their personality and the shadow side which with exploration can be developed to increase their spiritual connection.

McGrath, A.E. (1991) Affirming your faith: exploring the Apostles’ Creed. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press

This book takes the Apostles’ Creed in a line by line way, similarly as Bezancon does for the Nicene Creed. I read this after my research on the Nicene Creed and did not find it as useful as other reading, however I am sure this is more related to the fact that it had little new to tell me.

McGrath, A.E. (2009) Christian Theology: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell
This book starts off looking extremely easy to read, however I stalled when I attempted to read it cover to cover without any guidance. I came back to the text whilst attending the course on Doctrine and was pleasantly surprised to realise that the information provided on specific subjects we covered were easy to access yet thorough enough to spark debate and interest for further reading. The book starts with a history of Christianity. Part two then concentrates on sources and methods of theology including knowledge of God. Part three provides Christian theology on doctrines of God, Trinity, the person of Christ, salvation, human nature and sin, the church, sacraments and hope. I used the text as the key source for my doctrine essays and it gave me the confidence to look for more information elsewhere. I imagine this text will be well used throughout my ministry.

McGrath, A.E. (2009) The Christian Theology Reader. Oxford: Blackwell
The Christian Theology Reader is the accompanying text to the Introduction to Christian Theology. It provides the primary sources for the theological and doctrinal quotes provided in the Christian Theology Introduction. It is easy to use with a clear index and all sources provided in a format which is accessible and yet thorough. I bought the book because it was on special and am pleased I did, the information has been invaluable when researching and writing essays. I expect that this text will be well thumbed in the coming years as I look for the thoughts of others on the faith issues that arise.

Meyers, C (2005) The New Cambridge Bible Commentary: Exodus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

This book provided the depth I was looking for in understanding the book of Exodus. I especially valued the cultural viewpoint of the book and how it provides the social meaning for the people of Israel, an aspect which appealed to my psychological way of studying. The book is easy to read and navigate, whilst being challenging in its themes and discussion. I would return to other Cambridge bible commentaries if they all hold to this high standard.

Michael, C.P. and Norrisey, M.C. (1984) Prayer and temperament: different prayer forms for different personality types. G Charlottesville, Virginia: the open door Inc.

This book is based around the findings from a year long project in 1982 in which 457 people examined the value of various prayer forms for the different psychological types of human personality. The project concluded that of those taking part, 98% testified to the value of choosing a method of prayer which was compatible to their temperament. The book therefore helps the reader identify their personality type, as one of four, and then presented the prayer type that most suited their personality. The book recommends that the reader try the type of prayer most suited to them and see how it works.

Moore, L. (2006) Messy Church: Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community. Abingdon, UK: The Bible Reading Fellowship
This book is a great introduction to Messy Church, providing the theory and practical aspects of the sessions. It introduces the idea of Messy Church, its theology, purpose and presentation, enough to allow you to sell it to your PCC. The second section of the book is fifteen thematic sessions with full programmes including biblical backgrounds, food menus, activities and the celebration (worship); these are all you need to run one years worth of Messy Church.

NASB Study Bible (1999) Zondervan
At the start of my LLM studies I was recommended by a tutor to get a New American Standard Bible study version, being told that this version is the closest to the literal original of the Bible and therefore the most accurate. I have found it hard to get used to this study bible, preferring my life application NIV version, but have found it invaluable during my studies in providing a second translation for understanding the themes, motifs and text.

O'Brien, PT (1999) Mission, witness and the coming of the spirit. Bulletin for Biblical Research 9, 203-214.
An interesting paper drawing on Luke and the Acts of the Apostles to discuss the mission of the early church in the world. I was hoping to find some reference to Matthews Gospel but this was not part of the papers remit.

Olford, S. (1988) The Essentials of Expository Preaching. Memphis: Institute Of Biblical Preaching.
This is a course developed by Olford and now delivered by the Institute of Biblical Preaching. It is focussed on expository preaching; the preaching on the message within a passage of scripture, otherwise referred to as systematic exposition, whereby the scripture is the starting point. This is different from preaching on a topic which starts with the topic and brings in scriptural reference. The lectionary provides passages from scripture which thereby encourages expository preaching.

Patte,D (2006) Reading Matthew 28:16-20 with others: how it reconstructs our western concept of mission. Hervormde Teologiese Studies 62(2), 521-557.
The quote which most spoke to me was on page544 "Matthew 28:20 promises the disciples the supportive presence of Jesus during their mission to the end of the age." This demonstrates how we are all disciples called to mission work for God as He works in the world.

Pattison, G (1998) The end of theology - and the task of thinking about God. London: SCM press
Professor Pattison writes a book with a title which immediately appealed to me, and I imagine to many others. The idea of theology can be extremely off putting, and yet the same subjects from a standpoint of thinking about God are less bewildering. In reality the book deals with the major theological and doctrinal issues that challenge all thinking and enquiring Christians, but it does it in a readable, clearly presented way which brings the process of theological reflection to life. I borrowed this from a friend and have subsequently bought it as a ‘must have’ on my book shelf.

Peskett,H and Ramachandra,V (2003) The message of mission: the glory of Christ in all time and space. Nottingham: inter varsity press
Peskett and Ramachandra focus on the last two paragraphs of Matthew’s gospel and the great commission to all people. The paper well explains how disciples are to fulfil their mission with Jesus like behaviour. He exemplifies live for God and neighbour and so should they; he submits to the will of God, he prays; he is meek, a servant; he shows compassion; he is vigilant. So we need to walk in the path he walked.

Phillips, J. B. (1955) The Young Church in Action: The Acts of the Apostles translated into Modern English London. Geoffrey Bles; Wyman & Sons
I found this book in my local Oxfam bookstore many months before studying church history and bought it thinking it might come in useful. It is obviously a dated text but is a fantastic book for examining the Acts of the Apostles, and one I have also used in my study of the New Testament. I try to get a number of commentary and translation inputs on biblical texts, and this is one which I will enjoy picking up whenever I am thinking about the Acts of the Apostles.

Pike, R. W. (1989) Creative Training Techniques Handbook. Minneapolis, MN: Lakewood Books.
The strap line of this book is “Tips, Tactics, and How-To's for Delivering Effective Training”. It provides details on how to prepare training sessions and ensure that you are speaking to the trainees, how to present in terms of information provided and physical aspects and also information about how learners need to be motivated to learn both during a session and afterwards as they put their learning into action. Although very much a book written for teachers and trainers I found it had a lot to offer by way of helping me understand how people learn and therefore how sermons should be presented to help them be understood and remembered.

Pritchard, J. (1997) The Intercessions Handbook: creative ideas for public and private prayer. London: SPCK
John Pritchard starts by explaining why we intercess and why it is important for Christian life; he then highlights the very real problems associated with intercessions. I found it comforting, if disappointing, to realise that the problems we have at church with the over generalised, simplistic and broad brush intercessions are not ours alone, these are widespread. The book then goes into a provision of examples of intercessions for different types of service, all age, small groups and traditional Eucharist; it also looks at the church seasons and the intercessions which can be used at these times. I found the inclusion of personal prayer and the way we can intercess particularly useful.

Pritchard, J. (2006) How to explain your faith. London: SPCK
How to explain your faith, an issue I have often had problems with when friends ask me to explain my faith. To find a book on this issue alone was fantastic, to see it actually address the specific questions that can be asked was enlightening. The first section is entitled “Why Bother” and looks at the very foundations of Christian faith, the way it is seen to be failing in society and even how it can compete. Part two focuses on “Why Believe”; it takes the big questions of “is there a God?” and “who was Jesus?” and what happened and is it all real. The final section is “why get involved” and looks at the church itself, prayer and the bible. The book excellently captures the questions that may be asked, the issues involved and also what we could say to those who ask them. It is a must read!

Rayner, E. (2008). Human Development. London: Routledge.
This book is extremely dated (despite it’s new release) with considerable homophobic, sexual and racial discrimination issues. However if you can get beyond these issues then it is one of the best books providing details of how humans develop themselves socially, morally and psychologically. The book starts at the beginning with a chapter on prebirth development before moving into birth and babyhood, young childhood, teenage years, adulthood and maturity. It examines the milestones in life and shows how they affect our development and therefore our future understanding of ourselves and others. It is not an easy read but it covers the entire life span in one accessible text.

Richardson, A. (1972) Creeds in the Making. London: SCM
This books secondary title is “A Short Introduction to the History of Christian Doctrine” and it does exactly what it says it does. It is an accessible introduction to the church discussions, disputes, councils and agreements which developed the Nicene and Apostle Creeds. Apart from the facts, the book also gets across the message that the creeds are faith statements, designed and written to ensure that the Christian church understands their beliefs, doctrines and can teach them correctly. I enjoyed the style and ease of the book and found it invaluable in writing my essay on the development of the Nicene Creed.

Robinson, H. (1980) Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

This book looks at scripture based message sermons, dealing with the preparation of sermons as well as the preaching of them. It is written from an evangelical perspective which is different from our churchmanship but it still had much to show which helped me in learning how to write sermons. This book showed me how when I preach I am letting God speak through me, I need to put in the footwork of the development with the help of prayer and then let the Holy Spirit flow. I liked the way the book was focussed on sermons providing the message and idea of the scriptures rather than analysis of the words used and contextual basis. I took away from this book the need to be able to summarise an entire sermon into one powerfully hitting sentence.

Rowling, C. and Gooder, P. (2009) Reader Ministry Explored. London: SPCK.
This text about Reader Ministry is provided in three sections; the first looks at the ministry of Readers and where it originated; the second examines discernment to Reader Ministry; and the third section discusses the role of Readers in the Church of England at the time of writing, providing some examples. Chapter three is particularly useful when thinking about the role of Readers; it presents a number of scenarios with questions to ponder, this brought many questions to my mind which I was then able to work through. This book would have been an invaluable read whilst I was going through the discernment and selection process and I will recommend it to anyone who indicates a possible calling to lay ministry.

Rundle, E. (2008) Twenty Question Jesus asked: what is he asking you? Abingdon, UK: The Bible Reading Fellowship
This book examines 20 of the questions that Jesus asked and asks how we could answer them. It does not state that there is just one correct answer to each but that we should each spend time thinking about these questions and the answers in our lives. Each chapter takes one of Jesus’ questions, provides the gospel story and looks at how this relates to daily life. It then leaves us with a thought and prayer for us to 'wait upon God'.

Sanders, E.P (1991) Paul: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press
This is, as it states, part of the very short introduction series of books published by Oxford University Press. This edition takes Paul’s work, providing information on his life, background, work and his Biblical books. I like to read these books when I start on a subject and was surprised how detailed this one is, providing a fantastic introduction to Paul. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered what Paul did and why he is so important to us as Christians.

Schonfield, H. (1968) Those Incredible Christians. London: Hutchinson
This book looks at the start of the church and it’s following century of development. It looks at Paul and John, their role in the formation of the church and the challenges they faced. It then examines the church itself at that stage and the issues within it in terms of theology, power and doctrine. It is obviously a dated book, but it provides another text to add to the more modern ones available discussing the early history of the church.

Singlehurst, L (2010) Sowing reaping keeping - people sensitive evangelism. Nottingham: Inter Varsity Press
This book is the first book I have ever read which clearly explains how mission and evangelism are different, how it is just as important to sow seeds of faith and love as it is to reap new Christians; and how complex it is to keep disciples passionate and energetic. I have recommended this book to a number of people at church who are passionate about mission but feel turned off by the word “evangelism” and also to friends outside church who feel that evangelism is all about changing people.

Stevenson,J. (2002) A New Eusebius: documents illustrating the history of the church to AD 337. London: SPCK
My vicar lent me this book when I asked him if he had anything related to the creeds. I quickly flicked through it and put it aside, dismissing it as an overly academic group of letters. However I went back to it as part of my assignment research and became engrossed in the letters, in the end reading the book cover to cover and thoroughly enjoying the picture of the first few centuries of the church emerging. The information I found in this book added great value to my learning and to me assignment and I would recommend it to anyone studying the creeds.

Stott, J (2009) Basic Christianity: new edition. Nottingham: Inter Varsity Press
I approached John Stotts book with some scepticism but thoroughly enjoyed it. It is easy to read, entertaining and thought provoking. The book is presented in four sections, designed to take the reader through the faith journey of becoming a Christian. It starts with who Christ is, his character, teaching and resurrection. It then moves onto the nature and consequences of sin; before looking at the death and salvation of Christ and how this takes away our sin. The final section is about being a Christian and how you reach the decision. I found the book had a lot to say to me about the nature of Christianity as seen from a newcomers viewpoint, I appreciate its simple presentation and will recommend it to anyone who asks me what it means to be a Christian.

The Archbishop’s Council (2008), New Patterns for Worship, London: Church House Publishing
This book is the basis for designing services to individual parish, congregation and festival needs based on Common Worship services. Like the common worship study guide the book uses the four imaginary churches to illustrate the different services. The section on planning worship provides discussion about different forms of service structure, why and how they are used; before providing details about each form of service with the options to be selected between. Following this the resource section provides all the different options available for the gathering, penitence, liturgy of the word, psalms, creeds, prayers, thanksgiving, the peace and conclusion; with information also provided on praise and movement. The tome is completed with an array of example services which are provided not to be used as printed but as pieces for reflection and inspiration when planning similar services.

Thompson, J. (2008) SCM Studyguide: Theological Reflection, London: SCM Press
This study guide is a step by step introduction to theological reflection. It starts by providing details of what reflection is and how it used in various professions, before examining the specific undertakings of theological reflection; it then introduces a number of methods and helps identification of which will work best in different situations by providing worked examples. The book introduces PTR which it defines as Progressing Theological Reflection; this takes theological reflection into an ongoing learning process which becomes part of the way people in ministry or interested in theology think about the world they live in. Chapter three provides a range of theological reflection models in an easy to digest way, providing examples to be worked through with each model. This brought the models to life for me and encouraged me to look at several models in more depth. At the end of the book, in part four, there is a PTR Toolkit providing a range of tools which can be useful for reflective purposes; they include parable usage, compass pointing, flow charts, annotated human figure, dialogues, journaling, mapping and card playing with biblical images. The book allows the reader to start by using the reflections within a ministerial context and then shows how this can be expanded to reflect on any issue in a theological manner.

Tiessen, TL (2004) Who can be saved? Leicester: Inter Varsity Press
I was lent this book when I was sharing with someone the deep upset I was experiencing in the research on my essay on salvation. Although the book did not provide me with much essay information, it did allow me to come back to my initial and constant knowledge that God is love. The issues of original sin and salvation being for all, if they accept Christ have been extremely emotional for me; this book has taken me back to my deep belief that God is for all, that Christ died for all, and that we are all saved through Jesus’ resurrection. I have discussed the issues raised in the book with a number of people of different faiths and none and look forward to continuing this spiritual growth.

Whitehead, J.D. and Whitehead, E.E. (1995) Method in Ministry: Theological Reflection and Christian Ministry. Oxford: Sheed and Ward.
This book provides both a model and method for theological reflection, it is the conversation model. The theory upon which this book is based is that there are three partners in a conversational model of reflection; Christian tradition, both of individuals and faith communities; life experience; and culture. The method demonstrates how these partners communicate reflectively to come to a response in a three stage process; attending, asserting and responding. The second part of the book takes the three partners in the conversation and looks in detail at their roles. It starts with an examination of scripture, the basis for Christian theology; and how this applies to the current situation being examined. It then focuses on experience; both that of the reflector and those of the culture within which they live; before examining the impact of culture. The book’s third part provides more detail about the method itself before the fourth part provides some examples of how the method has been used. The book is easy to read and has a lot of practical information to introduce a conversation method of theological reflection; however it is only a start and a student would need to be guided for it to be effectively used and learned from.

Wenham, G (2003) Exploring the Old Testament: Volume 1: The Pentateuch. London: SPCK
This series was recommended on the course list but I was slightly disappointed in its content. It is extremely readable and clear but it does not provide enough depth or challenge of the sort I was looking for on the subject. The book raises the questions which I was hoping it would answer, but therefore is a good introduction which I could come back to if I was starting from scratch or recommending to others. I found myself looking for more after reading this, and went to more scholarly texts for this.

Williams, R. (2007) Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Norwich: Canterbury Press

This book is based on a Lent Course given at Canterbury Cathedral in 2005. It is based on the premise that being a Christian means knowing who and what to trust. Who can we trust, God; why, because he loves us and has shown us this through the life of Jesus. God did not create us because he needs us, but because he loves us and gave of himself unconditionally. The book tells us that when we give of ourselves in the same way, we see “a faint reflection of what God is naturally like” (pg 13). God never runs out of love and liberty. The basis of the book is the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed and how they demonstrate “who and what we can trust in this world”. Each chapter takes a different section of the Apostle’s creed starting with “I believe in God the Almighty”, before moving through “maker of heaven and earth”, “Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord”, “He suffered and was buried and the third day he rose again; “I believe one catholic and apostolic Church” and “I look for the resurrection of the dead”. The book is illustrated with extremely powerful paintings which I found helped me meditate on the subjects discussed and the emotions involved. One of the sections which particularly spoke to me was about the creation and how God relates to science; the author explains how faith goes beyond the nuts and bolts which science examines, for example time and space were created by God, before that there was no time or space.

Worden, J. W. (2006) Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy. Hove: Routledge
This book is not a self help, how to deal with grief book; it is a text for professionals who counsel the bereaved. It draws on psychodynamic, humanistic and cognitive-behavioural principles in detailing the stages of grief which the bereaved go through as they come to terms with their loss. The process of bereavement is a normal and natural process, however for some it can be problematic and they can get stuck in one of the stages. This book examines how and why people may become stuck and identify the methods that can be used to help them move on through their grief. The book starts by providing information on attachment and how this affects relationships and therefore mourning on the loss of that relationship. It then looks at descriptions of mourning processes, although it is almost impossible to define such a complex process. The book examines the complications that can occur, often referred to as abnormal grief reactions as well as the issues associated with special types of losses. The real value of this book is the chapter on how those who help with mourners need to be aware of their own experience, management and acceptance of loss and grief; this is extremely important if we are able to be there for others in these hardest times.

Wright, C.J.H (2005) Truth with a mission: reading scripture missiologically. Cambridge: grove books limited
This book was recommended on the mission and evangelism course but I was disappointed with it. It starts to deal with some of the issues of missiological scripture reading but falls short of providing any real useful information, whilst at times using terms which would loose the beginner. However the book's bibliography provided good pointers for further reading.