Tuesday, 30 November 2010

It's December!

It's 6.30 am, the alarm has gone off and I don't want to get up. At least winter is behaving like winter. We haven't got snow yet but there is an icy wind blowing outside. I have had a reasonable night's sleep which is an improvement as I have said before, bed hopping doesn't really suit me. One more night here then back to the north coast. I decided to give meditation a go last night. My only other experience of this has been the Wii fitness game - the one where you sit looking at a candle on the screen and don't move - and feel like an idiot! Needless to say I'm not too good at that one. But last night was different. I'm still reading Eat Pray Love and I was inspired to try again. What an amazing sense of calm! I shall have to work on this  - so any tips would really be appreciated.
The Curate tells me he has been helping to sort the church out for the Christmas tree festival next weekend. It will be good  to see all the trees decorated and lit up. When did these festivals start?  There are lots of them around the country now. As last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent , the first Advent candle has been lit. I miss having the calendars to open now the boys have grown up. Perhaps I had better take one back for the Curate. 

Monday, 29 November 2010

The canine company

I worry about my dog - she's the one featured in the photo on the right. She is a Lakeland terrier but she absolutely refuses to live up to her pedigree. My terrier is having to live with The Curate and the Sheepdog during the week - who really don't understand her. At 14 years old she demands a bit of respect and spends rather a lot of time 'purring' under her breath. This may sound like a growl to some people but I assure you it's not. She appreciates female company and I would love to have her with me during the week but, for now, she has to put up with The Curate. It was difficult leaving her this weekend because she has not been very well and at 14 years old, I wonder how long she is going to be around. The Curate and my sons assure me that she is destined to plague their lives for a good number of years yet!

To work or not to work? (It's my life too.)

Do I give up my work to be with my husband? Snow makes the journey between the two coasts scary and it feels unsafe. A near miss with a car and trailer makes me wonder if I should give up and settle to being The Curate's wife. Can we manage with another drop in income quite so soon after The Curate changing careers? Or am I not allowed to think about monetary things? Moves by Church management to possibly move The Curate nearer my work look like they might come with huge compromises having to be made by The Curate. I don't want him to become someone he is not.  And of course, The Curate's wife is not included in these discussions. I feel so excluded from my life. Is it always like this with the Church?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

What a morning!

28/11/10 Next day I had my camera.
What a glorious morning! I have just returned from walking the dogs along a frosted beach with the sand crunching beneath my feet. The early morning winter light was catching the frost on the other side of the estuary. I regretted not having my camera in my hand .. but I don't think any photograph could capture the moment. If the government asked me about my well being or happiness as I stood alone on the empty beach, I think I would have given a score higher than any possible score. A good to be alive moment!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Out of my comfort zone.

An interesting discussion arose at work today about what people understood a Church of England church to be.The thoughts ranged from."I don't like all that overhead projector stuff and happy clappy stuff." to "How does anyone sit through all that liturgy when they don't know what or when to sing, or stand up or sit down, for that matter." On the whole, people wanted what they were if familiar with if they had gone to church as a child. Others who occasionally wandered into a church, did not want to be challenged by new songs or appear to stand out.
I can really relate to these comments because when The future Curate decided that he would like to go to church (not just accompanying me to keep me happy) he decided that he had to go to the Methodist church. We happened to be living in Gibraltar at the time and I had been attending the Gibraltar Cathedral. The Methodist church has an amazing church and cafe (the Carpenter's Arms) above the shops in central Gibraltar. It doesn't even look like a church from the outside. It challenged my whole concept of church. I didn't know the Methodist service, they sang many unfamiliar modern songs and they were incredibly warm and welcoming. There was no running away at the end of the service, people wanted to know about us and talk to us. And I felt uncomfortable! So, like The future Curate, I was a beginner and had to really work out my relationship with God. Funny how He works.
Since then, for all sorts of reasons, we have had to change churches on several occasions. Sometimes this has been as part of The Curate's training, sometimes it has been because of location changes, but I have become intrigued at how churches welcome (or don't) any newcomers. I certainly feel that The Curate and I have been on a training course on 'meeting and greeting' . I hope, that when the time comes, we are able to bring some of the warmth of the Gibraltar Methodist church into the Anglican churches that The Curate serves in.

Monday, 22 November 2010

To dine or not to dine?

What a busy weekend! I feel like I have done a week's work even though I am only The Curate's wife. It's being that extra pair of eyes to support The Curate as he takes new services or ones he is less familiar with. It's things like remembering the towel to wipe the baby after her baptism, the milk for the teas and coffees or the vital marshmallows (prop for the sermon)! We seem to have spent a lot of time at church on Sunday. Of course "it's the only day he works". (Hmmmmmmmm! I wish!)
I have returned to my weekday job and feel exhausted. I was really pleased to sit behind a line of three huge lorries for the majority of my journey as there was no pressure to overtake because it was impossible.
We had to turn down an invitation to go out on Saturday night because we were so busy. It's very difficult to have a social life with me being away most of the week. Then there is the pressure of who to accept and who to refuse from the congregation. We don't want to offend so, initially we didn't accept any invitations because I was away so much. People understood and were very kind. But who do you accept when you are the Vicar (or curate in this case). The Curate was told that the first person to invite you to supper (who ever it was) was probably the person with a definite agenda. He might be better avoiding that one. As it was The Vicar (the boss) in our case, this probably wasn't the case! But who do you accept?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Rural Isolation - You can't live on a view.

It's Saturday and here I am in this big, empty church house (not called a vicarage you understand because a Curate lives here)  that has no personal link to me except that I live here sometimes. There is no family clutter and no family history. It's like living in a clean page. We furnished it with furniture we bought on E Bay. We really enjoyed doing this and have a house that is completely different to our family house. I understand how it is for The Curate during the week - bleak. I have always said I will give up work when he gets his first job as a vicar as this seems a natural new start. (Hopefully second son will have completed his studies by then.) Eventually, when The Curate and I are living together, we hope to be able to rent the family house out that is located on the other coast. 
Our village is very short of family sized houses that can accommodate a local family. This is a typical problem in many rural areas and fewer families adds to the decline of small villages and any available services. We no longer have a post office or shop and buses appear once a week I think. When we first moved there, there was an excellent village shop and a farm supplies / pet food / anything you might need shop. A bus went through to the coast so the local teenagers could catch the bus with their surf boards and spend days on the beach in their holidays. There was not much else for them to do. Then the cuts started - first of all they were not allowed to take their boards on the bus, then the buses were cut and the lanes are too narrow for safe bicycling. The children have to learn to drive as soon as they can if they want a life and if they can afford it. We have no choice but to use cars living here- and the price of petrol leads to rural isolation.
We still have our excellent village school - but I believe we are now going to share a head teacher. The church moved the vicarage to a neighbouring village years ago and effectively the church stopped being relevant in the village. We used to have wonderful harvest suppers, held in a barn, to which lots of the village went - whether they went to church or not. These have been replaced by a shared meal in the village reading rooms. 
We hear so much about poverty in the cities and the great initiatives to encourage cycling and provide facilities for young people. Some of the poorest children I have ever taught came from a rural area where their parents worked on farms. When will The Government realise we are not all landed gentry living in rural bliss? When will The Church realise that by removing vicars from small parishes and creating huge mission communities (the vicar next door to our village has ten churches to manage) the church often looses its direction and its relevance in the local communities? While the church is not the vicar, the vicar is often the face that people recognise as the church - even if there is a fantastically active PCC. The vicar does the 'matching and dispatching' and she/he should have the time to listen to, get to know and work with these increasingly isolated and sidelined communities. Someone needs to care because, however beautiful the surroundings are, you can't live on a view.

Friday, 19 November 2010

It's the weekend!

We have just returned from an autumn walk with the dogs, inland from where we live. There is a fantastic cycle track that runs beside the river and there were no cyclists so the dogs had loads of space to run. They have this strange idea that squirrels might be fair game and once they have sniffed out the scent they run in the opposite direction to the way the squirrel is going. The autumn trees are magnificent at the moment and I know how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy them here.
I really appreciate Fridays now and we try to take some time out together. I often feel that I leave  one place of work to arrive at another. This weekend is particularly busy for The Curate as he is at a day conference all day tomorrow which involves an hour and half to get there - so that's Saturday written off. Then he has a baptism on Sunday (which he is looking forward to) followed by an informal evening service which takes a lot of preparation as it is a new initiative. So that's the weekend.   

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Silence - friend or foe?

One more day and then I shall be back to my other role of the curate's wife. These four days that I have as working woman, should be a great solution to keeping a career going. It is surprising how many women say that they would like a break from the relentless pressures of running a home when they hear what I am doing. It is surprising how many career vicar's wives tell me not to give up my work. But  I have come to realise how life consuming the role of a vicar is and how much it helps to share this life. People ring up or call round at lunch time and in the evening, in the hope of catching The Curate in - but that's his lunch break or suppertime. The Curate finds the house very empty and quiet when I am away. I still live in our old house, from pre curate days. This is home, as we lived here as a family for nineteen years.  I love the stillness of this house and feel that there are times when I can just absorb the calmness if I try. Maybe I need to just step back and accept this is where I am at the moment and stop wanting something else. There is a wonderful quote from 'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert where  she is told, "You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be." That really spoke to me!

In my last post, I described myself as a 'seeker' as I was always questioning God.It was interesting to read this in The Telegraph today:-
In his lecture, Lord Blair also emphasised the importance of doubt in religious faith. He said certainty of being in the right had fuelled religiously-inspired violence.
"Doubt is part of the mortar of a building faith," he said.
"Unless your faith has been tested by doubt, it is not faith but just an attitude, a retreat from the modern world.
"Doubt in the very nature of faith can surely be a useful companion to a necessary lack of shrill conviction that our own faith is more valuable than that of another."
This will cause some discussion I imagine but I understand what he is saying. However far I try to distance myself from God, I always find that He is never far away when I try looking for Him again. Each venture off in a different direction, challenges me to think through what I believe. Even during the time of The Curate coming to faith, his constant questioning of what I said I believed, turned my understanding of Christianity upside down and inside out. And then to cap it all, he came to faith and was baptised in  the Methodist church. This was a completely unknown environment for me and certainly moved me out of my comfort zone. The Curate thrived and I began to unravel.

Monday, 15 November 2010

I don't like bed hopping and you can't blame God!

Early this morning, I crossed to the other coast to start my working week, leaving The Curate to walk the dogs and go to morning prayer at the church. It was a spectacular journey with bright sunshine breaking through the early morning mist. But I hate all this coming and going. We both find that we do not sleep well, whether we are together or alone. Is there a secret to falling asleep and staying asleep where ever you are? How did we get into this situation?
If marriages fall apart because of another person, at least you can blame the third party, rant about them and feel like the injured party. When my husband suddenly has a Road to Damascus experience - that I witnessed (well almost)  - and this experience changes his whole outlook on life, I can't go round and punch the third party on the nose or even get angry about them. I can't complain because I  have been praying for this since we first met. God surely does have a sense of humour. I hoped that my husband would just come to understand why I wanted to go to church every so often. But no! It was all or nothing. It was the ease at which he could just accept that things had got to change and he had to do something about it. You can't argue with God and if my husband felt that he was being called to work for the church - what can you say? 
 So here we are at the beginning of his second year of training as an Ordained Curate. I have more idea of what to expect now, having survived one year but I begin to think I am the one who needed training more than him. The hardest thing is to put down the expectations I had for this stage of our marriage, with the sons having left home and having a bit more money, space and time to spend together. Not wanting to exaggerate, but sometimes it feels like grieving. I am truly beginning to wonder who the real me is, as there is this expectation by the good people of the parish that I am a devout Christian with rock solid beliefs. But I am a seeker. I ask questions constantly and as a result often experience very rocky roads. I look at The Curate sometimes and wonder how he can have it so easy? He just knows it's all true.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembrance Sunday

This is a poignant day for the Curate, having served in the forces and now our sons have friends who are currently on active service. The Curate went off early to do the first service  of the day and was able to give his sermon an airing in one of the smaller churches. He  was then able to tweak it for the parade service at the parish church. The church was full for this service and  the message was that we are all responsible for peace. It was well received - he was quite surprised how scary it was in the pulpit when the church was so full! Good practise for Christmas I said, as he has won the Midnight Service sermon this year.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Why Am I Reluctant?

A great day off yesterday - despite the weather. We managed three dog walks, best described as soaking wet, wet and damp.  The dogs loved it and there is nothing quite as awesome as huge waves crashing onto a pebble shoreline. The noise is eerie, the power is amazing and you appreciate how much we cannot control in this world. 
So, why am I a reluctant curate's wife you may be asking? (Me being the reluctant one - not the Curate you understand. ) It's just that it was all so unexpected. I was the one who went to church when we were first married but I never did any of the real involvement - just church on Sunday in the good old Anglican catholic tradition. It was my rock which remained secure when life as a Forces wife was often transient.  Years later, when the Curate was selected for training, I never thought our lives would change so much. He never thought he would be selected. He trained part time while continuing his day job - not something I would particularly recommend if you have a demanding job that takes you overseas on a regular basis. He never thought he would survive or pass the first year...or the second.....or the third! My life carried on as normal, with family and work occupying much of my time, I just saw less of my husband - but then I was used to being on my own. Training came at a time when sons were leaving the nest for university and  I did begin to resent the demands made by the training. We had no home church and no family support nearby. But we were finally living in our own home ( on our own) and earning  decent wage packets and I thought we would grow old together. I hadn't reckoned on the demands of a third party - God. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The weekend starts here - Thursday

 I have made the dreaded two hour journey to the other coast after three and a half days of work. I refused full time work because The Curate's day off is Friday and I really would quite like to spend some time with him when we are not working. The journey is never good as it involves country roads with very few passing places. I  fear that I am beginning to suffer from road rage and find my self sitting on people's bumpers to try and push them to go over thirty miles an hour. I guess people use these roads to avoid people like me and to enjoy a country drive. I'm not proud of myself or the person I have become by Thursday evening. I read somewhere this week that you should choose the longest queue at the supermarket checkout to give yourself time and make space to hear God. But surely you have to be calm as well and right now calm seems to be a very long way away from where I am (which is not in a supermarket).
The Curate has cooked supper, warmed the wine and actually turned the heating up in the house. This is to butter me up before telling me he is off to a PCC meeting and would I like supper early? This doesn't happen too often and we have tried various strategies to help me transform from working wife to Curate's wife on Thursdays. Meals out, hot baths, wine and chocolate are all good but the best solution was rushing straight out to go surfing and being churned and tossed in amazing waves. We've managed this once this summer but tonight the winter storms are lashing the coasts all round the country. A hot bath and a good book will have to do. I am reading  'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am reading it because we missed the film when it came to our area - we couldn't find an evening when we would be together while it was on! But I'm so glad that I am reading the book first - I am enjoying it enormously. Have you read it?


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

How did I end up here?

Do you ever wake up and wonder how you ended up in certain situations?  No? Well lucky you - I expect you are pretty happy with where you are. As for me, I have a fantastic marriage that has lasted longer than the national average and I am happy that it has. But I find it unbelievable that I now go to bed with a vicar - well, a curate, to be technically accurate. The man I married didn't do God - not even to appease the future mother in law. My vicar thought that if husband to be was joining a god fearing family like mine, perhaps he ought to be baptised before getting married in church.Husband to be made a short journey down that road by visiting his local pastor and made a swift retreat after one meeting. It's funny how the Church doesn't look that attractive when you feel you are being made to go. It didn't bother future mother in law too much and God didn't seem to mind. He got husband to be much later. I'll tell you about that another time.
I am the curate's wife. I don't do flower rotas, clean brasses, make cakes or do coffee mornings. That's not being negative - I just go out to work to try to maintain the standard of living we had before the Curate became the Curate. I think The Church assumed that I would give up work when the Curate got his first job and so had no qualms in placing the Curate on the opposite coast to the one we had lived on. This is a two hour journey from my place of work. We could have turned it down but the Curate thought he had been placed there to do a job (and being slightly older than other curates  he didn't want to push his luck - ). Am I allowed to mention luck - or will readers be sucking in their teeth and telling me there is no place for luck in God's world? Now you can see the sort of dilemmas that I have to deal with. I hope that I will be able to share a few other dilemmas with the anonymous reader as I feel I cannot have this sort of debate with the good people of the parish. So stay with me reader and help this square peg fit into the round hole she now finds herself living in.

P.S. I forgot to say I don't do scones either but I haven't got the T shirt that declares that to the parish - may be I should get one.


So said Cranmer's Curate a while ago.