Tag Archives: Future plans

Afternoon Tea at Tiffeny’s, and other randomness

It’s been a busy couple of months, but as I now have the internet working at home and the rare luxury of  a free evening, I’ve decided that it’s about time my blog came back to life again, so here’s an update on life:

 

  • I think I’m over my mini crisis of faith, and have actually found a degree of settledness and peace. I guess I’ve finally grasped that it’s ok just to be me, and not to try and push myself into other people’s boxes, because it doesn’t work. I can’t pretend I’ve got my prayer life magically sorted, but I feel relaxed with God, which is a huge step forward.
  • I’m now a graduate of he University of Durham. The day was amazing, and it was great to be able to enjoy it with my partner, parents and friends. I still can’t quite believe I finally made it, and how different I was when I started the whole thing compared to where I am now. I’ve changed so much for the better…. God is very good.
  • I’m now a Methodist Local Preacher – don’t ask me how that happened! I had my first service early last the month, which went very well, and I’m off out with my mentor in Stony Stratford in a week and a half. It’s exciting and scary, but mostly it just feels very right and very ‘me’ somehow. The bit that scares me is the way the whole ordination thing seems to be inching its way back onto the agenda at unexpected moments…
  • The banking world is pretty much the same. I’m now at the stage where most of the stuff from my predecessor has been gone through, documented and tidied up, and I can begin working on my own projects, which is  a good thing.
  • I’ve almost (finally) finished two papers based on my PhD thesis, which I hope to send to my supervisor soon, and then to get published. I miss the world of maths, and want to keep the door open for getting a post-doctoral research position. It’s been nice getting back to grips with it all 🙂
  • I’ve joined a gym, and am seriously working on getting fit.
  • Most importantly of all, Tractorgirl and I have now been together for eighteen months, and I love her more than ever.

At the weekend, I went on a retreat with some friends from Bang! and had a very random dream about a friend of mine directing and presenting a daytime television show called ‘Afternoon Tea at Tiffeny’s’. I might float the idea to the BBC one day…  In the meantime, here’s a couple of graduation pictures:

Me with my parents
Tractorgirl and me chilling after the graduation dinner

Happy news :)

Just a brief note, as the library shuts in a few minutes!

Yesterday, I was given the go-ahead to get my PhD thesis printed. On Monday, when I get back from the short break in London I’m about to take with Tractorgirl, I’ll be able to hold the finished thing in my hands. It’s a bit hard to process, but I’m really looking forward to that.

At the same time, I’ve been offered a job with a bank down in Milton Keynes doing Credit Risk Analysis. I had a really good interview for a similar role with another bank today in Leeds. If the second makes me an offer, it’ll be a tough decision. Both seemed really nice to work for and the jobs would be stimulating and worthwhile. I can’t deny that it’s great to know I’ll be somewhat nearer to TractorGirl either way, and not be sent to work away from home for long periods.

I may have bugger-all money, which is still an issue, but I am one of the luckiest TOHs ever. I will have a good job, I’ve finished my thesis, I have a wonderful partner (watch this space for news on that front… ), a loving family and great friends. God is very good today 🙂

Time for a re-think?

I spent the weekend on retreat with a group from GCN at Buckfast Abbey, which is near Totnes in Devon. It’s only the third GCN event I’d been to, and I was nervous that I would be stuck spending my weekend with deeply irritating camp blokes or people all too like some folks I’ve known in Durham who aren’t very comfortable with their sexuality and act like jerks to hide the fact. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong about it!

The first evening we had a lovely meal, much wine and a talk about 1 Peter from the priest leading the weekend. On the Saturday, TractorGirl and I led a session looking at the prologue to St John’s Gospel in the morning. As a couple of people requested it, I’ve added the text of my talks. We had a nice lunch at the Abbey’s cafe, which does extremely tasty-but-bad-for-you puddings. In the afternoon, one of our members talked about his experience of the ex-gay movement and we had a good discussion about being gay in the church. That evening saw us decant to the pub for a lovely meal (or at least it was when my food finally got there!) and I spent the Sunday morning chilling while TractorGirl went to mass.

For the most part, the weekend gave me much-needed space to relax, to catch up with people (though some all too briefly – methinks some travel might be in order) and make new friends. It did me good to get out of Durham for a while, and I got to spend some quality time with TractorGirl which I really appreciated and was lovely.

So far, so good. However, God was also doing his thing of unsettling things. One of the people on the retreat was an Anglican priest and after hearing me preach, told me he thinks I am a natural preacher, teacher and pastor and that in his belief, I am called to some sort of ministry within the church. This wasn’t the first time someone has told me that – it has happened several times after preaching and when getting to know people in the church – but what scared me a bit was his certainty.

Now, since I left the ordination process in Durham Diocese, for what I think was a sensible and principled reason, I’ve been doing a certain amount of re-assessment of my faith and place within the church. I had initially concluded that Anglican ordained ministry was not for me and that I would be better giving up altogether or looking at switching denominations. However, in the last couple of months, I’ve been wrestling with all of this and the jolt over the weekend confirms my initial thoughts:

  • Within my remaining time in Durham, I would like to keep worshipping at the Methodist Church that has become ‘church family’ and who have loved and accepted me unconditionally. The Cathedral is lovely and I will still go there sometimes, but I’ve had enough.
  • Joint Anglican-Methodist membership is something I would like to do purely for its own sake, because it does express my journey and theological roots. However, I don’t think I’d pursue local preaching unless after the move I end up in a Methodist church. First and foremost, I am an Anglican. The Church of England, despite its many faults, is my home and I love it very much. I feel deep down that it’s where God wants me to be, and after all, it won’t change if everyone who struggles in it flees.
  • Leaving the process hasn’t lessened my desire to serve God in the church as well as the world of work. I don’t think full-time parish ministry is for me, but NSM or reader training do appeal, and I need to stop running away and look at them.

In short, the conclusion I’ve come to is that God doesn’t seem to want to give up on me in ministry in the church of some form. The task now is to discern the right expression for that. This means dealing once again with the thorny issue of sexuality and after the weekend and sharing my story and, far more interestingly, hearing from others, I just about feel in a position to do that. I will have to get better at ‘playing the game’, but I think stepping back for a while and talking to so many encouraging people has helped me see how that might work.

I think, through all the ‘ifs, buts and maybes’ of the last few weeks, what has emerged through much prayer, thought, wrestling and tears, is a sense of the need to step out, take risks and use my gifts to serve God. I can’t really talk about the other part of my life where the need to take a leap of faith and just live with the uncertainties has become apparent and I hope I’m responding appropriately, but in both cases, I’ve realised that I can either carry on running away, or take the risk of love. It’s very scary, but I honestly believe I’m doing the right thing in both cases.

There’s a clip from one of the best films of all time, in my humble opinion, ‘Good Will Hunting’, about taking risks. I couldn’t find the specific clip I wanted, but the end of this illustrates my point about safety nets and the need to risk getting hurt to find love:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAF8zRUdp18&feature=related[/youtube]

Excitement and fear

I now have a job to go to in September which I have accepted. It’s down in Poole in lovely Dorset, with a software company with a frighteningly original name! There’s much about the job that’s exciting, and while I would not want to be a career programmer, it’ll open doors and give me the space and time to assess where my life is going. My biggest fears are to do with having to move around the country a lot (two weeks here, a year there, etc) and how this will impact my relationship with Tractorgirl, and what this means in terms of my hoping to pursue local preaching. I’ve had it drummed into me that this is a really good opportunity, and the more I think about it, getting out of academia and the North East (much as I love the latter) is probably a good thing, but I can’t deny I’m somewhat scared. Please pray that Tractorgirl gets sorted with something soon!!!

Uncertainty

It’s been a busy week with essays to get done, so I haven’t had the chance to blog for a little while. In case anyone wonders what a mathematician is doing writing essays (I got a grilling from a friend on Facebook for this yesterday), I am doing a BA in Theology and Ministry with the Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership. For the most part, it’s been a good experience, though given it’s in its first year, there have been teething problems. I’m currently doing a module on the Christian tradition, which has given me the chance to write essays on Anglicanism’s shaping by the Reformation and on the Enlightenment.

The first of those ties into a current dilemma: For some time, I was exploring the possibility of Anglican ordination but that didn’t work out because I didn’t want to lie about the nature of my relationship with TractorGirl. Now, during my time in Durham, I’ve attended Methodist churches at the same time as worshipping at the Cathedral  due to being part of Methsoc. My theology has in some respects moved closer to Methodism than the high Anglicanism I had settled into when I arrived in Durham, but there is a lot about Anglicanism that I still really appreciate.

The reason I’m rambling about this is I am considering joint membership of both churches and this raises certain issues:

  • Is the three-fold ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons the only model for church order or can other models such as the Methodist system work? Is it contradictory to accept two very different structures?
  • How important are the Sacraments, and in particular, participation in the Eucharist, to my faith and how I understand it? I have no problem accepting Methodist sacraments as valid because I go with Richard Hooker’s receptionist understanding and admire Wesley’s emphasis on regular communicating. However, both the Methodist churches in Durham only have monthly communion.
  • Tied in with this is the Methodist sense of membership involving belonging to one particular church, unlike the Anglican system, shaped by being the established church. In practice, this means choosing a church to belong to, and while I’m very definitely part of the family at my preferred church, services there clash with the Cathedral Sung Eucharist which I usually go to. I worship regularly at the other Methodist church’s evening service, but feel much less part of the family there. How to choose?

To add to all of that, the only thing I really miss about exploring ordination is being able to preach. Methodist local preaching has been suggested to me and does appeal, but I’d need to worship regularly in the church to be able to do that with integrity, which may mean having my membership at my less preferred church, or attending the other and sacraficing being a regular at the Cathedral Sung Eucharist. Help!

At the same time as all of this, I’m pondering my future career plans. There are a couple of jobs I’m applying for this week that would use my maths and keep me in Durham. One of them is to do with regional development, which is something I’m more than open to looking into in the future, and it’d be great to be able to use my maths to do something useful.

I think, in the long run, I’d love to have the chance to work on the interaction of science and faith like I was able to in my Enlightenment essay, but am not sure how to make this happen. Answers on a postcard, please!