Monday, 3 August 2015

Thoughts of a North London Curate - Day 30 - Clerical Shirt Conversions!

After having the pleasure of spending £45 on a black clerical shirt I figured it can't be that hard to convert normal shirts into clerical shirts, so I raided the local charity shops for some 'guinea pig' shirts. 

The first one I did, the red one, was a resounding success, so following on from this this evening I have converted this Boden shirt that I found today in the Barnardos charity shop in Golders Green for £5.

As I did it I took pictures, firstly for my own use so that I can remember how to do it next time, but also for my lovely Revd. friends out there who have been asking how I did the red one.

So here it is, I hope that the instructions are clear enough.

May God bless and keep you always.
Revd. Sally x

Friday, 31 July 2015

Thoughts of a North London Curate - Day 26

Vicars only work on a Sunday don't they?

This week I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by to do lists, sermons to write, toddler groups to organise, people to meet, meetings to go to, prayers to pray, AV systems to learn, which keys work where and remembering people's names (including my own at times).

Things I have leant this week are that things go wrong and that is ok, all expenditure must be cleared by Church Manager BEFORE spending it and even a 'paupers' funeral can be  made truly splendid by the Church of England. 

This week my vicar was taking part in the funeral of an old church member, which was happening at a neighbouring church. He invited me along to watch as it was to be a 'Requiem Mass' something I had never seen before. There were very few mourners at the funeral, no flowers and a very basic coffin. The deceased, who was 85, had no immediate family. It all seemed very sad. Yet what I saw in St Jude's Church in Hampstead Garden Suburb, one of the most architecturally beautiful churches locally, was the Vicar treat this man to the most amazing send off. 

There where three vicars taking part in the service, all dressed in their finery. The coffin was bought in and covered in a beautiful dark purple cover, six candles on tall stands lit around it. 

A robed choir sang beautifully during the whole service, making up for the lack of mourners voices. Kind words were spoken about the man by the priest in charge and a beautiful reading from the Bendictine rule read by another. 

All three priests then concelebrated the Eucharist and whilst it was administered a young lady from the choir sang Pie Jesu. 

Such a wonderful example of God's church honouring the 'least', in the same way as the 'greatest' would be honoured. A delight to be part of as this man was entrusted into the arms of Father God. 

““The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" Matthew 25:40 NIV

Small things done with great love will change the world. 

May God bless and keep you always. Revd. Sally x 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Thoughts of a North London Curate: Day 19

This has been my first full week of work after our ‘ordination moon’ in France, and I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed so much in at least four or five years, it’s been such fun. I love the team I am working with, they are a great source of fun and encouragement as I have grappled this week to deal with first week nerves and trying not to run ahead of myself.

So what have I learnt this week?

Firstly I have learnt that it’s not cool, when wearing your dog collar (or any time come to that) to run your parishioners over. Golders Green parish is massive with over 20,000 people living in it. It has two long main roads, both leading to the A406 North Circular Road coming together at a cross roads outside our church. If you go east to west you travel between Hampstead Heath and Brent Cross; and north to south between Central London and Barnet. I travel to and from work on the North to South route taking me through Temple Fortune, an area that Steve and I used to live in, and that Steve policed for 10 years when he first came out of Police Training School. I know this area well yet it still amazes me every time I drive through it how appalling the driving is of those that use the area for shopping. They park outside the shops, often two abreast with their ‘parking’ lights on (hazard lights for those of us who don’t know what ‘parking’ lights are) and then they jump back into their cars, signal to move out into the traffic and then instead of pulling into the lane they do a full U turn in front of you, unannounced and often even more to shocking those coming the other way at the same time!

My tendency in the past has been to bless them verbally and with a loving hand signal of some kind, however when wearing your dog collar it seems that this hand signal is no longer appropriate and my verbal blessing not quite the blessing I thought it was!

It also seems that zebra crossings in the Golders Green area are some kind of magic carpet affair. Pedestrians are not required to stop at the kerb but keep walking, at no time taking any notice of the oncoming traffic, and then by some miracle the drivers will read your mind and know not to plough you down, as they drive along expecting some kind of warning that you intended to cross the road. Sadly yesterday I had a close call with a young man dressed as a hot dog, which I admit did help a bit as he was a bigger target to avoid, but afterwards I did have to question what a man dressed as a hot dog was doing in one of the most Jewish areas of London!

The second thing I learnt this week was how amazing it is to at last be working in a church which has a High Street location. This has always been one of my dreams to be working somewhere which has a ‘passing trade’ and other shops nearby. Three times this week I went for a wander along Golders Green Road in my dog collar chatting to people, having interesting conversations with people in shops and getting £3.50 off my bill in the key cutting shop! My fellow cohort at St Mellitus are having a competition to see what the most random thing we can acquire free of charge as a result of wearing our dog collars, I must submit my entry today, but I am sure I can do better than a key.

There have been lots of other things I have learned, like how the vicar likes his tea, how you must never annoy Sylvia the office manager, how to change the toilet paper in the ladies and where the charcoal is kept for the smelly handbag. But the best thing I realised today is that Thursday is the new Friday and Friday is the new Saturday. So dog collar away, get the dogs collar on for a walk in the sun, the weekend starts here!

Have a blessed weekend my lovely friends, don’t forget I’m available for hatches, matches and dispatches – not done any yet but if you don’t mind being a guinea pig!!!

May God bless and keep you always, Revd. Sally

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Thoughts of a North London Curate: Day 7

So it's been 7 days since the big day, the day when I became Reverend Sally Dryden. Five of those days I have spent sitting by a pool in the Dordogne, in France having a well earned holiday with my family, five more days to go. 

Some time to reflect on what an amazing culmination that day was to the seven years that led up to it. 

Remembering the day in 2008 at Toddler Group when Kelly told me I should get ordained so I could baptise her children and she would wait for me to do just that; to the conversation we had last Saturday which went along the lines of "so shall we do this then" as I stool wearing my dog collar holding her new baby in my arms. 

Recalling the heartache of being turned down at my first BAP, and feeling I had let God down; but the Bishop of Edmonton insisting I go back again, a year later, this time for what he felt was my correct calling to the Distinctive Diaconate. 

First day at St Mellitus, meeting my cohort whom I was certain were more holy and deserving of their call that I was. They all had previously attained degrees, I had 6 GCEs. But finding that they too were just as scared by the challenge as I was and us all laughing our way through the ups and downs of the next three years. I will miss them all so much, but hope to stay in touch. 

To almost throwing the towel in early this year as I struggled with tiredness, depression, the loss of my father the previous year, and of a friend this year. When so many of my wonderful family and friends walked with me and encouraged me to continue my studies as I couldn't make sense of much in my life at the time. 

How God transported me through those last assignments, and despite everything I managed to finish them and hand them in two weeks before the deadline. Thank you LORD!

How He also managed to clear my head so I could hear his voice clearly about his plans for me to move to Golders Green Parish Church for my curacy. His plan orchestrated perfectly. 

To the pre ordination retreat where I just sat, at times paralysed by fear; what was I doing and who was this Jesus I was committing my life to? And the rest of the time bursting with excitement, like I was a bride waiting for my wedding to happen after so many years of planning!

The morning of the big day, when we got to the Cathedral for the legal bit, the swearing, in a good way, in front of the Bishop of London and his legal team I was so excited. I took it as seriously as I could but inside I was bursting. I looked around at the other ordinands, so many of them with serious faces, but I just couldn't wipe the big grin off my face. There was a party going on in heaven and I wanted to join in!

So I did! As I walked up the aisle of St Paul's Cathedral I couldn't stop my joy from escaping, I waved to all my family and friends as I saw them, the smile on my face so big it overtook my whole body. So happy, so proud of myself, so relieved to have made it, so excited for the future and so hot, wool cassock and surplice not recommended for days when the temperature is in excess of 26 degrees! But I felt like I was walking on air. The whole day was so wonderful, never have I felt so loved or so sure of anything I have ever done. 

The following day, my first services at GGPC, getting such a lovely welcome. Excited for the future with my new church family, getting to know them, having fun with them, working together to share the Gospel in Golders Green. 

I love my job, I have the best job in the world. It's been a while since I've said that, but I am so pleased to be able to say it again. I guess this blog will contain not just the good bits, but the bad bits too, however recalling both the ups and downs remind you to look to God through all the seasons of your life. He promised us life to the full, but it doesn't say anywhere about it always being happy times; He does, however, say He will be with us at all times, through the good and the bad. 

So here I go, into the unknown world that is curacy at GGPC. The best bit is God knows!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Thoughts of a North London Curate: Day -1

The day before Ordination at St Paul's Cathedral 

Using the words of the inimitable Hugh Grant "Bugger! What on earth is happening?"

I am lying on a bed in St Katherine's retreat centre in Limehouse, today is a silent day, and I lie pondering how I got to be here. 

12 years ago I didn't know this Jesus that I am tomorrow publicly committing the rest of my life to, to serve as a Distinctive Deacon in the Church of England. It's just mad, and I remember saying those exact words to God as I committed my life to him on 15 March 2003 "Lord this is mad yet it feels so right, how can this be?"

These last few days the words I constantly hear are John 15:16 "You didn’t choose me. I chose you." Which is pretty hard to understand in this 'I centred world.' The understanding that this is none of my doing and what I am doing was written in my book of life before I was even born or thought of by my parents is astoundingly mad!

I'm really sad that neither my Mum or Dad will know about or get to share this moment with me. I kinda hope they would be proud just as I am proud of my girls achieving their hopes and dreams - in spite of the fact that for 40 of my 50 years what I do tomorrow was neither a hope or dream - not even on my radar! But I have peace in knowing that my Father in heaven is immensely proud of me, all the time, no matter what I do - through the good and the bad. But if I'm honest a hug from my Mum and a "well done Sag" from my Dad would not have gone amiss tomorrow or any other day for that matter. 

It seems when you open your life to God, and begin to get free from all the stuff holding you back from being the person He created you to be, then amazing opportunities like this happen. Not that all will be called to ordination, but we are all called to have the amazing freedom He offers; to be free of lies, hurts, physical pain, emotional pain and much more in order to have the full life He promises us. I thank Him everyday that I am not and no longer need to be defined by the world around me. That sticks and stones will no longer break my bones, and names will never hurt me. Because, by the Holy Spirit, who now lives in me, I know who I am, loved unconditionally. 

So tomorrow, doesn't really change anything in my relationship with God, how we feel about each other. I guess though it is a public declaration of that fact, not just to you who know and love me, but to every other person I meet for the rest of my life. Revd. Sally, daughter of the King, disciple of Jesus, ordained minister of the Church of England, representing the Servant King in all that she does, hopefully (though still a human prone to sin!)

I will wear my clerical collar with pride, and humility, because 12 years ago I didn't know this Jesus, but I now know that He knew and loved me, the whole of my life and beyond. I will attempt to serve Him well by doing what he asks, which is loving others. Something He seems to have gifted me in and something I hope to disciple others in the art of doing. 

So one more sleep before I call the bank to change my name from Mrs to Revd. But that's all of me that will change, God made me how I am for a reason, and that reason is to "love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind.’ And, ‘Love my neighbour as myself.’” Luke 10:27

So let's do this thing God. You and me. Shame that black is not my best look, but I'm sure I can style it out! After all I have some pretty amazing black glittery shoes!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Broken pots

In my garden I have a broken pot in which I have planted a really pretty plant with long stems of pink flowers that move in the breeze. I bought the pot years ago, I think it may have moved with us from our old house eight years ago. In it was originally planted an Acer, given to me by a friend. The plant died and I moved the pot from the front garden into the back to be reused at some time. It was then that it got broken, knocked over by the dog. It had been a lovely tall, trumpet shaped pot. But it sustained a nasty fall and a big v shaped bit of the side fell off making it not really any good for planting in anymore.

I gathered up the pieces, put them inside the pot and consigned it to the area of our garden, by the side gate, called the "leaving the building" area for all those items broken and no longer fit for purpose.

Whilst creating our new garden I was looking for a pot in which to plant this pretty plant I had bought. I had a purpose for this pot and plant. It was to sit at the base of the rear wheel of the stripped down bike that I had planted flowers in and looked amazing. Yet the bike was not fully stable and needed something substantial to hold the back wheel in place and stop it falling over.

I had no pots big enough do to this job well and was considering going to buy one when I spotted the broken pot. Part of me was sad because unbroken it would have been the perfect pot for the job. Nevertheless I was drawn to the pile of broken stuff it sat at the bottom of. Looking at it I began to think creatively, could this pot be used for something. The actual depth of soil in could now contain was only about 8 inches, when it would formerly have had a 24 inch depth.

I pulled out the broken pieces of pot, leaving the smaller pieces in the bottom for drainage. There was one larger piece which I left to one side. I filled the pot with soil, and then managed to shove the large broken bit into the hole, using the soil to hold it to the side of the pot. I then filled the pot deeper, 18 inches of soil now held firmly in this broken pot, this restored broken pot. I then planted my pretty pink plant into the soil. It looked amazing, because the pot wasn't all shiny and new and totally fitted my vision of the garden which was to be vintage, old, recycled and pre loved.

I moved the now heavy pot to the base of the wheel of the bike. It was perfect, totally fit for purpose, showing off the plant wonderfully and stabilising the bike - just gorgeous.

The pot that I had written off as broken, no longer fit for purpose and placed in the "leaving the building pile" was RESTORED.

There are mentions of broken pots in the Bible, but the promise is that those pots will be restored. There is such a thing as a broken pot, but Jesus has lots of uses for them. He is in the business of restoring them, he loves them, he restores their purpose, meaning and dignity - their lives.

We all may find ourselves at times on the "leaving the building" pile but Jesus spends a lot of time around that pile, taking us from that place and putting us back together held with the glue of his love, mercy and grace.

I love my broken pot, and Jesus loves me, his broken pot.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

We have no time to stand and stare....

There's an old man who lives round my way who daily sits on front garden walls or just stands on the pavement watching the world go by. I never know what wall he is going to turn up on as I walk back and forth to work or see him as I look out of my bedroom window, his choice of walls is plenty.  I think he lives in the sheltered accommodation just down from the church.

I always make a point of speaking to him when I see him. His eyes are rheumy, the skin on his face drooping like a basset hound, he shuffles with his shoulders hunched over, but in all of that you can see the young man he once was. His eyes twinkle and laugh when you speak to him, his voice has a cheeky Irish lilt to it. We talk about the weather and where his walk is taking him that day and he reminds me every time that he goes for a walk twice a day in the winter and three times a day in the summer. On his journeys he sits on walls, staring into the world around him, not engaging with the world, but seemingly enjoying his very existence in the world.

When I first started talking to him I did it because I thought he was lost and lonely: just recently I have realised that he is far from that, but am I?

He's very obviously physically alone in the world now, but isn't letting that stop him from being part of the world, locked up in a room watching Countdown for the rest of his days. I once invited him into church for a cup of tea, he declined telling me he was ok with his own company on his walk.

Am I ok with my own company on my walk?

I have recently noticed that I have introduced a lot of 'white noise' into my life. I get up, turn on the tv or radio; his comment today was 'there's just a load if rubbish on the telly'. I then fill my head and day with the constant drone of electronic people connection on my phone, iPad, laptop and work PC; I am seemingly never ‘alone’ - and quite honestly I miss that, I miss my own company, I miss the headspace to spend time with myself and God.
I long to turn off Countdown, go for a walk twice a day and sit on walls.

My world has been made so small by ‘electronic people connection’.  I need a sitting on a wall watching the world go by APP for my phone, which I am sure some clever soul will now invent! No I don't, I need an old man to teach me about life. How white noise steals your mind and soul, closes you down, makes your world small.

I feel the need to go sit on a wall, do something radical like talk to someone face to face, or write a letter, post it and enjoy the anticipation of awaiting a reply.

"What is life if full of care, we have not time to stop and stare" this poem seems one of the few things I can remember from school English lessons but it is so apt and true in today's ‘electronic people connection’ lives that make us so seemingly busy. Thank you old man that you made me stop and stare today, you're an angel.

Leisure - W. H. Davies

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.