Thursday, January 24, 2013

119 out of 119 ... Not too hot! (understatement!)

In a comprehensive survey Vital Signs survey which was carried out surveyed things which matter to the Irish population as a whole

According to an Irish Times report

The report graded 12 areas which most affect people’s quality of life, and asked respondents to rank their priorities in each area...

Of the 119 priority options presented to respondents, eight of the top 10 items listed related to education and learning. The quality of the education system; literacy levels; universities and third-level education; and early childhood education topped the priority rankings in that order....

Perhaps the most surprising finding was the ranking of religion and spirituality, which respondents placed last of all 119 priority options, despite the country’s once strong Catholic identity.

Ireland achieved an overall grade of C+ when people’s satisfaction ratings with life were collated. A comparable study for people living in Toronto also scored a C+, with Vancouver scoring B.
The area that people were most satisfied with was arts and culture, rating this B+, with respondents citing the welter of concerts and festivals on offer each year and access to heritage sites.

Religion and Spirituality as last on the list ... That is worrying, it is disappointing but is it to be expected? Perhaps, but it has also got to be a wake up call for the church (in all its forms and denominations) to be engaging with the culture around. To speak directly to those who are critical of faith / church / religion and engage in the public square.

After all - the tiredness, the despair, the disengagement which many feel with organised church is probably the result of our collective failure as church to communicate what we should be communicating ... good news ... purpose ... life giving messages... relationship.

What can be done? - surely the church needs to waken up ... at local, national and international level - we need to figure out what the needs of our local community are, to communicate effectively to anyone who will give us a hearing ... to do that we need to build relationships, to earn respect, to do the things which we do well ... excellently ... we need to be proactive in that engagement ... we might need to do different things as clearly what we are doing generally speaking is not working in Ireland!

Surely our faith in God should be high up those things which we see as important? ... How do we do that? Yes its the million dollar question! but we do need to do something if not the Irish Church at large is in a much worse state than we thought.

I do think we as church at large needs to communicate what we are about, engage with community and pray, pray hard for our outreach, our mission, our vision as Christians and perhaps even dare to pray for the Holy Spirit to revive these dry bones. 

All comments welcome.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What does a Church of Ireland Minister do?

This is a topic I have been asked to speak about at a local school over the next couple of weeks ... It's a good question ... and I'm sure lot's of people would have their own answers to it.  So I thought I'd blog a wee bit of it ...

Some may jokingly say ... uck sure you only work one day a week ... let's laugh that one off immediately! ;-)  .. haha ... and move on. :-)

Some may genuinely wonder ... not knowing at all ... apart from a sunday morning what clergy do when we're not at the front of church.

Well ... over the past 3 1/2 years + 3 years in Minister School! I have reflected on some of the tasks at length - Firstly it is a lifelong commitment, The vows which I took shape the task which I am currently doing.

So those are the theory: In reality over the course of the past few years, since arriving in Belfast and now Blarney I have been thinking about this question and would say that the role of Deacon, Priest, Presbyter, Minister ... whatever you wish to call what I do comes down in my opinion to 2 main things

  • Communicating Good News 
  • Providing Pastoral Care for anyone who is in need 

These are very much linked and takes the whole of my time as they mean diferent things in all sorts of ways.

Communicating the good news - of course means preaching & teaching on sundays, celebrating Holy Communion, taking services ... but communicating also means talking with people, being with people, writing, blogging, phoning, getting involved in all sorts of things at community level, building relationships with all sorts of people. You can't communicate if you are not out and about meeting people and doing practical things to simply help!

Providing Pastoral Care - In our world today there are many needs - in every community there are many needs, many issues ... As part of my work I am out and about chatting with people who have all the stresses and strains of life - we see the great moments of celebration in lives and also have the responsibility and privilege also to be invited into the most difficult and troubling issues of lives and situations. As a minister this pastoral aspect to work is so vitally important - simply asking "how are you?" allows people to say - what they normally say - "yeah - I'm good thanks" or actually say "mmm... not that great" and allows them the chance to chat openly about issues.

We do these things in the context of our understanding and experience of God & his word as written in the Bible as well as how the church has understood it down through the centuries. That's why my office is filled with books and why day by day I try to pray and read my Bible (it's not always easy - even for a minister!) ... But I  do want to  get to know God better than I did yesterday ... I want to apply the Bible to what I read in the newspaper.

I also want those who are in the church to grow in their faith and share it, and make an impact in their families, in their workplaces and schools again communicating the good news and providing support where they can.

So I suppose that's a start to understand what a Church of Ireland Minister does!

PS ... for this to happen there is of course all the necessary meetings, admin, form filling..  housekeeping and all the rest of the things that are necessary for any organisation to do but those do enable the above to be done!

Any of my facebook friends like to give their own answers???

Prayer Post #4 - Journaling prayers

Journaling is a way have found useful from time to time to pray ... especially at times of decisions, big issues or simply when I find prayer difficult.

Journaling is basically writing stuff down on paper. Ideas, topics, prayer pointers and praying through them. As you write you pray.

Again all of this is ... as with anything on the blog is simply my own experience, my ramblings but if they help in any small way then feel free to take, use and adapt.

For me, I like to have a notebook set aside for the purpose of prayer and simply begin writing. Usually when I would use this form of prayer I'd begin ...

Dear Lord ... and simply write out the issues and how I'm feeling and the way I see things developing.

It has been great to look back over the years at some of the places I have been in prayer ... the times when things have been difficult and seeing God's guidance in what has been uncertain times. I am not an organised person but taking the discipline of sitting down and writing out prayers has in different seasons been a good discipline and one which I do return to now and again.

Again ... it's another idea

This is the fourth in the Prayer Series as we look at the topic of prayer in Carrigrohane Union during these days.

Have you any experience of Journalling ... any advantages of it? have you anything to add?
Feel free to email / comment

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dark Winter Days ... Blue Monday

I don't know if it's the dark winter days ... if its the lack of sunshine ... the bad news on our screens ... the television programmes which are sapping our time. ... I don't quite know what it is but what I do know is that many of my friends around Ireland and UK at the moment are suffering and also just generally in society in the UK and Ireland there seems to be a season of grey ness, messy-ness and general need of something to lift the darkness.

As somebody who is in no way a counsellor or trained any way in this stuff ... but I am concerned about these issues as they impact people I know ... and also it is something which I know the Bible has a lot to say on the topic of life and meaning, purpose and vitality of life I wanted to make a comment here at this point in the year - According to somebody ... This monday coming is Blue Monday ... the most depressing day of the year... I got to ask... how can we work through depressing of whatever magnitude?

There are loads and loads of stuff on the internet ... some by people who are qualified to comment, some who have been on the journey through depression and some like myself who are looking on, knowing friends who are struggling with stuff of whatever kind and wanting to help in some small way.

In dark days ... the natural thing to do is want to turn the light on ... but for those who are struggling trying to find the light switch is difficult.

Those who are professional in this tell us that depression can set in for all sorts of reasons - worries, concerns about the present, relationship stuff in the past as well as concerns about the future

We are also told that there are other factors such as lack of sunshine, nutritional, our own gene makeup as well as many other factors. And it is usually a complete mix and mess of many of these and other  things together. So with all of this what can we do?

It is not easy ... but somehow we need to work though it.

I'm someone who knows about mess ... my friends from Theological College will testify to that! ... "Messy Monsters" used to invade my room when I wasn't looking and I struggled to keep clothes in the wardrobe, paper off the floor, books on the shelves and all the rest. But some days would come when I would go on a massive clean up ... some days it was sorting, some days it was a panic ... perhaps a staff member was doing an inspection

I definitely preferred the days when it was a sorting day ... a day which I set aside to do the sorting ... taking time to put particular things in particular places ... A day when I could decide what to throw out, a day when I could deal with stuff which I had left and not dealt with as they should have been dealt with. A day where windows could be open and every thing returned from whence it came.

The Panic days were crazy ... they ended up stuffing things in cupboards, mugs ended up in drawers, books in wardrobes, clothes in bin bags and all sorts of things all over the place. The Panic days were crazy ... things did get dealt with ... to those who arrived in ... everything looked like it was sorted but in the back of my mind I knew ... actually all the work I had done would have to be undone at some stage and I'd have to start all over again.

I don't know if this makes any sense ... but I wonder ...

I wonder if we need to set aside days when we can deal with stuff ... to allow ourselves space and time to sort out things which need sorted out. Days when we can pin point the things ... specifically we need to deal with ... name them and leave them where they need left.

I wonder if we need to make changes ... for some people it might mean taking up new stuff which excites them, putting into our routines time to be with friends, to do stuff which ensures that we do things which challenges.

I wonder if we need to use the rich gifts which God provides in a systematic way - to cling to the promises which he gives us in his word.

I wonder if we need to put in place some "rule of life" structures to help us deal with the stuff which is going on ... a framework for life ... Including maybe  ... daily Bible Study ... Time with Friends ... Meals at set times ... limiting the TV we watch ... Going on retreat ... Getting Sufficient sleep... Time with family ... Journalling ... whatever it may be ... simply to get some sort of structure into our lives... watching our negativity and seeing how we can turn the negative thoughts we all have from time to time into positives.

I also wonder if we sometimes are too hard on ourselves ... if we strive for perfection and beat ourselves up when we fail to live that perfection.


These days don't (always?) work ... yes there are deadlines but things are forced where they shouldn't be ... structures are undermined and sometime later they will burst out ... try finding the car keys after a panic clear up ... they'll always be in the last place you look!

As I write this stuff - I am challenging myself as well ... There definitely are structures in my own life which need to be strengthened ... things which I need to sort out ... I just wonder if you/I were to name a couple of things ... which need sorted out over the next couple of weeks what would they be.

Yes the student room ... one room could be tidied in a day ... usually a couple of hours would do it if I set aside the time to do it - yes usually there was something better to do but once it's done - its done.

Unfortunately its not usually the case that things can be tidied in such a short period of time ...  as we think of mess which has taken months and years to accumulate may need to take time. But I do think it might be taking a room/ a drawer at a time to name and deal with before we approach something else.

A challenge ... what stuff do we need to deal with? why not get a friend to pray/talk with you about general stuff and also particular things you need to deal with so that Blue Monday can be used for good and positive things.

I of course, as a committed Christian come to this topic from a prayerful perspective ... but realise that not all readers / friends share my understanding of life however I do believe that the principles are the same ... and many of my thoughts on this topic are guided by general stuff I have been reading on various websites and books.

I'm very happy to continue discussion of this topic either via email, Facebook or Blog comments or face to face if you happen to be in the Cork / Blarney area for coffee or a dander.



There are places to find more information

In Northern Ireland there is a  great website from the Public Health Agency -

In Ireland there is a similar site -

For those who need to chat to people there are always the Samaritans -


Minding your head website suggest these things ...

Making lasting changes to your health can be hard.
Here are some steps that can help.

Choose what you want to change. Be SMART - set, and write down, goals that are:

Specific - Rather than ‘get fit’, a better goal would be ‘to take a brisk walk after lunch on  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays’.

Measurable - Set goals that can be measured. ‘Get fit’ is hard to measure, but it’s easy to know if you walked for half an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or not.

Achievable - Start small and set goals that are within your reach.

Relevant -Choose changes that make sense for you.

Timely - Set a target date. Without one, it’s easy to put off making the change.  And give yourself a (healthy!) treat when you achieve a goal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Puppet training #1

One of the things which I have been looking at with our kids ministry in the parish has been with puppets and hopefully developing this.

I have managed to find a few of training videos ...

This one is the finished article ... what puppets singing to a track looks like ...

This is about how puppets enter and leave the stage

This one is about what puppets are doing when they are on stage ... eye contact

This is the tough bit ...!!! but essential

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Prayer Blog #3 - Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a divine reading/ praying of scripture ... allowing the words of scripture to penetrate your heart.

It can be done individually, with a friend or group. It is a slow reading allowing you to hear God speaking to you through scripture. It is best done when you are not rushed in a quiet space.

I also would stick on a contemplative CD / Worship song ... one song comes to mind as I write ...

Some background ... from

Some 1800 years ago men and women retreated to lonely places to escape the stresses of daily life and developed Lectio Divina or ‘Sacred Reading’, a way of meditating that people have found helpful ever since. Traditionally it involved a ‘slow reading’ of a chosen text from the Bible and allowing the words to speak in new ways. There are four parts to a Lectio Divina exercise.

Reading (lectio) - Slowly begin reading a biblical passage as if it were a long awaited love letter addressed to you. Approach it reverentially and expectantly, in a way that savors each word and phrase. Read the passage until you hear a word or phrase that touches you, resonates, attracts or even disturbs you.

Reflecting (meditatio) - Ponder this word or phrase for a few minutes. Let it sink in slowly and deeply until you are resting in it. Listen for what the word or phrase is saying to you at this moment in your life, what it may be offering to you, what it may be demanding of you.

Expressing (oratio) – If you are a praying person, when you ready ready, openly and honestly express to God the prayers that arise spontaneously within you from your experience of this word or phrase. These may be prayers of thanksgiving, petition, intercession, lament, or praise. If prayer is not part of your journey you could write down the thoughts that have come your way.

Resting (contemplatio) - Allow yourself to simply rest silently for a time in the stillness of your heart remaining open to the quiet fullness of God's love and peace. This is like the silence of communion between the mother holding her sleeping infant child or between lovers whose communication with each other passes beyond words.

These four movements of Lectio Divina may not always follow a linear progression. Allow yourself freedom. The aim is to move into the depths of silence and stillness where we can hear the Word spoken to us in love and respond to this Word with our love and our life. This is a gentle invitation into a movement from silence into the Word and back into silence, dwelling there in the presence of God.
In modern times the scope of the materials used in the exercises has been greatly widened to include the visual arts and music. In today’s understanding it can be described as ‘attentive listening or looking’ – allowing what is listened to or looked at to speak to your situation in a fresh way.

Why not begin with a psalm ... for example Psalm 23 which works really well.

This is the third in a series of prayer ideas which I am blogging over the month of January as we journey to the Last Sunday of January which in Carrigrohane Union will have a focus on prayer. The next Blog will look at Journalling as prayer.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Prayer Blog #2 - What is Prayer?

This is the second blog in a series looking at Prayer as we seek over the next few months to look at Prayer and praying for our parish.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Prayer Blog #1 - Daily Prayer

Different people have different ways to pray.

For me daily prayer is a useful way to pray when I'm not sure what to pray or seasons when I find prayer difficult. Daily prayer is a traditional way which is traced back to monastic offices ... set readings, set psalms, liturgy and topics for intercession. 


In the Church of Ireland ... The Book of Common Prayer 2004 has in it a form of daily office which can now be found online ... take a look at ... Daily Prayer today 

The advantage of this type of prayer is that it is set and you have the knowledge that what you are praying is being prayed by many, many people across the globe. 

Daily the intercessions change and you can add in your own prayers and your own thoughts to the readings and psalms. Taking time to think about what they mean to you. 

If you find the Daily Prayer model of prayer useful why? 

How do you use it? 

any other comments? 

This is part of a series prepared to think about the topic of prayer ... next article will look at the topic of praying scripture ... Lectio Divina 

Image from the Worship Section of the Church of Ireland website 

New Year ... New Topic ... PRAYER

Right, the book thing ... Purpose Driven (previous blog)... hasn't taken off as various other things have managed to crowd in on ministry here... but one other things our parish is doing over the next few weeks and months is a focus on prayer ... both individually and corporately.

So I hope to look at some practical ways of praying ... just to spark some ideas. If you have any other ideas please do feel free to share, to email or get in touch with me some other way!

I have been chatting with various people recently about prayer and various ways they find it useful to pray and to study the Bible. Over the course of the next few weeks I hope to think some of the issues through and provide some resources from different places on ways to pray and to keep prayer fresh.