What happened to Sundays?

My earliest memories of Sundays were when dad came to pick us up and took us out for the day. Sometimes a picnic, sometimes back to his house to play with my half-sisters. It was always a treat day for me, which involved sweeties and pocket-money (perhaps the real reason I enjoyed them so much.)

Some childhood Sundays were long lie-ins, late brunch (but we never called it that back then) and lying on the floor watching black and white movies. Mum would do the ironing for back to school the next day and we would have a bath, wash our hair, and dry it by lying next to the electric fire. This explains the bad hair days I had in all those photographs of my childhood.

As I got older Sundays were mostly hungover days and were days of rest, reading and watching bad TV, except for those old movies. Sometimes I don’t think I even got dressed.

When I was first married and had the boys, long lies were out of the question and some shops started to trade on a Sunday. Often we would walk down to John Menzies on Princes Street which was a big book store and browse for hours before buying a paperback or more.

But I was always a night person – an owl rather than a lark. Sunday mornings were meant for sleep and dozing and breakfast in bed if at all possible.

Then I found Church and it all changed. Overnight I became a lark. Up and dressed and raring to go across the road to church as the bell tolled and people from miles around gathered together. I never missed a Sunday except for one occasion when I was very ill. And what I did on Sundays at church spread out into my life and happened on other days too, and in evenings and in groups and in pubs. I loved the structure of Sunday and over time it changed – sometimes pub after for lunch, sometimes going on to someone’s house to laugh and talk theology and drink, sometimes back for Evensnog and Benediction, sometimes going out with church friends.

When I was ordained Sundays changed again. There were early services to attend or take, main services and clearing up to do after, coffee to share and home communions to take out to the housebound. It always began with Radio 4 and sometimes a bit of The Archers as I drove between one church and another. Sundays then became quite tiring days as I’d slump in the afternoon when I got home. Tiring in the afternoon because there was such a buzz in the morning. Sometimes a wee nana-nap had to be taken if there was an evening service to do. At this church the routine was church at 10am then coffee and a blether which could go on for some considerable time, and then the Lunch Bunch (single folk who live alone) would head off to The Steading for lunch which could go on till almost 4pm by the time we have sorted the world’s problems out. It was great. Social and pastoral and theology and mission all rolled in to one.

And then there is now. One week coffee after church was stopped because of the risk, and the next the church was closed.  And that was a couple of months ago. Oh how I miss it all. I miss the Eucharist most of all. But I also miss the people so much. I miss the conversations about nothing in particular. Yes, I do have conversations by phone now but they mostly consist of coronavirus talk and health. I miss the visuals we created in church to mark the liturgical year. I miss the laughter. I miss preaching to people I can see. I miss the music – oh how I miss that! I am missing my 50 days of unremitting joy. Holy Week was just agony but for all the wrong reasons. Easter Sunday was painful because we were to have an adult baptism as well as all the rest of the razzamatazz.  Yes, every week I sit down at 10am and I go through our spirit communion service. I read the readings and I try to contemplate them as best I can. I pray for those who are sick and I pray for all the others who are affected in different ways. I don’t do anything online as so few of my congregation could access it easily, and I feel it would be excluding them if I did it for some. Of course, there is plenty of religion to be found. I could join Zoom churches aplenty, there are Provincial services, friends’ services from cathedrals to small churches like mine. At the beginning I watched them all: the good and the not-so-good. But I’m afraid they are just not doing it for me. I just don’t feel part of it without my own little flock.

When will it go back to how it was before? Should it go back to how it was before? What will the ‘new normal’ be like? I don’t know and I can’t even imagine. With the age profile of my congregation I know they would mostly like it to be exactly as it was before. They want Sundays back just like its aye been. And you know, I want that too. Just now I really, really want my Sundays to be just like they were before all this happened. Yes, its made me more aware of my housebound folk and how we can do more for them and that will continue. But right now I am mourning the loss of my Sundays and all they contained.

Why Sunday Is one of the most Essential Day of the Week for Your ...

Blogging… or not blogging

Well, my new year resolution was to keep up to date with my blogging and already I have failed miserably. In my defence I think there are a few reasons for this.  The first being that I use my Samsung Galaxy phone much more these days for emails, reading blogs, and checking Facebook and Twitter. As a result I have not been commenting much on other blogs I check out because it is a bit of a hassle on the phone. I do read them every day, using Google Reader, over a cup of decaff at the kitchen table. And sometimes I mean to go down to the study and make a witty comment or two, but by the time I get there I’ve usually forgotten what I was going to say. (That’s an age thing.)

It has also been rather chilly in my study. I do have nice new windows which keep the draughts out but it is still a cold room in winter – and the radiator goes off at lunch time. (Also, Lucy Pussy has not learned to close doors behind her but I’m working on that. A forlorn hope, I know.) The thought crossed my mind that I could use my netbook for work upstairs in the cosy rooms, but I don’t get a great internet signal up there so that’s put the kyber on that. And my study is an absolute mess just now and I just hate sitting in a mess. However, I don’t hate it enough to make me want to do something about it. It is a shame really because it is a most glorious study and the envy of many visiting clergy.

Today, as I sat in my M&S slinky nightie (not really, but it sounds better than the truth), sipping my Fairtrade decaff, I spotted some advice on blogging by Kelvin. Good advice too, as it happens. And I can see several ways I can improve. These shall include:

  1. blogging more often
  2. commenting on other blogs
  3. doing something about the heating in my study that won’t cost an arm and a leg

New Year Resolutions for 2012

I’m usually quite good at making new year resolutions. What I’m not so good at is keeping them. Over the years they’ve mostly consisted of less food and less fags. As you can see that hasn’t really been a great success. In fact, all it did was set me up to fail. Oh I have given up the fags but as soon as the weight piled on I started again in the vain hope that the weight would fall off as if by magic. This never happened, by the way.

This year it might be better to be a bit more vague, I reckon.

  1. More reading is definitely high on the list. I now have a huge bookcase and a Kindle which are full of unread books. I’d like to do a Susan Hill and make a vow to never buy another book this year and just read the ones I have, but I know that ain’t gonna happen. However, what I can do is make more time to watch less rubbish on TV and read more.
  2. More blogging is another must for this year. Last year I’m not sure why there were so many large gaps in my blogging but I somehow got out of the way. But blogging is mission and mission is high on our priorities here at Christ Church this year so the blogging must improve.
  3. More financial restraint is another must for this year. Already I have made some of my own Christmass presents and nobody threw up their hands in horror at the sight of a homemade fancy scarf.  I have removed myself from all the tempting emails that come in telling me of Emma Bridgewater, Molton Brown, Radley sales etc. I don’t need more handbags or shoes. I may want more, but I don’t need more. And I’m going to keep telling myself that. Really, I am.
  4. More time with God might not be a bad thing either. I’ve loved doing the Daily Office during Advent with others, and will do that in Lent again. But I shall make sure I get a retreat this year and take all my holidays. I might even start something new in church for those who seek silence and quiet time.

I think that’ll do for now. So what are yours?

And do you have any predictions? I’m sure you can predict which of my new year resolutions will be broken by February. I see that a certain Provost has published his again this year.  (Without the help of Paul the Octopus, I’m told.) Have a look and see what you think. His first prediction affects those of us in the Edinburgh Diocese.

Cliques in Church

I was talking to an elderly woman recently who told me that she hated the Mother’s Union. Quite venemous she was too. “They were a clique,” she told me, “a clique to which I didn’t belong because I never married. They thought they were something special and always seemed to be doing things which I’d quite liked to have done but I couldn’t.” I told her that they did change the rules and allowed single women (and now men, I believe) to join but she said she didn’t want to then because they were too cliquey.

I reckon there will always be cliques in Church. Groups to which some people are excluded but to which they’d like to belong. Because none of us like to feel excluded. After all, we joined the Church – we want to belong. But then to find that there are some groups of people to which only those and such as those are invited seems terribly unfair.

Cursillo has been seen as a clique – and the worst of cliques because they keep secrets and have a special language all of their own. In its heyday Cursillo was loved passionately by many and hated vehemently in equal measures. Its aim was to produce leaders in the church, to kickstart peoples’ faith and renew their commitment to God. It is a movement run by lay people (with a little clergy help) and for lay people. But the rules state that you can’t go until your priest has been. Of course, this was to avoid it becoming cliquey but it almost had the opposite effect. Some clergy hated it and word spread. (Of course they hated it – it wasn’t for them, and they weren’t in charge!) And no matter how hard Cursillo tried to not become secretive and to tell all, the more it was seen as being a dangerous clique in the Church and almost died out. Desperate measures were taken to try and get some of those clergy on board but it only served to make it shunned all the more.

The next clique was computers and the internet. Vestries were divided by those who had them and those who didn’t. “Did you receive the minutes by email or were you completely forgotten?” Suddenly the world was at your fingertips and you could delve into any old church’s archives and photos (and what delights lay therein!) and lust over copes of glory and strange American sects who hated fags. We all talked about them over coffee – this world wide church brought into our homes – and those outwith the clique seethed quietly in the corner.

Then there was Facebook. Will you be my friend or can’t you? If you weren’t on Facebook, you weren’t worth knowing. Another clique. While some of us were daily following the antics of ‘that priest/organist/whoever who left in 1982’, others were wondering why they’d stopped writing letters and sharing the news.

When I was an ordinand I did a placement in a large evangelical parish and it was full of groups to which some people couldn’t join. There was a Men’s Group which discussed fascinating topics, or so it seemed, but if you were of the other persuasion then its doors were closed. There was also a Gay Group which I’d liked to have gone along to, not because I’m gay but because I was interested in what they were doing. I wasn’t aware of a Woman’s Group, funnily enough, but I don’t think I’d have wanted to belong to that clique.

Blogging became a bit cliquey too, of course. Not just writing them, but reading them too. “I’ve got over 300 people reading my blog every day, how many do you have?” “Did you see that joke on MadPriest’s blog? MadPriest? You mean you don’t know MP?” And those not in the clique mutter about not having time because they are doing much worthier things.

Perhaps the most dangerous of them all was Twitter. It was not only a clique but distinctly frowned upon by the Church itself. Those who were ‘in’ loved it and of course it had its own special language too. Suddenly you could become friends with the Archbishop of York, Stephen Fry and some woman in Oxford who you’ve never met but she seems to be friends with anyone who’s anyone in churchy circles. And then there was the famous Synod when we all sat looking at our laps throughout (at laptops, netbooks or phones) for amusing and witty bonmots about the proceedings. Those outwith the clique wanted to make it public and display the tweets on a large screen for all to see and of course it mostly died out.

So it looks like cliques have ‘ae bin’ and will always be, forever and ever. Amen. There will always be groups to which we don’t belong. The Church being the biggest one of all. Now if we could only stop it seeming quite so cliquey…

Blogging (or rather the lack of it) in the run up to Holy Week

My plan was to blog every day in Lent. I thought it might be holy and inspiring stuff. It wasn’t. It was the usual moans and stories and a wee bit of holiness. Sometimes I missed it altogether.

Now in the days leading up to Holy Week my well has run dry. I’ve used up all my creative juices in creating stuff for my little flock.  I’ve barely been over the doorstep this week, such has been the volume of stuff needing doing. And then just as one thing goes off to the photocopier, you think of another way of doing it which would be much better but it is too late. Lucy Pussy is no help whatsoever and has taken to sitting between me and the computer screen for fun and attention. (Sometimes it is between me and the keyboard but that is usually dealt with by a swift nudge and a miaow.)

It will all happen but right now it doesn’t feel like it will. I should really listen to my own Lent Course on Prayer, shouldn’t I?