27 July 2009

M minus 12

Moving day minus 12.

Yesterday evening the Circuit Leaving Service was held. It began with a cream tea at about 5:30 pm followed by a 'Songs of Praise' style service at 6:30 pm. (Some of my US friends have asked what a 'cream tea' is. I think that the rough US equivalent would be a sandwich buffet with lots of cakes and, of course, scones!)

The people who were organizing the event were a bit worried about how many people were going to come. Judging from the number of seats left empty at the service, I think we actually had slightly less than the previous Sunday morning when we held a joint worship service with the local Anglican parish. We'd been hoping for sunshine so folk could eat outside, but in the great tradition of the British Midlands, it was steadily showering at 5:30 so we were all inside.

I think it was a good service and, from my point of view, it was encouraging. Each of my four churches had chosen a hymn for me and I chose four of my own. My Superintendent preached on the subject of "Pam is NOT going home" (absolutely true, and thank you!), using the text of Abram leaving his land. Anglican colleagues spoke about the ecumenical work we've done and there was a presentation from the circuit. Finally, there was actually a liturgy of leaving and blessing and sending out.

I was expecting to feel a bit sad after the service but, surprisingly, I didn't. Over the last 3 weeks, I've had a 'last Sunday service' at each of my churches and those were a bit bitter-sweet. I think it's because this one really WAS a genuine good-bye - rather than part of an extended good-bye - that it didn't feel so strange.

I remember a tutor in theology college saying 'liturgy is performative'. This is a concept that we in the Protestant low-church tradition often like to scorn. But I think this leaving service is a perfect example. I've been sent out. It was my leaving service. The service performed a real function about something that is really happening. It's not just a symbol and it's not superstitious to acknowledge that 'the leaving' is really happening.

All that having been accomplished yesterday, I think Trevor and I were a tiny bit lost today (although I still have another communion service on Wednesday morning). We can't actually pack things into boxes because US customs requires the removal company to take responsibility for what is being shipped; therefore we have to leave the packing to the removal company. We spent the day slowly sorting through things, identifying items to be given away and thrown out.

The house is starting to feel chaotic. And an increasingly chaotic house will add to my stress levels as we approach August 8.

26 July 2009

M minus 13

Moving day minus 13.

This blog isn't meant to be a special interest blog at all but I guess I usually write on topics that could be considered either 'spiritual' or 'practical theology'.

I'm aware that a number of people I know 'in real life' read this blog and I thought I'd write a bit now about our impending move. Partly because people are asking me questions and it occurred to me that others might want to know the same information.

We are going to be leaving Kidderminster on the 7th of August to travel to Heathrow for our flight directly to Cleveland Hopkins Airport on the 8th of August. This ends 20 years and 8 months' residency for me in the United Kingdom and, for my British-born husband, it begins his first experience of living abroad. He has always wanted to live in the United States and, although we are both looking forward to the change, I think he's probably more excited that I am!

For me, I'm going back to the general area of the United States that I left at the age of 17, and there is something extremely odd about that. People ask me how I'm feeling and I have feelings that are genuinely mixed. On the one hand, I'm looking forward to living in the US again and being near my parents. On the other hand, I'm sad to be leaving here and I'm also aware of the fact that we're leaving at least two years' earlier than anyone thought we'd be leaving.

My congregations have been wonderful to me. I've now had my 'last service' in all four of my congregations and all of them were special. Nonetheless, they have all been a bit sad. This evening is the leaving service that is going to be put on by the Circuit: a cream tea at 5:30 and a 'Songs of Praise' service at 6:30. Naturally, what else would someone who loves to sing want to do on their last Sunday?

I still have one Wednesday morning communion to 'do' this coming Wednesday: an ecumenical service with our local Anglican congregation in the Methodist church (if any of you are reading this, be prepared to get 'little cups' so we don't have to take communion in just one kind!) I have three meetings left, including an extraordinary church council meeting to tie up loose ends and I have a bit more visiting to do.

The house is starting to look like chaos, but we need the removal company to pack for us due to US customs regulations and worries about importing dangerous materials (do bibles count?). For anyone who doesn't know, we do have a house to go to in Ohio but we'll need to wait about ten weeks for our furniture. We are hoping that my husband may be close to having a job offer from the local branch of his current employer, and I'm going to 'play it by ear' and hopefully find a useful ministry - either paid or unpaid. Watch this space.

Sin and the issue of climate change

A debate appears to be continuing in the small British Methodist blogosphere on the subject of a) whether or not human actions are causing global warming and b) if our actions are causing global warming, whether or not that makes us sinners.

On the first question, it seems that none of us have enough personal scientific knowledge to be able to come to our own independent scientific conclusions or to debate with each other on a scientific level. This means that all any of us can do is quote reports that support one side of the debate or another. That seems fruitless to me.

I will freely admit that I don't have the science but that, on a common sense basis, it seems illogical to me to put pollutants into the atmosphere that needn't be there. I also believe that, since we are charged with stewardship of God's creation, it also seems logical to me that it is good to keep atmospheric pollutants down to a minimum.

On the second question, is it the case that that those who believe in human-caused climate change are righteous and that those who do not believe in human-caused climate change are sinners? As Paul would say 'By no means!' If this is 'sinful' activity, then we are ALL sinning in this way - every one of us. And if it's genuinely not sinful activity, then none of us are sinning in this way so there is no reason to be outraged. This is not an attempt at polarizing people into sinners and non-sinners according to their beliefs about a single issue.

The report Hope in God's Future published by the Joint Public Issues Team of The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union and the URC, never even gives the impression that those who believe in climate change are 'righteous'. The report consistently speaks of 'our' sin and 'our' need for repentance - clearly including the authors of the report in the indictment of sin.

The section of the report calling for repentance begins with the poem:
Thus knowing holiness and grace,
in humble honesty confess
we all our sins before your face,
and turn our lives to righteousness.
Consistently, the report speaks of 'we sinners' 'our sin' 'our need for repentance'.

Those who sincerely disagree on the issue of human-created climate-change should not be scape-goatted by those who do believe. But I honestly can't see any evidence that this report is engaging in that kind of scape-goatting. If someone does see scape-goatting, maybe they can point it out?

20 July 2009

Swine Flu and Theological Reflection

The new Vice President of Methodist Conference, who is a GP (General Practitioner) by profession, has posted an excellent reflection on the subject of responding to swine flu

Here is a flavour:
There are though for Christians many ethical aspects to a flu pandemic that we should consider. In Britain we have a well developed health service, and enough money and forethought to buy large amounts of anti-viral medication and vaccine. This though means there is less or even none for those with less well developed plans or limited resources. Yet again the rich developed world will be able to protect its population at the expense of the poorer developing world.

19 July 2009

Paths as Yet Untrodden

Someone gave me a hand-made card this morning with the prayer below hand-written in it. I'm not sure that the person who gave me the card knows I was brought up Lutheran and I'm pleased by the coincidence. Her citation is the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship. It's a beautiful prayer that reminds me a bit of 'The Covenant Prayer'.

Lord God,
You have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.

Give us faith
to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

15 July 2009

The True Meaning of 'Eldership'

Wow, what a fantastic idea: The Elders

I just came across the existence of this group from a statement made by Jimmy Carter that was carried in The Guardian on the subject of The Words of God do not Justify Violence Against Women

But it's not even the rights of women I really want to highlight here.

Instead, I was taken with the following statement:
But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.
I wonder whether what this doesn't say is more powerful than what it does say?

What's implied here is that if you are a person in the prime of your life who wants to 'get ahead', you'd better not challenge the way things are done too much. Diplomacy is the better part of advancement.

On the positive side, what a liberation to be able to put Truth first!

An inspiring thought, I think, for both senior citizens and not so senior citizens. We can all make a difference by shining a light on Truth and by speaking out against injustice. This is true freedom.

13 July 2009

Hope In God's Future - Climate Change

The Joint Public Issues team of the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church has published a report on climate change and CO2 emissions called 'Hope in God's Future'.

The report seems to be frustratingly difficult to access online. I can access it, but can't find a URL. If you Google 'Hope in God's Future', you will see a 'hit' for a pdf file of the report hosted on the Operation Noah website. This will open a pdf file containing the entire report. It occurs to me that the report ought to be easier to access online!

I understand, of course, that some people will be skeptical about the issue of CO2 and global warming. A glance at this report, however, should alleviate all accusations that comments made at Methodist Conference on CO2 pollution were ill-considered and off-the cuff. It should also address concerns that the church is jumping on a fashionable band-wagon and has not thoughtfully or intelligently investigated the science behind CO2 pollution.

The report also certainly addresses concerns that the Joint Public Issues Committee has not grounded its thinking in Christian theology but that, knowingly or unknowingly, it may have adopted pagan theologies of worshiping the creation rather than the creator.

The report also calmly and thoughtfully addresses the issue of confession and repentance. The report very clearly names CO2 pollution as 'sin', so it was not the ill-considered idea of a fanatical individual to use this term. The term 'sin' appears to have been the result of careful thinking by the committee who produced the report.

09 July 2009

Let Them Go to the Emergency Room

Over on Connexions there is a - what's the euphemism? - 'robust' debate about health care, sparked in part by my husband's experiences getting his torn retina fixed on the NHS

This article by the American Associate of Retired People (AARP) on the subject of 8 Myths about Health Care Reform is worth reading.

One of the arguments that gets put forward frequently is that people without health insurance still get good quality health care in the Emergency Room. The AARP article addresses this issue in 'Myth 6':
Myth 6: "The uninsured actually do have access to good care—in the emergency room."

It's true that the United States has an open-door policy for those who seek emergency care, but "emergency room care doesn't help you get the right information to prevent a condition or give you help managing it," says Maria Ghazal, director of public policy for Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs at major U.S. companies. Forty-one percent of the uninsured have no access to preventive care, so when they do go to the ER, "they are most likely going in at a time when their illness has progressed significantly and costs more to treat," says Lumpkin. Hospitals have no way to recoup the costs of treating the uninsured, so they naturally pass on some of those costs to their insured patients.