The Gospel According To Bagpuss

Did you grow up watching Bagpuss?

A young girl named Emily owns a shop. (This oddity is never exBagpuss and Professor Yaffle, deep in conversationplained) She goes out and finds things that are lost and broken and brings them back to her shop. The creatures who live there wake up and restore them, with hard work and trial and error, with humour, with songs, with a story or two. Once mended and cleaned, the items are put in the shop window so that whoever lost them can reclaim them again. The title “shop” is used very loosely. No money appears to change hands. The items might be a tiny sailing ship in a bottle, a pile of broken pottery pieces that turn out to be the World’s Smallest Giant, or a pink straw elephant who has lost his ears, but looks very fetching when given a hat with ear flaps to wear.

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An Anxious, Wobbly Church

Anxious Wobbly Church“We’re not getting any younger…..” Is probably one of the phrases I hear most in church congregations locally.  The Church of England feels very wobbly at the moment.  Congregations are ageing and not seeing where the new generation of believers will come from.  Grandparents feel sad because their adult children no longer attend church, despite them having grown up within a loving congregation.  So grandchildren are being brought up experiencing church as a tradition just for older people, and to mark key life events.

All this weighs us down and we do not look to the future with confidence or expectation.    Continue reading

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Radical Self Care? What would that look like?

radical-self-care-picassoI was browsing the internet the other day in a distracted sort of way, when the title of an article caught my eye.  “The Secrets of Radical Self Care.”  I was pretty excited about that.  Bog-standard, ordinary self-care has been an increasing part of my life recently.  I’ve been living with depression for a large chunk of the last couple of years.  I’ve had to learn how to pace myself, how to take time out for things that will make me glad, how to have realistic expectations for myself and not attempt to do All.The.Things.  This has been good and important.  But you get to the point where articles on self care are mostly telling you things you already know. Continue reading

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I made a thing and I had a thought.

Denim quilt chair cover

Denim quilt chair cover

I made a quilt to use as a chair cover for a very comfortable but ugly chair.  I’ve never done anything like that before and I was kind of making it up as I went along.

It’s not very expertly done. The binding doesn’t quite lie flat along one edge, because it twisted while I was sewing it. (Note to self: trying to get away with using as few pins as possible doesn’t pay off) It’s not a beautiful pattern or an ornate layout. But I’m pleased, all the same. Continue reading

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A Letter to my Future Self – 6 Months on

Hand writing a letter with a goose feather

Hand writing a letter with a goose feather

Dear Claire,

How’s it going? I hope the whole, “easing back into work” thing has been going ok. I’m writing this at the end of April, as I’m just about to start easing back in – a Phased Return. It’s almost May, now, so when you read this it will almost November. You’ll be somewhere between Harvest and Remembrance, with a very pressing awareness that Advent and then Christmas are beginning to loom rather large.

While I’ve been off work, I feel like I’ve learnt quite a lot of stuff – about myself, about God, about what it means to be a Vicar. But I’m afraid I might forget all this. That once I’m fully back, I’ll get busy and fraught again. Then all this good stuff will go out of my head and I’ll get overwhelmed and go back to my old habits of thinking. I’ve tried those out and they didn’t really work that well, that’s partly why I’ve been off in the first place. Continue reading

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On not being ever so useful…

Deck chair with garden booksWhat happens when you’re deeply committed to working hard to earn approval from people and from God, and then you are forced to stop?

I’m exhausted and signed off work sick and I’m not doing anything busy to earn anyone’s approval at all. In fact, by being off work, I’m creating hassle and work for others, the complete opposite of what I would normally aim to do. My Protestant Work Ethic lies in pieces on the floor. Continue reading

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Don’t hide, don’t run

I was sent this poem by a good friend, during a particularly difficult time.  I come back to it again and again (and have even memorised it) because it does me so much good.

I often want to share it with people, but it’s hard to find it online in an easy to link to format, so I’m putting it here.

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“My friend has depression – how can I help them?”

What’s helpful, or unhelpful when you’re supporting a friend with depression? I can’t answer that in an authoritative way, I can only speak for myself. Depression shows itself differently in each person, it can vary enormously in severity, symptoms and duration so this is nowhere close to being a definitive answer. But I was asked this question recently and it seemed a helpful one, so here is a personal attempt at an answer. Here is a little of what is going on in my head, when people try to talk to me about depression, or try to avoid the topic.

        Speaking in Code

If you ask me how I am, I don’t want to say “I’m fine”, because it’s fundamentally not true, and I’m a truthful sort of person. Saying “I’m fine” when I’m not makes me feel cut off and isolated from people, which makes the depression feel even worse. But neither do I want to say, “The depression is making everything really bleak right now”, because that’s swerving the conversation in a pretty deep, dark direction and you were probably only hoping for a bit of small talk and to pass the time of day. Continue reading

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Giving up Church for Lent

churchIn previous years I’ve given up various things for Lent, fizzy drinks, Farmville, or snacking between meals. Some years, I’ve taken something up instead, reading a poem a day, or trying out a particular way of praying. This year, I’m thinking bigger, I’ve given up church for Lent. This is particularly drastic when you realise that I’m the Vicar.

Honestly, it wasn’t really a grand plan or a cunning scheme, more of a necessity. It was something that was becoming increasingly inevitable, and it happened to coincide rather neatly with Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent. Continue reading

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Depression and Prayer

Praying_HandsI was mulling over, recently, what it would be like to not have depression any more. It’s tempting to think of “getting back to normal”, and “going back to how I used to be”, but maybe it’s not that simple. I’ve changed so much over this last year and a bit, and some of it has been for the good. Perhaps I wouldn’t choose to go back to “just like it was before”…..but to find a new sort of normal.

One of the ways I have changed the most is in how I pray. In case you have a knee jerk reaction, (like I do), to seeing prayer and depression in the same sentence, can I reassure you now that this is not going to turn into one of those, “Christians shouldn’t get depressed, you would be fine if only you prayed more” guilt trips. I promise. Continue reading

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