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Posts Tagged ‘church’

Work in Progress

Today I went on a home visit with one of the GP’s to see a very old man, in his nursing home. Before we got out of the car, the GP turned to me and said, the picture of nonchalence, ‘by the way – he might ask us to euthanise him – just so you know. He asks every time we visit him.

Sure enough, this man, who is over a hundred, with no living family, no friends to visit him, and incredibly frail health, started asking about what it means to die, and when it would come, and could we, please, please doctor, help him, now, right now? And of course, we sat and told him that we couldn’t do that, and that we didn’t know when death would come, but that when it did, we hoped it would be peaceful.  And he talked, for a long time, about what lay behind in his youth, and what lay ahead, in his dying, and the loneliness in the room was so heavy it felt like we were sitting in thick fog. Then, the time came for us to go and move on to another patient, and it made me wish, as I do so many days, that I was training to be a magician, rather than a doctor. There’s just aren’t enough magic wands in medicine. I wish there were more.

It’s things like this that remind me how good the church, or any similar group, for that matter, can be. Now that our communities lack the cohesiveness and closeness of the past, it falls to groups like the church to come in and reach out, and keep people connected. I’d like to think that if this man was a member of my church, that someone would be going to see him, taking him Communion, dedicating time to those questions that are still for him, so painfully unanswered. Patients in hospital have access to chaplains and ministers; it’s when they leave, that they so often are left lonelier than ever. I’ve been so proud to see the student charity I founded two years ago grow, to be able to provide regular visitors to elderly patients across three hospitals, if they don’t have family to come and see them – but there are so many older people alone in their homes, that we can’t reach. It’s painful. I want to do more. I want it to be better. There are so many gaps in society that I want to help fill. I know that I can’t fill them all. None of us, can fill them all.

 It’s things like today that make me want to go and shout from the rooftops that until we have a society that has a place for every person in it, we have no society at all. We talk about the community of church, so often, and yes, it’s fantastic, the things that happen when a group of people get under a steepled roof and lift up their hands and cast upwards their eyes, but does any of it matter, if we’re not taking it to those places that need it the most? Does any of it matter, if there’s still an old man, lonely, or a young mother, not managing, or dare I say, a student, dropping off the edge of depression? The people most on the outside are the ones most in need, and hardest to reach. There are so many places that just need someone alongside someone else. There are so many places that just need a hand ontop of a hand, a heart beating next to a heart.

We all know that according to Genesis, one day, God looked at this world and said that simply, it was ‘good’. For now, I’ll pass over God’s extensive use of the understatement.

Now – forgive me if, thanks to my hazy knowledge of the Bible, I’m off the mark here, but from what I know, God’s not said that, since. Our world is not being looked at and passed as ‘ok’. Can you imagine what the world would look like if God still thought it was ‘good’? I’m not sure I can. It’s so far away, from what I have seen. And I know, that Jesus changed everything and set the wheels in motion for it being ok, more than ok even – perfect – I know, that before Jesus we were living in a spiritual cemetery, and without Jesus, we’re still sitting amongst the gravestones – but our world is still not good. We, are still not good. No matter what you believe, we can do better. We need to do better. We need to sort this stuff out. We need to figure out how to stay connected. We need to figure out, how to get our hand on top of the hand that is shaking. We need to figure out, how to get our heart beating next to the heart that is failing.

Let’s all try and figure out, how we can do better. We’re all works in progress.

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Leadership lessons

On Monday, I met my friend E for a drink and a chat, but came away with a little more than I’d bargained for. E is a few years behind me in medical school and we first met through the university windband, when he joined as a first year three years ago, the year I was band’s president. After that, we crossed paths again when we both started at the same church at around the same time, and with a similar amount of uncertainty (ie a lot), and this was when we got to know each other more on a par, as with band, I’d always been ‘in charge’ and leading things, and he’d always been following. We’re very different in some ways, and after a hard year for both of us (he is resitting a year after failing a lot of exams before finally being diagnosed with dyslexia) I really value his friendship.

We were discussing what we’ve been doing in the last few months and I was talking about the mentoring scheme I’m heading up and what’s happening with the choir and hospital volunteer scheme I founded two years ago, and he asked me why I’ve not ended up ‘in charge’ of anything at church when I seem to fall into leadership in most other things I do. And I replied that I’ve never really thought that I’m able to lead, or gifted in leadership, or however you want to put it – in ‘church life’ – that I’m always a bit unsure of what part I’m supposed to play, what space I’m supposed to stand in.

This lead to what I’m going to call ‘affectionately being completely shot down.’

E basically asked me if I honestly thought that God’s gifts were different depending on whether I was standing in church or somewhere ‘secular’, and then (somewhat amusingly) went a bit Lord Kitchener on me (your church needs YOU! Your God needs YOU!) and told me to step up and stop drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, between the parts of my life that are lived in church, and the rest of my time, where my faith is perhaps not quite as much on show.

All I could really say was ‘oh’. The phrase ‘you got told’ comes to mind.

He’s right in a lot of ways. I do have a tendancy to separate things out and think that I’m not really that useful to any church and that I don’t have any gifts, that in the world of 1 Corinthians, I’m one of the less vital, more silent, body parts, whereas it’s fairly true that outwith that, I feel confident in leadership roles (I even got an award from the university for it once) and like filling gaps I see and changing things I think need changing. I’m a project person – I’ve always got some scheme on the way, whether it’s getting the patient library together, or currently, this mentoring thing. It just doesn’t always carry over to who I am ‘at church’. Sometimes I fall back into thinking that I’m just kind of gatecrashing the party – that everyone else has an invite and a reason to be there, whereas I’ve just snuck in through the back door, and am listening in the dark at the back, and God can’t be bothered to chuck me out.

Part of this is probably down to the last year, when standing at the back of a service was as much as (and sometimes more than) I could handle, and I’ve been conscious as I recover that I shouldn’t overfill my time or take on too much (not that I’m managing this well at all). Another obstacle is that until this year, I just wasn’t stable enough in my faith to feel as though I could really be that involved, or active in things – as Ulysses Grant once said, you can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. I didn’t really comfortable spreading a gospel I wasn’t that sure of. I didn’t really want to infect anyone else with my perpetual, and often consuming, doubt. I didn’t feel ‘qualified’ or ‘capable’ or ‘allowed’ to be an active Christian – I had too many hours still to spend working things out. I thought I was better suited to sitting quietly at the back and trying not to lose my place in the hymnbook. My trumpet was certainly uncertain for quite a while.

Now however, talking with E made me remember that everything I am comes from God, and that I need to step up more and contribute my share to the kingdom we’re all trying to build. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where I fit and what I feel called to change, so this conversation was certainly timely. I’ve got a feeling that the Bible study some friends and I are starting might be the start of a more well defined path for me, but only time will tell, at the end of the day.

And in other news, the GP let me stitch someone’s head cut today. Sorry if you’re squeamish, but it was AWESOME. The things that make me happy…..

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