Monday, 23 April 2012

Student Living

Today we received notice that our Landlord is happy for us to skip out early on our contract and so head off to our new (yet to be secured) abode nearer college. Perfect for all those delightful 7am prayer meetings I'll be attending (gulp). This is fab news and potentially saved us the best part of two grand which will go towards a suitably retro old banger for me to drive to lectures. But anyhow, over the weekend I've been browsing some fab websites and second hand shops and that, rather than a general moan about the woes of moving house, is the topic of this post.

I've been really inspired recently by the idea of creating a home (and wardrobe) out of second hand and unwanted items. My sewing machine has made this infinitely more possible when it comes to clothes and I gleefully realised I was wearing an almost entire charity shop outfit the other day, more of that please! I'm now turning my attention to our home which is simultaneously having a clear out of junk accumulated since we made the big move from Scotland but is also being added to with pieces of reclaimed furniture and products from my latest endeavours in craft.

There are a few reasons this really appeals to me. Firstly, the necessity that comes from living on a teeny, tiny grant from the Church. I'm seeing this as student chic with a difference. Less glitter ball curtains (yes, that is actually a thing) and pink plastic glasses from my first University experience and more retro and homemade items to make a comfy and individual home.

This leads me neatly onto the second reason for my new found enthusiasm for second hand and homemade - uniqueness. This weekend I found some gorgeous soup bowls in a charity shop with lion heads for handles that remind me so much of the stonework on the Oxford colleges. You don't get that in Homebase. I also bought myself an embroidery ring and made this with some (beloved) Cath-y K offcuts. Twee but makes me smile every time I see it!

And this is my third reason, creativity. I find it soothing and extremely happy making to be surrounded by things I've made or that have a story behind them. Putting together a unique home and wardrobe is just plain fun.

And finally the do-gooder reason. I want to do a bit less consuming and a bit more putting back. I hate the thought of some poorly paid woman working sixteen hour days to provide me with a cheap top. It's just horrid. That's why I'm trying to up my fair trade purchased. I also hate the piles of junk we have to bury under the ground that could be reused. Shopping second hand means a loving home for all the items that could otherwise end up in landfill and the money goes to charity. There are so many arguments I know could be had about the economics of spending but this makes sense to me given the state of our world and resources (or lack of).

So roll on the new place (ignoring the packing, urgh) and eyes peeled for 'junk' on street corners. I'll keep you updated!

P.S If you're interested in this sort of thing I'd seriously recommend you go to Lulastic and the Hippy Shake, a feast for secondhand home makers!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Come and be a WOMAN!

Last night I had the enormous privilege of being invited to a dinner held in honour of a charming, and rather hilarious, South African Bishop. The circumstances that lead me to being there (freakish writing speed and ability to design newsletters at short notice mostly!) certainly didn’t feel grand enough to warrant the invitation. There were so many stalwarts from the local churches who have been involved in brilliant projects with South African churches for many years. One fantastic lady even celebrated her 80thbirthday while on a trip to visit the projects!

The projects range from community gardens to support orphaned and vulnerable children to an HIV peer education centre where teenagers are trained to spread the message to their communities. As always, hearing about these projects is humbling and an unbeatable motivator. The Bishop’s wife told me about children as young as ten in her community who are supporting four siblings after their parents have died. The picture she painted of them leading their younger siblings by the hand to school is both heart-breaking and a big ol’ kick up the bum to act all at once.
Mid-way through the meal, when he got wind of my plans to start ordination training, the Bishop was busy signing me up for a stint in South Africa with the brilliant offer of ‘You can come and be a woman! And preach! Everywhere! As a woman!’ Womanhood and preaching practice all in one. Now there's an offer I can't refuse!

There’s been some really interesting blogs this week about being a woman today by the always hilarious Liz and a new favourite blog of mine by Emily. The book Liz talks about, Caitlan Moran’s How to Be a Woman, has already sparked lots of conversations among my friends and colleagues about what it means to be a woman in 21st Century Britain. Add the additional layer of complexity of being part of an organisation that has only just let women be ordained leaders at all and you have yourself an interesting mix. 

Being part of what has been an entirely male profession for pretty much its entire history (though I suppose you could say that for basically all jobs!) can be quite daunting but also very exciting. To be part of what is really still the first waves of women as ordained leaders is tremendously brilliant and there are already so many inspiring women to look up to. To me that is the message of Caitlan Moran's book - that with all the hard one freedom we enjoy as women today in this country lets not squander it and allow the same old issues (sometimes even self generated) to dominate our lives, or the lives of the generations coming up behind us. The offer to go international at some point during my training and the openness to having a women speak and work in their communities is hugely encouraging. I hope I get the chance to take him up on his offer!

Monday, 16 April 2012

In which I fret

I’ve spent the last two weeks at my family home, hence the blog silence, where I was dog sitting and generally fretting. The idea was to get away, enjoy some time away from the pressing demands of everyday life, to take some time out to reflect on all the many weird and wonderful things that have happened over the last few months. And partly I did. But I felt like I was play acting at being relaxing rather than actually feeling it. Over a quiet lunch by the river my brain had already fast forwarded to September. Will I fit in at College? Will I know what I’m doing? Will I really be able to drive by then? Can I honestly learn ancient languages? What will I be like on placements - will I comfort people as I should? What if I let them down?

A couple of days into my holiday I went to the college to discuss housing. It has that typical Oxford vibe, big portraits looking down at you making you feel about two feet tall. Glass cases like you see in museums filled with previous possessions of famous former students, important people who changed things and influenced people. Bishop’s prayer books and rings from hundreds of years ago. And then there is me. Feeling like someone might come rushing in exclaiming - ‘there’s been a big mistake, she shouldn’t be here.’ And knowing I’d probably agree and breathe a sigh of relief.

Because I’d been preparing and preparing for the interview day. I’d been spending my time just getting through the day to day of living in the complete unknown (and perhaps even getting quite good at it!). But now I know. And it is wonderful. I feel blessed and humbled and a million other joyous things. But man, I feel afraid. Afraid I won’t be everything people need me to be but then afraid of losing myself too.

 At my interview one of my interviewers, in a rare and momentary lapse of the steely interview face, asked me not to change. I know what he meant. It’s the same reason that I feel that fear, that sense of not fitting in. But I know that huge sections of society don’t feel like they fit in when they walk into a church. And that is why I think I’m here, for translation purposes. Because it’s not an exclusive club, you don’t need to know the rules. God doesn’t work that way, he takes you just as you are and church should too. 

In all this fretting I think I’ve begun to realise something. That it’s quite possible that I can’t do this. Who could love, tolerate and care for people as much as a Vicar should? Who can honestly say they will represent the most important thing in their life to others and not tremble at the prospect? I’ve needed a whole lot of grace to get me here and I need a whole lot more for every single step of this journey. So for now it is chin up and a big dose of trust. Perhaps one day it’ll be my Lady Gaga CD in that museum case…!  ;) I don’t think the poor church is going to know what’s hit it!!