Tuesday, 23 October 2012

It's all Greek....

I'm learning Greek as part of my course, a few people have asked me why and it's because that is the language that the New Testament is written in. With that in mind most of the sentences I'm learning would sound pretty odd in modern Greece (and the modern language is a variation) but hey, should I want to announce 'Jesus is the light of the world' on the beach I'll be all set. Probably not quite so useful as 'Can I have an ice cream?' but there are.

I am quite excited about the cross over potential though. I love Greece so very much and fully intend to keep going there for a long time to come, even more so with the financial trouble. There is a real level of poverty as well as breathtaking beauty in the country and it feels good to leave a trail of Euros in exchange for souvlakis that I know keeps someone going over the winter.

My love affair with Greece began when I was eighteen and hopped on a plane to Athens where I spent the summer lolling about on the beach and nursing sick turtles. I remember wandering along the beach and feeling this most intense feeling of freedom. Here I was on what felt like the other side of the world, all alone, but feeling utterly exhilarated.

22 and in Greece again!
I suppose that is why Greece has been my go to place in the Summer. (four birthdays there and counting..!) I love the feeling of sitting facing the setting sun, beer in hand thinking 'look at me eh? Living life!' and secretly hatching plans of how I might avoid that flight home. When we went to the Peleponnese last summer we were driving along the coast we saw a little house of an English man who had passed away. He had been a spy based in Greece during the Second World War and they rewarded him with land for a house anywhere he chose in the whole country. He went back and forth to it all his life eventually retiring there where he spent his days reading books, teaching English and looking out of the turquoise sea. Clever man.

If that isn't enough there's the food (abundance of feta and olive oil, need I say more?), the people (all wonderful, every single one..!) and the amazing cultural heritage. So learning Greek is really rather exciting. I'm definitely hoping to do a language course in Greece on one of our trips to try and convert my ye olde Greek into modern Greek and I'm quite convinced that there is no better place to learn about the letter to the Corinthians than up the road from Corinth, right? Put that together with long uni summer holidays and a dissertation to write and....hello! Now where is that passport.....

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Wave your flag

All this book learning is turning me into an extremist. Now before you send the men in white coats (or some other more sinister government agency) round for me, let me explain myself! I'm talking about extremism for good ends, extremism for equality. I'm getting more and more riled up about it, sitting here at my kitchen table with piles of reading for my latest essay around me.

Being a woman in an institution that fundamentally discriminates against me may seem like utter lunacy to most people. It probably is really but as I've said before I have this odd attachment to it, this bizarre thing called church, like holding a broken bird in my hand and I just want it to get better with everything in me.

Having an attachment to the Bible probably seems like an even greater lunacy (here come those men in white coats again) but I've always loved it since I picked it up for the first time seven years ago and read it cover to cover. Yes, it contains the verses that are used to bash me and many other over the head and into submission but if someone hits me over the head with a spade does that make the spade the problem or the person who is using it all wrong?

So what is getting me particularly excited is having this time to steep myself in the New Testament. To dwell in all those sticky passages, all those places people get hot under the collar about and to find there, with great excitement and the companionship of some fabulous scholars, that this faith, this book, this message, is fundamentally one of equality. Yep - race, sex, background. Forget it. Irrelevant. THAT is how it should be.

Of course this isn't the first time this has dawned one me and likewise I've got it massively wrong many times, said so many dumb things, made dumb judgements, that I wish I could take back. But now I'm finding the hard evidence for this very real conviction, that I so want to live out, from much more intelligent people than me. It is utterly liberating.

Now you're probably thinking, 'Equality? Doesn't look much like any church I know.' Trust me there is a great irony in making these intellectual discoveries alongside being at a University where the mantra is 'you are the elite!' and a church where status is way too often everything. Here we are again with the broken baby bird. With a nasty nip when you try to help her. Oh yes, there is some healing to do but I feel like I am making foundations, in my life at least, for everything I attempt to do in that area with all my own frail, fudged up attempts.

So there we are, waving my flag, Extremist for Equality!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


You know when you get busy, the first thing that seems to go out of life is colour. You don't notice things anymore. When this happens I take pictures, real ones, mental ones, word ones. Here's todays spotted while reading for my essay.

For some proper photography to get you in the autumnal spirit, check out Hannah's brilliant blog!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Keeping it Simple

The seasons are changing and with it our habits. Where we wanted to be outside with a chilled glass of wine, the bottles of red are being dusted off and the sofa is the location of choice. Box sets are our friends, cups of tea our staple. It won't be long before the mulled wine is brewing again. This week was ripe with challenges and by Friday I'd lost all energy for them, just wanting to curl up as the season demands and let the world pass me by for a minute. But luckily this weekend has been everything that this week hasn't been, an antidote to all the confusing, complicated strangeness where I've desperately longed for simplicity.

Last night I cooked a huge lasagne, is there anything more rejuvinatingly simple than that? Two of our best friends sat around our dining table and we laughed and chatted. We all have responsibilities now, shoes to fill and worries that our feet are not big enough to fill them. Like toddlers walking in our parents shoes. For a while it was good to realise that life can be as simple as the popping of a cork and leaning back in your chair and laughing.

This morning I went for the first time to my placement church where I will be each Sunday for the next year. After all the theorizing, the debates on how church should work (and frankly all the sheer complicated nonsense that surrounds that!), I could finally breathe again. It's an almost comical irony that training for church ministry takes you so far our of the world you are training to be in. Vicar School is so earnest, so slick. Does that sound ungrateful? Perhaps it is. But I've been missing the roughness, the patched togetherness of ordinary church services, of life in the community.

That is the Kingdom of God to me and where I know I belong. I'm a thoroughly ordinary person, constantly saying the wrong thing and laughing far to loudly. These are my people! At church today the children took to the front and sang a song with beaming smiles on their faces, gifted little things full of happiness and possibility. We celebrated someone's 100th birthday with a posy of flowers. We talked about chicken recipes over coffee. Glorious simplicity.

I realised this week how much I need those moments. Like a shaft of sunlight cutting through the clouds on a grey day. It's a well needed reminder of what it is all for. As the lady who lead the prayers at church today said 'There are so many divisions in church, remind us that what you ask of us is so simple. To love you, to love our neighbour, to include and put up no barriers that stop people from knowing you.' I'm holding on to that this week. To going for it with the abandon of children, to caring less when I get it wrong, to looking for the heart of the matter. To a bit more simplicity.