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Partner at Tulchan Group. Priest in Church of England. Bad dancer

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My recent tweet question about whether Introverts or Extroverts make better priests has caused a flurry of interest.....so I thought it might be interesting to conduct a very quick survey to find out if more introverts or extroverts are actually in ordained ministry and whether there is any difference in the balance between the two based on the gender of respondents.  This is obviously totally unscientific as it is possible that more extroverts or introverts are on twitter but I thought it would be fun all the same.  Please do answer the question above this post.....come on, don't be shy!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

9-11 In Memoriam

Dear Reader,

I am aware that the blogosphere has been awash with commentary on 9-11 and I do not have the expertise to add to the debate except for in one area which I hope will be of interest.

As some of you will be aware I am not a full-time ordinand - I have a day job which involves advising clients on how to interact with the media.  So here's a PR man's thesis on 9-11 which I haven't seen written anywhere else. 

The 9-11 attacks were clearly meticulously planned.  I have long held the view that PR was part of this planning process.  Put simply, I believe two things:
  • The delay between the two 'planes hitting the towers was deliberate.  It allowed time for the TV cameras, and therefore the eyes of the world to be filming the first tower and therefore ensured that video footage of the second plane crashing was captured
  • The timing of the attack, early in the morning, ensured that the entire horrific episode could be captured clearly on film in daylight as it played out during the morning
A lot of the effectiveness of the 9-11 attack has been in its ability to spread a sense of terror across the world.  The film taken of the attacks has contributed in a very significant way to this terror and has, I would argue, played right into the hands of the terrorists.

Which leads me on to the 10th anniversary commemorations last week.  Don't get me wrong, I do believe that the horrific events on that New York morning should be commemorated.  What I object to is the ghoulish replaying of that television footage, including film and photographs of people jumping to their deaths, as part of the commemoration.  Doesn't this recreate the terror we all felt at the time?  More importantly, it has introduced a whole new generation - including my teenage children - to that terror as well.  Yes, they should know about 9-11 because they need to understand its hugely significant effect on the world since then.  But do they really need to see people dying as part of this?

Every time we see that film, the terrorists' desire - to spread fear and horror across the world is fulfilled.  I for one don't think we should be playing into their hands.  

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

London Calling

Ok, Ordinangst knows he is a baby at this and everything, but he thought it might be interesting to give some words of advice to some of you lovely people who are embarking on the road to Ordination.   Here goes......
Celebrate your calling.  Do not get in the mind-set of feeling that being called by God to serve him is anything other than a fantastic privilege. Allow yourself to believe you really have been called and work through the implications of this.  Stay humble, but allow yourself the occasional pat on the back.
 If you are married and/or have children make sure that your family is involved in your training decisions.  If God joined you together in marriage – there is no way he is going to call you singly.  Explore as a couple and a family what your calling means before you start out, so the family owns the process.
Build a body of people who are committed to praying for you.  Do not expect that your church or diocese or theological college will automatically offer you (and your family) the sort of pastoral and prayer support that you are going to need.  Go out and build your own network and learn to rely on this network and ask them to pray for specific things.
Make sure you choose a spiritual advisor who you trust, who you can confide in absolutely, and who is your biggest supporter.  Nurture that relationship – and realise that your spiritual advisor is human too….ask them how they are occasionally!
 Make sure your spouse has a spiritual advisor too.  It’s lonely out in space.  Make sure you make time for your spouse and really listen to what they are thinking / feeling.  Pray together, and as a family.
Go on retreat frequently.  It is essential to find the space to listen to God.  
 Understand that training is tough.  There will be times of bleakness and despondency.  Learn to put God at the centre of these times and ask yourself how God is developing you through the trials.  Do not allow yourself to fear or to doubt.   
 Keep an open mind.  Training is theologically and spiritually turbulent.  It is likely that your faith will be challenged and rebuilt, hopefully richer and stronger.  Make sure that you support your fellow students on the journey.  At those times when you are wobbling make sure you talk through the wobbles with your fellow students and your spiritual advisor.
 God called you to serve him, not your Church.  Do not try to best-guess God’s plan for you – we have no idea what the future holds. Best not to start training with a pre-conceived idea of where you will end up.  Do not get into a panic in the scramble for curacies – allow yourself to relax in the knowledge that God has a plan. 
 Develop a discipline of prayer and bible study.  Be careful that the bible doesn’t become a technical manual for theology.  Make sure it still lives and breathes in your life – this means finding time to read it outside lessons and lectures.
Go to Church.  Often.  As a punter.  Make sure you go to a variety of Churches.  Go outside your comfort zone or what you regard as normal – you will be surprised to find that God is alive and well in all sorts of churches.
 Ensure you maintain a healthy connection to the outside world.  Your ability to minister effectively will be strengthened if you do this.  Go to films, read papers, explore social networks and beware of getting too cloistered in your theology college.
Ensure you build down-time into your schedule.  It is essential that you maintain your networks of friends and that you still do things that relax you.  Ensure you build family time in your schedule too – teatime spent with the family may well be more important than reading yet another chapter of Karl Barth.  Oh, and remember to sleep! 

Friday, 13 May 2011

China Crisis?

It has been an extrordinary week for Ordinangst who has been in been in Beijing on Business. Spending a chunk of time in China, a lot of it with Chinese people, has been enriching and bewildering at the same time. Ordinangst spent one evening with a Chinese man, whose story is typical of the “new” China…born the second brother to farmers in the North East of the country, he studied hard at school (which is free in China to the age of fifteen – consequently literacy rates are very high), and ended up studying Economics at Beijing university. Now he is the head Chinese economist for a large Spanish bank. Fluent in Spanish and English as well as Mandarin he now sends money back home to support his parents (who no longer farm because of this support). He is the only one in his family who has left the province he was born in, and although his two brothers went to university, his three sisters (who all married farmers) did not, because there was not enough money in the family to afford it.

One or two things struck Ordinangst very hard about this man’s story. First, the rate of social mobility in China is absolutely extraordinary. This is evidenced by a rapid movement to the cities (Shenzhen, for example, which was a small fishing village just over the border from Hong Kong twenty years ago is now a City of over 20 million people where an awful lot of the world’s computer hardware – including I-Pads and Xboxes are manufactured). This brings with it some fundamental economic imbalances that are a cause for concern, and Ordinangst suggests, should perhaps be a subject for our prayers. A rapidly ageing population caused by the one child policy which still exists which could cause the Chinese economy to implode in a few years’ time. A significant gender imbalance in children and young people caused by the desire by most Chinese couples – to have a boy rather than a girl. Ordinangst shudders to think (and certainly didn’t dare ask) what happened to all those baby girls. A population of around 1.3 billion in a country that has the agricultural land to support 800 million currently and less in the future as more farmland is engulfed in urbanisation. A situation where young people are leaving rural areas en masse to go to the cities, leaving the vital farming roles to parents and grandparents who are unable to cope with the physical demands of farming. A potential environmental catastrophe caused by the insatiable (and understandable) desire by the Chinese to have their first fridges, cars, computers, modern housing – all of which will cause a very significant extra load on the world’s demand four natural resources, for oil and for water and will dramatically increase carbon emissions. And lastly the ever present risk that the rural poor will become disillusioned by the imbalance in wealth that is rampant in China now and there will be another revolution. The rich in China are spectacularly rich and have an insatiable demand for western luxury goods – Ordinangst counted three Gucci stores within a hundred yards of his hotel – all the more astonishing when you realise that import tax on luxury goods in China is 100 per cent – so luxury goods (including Bentleys, and Bugattis) are twice as expensive as they are in Europe

One piece of good news in all this is that Christianity is growing helter-skelter in China. Ordinangst remains worried about the state sponsorship of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. Of course, we should all keep an eye on a government who is omnipresent and controlling (more about that in another blog or two). But there is no doubt that Jesus is breaking through – both in the State Churches (some of which are enormous) and in the Underground. One of Ordinangst’s friends managed to find an underground Church to go to (Ordinangst was very cross that he only told him about it afterwards) – seven people celebrating mass in the home of a priest who has been sent out there by a Western missionary society which was, apparently, incredibly moving.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Love and Marriage....

It crosses Ordinangst’s mind that the dear old Church of England has missed a serious PR trick. Apparently the Royal Wedding was the most watched telly programme history. More than two billion people watched a Church of England marriage, in close up. How cool is that?

It was a beautiful and moving and majestic service and I have to say that the combination of ++Rowan and +Richard was electric. Coupled with the cartwheeling verger, I think that the actual event could not have been a better advertisement for our Church in all its finery. So a big tick in the box there.

But where were the press releases or the interviewees from the CofE on the BBC sofa, to explain the spiritual (and dare Ordinangst say it, the sacramental) aspects of the big event?  Someone to explain to people why getting married in a Church is different to getting married at a local hotel. A cursory glance of the media section of the CofE Website this morning shows no mention of the Royal Wedding at all. The news channels – (and Ordinangst knows because he worked on the event) were crying out for content – it is very hard indeed to keep a live broadcast going for hours and hours around the actual service without descending into meaningless drivel –shame there didn’t seem to be anyone from the CofE to fill these gaps with something meaningful.

As a result, the wedding, beautiful as it was, was all about hats and dresses and celebrities and trees and landaus and princesses and duchesses.  And cartwheels. No problem there, but I am not sure God got enough of a look-in really. It is about time the Church realised that PR is not a dirty word, it is a powerful tool that we should be using to the fullest extent without embarrassment to spread the good news. This means taking PR seriously. It means giving the in-house Communications function of the Church a proper budget to hire the right people who can reach out to the media and "sell in" interviews. And it means selecting the right spokespeople (not necessarily archbishops) who have the ability to conduct media interviews successfully and training them to talk about faith and the Church in a way that is relevant and approachable.  In short we need a few more Bishops of Bradford. 

PR is not rocket science, but it is important and it is essential we get this right.  Royal Weddings don't come around every day, and the Church that conducted the wedding should never have been relegated to a sideshow.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Left Yesterday Behind Him, Might Say He Was Born Again......

Ordinangst is very grateful that people took the time to vote in his poll about the age at which Christian commitments are made. The results are pretty interesting and are in line with the research on the web from similar (and probably much more scientific) studies from the US. Basically, if you ain’t in by the age of 24, statistically you are pretty much toast! Thankfully Ordinangst’s own experience puts him firmly in the toast zone, so there is definitely hope for those people who have reached the dizzying heights of adulthood.
The comments around the research are more interesting because they demonstrate to Ordinangst that it is so difficult to define anything when it comes to matters of faith and (Ordinangst shudders to use the word) religion, particularly in the vastness of the Anglican church.

Understandably, a number of Ordinangst’s dear readers came back with an obvious question – “how do you define ‘commitment’?” and it made him realise that he was using the word as a short-hand for the experience of being “born again” – an idea that Ordinangst recognises will only resonate with some of the dear Christian brethren who take the time to read his blog. And will make others wince. So Ordinangst apologises for not being clearer, and for asking a question that begged the answer; “it depends what you mean.” Duh.

Some people equate Confirmation with commitment, which makes sense, but doesn’t reflect Ordinangst’s own experiences. Confirmation meant very little to him spiritually – it was more about presents (complete works of Shakespeare, Swiss Army Pen-knife, cuff-links from memory) and not very much about God at all. Ordinangst’s own decision “to serve thee to the end” came much later. What a blessing that we worship a God of second chances!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Born in the Summer of His Twenty-Seventh Year.....

Ordinangst was fascinated by a statistic that his vicar used in a sermon this weekend.  Apparently, research shows that the large majority of Christians in the US make their first commitment to following Jesus Christ between the ages of 18 and 23.  Ordinangst thinks this is interesting for three reasons.  First, it doesn’t seem to tie in with any of the research that he can find on the web like this which seems to point to most people becoming Christians during their teens. (admittedly both these pieces of research are published by “youth” focused ministries, so it may well be self-serving).  Second, it is American research, and there is no reason to assume that patterns are the same in the UK.  And third, it doesn’t tie in with Ordinangst’s own experience – he was clearly a late starter (no surprises there).
So. Ordinangst thought it might be interesting  to conduct a piece of on-line research of UK Christians that simply asks them at what age they made their commitment.  Clearly knowing at what age the mission field is most fertile has to be a useful resource for planning purposes for everybody.  It may well turn into a useful essay subject down the line for Ordinangst too!
Voting is very simple – click on the age range in the table beneath this post, click submit and that’s it – totally anonymous, and you get to see the results of the poll as it is going along. And before you ask, you will see that Ordinangst has included an option for people to click that says they don’t recognise a specific “moment” of commitment - which is entirely valid.   
More interesting than AV perhaps, and definitely less complicated!  Happy voting…..