Friday, 21 November 2008

St Paul's Engaged

The following is taken from a supplement to our weekly "Epistle" notice sheet, to summarise some of the big things happening at St Paul's just now. We see important connections here and are using the idea of St Paul's Engaged as a way of thinking about the way these initiatives work together.

Following on from our Grace, Gratitude and Growth process it's clear that several ideas and initiatives are pointing to a new phase in the life of St Paul's. There are lots of exciting developments just now that are located on the 'boundaries' of church and neighbourhood. They go to the heart of our mission and purpose and build on St Paul's long record of being confidently engaged with the people of the neighbourhood. St Paul's Engaged means discovering new passion and imagination for growing this work. We sense that the initiative and creativity for these things begins outside of ourselves, that God is leading us forward in surprising ways. There are just too many to be described in a regular weekly 'Epistle', so this special supplement aims to keep everyone informed about what's going on. Give thanks for all that is good, celebrate God's grace, and work to see St Paul's Engaged!

Grace, gratitude and growth
We had a big response to the GGG process in October and November. It's become apparent that God is leading us forward in a number of key areas. Over 70 different people were involved but not everyone had a chance to be at every event. Here's what we did:

We made a key assumption throughout the process: that every good thing that we have experienced in our church life stems from God's grace. Thinking about all that is "true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise" re-connects us to spiritual resources that get overlooked when we focus on traditional problem-solving in our own strength (see Philippians 4.8).
We remembered the foundational stories of our church community and we heard about the great moments when we've moved forward together. In these we found revelations of God's character and clues about the key themes that are characteristic of St Paul's in its mission. These five key themes are:
  • Learning and growing
  • Children
  • Outreach
  • Hospitality, fun and food
  • Prayer
We dared to dream - dreams that are expressed in the affirmative, as if already happening to us; that point to real desired possibilities; that are faithful to our collective reflections (not our own pet subjects or hobby-horses); that create new relationships, including partnerships across boundaries (young and old, recent member and long-standing member, church and community, etc.); that bridge the best of "what is" and "what might be"; that involve us learning new things; and that challenge assumptions about our routines or our organisation of things.

A week later our evening worship was interrupted. We were reflecting on how Acts 2.42-47 reflected the priorities that God had laid on our hearts. A young man in considerable need came into the chapel just as we were thinking about our engagement with the wider community. We'd planned a service of eucharistic sharing in bread and wine; we ended up caring for a family and sharing tea with the emergency services. People began to ask, "could God be giving us further clues about re-orienting our worship and service?"

Open Church
A careful and considered discussion about opening our church building more often took place at the DCC. We decided that a time of focussed praying was needed and in this separate event, there was a remarkable unity in sensing God's encouragement to take a greater risk in this direction. To start with, we've decided to open the church from 8.30am to 12.00 on Wednesdays to Sundays each week during Advent, with the hope to see this continue or expand. The Chapel will be available for people to come and use for their prayers.

Prayer and Praise
You're invited to join us in Prayer and Praise in church on 30 November, 14 December and 11 January, from 6.30-8.00pm. We'll focus on the areas of growth that emerged from GGG in the two services in Advent and, in January, on Alpha. We'll plan these services with a light structure, so that we're open to God in prayer. We expect that these will be important times to discern our next steps. Everyone is welcome.

Little Angels
The Little Angels mums and tots group is meeting an important need among local parents and carers for friendship and a place to take pre-school children. As young mums themselves, Keely, Lauren and Tina are doing a great job in leading the project and they will be giving a presentation to the DCC in January. Gwynneth is going in regularly for storytelling.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Our Barnabas Centre is used by a thriving AA group who offer key support on a twelve-step programme for facing up to the realities of alcohol use and a supportive environment for retaining sobriety. We are pleased to partner with AA in this vital work and we applaud the members of the local group for all that they do.

Mental Health Support Project
This new initiative is in partnership with Voluntary Action Blaby District, whose Mental Health Project offers a variety of social support groups, self help courses and a Befriending Scheme that aim to provide the skills people need to enable them to cope with their difficulties, increase their confidence and self esteem and lead an independent life. The first meeting of this group at the Barnabas Centre was held in November and should run every week for the next five years.

Parkinson's Disease Society
Our welcome to the Parkinson's Disease Society took a new direction when Jill was in conversation with the local organisers. From this chance conversation, we are looking forward to up to twenty church members joining to sing Christmas carols and a Christmas message on Tuesday 2 December at 10.30.

Carers' Project
The Carers' Project of Voluntary Action Oadby and Wigston continues to meet at The Barnabas Centre every month to support people who have a major role in caring for a family member. It may not seem a lot, but a monthly meeting breaks patterns of isolation and offers valuable support and encouragement.

Alpha 2009
Nineteen people who came along to explore the Christian faith at our last Alpha Course. We're starting our next course on 20 January and are hoping for a really good response. Here are some quotes from people who came on Alpha at St Paul's in 2008:
"I enjoyed being part of a diverse and friendly group of people on a Christian course that was informative and challenging. The structure of weekly sessions with input by the leader to the whole group, followed by the excellent DVD’s, and ending with small group sessions worked well. PS: and the supper each week was great also."
"Alpha at St Paul's presented a warm and friendly place that gave me the opportunity to explore the Christian faith and meet people from all backgrounds and points of view."
"It was a life changing experience that not only brought more depth and meaning to my life but also changed my approach to life, which in turn has benefitted the people that I meet in the course of my day."
"I have always had a faith, but I always had questions that needed to be answered. The Alpha course helped me to answer those questions. In fact a lot of the questions that the course itself asked were similar to those that I wanted answering."
Remember, these aren't the words from some slick marketing team. They're the words of people who responded to invitations and came to Alpha at St Paul's in 2008. So who will you invite to Alpha in January 2009? Do look out for the publicity, get involved and pray for Alpha 2009.

Chapel Prayer board
People are increasingly using the chapel prayer board to make requests that will be prayed for at our morning prayer meetings, and also during the 9.45am Thursday Holy Communion. Please spend a few minutes visiting The Chapel and use it for your own private prayer or with others.

Courses from Care for the Family
Anita, Paul, Chris, Sue and Teri recently attended an Engage conference and training by Care for the Family. The excellent material gives clear ways of understanding and responding to community needs. We've recognised the importance of beginning this in a manageable way but already it's exciting to plan for really practical and helpful courses in relation to basic financial management and the issue of drug use. We're taking our time to get this right, so don't expect to see the courses up and running until the latter half of 2009 and into 2010. There will be opportunity for more people to get involved as time goes on.

Renewal leave
Simon's three-month sabbatical begins after Easter. We're hoping that it's going to be a refreshing and a stimulating time for all of us. We're glad to be part of a well-resourced and capable parish with St Peter's, to enjoy excellent ecumenical relationships with Churches Together in Oadby and to be part of one of the most developed Mission Partnerships in the Diocese.

During Grace, Gratitude and Growth, someone looked at all we were exploring and with some surprise they noted, "We're strong!" Let's use our strength to help others, to lend a hand and in our partnership with God in mission to our parish, and to keep St Paul's Engaged.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Directions to St Paul's Church, Oadby

St Paul's offers a really warm welcome to those coming to services, events and activities in the church itself and in the Barnabas Centre. We're not difficult to find, just two turns off the main A6. But if you've never been before, you'll appreciate a map or this set of directions.

Note, at the moment, Ordnance Survey does not mark our church with the customary +. We're trying to get this rectified!

View Larger Map

From the M1 (junction 21)/M69 Junction at Fosse Park

Follow signs to the A563 (Ring Road Leicester South and East). Keep on the A563 for 5 miles (eventually following signs to Oadby and Leicester Racecourse). At the ‘Racecourse Roundabout’, turn right (sign-posted “Oadby and Market Harborough A6”), following directions as above.

From Leicester

Take the A6 towards Market Harborough. Go straight on at the ‘Racecourse Roundabout’ still on the A6 (sign-posted “Oadby and Market Harborough”).

Continue past Asda (left hand side) and keep in left hand lane of the dual carriageway. Pass straight on through the lights at the junction with New Street (signposted Leicester Airport) then immediately turn left on to Uplands Road at the next set of traffic lights.

Follow Uplands Road until it joins Severn Road (The Blues pub on left), turn left, then left again into Hamble Road. Take the first left into the car park, which is off St Paul’s Close.

From Market Harborough

Follow the A6 towards Leicester. On the approach to Oadby, the dual carriageway is downhill. Once the road begins to go uphill again, move to the right hand lane and take the right turn (at lights) onto Uplands Road, then follow directions as above.

Co-ordinates for GPS
You'll find us at 52°36'0.99"N, 1° 3'48.51"W

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Settled... It's "The Chapel"

One of the exciting things that we've been exploring lately is if and how we could open the church building and make it available to the community for personal prayer. In a meeting with Anita and Paul this afternoon we turned to the vexed question of what to call the bit at the front, commonly known as the Sidechapel.

From "Prayer Centre" (too clinical) to "Prayer Room" (too much like an airport) to "Sidechapel" (too much emphasising its location as opposed to its function), we settled on "The Chapel". We simply dismissed "The Oratory" and "The Lady Chapel" as being... well, not us.

Expect news in the coming days about how The Chapel will be offered to the people of our neighbourhood as a place of peace for quiet reflection and personal prayer.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Plans are set for the Alpha Course at St Paul's, Oadby in 2009

We're looking forward to an exciting new Alpha Course, starting on 20 January 2009. Our Alpha leaders team has been assembled, a programme of meetings arranged, publicity and materials ordered. Now we wait...

This year's Alpha was a very special course. Nineteen guests came and were served by a brilliant team of leaders. Here are some quotes from people who came on Alpha at St Paul's this year:
"I enjoyed being part of a diverse and friendly group of people on a Christian course that was informative and challenging. The structure of weekly sessions with input by the leader to the whole group, followed by the excellent DVD’s, and ending with small group sessions worked well. PS: and the supper each week was great also."
"Alpha at St Paul's presented a warm and friendly place that gave me the opportunity to explore the Christian faith and meet people from all backgrounds and points of view."

"I appreciated most the new friendships I made, and also how nice the atmosphere was each evening, right through from the meal to the small group discussions at the end.

"It was a life changing experience that not only brought more depth and meaning to my life but also changed my approach to life, which in turn has benefitted the people that I meet in the course of my day."

"I have always had a faith, but I always had questions that needed to be answered. The Alpha course helped me to answer those questions. In fact a lot of the questions that the course itself asked were similar to those that I wanted answering."
Remember, these aren't the words from some slick marketing team. They're the words of people who responded to invitations and came to Alpha at St Paul's in 2008.

So who will you invite to Alpha in January 2009?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Hooray Day 28 - Wastewatchers 2

The teams to run our next event on 22 November are in place and we have started our training sessions. We're asking the church to pray that 'these five loaves and two fishes' that we are offering to the Lord will be successful in reaching children for the Kingdom. We anticipate that there will be at least 20 'teenagers' helping who also need God in their lives. We're also praying for the adult leaders and helpers that they would cope with the challenges of the day and show the love of Christ in all that they say and do.

For more information or to book a place, contact Derek Bowering on 0116 271 5765.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Oadby Residents' Meeting 3 December 2008

Oadby and Wigston Borough Council have organised another Residents' Meeting. It's on Wednesday 3 December 2008 at Oadby Baptist Church Hall.

The agenda includes:
  • Updates on Free Swims Initiative, Capital Schemes Progress, Gas Pipes Replacement, Waitrose Development.
  • Local Policing
  • Leicestershire County Council Big Budget
  • Green Gym Presentation
  • Eco Town Update
  • Budget Update

More information is available from Alan Wood 0116 257 2682.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Going viral - what can the church learn from Obama?

In a conversation with a friend this morning I wondered what we, the church, can learn from Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Church leaders talk about the difficulty of 'reaching the young' and how tough it is to cross generational barriers with a gospel message and an invitation to belong, believe and minister.

Yet Obama motivated 20 million young voters, many of them from traditionally non-voting segments of society, to register, to queue in lines and to cast a vote for 'change we can believe in'. I have no doubt that the man himself and his visionary manifesto accounts for much of this. But Obama's campaign worked in fascinatingly different ways across the generations.

One US newspaper describes the way his message reached the young like this,
20-year-old student Craig Ewer considered Obama "the YouTube candidate."

"His campaign had a massive infiltration of all the most popular social networks that young people are attuned to these days," said Ewer of Norfolk, Mass.

Young voters said the Obama campaign's skill at using Facebook, e-mail and text messaging made it easy for them to connect. University of Hartford sophomore Darren Duncan, a Pennsylvania native who voted by absentee ballot, received several text messages on Election Day morning, plus a cellphone call from an Obama staffer during his Spanish class.
This viral, socially-networked communication is unlike the 'old' broadcast and print media. Its messages are replicated and shared. It's a form of communication which owes more to the word on the street and the chat over the garden fence than to the studio or editing office. And the method is naturally-selective. Unconvincing and implausible messages peter out and die. Only the catchiest, stickiest, most relevant messages that speak convincingly reproduce.

There's a connection here with our recent exploration of 'grace in context' through the sharing of stories at St Paul's. I've been struck by the way that these thankful celebrations of grace have been repeated. They've been compellingly, lovingly and reverently shared. It's been a little experiment in viral communication. It's also the way that the gospel was first rumoured into the hearts of men and women. The capacity of such gossipped good news to move a church into adventurous mission has been striking - as striking as that which led a new generation to vote.

Older generations are familiar with a local church which aped the power of the media in a different age. The parish magazine imitated the printed newspaper. But now I suspect that few under the age of forty ever read a parish magazine. If we're to be more viral, more social, in our communication, we're going to need to scatter far more tiny seeds and hope some stick and take root. And that's not unbiblical is it?

Latest news on Pennbury eco-town

There has been an increased amount of activity in the potential development of an eco-town for Leicestershire. The bid has been assessed as a grade B possibility, which means that the government considers that there is still work to be done in meeting the objectives. Most of the proposed schemes fall into this category.
And of course the local press have been presenting many of the proposals and opposing arguments.

Rather than entering into the "Should it happen?" debate at this stage, I'm interested to know how the details would be worked in practice. We continue to take an interest in a major local concern, to reflect on the 'what ifs' and to consider how a development like this raises important issues about
what a good place to live could be.

Heating improvements on the way

Okay, it's not the most exciting thing to write a post about but bear with me. When the temperature drops and people get chilly in church it matters. In last week's GGG meeting, one person felt so cold they nipped home for a hot water bottle.

I bring good news. The heating engineer we called in on Thursday has found two problems which, when fixed in the next fortnight, should make St Paul's as toasty as... err, toast.

In the longer term, we know we will have to replace the main heater in church. We've been planning this for a while and retaining some funds each year to allow for this to be done. I hope that we'll be able to do this over the course of a summer rather than facing a crisis when it fails.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

District Church Council Meeting November 2008

Last night's DCC meeting read scripture and prayed, approved a budget for 2009, set rates for hiring our buildings for community use, considered further how we should open the church a little more, explored issues arising from my renewal/study leave, and committed itself to using the Engage courses as a way of serving our community.

A momentous day

This morning America began a new chapter in its national life, as Senator Barack Obama was elected to serve as the 44th President of the United States. For as much as the USA's political system deservedly receives criticism, today we should appreciate that a great contest has concluded in a remarkable way.

President Elect Obama and Senator McCain were generous and gracious in their speeches this morning. Victory and defeat reveal depth and strength of character in both men.

Obama will be tested in office. McCain may slip from our attention. But today's extraordinary speeches will be remembered for the way that both men fought honourably for the causes they believed in. Both deserve our recognition and credit.

Two generations ago, Martin Luther King said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Character is a difficult trait to define. But we know it when we see it, and I think most would agree we've seen it today.

We pray for the presidency of Barack Obama, for the United States and for the world.

Link to Barack Obama's speech in Grant Park, Chicago

Link to John McCain's speech in Arizona

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Remembrance Day in Oadby

This Sunday, 9 November, we'll be observing the two minute silence as part of an act of remembrance during our main ten o'clock service.

On this day we welcome Cubs, Beavers, Rainbows and Brownies and we're sure of a special celebration atmosphere as we rejoice at a baptism too.

But for a few minutes the noise quietens and the church falls still. Quietly and in thankfulness, we wait and remember those who have died in war. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the terrible Great War.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Plans for my renewal leave in 2009

People have been wonderfully encouraging about my sabbatical plans since I shared them more widely last week. I wrote an outline for the congregation to answer some of the obvious questions (and a few not so obvious ones) that people might have. I've edited it a bit for the blog:

Renewal leave 2009
A guide to Simon's sabbatical / study leave

It's a privilege to plan and prepare for a substantial period away from the responsibilities of full-time ministry in 2009. Clergy are recommended to take a sabbatical every so often in order to be renewed and refreshed for the demands of their role and the Diocese of Leicester generously provides for this as part of the normal pattern of clergy development and support. My Ministry Development Review with the Dean of Leicester Cathedral in December 2007 recommended that I should take a sabbatical in 2009.

The idea of a sabbatical has been on my personal agenda since 2007. In the months since I began serious planning, I've been excited about the prospect. I've also noticed how even anticipating the adventure has helped me reflect on what I do in the day-to-day. Just thinking about not being here challenges my desire to be closely involved in everything going on and makes more intentional about empowering others.

I often meet people who are exhausted by the demands of their jobs or pressures at home. I know people who dread their work and I feel rather embarrassed about taking up the generous offer of time away from a role which I love. A pastor who is as exhausted as those he seeks to serve isn't much use. I want to minister more effectively to people who are stretched by competing pressures and will focus on this during my time away.

I've not been entirely satisfied with the usual idea of 'sabbatical', nor 'study leave'. Some authors suggest 'renewal leave', which feels better but is less familiar to people. In this document, I've decided to use all three terms interchangeably!

1. Timing
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; What gain have the workers from their toil?
Ecclesiastes 3.1-2, 6, 7, 9

I plan to take study leave for three months beginning after Easter 2009. That is, from 13 April to 12 July.
This feels like the right season, for several reasons:

I'll have been in post at St Paul's for five and a half years, and for three and a half years as Warden of Readers. Both roles are now very familiar to me. Living 'in the detail' for such a long time leads me to think it's time to stand back, regain perspective and to examine the assumptions that familiarity has created.

The period from Christmas to Easter is very busy at St Paul's. We have an exciting Alpha Course to deliver and it's usually a time of significant growth for us. I wouldn't want to be absent in these months.
The summer is a period when cover for services is harder to arrange, due to holiday commitments.
I plan to be away for about fifty days, returning home when Jon and Phil are taking their exams. Jon will be preparing for university over the summer and this will be an important period of adjustment for us as a family.
Easter marks the beginning of the celebration of resurrection life. Resurrection and sabbath are related as moments of renewal, creativity and freedom. The freedom of resurrection will characterise an adventurous period of discovery for me and, I hope, for St Paul's.

2. What I will do
I'm planning two main components:
  • Walking Home
  • Exploring the Evangelical Spirituality of Activism
Both of these are described in a little more detail below.

Sabbaticals enforce disconnection from the familiar, routine and urgent demands of regular ministry. They work best when they involve doing "something different". It will be hard to not do what I love doing. But I sense that it's important that I break away from some of the compulsions to live and work in certain ways that ministry has led me to adopt.

Walking Home
I shall give around fifty days to a long walk from Paris back to my home in Oadby, Leicester. This may sound bizarre (it still sounds odd to me!) but there are specific reasons for planning this adventure in this particular way.

Walking demands a change of pace. Spending such a long time on the road will force me to experience less rushed, less frantic days. Walking allows time to think, to pause, to simply experience the passing of miles and hours in ways that are more 'human' than driving or being a passenger. I have never really been a walker and it already feels odd not to find the parking space closest to the supermarket door! Living this strange way will be a complete change, give me the space for solitude which I value, and help me to experience a certain powerlessness which I think will be important. I hope to meet people as I go and will enjoy the freedom to discover, explore and encounter.

Walking is physical. This won't be a heroic journey and the daily distances that I have planned are modest compared with the adventures of some people. It's tempting to turn the plans into something more epic but I want sufficient time to linger, to meet people and to pause when I want. There's no denying that walking a significant distance every day will test me physically. I need that! But I also need to find ways of integrating patterns of exercise into my daily routines for the sake of my long-term health and fitness.

Walking offers many parallels with the scriptures. I long to "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God" (Micah 6.8) and sense a personal calling from God to be renewed in humble walking. He wants me to "get out more". Through the bible, and in Christian tradition, the long walk has been a metaphor for the life journey. It's often a journey in which the places of departure and destination are significant - sometimes a pilgrimage from the profane to the holy, from darkness to light, or from slavery to freedom in a promised land. But it's also sometimes less a means of 'getting somewhere' and more an experience in it's own right, exposing the walker to the testing of the wilderness.

I've chosen to Walk Home because I want my destination to be the relationships and responsibilities of family and church. It instinctively feels wrong to walk away from home. Instead of an escape, this is a journey in which the dis-location is resolved by a home-coming and the glad resumption of life again.
I've chosen a route which allows me to meet up with people who have been personally significant in the past. Full-time ministry reduces the time and energy for catching up with friends and I have been too neglectful of precious people. Conveniently, many of those who I want to re-connect with live on a walk-able route from the south coast of England, through to the West Midlands and on to home.

I chose Paris as a starting point because it's where Jennifer and I started our marriage. We honeymooned there and will enjoy a couple of nights together before I set off. Beginning abroad will make sure that I really do leave and that it feels like getting away. It also means that the total distance I walk will be around 500 miles, which is appealingly round as a number!

Fifty days for the walking corresponds to the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost. I'll wait a week or so before setting off, so my fifty days won't parallel this  exactly, but I like the idea of a period which leads towards the Pentecostal promise.

Exploring the Evangelical Spirituality of Activism
During my walk I'll experience a disconnection from the work that I find fulfilling and immensely satisfying. But I've been in ministry for long enough to realise that the pleasure from what I do risks taking me into a 'compulsive doing' which isn't healthy for either me, the ministry I exercise or the people around me. I recognise traits in myself and patterns in my working from which I need liberating.

I am more confident of my evangelicalism than I have been for a long while. I rejoice in an understanding of the gospel that celebrates God's achievement and the dynamism of the life in his Kingdom. But I am also aware of the pitfalls of activism that lead some evangelicals away from grace and towards an imperative of personal achievement, productivity and success.

There have been welcome spiritual responses to our contemporary culture's obsession with these things but these have most often come from catholic tradition. I treasure these insights but I wonder, what of us evangelicals? Do we not have similar resources in our own tradition which we can use, and offer to others, in response to the same issues?

I must be careful not to set an objective for learning which is too demanding - that would defeat the purpose of the time I'm spending. But I have a hunch that during this sabbatical I will learn for myself things which I may be able to helpfully share with others. It would be good if part of the legacy of this renewal leave is a more balanced, more integrated approach to ministry and life in an evangelical context.

While I'm Walking Home, I won't be able to carry a bundle of books. But I do hope to be able to use the experience itself as the raw material for reflection during the journey and afterwards in the study. I hope to write as I go and will have to think carefully about the extent to which I keep in touch.

3. Funding
The main costs for my renewal leave are the accommodation and meals during the fifty days away. I soon decided that reducing costs to a minimum by camping would turn an exciting and demanding adventure into a gruelling slog. So I'm planning to stay at modest bed and breakfast accommodation and am budgeting for £50 a day.

The costs I anticipate look something like this:
Accommodation and meals    2500
Equipment and clothing    400
Books and study tools    400
Total    3100

To pay for this, I anticipate using my own money, subsidised by a grant from the Diocese and from the bursary scheme of Ecclesiastical Insurance. The Diocese also encourages clergy taking renewal leave to seek funding from their church and parish.

4. While I'm away
Sabbaticals can be times of growth for the local church. I realise that too often I lead in ways that interfere with the initiative of other people. This happens most when I feel less secure - ironically, usually when I am most busy and pressured. Being out of the scene will allow others to take on more of the responsibility of leadership and decision-making for which they are very capably gifted. I expect a flourishing of local leadership in the congregation of St Paul's in the coming years and this renewal leave could be an important part of the process.

It will be important to plan carefully so that people are not unnecessarily burdened but it's already clear how some of the tasks and responsibilities can be shared.

5. Returning home
Guidance for clergy preparing for study leave recommends planning effectively for the resumption of ministry. I'll want to ensure that the lessons I've learned won't be lost in a pile of urgent demands. It feels very good to be returning in the summer, when the press of regular meetings is at a minimum.

I'd also like to find a way of repaying the investment in me during this period. This might take the form of some central meetings, or conversations with individuals or both.