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Lady Preacher

In less than a month I begin maternity leave and hit the pause button on my (paid) ministry career. I am expecting lots of things to be different, so I am taking some time to thank God for what this last season has looked like.

I’m especially thankful that I have been given so many opportunities to teach people from the bible, especially as a preacher. There is a broad spectrum of evangelical opinions on women teaching, but I’m thankful that so far, my story of training as a teacher has been filled with very supportive people – even among the institutions and personalities that I least expected, and even among people who may disagree with what I do.

So, a month and bit out from having a kid, with no more scheduled sermons or SRE classes to give, hardly any kids church lessons left to run and only a handful of bible studies left to lead, here is a collection of thoughts on what it has been like to train as a lady preacher.

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Just breathe for a second

There have been lots of highs and lows. Lots of intensity and exhaustion, just few moments to stop and rest.

Here are some of the fleeting moments so far in 2017, when there was peace and I took a photo. I am both excited and anxious about my prospects for peace in the immediate future.


Bushwalking and sketching at Mokoroa Falls.


Friday mornings at Cafe Ella.


That 40 degree day when we jumped in the car, drove to Wombara and spent the whole day on the beach.


Taking time out to read Ali Smith.


Discovering Quarrantine Reserve – just up the road from our home.


Chasing the sunrise on Easter Monday.

Return to suburbia

This afternoon I ran errands around our church building. As I walked across the property towards the main street I heard an excited voice shouting out my name: ‘HEY ALISON!’ A couple of 12 year old boys tumbled out the tree in the front of the church, laughing, then a dozen more started running around up and down the street playing tips, suddenly ignoring me again, wrapped up in their own game.

I got to witness a moment of suburban perfection – young boys, not quite men, still entertained with the place they’ve grown up in, owning the streets and the public places, not anxious or afraid to run around in the open, genuinely enjoying childhood games that they’ll grow out of in about 18 months.

And I only got to witness it because of the perfect timing of three things:

  1. A year ago I moved back to the suburbs.
  2. I have been volunteering at the local youth drop in where I’ve met all these kids.
  3. Our minister’s oldest son is one of these kids – it’s him and his friends running up and down the street and climbing the church trees.

And December is just around the corner, that sweet time for year 6 kids, when school is ending and everything is parties and Christmas is coming and you are on top of the world. This afternoon I was flooded with waves of nostalgia. I am feeling OK about living in suburbia again.

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Colin Meloy: Wildwood

How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries. In fact, if she were to list her worries right then and there as she sat spellbound on the park bench and watcher her little brother, Mac, carried aloft in the talons of these five black crows, puzzling out just how this feat was being done would likely come in dead last…

And so opens the adventure of Wildwood: the story of Prue and Curtis on an incredible adventure to the Impassable Wilderness. It’s a kind of Narnian story: two kids stumbling into a magical place, where animals talk and take you flying, where things look quaint at first and then you discover there is an evil queen, and there is a battle to end all battles – will good triumph over evil? – and then (no spoilers) the story ends. It was a great read.

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This book was on the Premier’s Reading list for children in years 5-6, so I’m not sure I am the target audience. But I had to read this book because it was written by Colin Meloy, the frontman of the Decemberists, and illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis, who is responsible for all of the Decemberists’ artwork. I love this band. One of the distcint things about them is the way their songs tell epic stories from all times and places. They sing vivid and imaginative songs about star-crossed lovers in fighting gangssoldiers in Iraq,  David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest, guerrilla wars, the arrival of a Spanish princess, the Japanese legend of the Crane Wife. They reached stunning highs with the saga of the Mariner’s Revenge, and then followed that up with The Hazards of Love: an entire album telling a tragic fairy-tale story of two lovers thwarted by an evil queen.

So obvs Colin Meloy has an incredibly vivid imagination, and a creative way with words.

Given the expectations I had, Wildwood did not disappoint. It was like reading a Decemberists‘ song, it was vibrant and exciting and it opened another window into the creative mind of Colin Meloy. And Carson Ellis’ illustrations were simply beautiful. There is no other word for them. They were perfect.

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Wildwood is the first of three novels, but, as much as I enjoyed it, I think I will leave it at this one. I loved to have one of my favourite musicians as the guide for this adventure, but I think one adventure with Colin Meloy is enough. Maybe next time I will read something higher up the Premier’s Reading Challenge list!

 

A season for reading

When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

That’s a quote from the classic film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and it regularly runs through my head.

I watched that film in the cinema with my parents as a 12 year old and I remember that quote. It was shocking! I heard it as ‘children read differently to, more meaningfully than, better than adults’ and I thought ‘No way.’

No way. How could that be? We were taught to read as part of growing up. How could a kid do such a grown up thing, like reading, in a superior way to an adult?

Well, unsurprisingly, Nora Ephron was right in all her screenwriting brilliance. It’s exactly how life has panned out for me. I devoured books as a kid and a teenager, and I can tell you about so many books that have shaped my outlook on life, my identity. And then I finished school, I had to read piles of textbooks and journal articles for uni, and suddenly I stopped reading fiction. I had forgotten how to lose myself in a book! And then when I tried to start reading again, well, it was enjoyable enough, but very few books – especially fiction books – have stayed with me in the same way they did when I was young.

This year I began properly working four days a week. I’ve had extra time up my sleeve for housework, for visiting family and friends, and for reading. It’s my season for reading. And I know that these books will never become a part of my identity in the way that my reading as a child did, but I’d like to try and remember it at least! I’m going to record and review this year’s fiction reading here. Maybe some reflecting will help these books to become more of my identity after all.

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Baptism Class

This is how Baptism Class went down today with my 12 year old pupil Josiah:

“OK, Josiah. John 1:1-18. You can read.”

Before the world began, there was the Word. Wait, what? What does it mean, the Word? Is that God?”

“Keep reading, Josiah.”

“The Word was with God. OK. The Word isn’t God.”

“Keep reading, Josiah.

“The Word was with God, and the Word was God. What??”

“Yep, the Word was with God and the Word was God. Keep reading.”

“He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through him. Wait, through God?”

“Well, through the Word.”

“How can a Word be a him? A word is a not a person.”

“Keep reading, Josiah!”

“Nothing was made without him. Him as in God, right?”

“Him as in the Word.”

“But how can a word be a person?!”

“Keep reading, Josiah!!”

“In him there was life. That life was light for the people of the world. The Light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overpowered the Light.There was a man named John who was sent by God. He came to tell people about the Light. Through him all people could hear about the Light and believe. John was not the Light, but he came to tell people about the Light. The true Light was coming into the world. The true Light gives light to all. The Word was in the word. Wait, in the world.

“You’re doing great.”

“The Word was in the world. The world was made through him, but the world did not know him. He came to the world that was his own. But his own people did not accept him. But some people did accept him. They believed in him. To them he gave the right to become children of God. They did not become his children in the human way. They were not born because of the desire or wish of some man. They were born of God.”

“Good job, keep going.”

“The Word became a man and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father. The Word was full of grace and truth. John told about him. Wait, him? The word is a him?”

“Yes, Josiah, the Word became a man and lived among us. Have you worked out who it is yet?”

“Ummmm…”

“Keep reading.”

“He said, “This is the One I was talking about. I said, ‘The One who comes after me is greater than I am. He was living before me.’” The Word was full of grace and truth. From him we all received more and more blessings. The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Oh!! The Jesus! The Word is Jesus!”

“Yes! Good job. Nearly there, keep reading.”

“No man has ever seen God. But God the only Son is very close to the Father. And the Son has shown us what God is like.”

“Yay!”

“So did God kind of put the Word into Mary’s womb?”

“You can read the beginning of Luke in your own time.”

And that is John 1:1-18 with commentary from a year 6 kid (International Children’s Bible). He asks very good questions!