Sunday, December 8, 2013

72 hours in Israel/Palestine

So as you might know, I spent the first half of this week in Israel/Palestine. We were only 'in country' for 72 hours (give or take a few minutes) but managed to pack in 10 meetings, 3 discussion sessions and plenty of time in the minibus. I won't give you a blow-by-blow account, but I'll give you some of the highlights.

The trip was part of an ongoing dialogue between the Methodist Church in Britain and the Board of Deputies of British Jews (a representative body of the British Jewish community). The group was made up of four leading people in the Methodist Church, an Orthodox Rabbi, a leading Rabbi in the Reform Jewish Movement, and me, and was led by FODIP and The Centre for New Diplomacy. The idea was that we would experience some of the issues facing people on both sides of the Green Line.
Between Monday evening and Thursday afternoon we met with Diplomats from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, members of the Palestinian Authority, leading Jewish figures, and a number of organisations (both in Israel and the West Bank) working for peace and greater dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians; Jews, Muslims and Christians.

I learnt a lot and took on a lot of different points of views. I realised the complexity of language around identity. I learnt that Modern Hebrew isn't the same as Scriptural Hebrew. I took part in an outdoor celebration for the last day of Hanukkah on the slopes of  Mount Zion. I remembered that I really don't like Arabic Coffee, but drank it anyway (it would be rude to refuse it...)

One of the highlights was getting up at 4.55am to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (I never thought getting up that early would be a highlight for anything!). I had been to the Church before, about 18 months ago, during the day and it was crowded - at 5.30am there were very few people there, and the peace was amazing. To kneel at the actual* foot of the Cross is an extremely humbling experience, as was praying in the Tomb of Christ*. We spent some time in worship, singing and offering prayers in such an holy place.

I was so excited when I saw that a visit to the Tent of Nations was on the itinerary, as it is one of my favourite places on earth. I have talked about it before (here). Returning, hearing the story of the family's perseverance again and hearing some of what has happened in the last 18 months was very emotional; I have to admit I did start to well-up. The positivity of people living in such difficult circumstances is so inspiring, to thrive despite a 22 year legal battle, with not access to the electricity grid or plumbed water; amazing!

But the most valuable part of the trip for me was the chats between the group on the bus, over dinner, in the bar etc. Sharing experiences, thoughts and perspectives really helped me to understand the complexity of the issues in the Holy Land (and I mean understand the extent of the complexity, I don't think anyone actually understands it all fully). So I would like to thank the amazing people I had the honour of spending time with this week. I am so grateful to have been considered to be part of this process.

I'm not sure what the future is, but I ask those of you who pray and/or send out good thoughts to pray/send good thoughts to all those involved in the current negotiations, all those working for peace and justice on (and for) both sides, and especially for all the people living in the region. May the land where Jesus walked feel peace.

* I say these are the actual places. I'm a tad sceptical, but even if they aren't, they are still so highly symbolic that it doesn't really matter to me if they are or not.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Best Laid Plans

Things are in a state of flux for me at the moment. I am about to move back to South Wales, back in with my parents, back to being in a long distance relationship. When I first made that decision, I felt like I had failed. I moved away to uni five years ago. I move back home three years ago with a degree. I moved out again a year later to start a new job, expecting that to be it. Although it was a one year contract, I assumed I would find another job and never move back home.

But I haven't got another job, and I am moving home.

I have failed.

Or have I?

It is a blip that I couldn't have really changed.

I have done quite a bit of events planning (I am in the middle of doing one now), and no matter how good your plans are, there is always the things that don't go how you thought, the things that fall though, the ideas that just don't work. And I find them frustrating, because they ruin how I imagine things, how I want things to be. But I rethink, adapt, reorganise, and things soon fall back into place. And the events have always seemed to have come off without too many people noticing anything was wrong at all. (OK, Tresaith 2010 is the exception that proves the rule.)

And maybe that is what is going on in my life at the moment. My original plan has fallen though, so I need to just take a stock, rethink, and work out where to go from here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I don't want to live in a world where (Poem)

I don't want to live in a world
Where nuclear weapons are valued higher
Than young people out of work.
Or where papers attack a son
By twisting the words of his dad.

I don't want to live in a world,
Where politicians bow down before
Bankers and Newspaper barons,
Or where freedom of speech
Only applies if you agree.

I don't want to live in a world,
Where poverty can be 'deserved'
and 'strivers' pitted against 'skivers'
Or where foodbank use growing
and for some it is heat or eat.

I don't want to live in a world
Where it's always the fault of the 'other'
Be they foreigner, poor or the government before.
Or where the suffering of anyone
Should be none of my concern.

I want to live in a world
Where people are people
Not just numbers and figures.
And where people are at the centre
Not money and power.

This wasn't the blog post I thought I was going to write today... I have one bouncing around in my head that I just can't articulate about my idea of what Church should be. I guess that will come when it is ready. But instead I found myself writing a bit of a protest poem.

Every Greenbelt I rediscover my love for Grace Petrie, a wonderful singer-songwriter with some amazingly passionate songs, and I have been listening to They Shall Not Pass a lot recently (You can listen to it here, but be aware, there is a little bit of ripe language at the start), and the last lines of verse four this poem is taken from the line in They Shall Not Past which really chimes with me.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflections on the last Year

So my year as an OPP is over. It has gone crazily fast, it only seems last week that I was in the interview, and only a few days since I was standing in Methodist Church House for our first training weekend. But now is a time to look back over what I have done.

I've worked for an amazing charity, Methodist Action, alongside so inspirational staff and volunteers who are truly dedicated to supporting those most in need across Lancashire. I've worked at countless drop-in sessions, meeting service-users who have opened my eyes to some of the problems they face. I've chopped a tonne of onions (and discovered that the ability to do so without crying is almost a valuable enough skill to go on my CV). But there have been a number of times where I have had tears in my eyes, and not because of the onions. I've heard stories that has shocked me, seen lovely people in terrible situations that have upset me, and felt terribly guilty about how lucky I have been to come home to a warm, dry house. All this has had quite an effect on me and on my view of Church. I've seen God's love and felt his presence significantly more at the drop in sessions I've worked at than in the Sunday morning services I've sat through (and that will be a post for another day).

One of the hardest things I've done is create a youth group resource pack, looking at spiritual gifts and volunteering. Called 'God Given', it is available free here. I've struggled, sat staring at a blank screen for long stints, scoured Google for ideas, and chatted with a wonderful designer for the publicity. All I can hope now is that people find it useful (and If you know anyone who might find it useful, point them too it and I have about 300 leaflets that I can send out).

Outside of work, I've moved to the other end of the country, become an proud honorary Lancastrian, and noticed that the Welsh twang in my accent has weirdly got stronger... I lived with the love of my life for a few months without us killing each other or arguing too much. I have found a house and (effectively) lived alone, getting to know a new city.

So what next? Well, that is a good question, and one I don't really know the answer too. I have discovered a passion for Christian-based charitable work, and would love to find a job in that sector. I'm looking for a job, hopefully in the charitable sector and hopefully in the Manchester/Oldham region. And I'm sure something will come up. In the meantime, maybe I'll have to move back south, that is a decision I am still working through.

And I also have to come to terms with stopping being a Methodist Yuff! In October I will be 24, and 3Generate 2013 will be (officially) my last. I know that I will continue to be a 'young Methodist', and will continue to support those involved in working with the current young generation.

So, now I'm back in a place of uncertainty, I focus again on that powerful and poetic piece of prayer, the Methodist Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own but Yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
Where ever Your may place me,
In all that I do and in all that I may endure;

When there is work for me and when there is none;
When I am troubled and when I am at peace.
Your will be done when I am valued and when I am disregarded
when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking;
When I have all things and when I have nothing.

I willingly offer all I have and am to serve You
As and where You choose.
Glorious and Blesséd God, Father Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours,
May it be so forever.

Let this Covenant now made of Earth be fulfilled in Heaven.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blesséd Are The Peacemakers - Poem

Blesséd are the peacemakers,
Stepping in between two warring sides
And taking the flak from both.

Blesséd are the peacemakers,
Trying to bridge the gap
And getting stuck in the middle.

Blesséd are the peacemakers,
working so hard for resolution.
Frustrated when the conflict flares.

Blesséd are the peacemakers,
For now a thankless job.
But they will be called the children of God.