#TBT: “You want me to do what?” What it’s like being a lay preacher

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Instead of wearing a cross – bit Buffy for me – I have this beautiful bracelet which my godfather gave me for my confirmation

Nostalgia week – commence! After four and a half years at The Times, it’s my last day next Thursday. Of the many opportunities I’ve had here to write about something I feel really strongly about, my 2010 series about being a feminist, LGBT-supporting person getting confirmed was one of my favourites. I know, sexy subject, right? Nothing says “This won’t alienate people at all!” like talking earnestly about faith, religion and small sacred biscuits that are actually really difficult to swallow. Continue reading

Weekend Reading: Blankets and Please God, Find Me A Husband!

A stack of library books

Goodies from the library

In preparation for doing a juice fast (more on that story later: spoiler! It’s like having your own butler bring you feelings of smugness and health) I went to the library and carted a stack of books home.

One of the best things about our new office is that it’s just up the road from John Harvard Library, which has a varied graphic novels selection. I’d gone in hoping that the entirety of Fables would be patiently waiting for me, but luckily they weren’t. I got a bunch of new stuff: 100 Months, which I’d seen at the British Library’s Comics Unmasked exhibition; Blue is the Warmest Colour (because so far I’ve entirely failed to watch it on Netflix); some Alison Bechdel (never read her books, only panels accompanying Bechdel Test posts); Blankets by Craig Thompson which rang a bell for some reason, and Please God, Find Me A Husband! by Simone Lia which had lovely illustrations and opened in Leicester Square. Continue reading

Trying to find a witty but appropriate headline for a blog about a homeless shelter, failing

It’s a cliché that you must learn something valuable from volunteering. As though, rather than something you do to help or to fill your spare time, it’s Lucy’s cordial, healing you and making you feel all warm inside.

Sometimes this is true. Sometimes it isn’t, and you just spend a few hours wringing your hands and feeling utterly useless.

When I walked into my church’s community centre last Friday, I felt useless. I was spending the evening as a host at our night shelter for the homeless (part of London’s Robes project, a church-run winter night shelter which operates from November to March). Just one evening, but as I’d learned from the bad weeks on the hospital ward, there’s nothing worse than standing around. Continue reading

Confirmation Diary Week 5: Holy Communion and belonging

I’ve been to church twice in the last month. As someone who has spent the last 10 years sneaking in an out of churches like a spy, this is huge. Not just because in Britain you only have to go to church once a month to be considered a regular churchgoers, but because I really enjoyed it and it wasn’t even Christmas.

Coming from a line of fairly humble churchgoers  (my mother always insists we sit in the back row in case our family’s giant height obscures everyone’s view), I find this church hilariously high in comparison. My parents’ parish has a grand tradition of awful organists and discretion. In my new church, all the bells and whistles of faith are shown off in an elaborate choreography of joy and pride. Continue reading

Confirmation Week 3: The Holy Spirit

My post this morning: Keith Richards’ autobiography, and my new NSRV. I cackled at this combination for quite some time.

Reading the Bible is like doing a magic eye picture. You have to look more than once, at the same time: once at what’s plain in front of you, then squinting a bit so you’re also looking for the hidden picture. Except, in the Bible, you’ve also got to look a third time and think about how to interpret that picture, then find another, different Bible or three and compare it to see how it’s been translated. Then, it’s a question of what you accept as fact, and what you interpret yourself. Continue reading

Confirmation Diary Week 2: Jesus, problematic fig trees and going Bible hunting

After a boozy party chez parents to bid farewell to my emigrating brother, I come back to London with two Bibles to complement each of my hangovers. First up, we have my mother’s: a slim, navy blue volume that she used for bible study classes in the ’80s, then we have my enormous childhood brick of 365 illustrated stories.

Now, I really love that book, but at 27 it doesn’t seem wholly appropriate that my primary source of bible info should be a tome where everything’s lovingly rendered in watercolours. I need to read the Bible. Properly. I’ve spent the last few weeks using the internet to research points, but as most of what I look at is analytical, that raises more questions than it answers. This is emphasised when I read Cracked.com’s Five Things You Won’t Believe Aren’t In The Bible which shows that at least three of the things I thought I knew actually stem from culture and/or Hallmark cards.  Continue reading

Confirmation Diary Week 1: How much of the Bible do you actually have to like?

I’ve got a horrendous attack of the new-schools as I get off the train and head to my first class. I haven’t returned to the area since Ben’s memorial service 18 months ago, and as I walk into the church hall I feel shy and incredibly awkward. Am I religious enough? Is it allowed that I think a lot of the Bible is bunk? Is my outfit even vaguely appropriate? Are my reasons for doing this as valid as everyone else’s?  Will they let me join in, or will I get that teenage feeling of being “unsuitable” again. Argh. Continue reading

Confirmation Diary: Why I’m getting confirmed

Earlier this year, after two years of dithering and 17 years after I decided I wouldn’t bother at all, I decided to get confirmed.

There was no Damascene conversion, no flash of light, no gravelly disembodied voice from above. I was bought up in a C of E family that goes to Church on Sundays. But at 10, I looked around at the congregation and decided with the black-and-white morality of the very young, that everyone there was a Sunday-only hypocrite and I didn’t want to get confirmed just because it was the done thing. Continue reading

Ignore the Bishop of Chester: at funerals, we should celebrate life however it was lived

I think we’re all agreed that funerals are not fun. But tell that to the Bishop of Chester: apparently we’re enjoying ourselves too much – all those ‘hallelujahs’ from across the pond have been having a negative aspect on our solemnity.

The Rt Rev Peter Forster, has written in his diocese newsletter how he “regrets” the current social trend for memorials that don’t involve a coffin, for private funerals or cremations followed by memorial services: “especially when it invades the Church”. Really? Of all things to invade churches (junkies, tourists, the other week’s Doctor Who), people tearfully blaring out ‘My Way’ at a separate service after the family have said their goodbyes in private seems fairly low on the scale of concerns. Continue reading