Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Wine Tasting

The other day our ever hardworking and lovely social deacons organised a wine tasting in college. Now I know that I risk you thinking, even more than you probably already do, that being an ordinand is not hard work but it is really… well some of the time ;o)

After a short intro on how to taste the wine –thankfully we decided to forgo the spitting! – we began with an 2002 English sparkling brut from a fairly local winery Chilford Hall. Now I am rather a fan of Champagne (and those wines that are Champagne but can’t be called that because of geographical protection rules) but I wasn’t blown away by this, it wasn’t very varied and had rather a chemical after taste. At £15.99 I would have expected more – but as someone said for an English vineyard not a bad effort. We then moved onto a 2006 Chablis by William Fevre. This was rather nice, simple and uncomplicated, probably wouldn’t hold its own at a meal but pleasant enough for drinking at a party, though at £13.75 you would have to be a fairly generous host! We then moved onto to a 2006 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Tarras Vineyards. Folks this was absolutely scrummy and I heartily recommend getting some in. At £12.99 not to cheap but it was rich and fruity with lots of layers of flavour. It was definitely one of the most widely favoured wines of the evening.

We then moved on to some reds starting with a 2005 Bordeaux by Chateau Laussac. This was a lovely light wine, dry and sharp, with a lovely oakey smell. Some found the aftertaste a little sour but I didn’t think it was particularly, At £5.99 quite reasonably priced. Getting a little heavier we moved onto a 2005 Beaune du Chateau 1er Crus by Brouchard Pere & Fils . It was certainly full bodied but I don’t think it lived up to its £17.50 price tag. Somebody described the smell of it as wet ashtrays…. Which I think is a comment worthy of the great Jilly Goulden..

Finally for dessert we had a 5 year old finest full rich Madeira by Henriques & Henriques which was absolutely delicious. I am not normally a fan of fortified wines (the Eucharist aside of course!) but this was lovely warm and rich, reminiscent of Christmas puddings and cinnamon sticks. At £9 well worth adding to the Christmas Shopping list.

It was the first time I had done a formal wine tasting and I was surprised by how much fun it was. I actually learned quite a lot – but sadly on a ministry division grant I doubt I will have much opportunity to use it for purchasing…. But if I did I would definitely use the final tip of the evening which was that 2005 was a good year for European Reds and 2006 has been the best year for European whites for a long time. Apparently if you have the money, space and patience its well worth buying some 2006 Chablis and White Burgundy and tucking them away for a few years.

Happy drinking!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

In all seriousness…

What is most wonderful and holy about being at theological college is the utter seriousness, respect and worshipfulness with which all tasks are done. Even the simple act of preparing a meal is an opportunity to display the quiet and reverential nature needed in all clergy. This is so ably demonstrated by my fellow students here…

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Simeon Centre.

I was privileged to attend the launch of the Simeon centre for prayer and spiritual life on Wednesday. This is an amazing venture; one that I think has the potential to be a rich and valuable resource both for the church and for the wider world. The Centre’s director, Adrian Chatfield, gave a fantastic inaugural address which sets out the aims of the centre and I recommend taking a look at it. The text and audio are online at

Its funny isn’t it how sometimes when something comes along you think why has someone not thought of this before? Prayer is so central to all we are and do as Christians and yet it’s something that is on the whole not well resourced or supported. Like money and politics, prayer is something that rarely gets talked about in polite company. This leads to what I believe is an all to common situation, that we feel totally inadequate in our own prayer lives and at the same time think that everyone else has the most amazingly rich and fruitful prayer life.
This has been really highlighted to me in the last few months. When filling in the application form for vicar training there was a question that said “Describe your pattern of individual and corporate prayer” followed by a nice big box that indicated quite clearly that not only were you supposed to have an established pattern but that it was to be a pretty extensive one! More than any other this was the question that my friends were interested in my answer to, it was as if they hoped I had the magic solution. Similarly when I came to college we had a session on prayer and we were encouraged to share our prayer experiences. Interestingly we all had hang ups and areas where we thought we weren’t doing it well enough. So if you are struggling with prayer please feel encouraged that whatever you feel like there is every chance that others around you feel the same. So please join with us in praying for the Simeon centre, that it may become a real source of hope and encouragement to ordinary people like you and me…

Heavenly Father
we give to you the life and work
of The Simeon Centre.
We pray that, by the guiding
of your Holy Spirit
it may become a channel
of your grace,
stirring up the desire to pray,
encouraging, sustaining
and refreshing
all who come to deepen
their love for you
and to follow your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Prison visiting…

As part of our training we have to complete a Social Context Placement, (SCP for short). The aim of these is to gain experience of chaplaincy work in various secular environments. My college offers a huge range of opportunities for placements in various healthcare settings, bereavement counselling, schools and universities, the armed forces, prisons and even Waitrose (sadly no discount card available with the placement :o( so the choice was tough. In the end I managed to get my choice down to either the armed forces or prison chaplaincy, with prison as my first choice. I assume you can guess from the title which I got assigned to! I am in equal parts excited and terrified but fortunately the time we spend in the prison won’t be until next year so I have time to get used to the idea. In the meantime we will be having a series of seminars on justice issues and a visit to the local courts to see the process that leads up to sentencing. So all in all it should be an amazing learning opportunity.

An unexpected consequence of this placement was having to send my passport for renewal this morning. (Because I need to show the passport I will use to access the prison at a seminar in 2 weeks and my current passport will run out before the placement takes place in case you were wondering…) So I have had to face the trauma of getting the passport photo this morning. Now photo booth photos are dire at the best of times but even more so when you know you are going to have to live with the results for the next 10 years! My usual trick of scanning them my computer and digitally “tidying them up” ie removing the dark circles under the eyes, removing one or two of the chins that sort of the thing! was not an option because of time and so I found one of those booths where you can have 3 attempts at the shot and uttering a short prayer sat down to try and make sense of the new instructions for passport photos. I have now realised why people look like startled rabbits on their passport photos, it’s the combinations of making sure you are the correct height and distance from the camera, don’t have hair over your ears, mouth closed, eyes open, sitting straight etc etc… that means your brain is fully occupied on anything but looking relaxed :O)

Well my first attempt flashed up with a large red warning saying not passport compliant, I had obviously transgressed one of the above rules but who the heck knows which one. The second shot was ok-ish but a bit lopsided and the third, well the less said about that the better – but think lunatic escaped from an asylum and you wouldn’t be far off… So after three attempts you see all the shots and are politely invited to choose one for printing or insert another £4 to try again. I have to say I do love English politeness… in reality the message should say something along the lines of “OK, this is what your face looks like. This is a photo booth not a plastic surgery clinic you are never going to look like Claudia Schiffer, get over it already and pick a photo!”

So hopefully in 2 weeks time I should be in possession of a new passport with a somewhat lopsided picture in it, what joy!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Word fail me….

...they really and truly do…


Its funny how those things you dread often turn out to be actually rather good….

A case in point is coming to live at college. After many years of living on my own, in my own home I was really not looking forwarded to living with a load of strangers, sharing bathrooms, having little private space and no control over even the most fundamental things such as what time to eat meals and yet…

…those strangers are rapidly becoming friends, I realise what a gift it is not to have to worry about preparing food and the shower is amazingly usually free when I want to use it :o) Most of all though I realise that privacy can be found even in the most public places, that it’s a state of mind rather more than a physical location. And you know what, sitting in the common room on Saturday night with several bottles of wine, sharing the agony and the ecstasy of the England game with a motley collection of staff and students, I realised for the first time that there was no where else I would rather be. That’s not to say I don’t miss friends, miss my home and my familiar routines, of course I do, but I am supported and maintained by a loving community who understand that because they are going through it as well.

We talk so often of the grace of God that it can sometime feel like a throwaway remark and yet Saturday night was a powerful reminder to me how much I live in this grace. For so long I was so reluctant to pursue this path, I fought God tooth and nail over it and yet the tenderness with which he has placed me here and maintains me here is breathtaking. There is no sense of recrimination, no sense of “you should have been doing this years ago” rather there is a sense of a door drawn open, a warm welcome awaiting all who venture through the door.

So when I start moaning about wanting access to a decent washing machine, lack of cupboard space in the kitchen or the person upstairs stomping about late at night can someone remind me just how blessed I am to be living here, because I never want to lose sight of that...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

wee mee.....

... which I created because I didn't want to put a real picture on my blog.
I posted it only because it was the only way to get the photo in the profile and was intending to delete this post once that was done, but I rather like my wee mee and so I am going to leave it....

And now I really must stop procrastinating and get on with reading the commentary on Isaiah.... but, hark is that the lunch bell - excellent more displacement activity :o)

Monday, 8 October 2007

Feeling “proper” Cambridge…

… Which has come about because I am the proud new owner of a very clapped out bike! My college were selling off old bikes for charity and I managed to acquire one for the princely sum of £30 which given it has no brakes, a flat tyre and a rusty chain I felt was a bargain! To be fair all this is going to be fixed before I part with my hard earned cash… I had a rather girly moment when I was asked which of the bikes I was interested in and I said the purple one – well I think colour is a perfectly good reason to choose such things on. Sadly the only bike that was low enough for me to get my leg over (insert your own smutty comments here…) was a plain black mountain bike but I have managed to get a girly touch in by purchasing a Minnie mouse bell for it :o) Actually this was the irony of the whole thing. The bike may have been only £30 but the basic accessories such as helmet, chain, bell and lights cost £70. Still at least that means I will have an incentive to ride it if only not to feel I have wasted my money. That and the fact that on Wednesday mornings I have the sum total of 20 minutes to get from an Old Testament Seminar on one side of Cambridge to an Ethics lecture on the other side of Cambridge… maybe they should put that on the recruitment posters…. “Forget the gym, become an ordinand and get that six pack you have always wanted”!

Monday, 1 October 2007


I have to say this is deeply unimpressive. It’s only my third post and I am already lagging behind…

Fridays is one of the days that we meet in fellowship groups for Morning Prayer rather then in chapel. So there we all were sitting down with our common worships ready to begin when one of the staircase stewards announces that we are going to go and pray for all our rooms, in each room, instead of Morning Prayer. Somewhat of a surprise for us newbies I can tell you.

While on the one hand I think this is a lovely idea and it was fantastic to have a group of people praying a blessing on my room and the work I shall do there I have to say the less spiritual/more practical side of me immediately went into panic mode trying to frantically think if there were dirty washing scattered on the floor or if the bed was made. Fortunately I had actually tidied up the night before (a word of prophecy perhaps!) so it wasn’t too embarrassing!

Immediately after that we had the second of our “foundation lectures” which is a series of college lectures to get us into the swing of studying before the academic term starts. We had the most amazing talk on “The dynamics of Grace” which was really inspirational and the one and half hours flew by. What’s so lovely here is that we start the lectures with prayer and end in worship, somewhat different from my last college experience! but so affirming. I am not sure the librarian is so keen however as the main lecture hall is below the library and we apparently can get a little too loud with the singing – oops.

I barely had time to catch breath before I went along to look at a church where I may do my attachment. I had said that I would be interested in being attached to an anglo-catholic church as pretty much all my church experience has been in the evangelical wing of the church and boy did they take me at my word. I went to “low mass” but even this involved processions, server, tinkling bells and lots of bowing. Most disconcerting of all was the fact that the priest has is back to the congregation almost the entire time. I can’t wait for Sunday for the full on “High mass experience” ! I am really exited about being attached to this church because there is so much to learn and I think the priest will be a great person to learn from. He seemed really open and welcoming and not at all phased that a random evangelical ordinand had turned up out of the blue :O)

Now where did I put that thurible