Monday, 24 October 2011

another funeral

In this part of Wales, one is either 'church' or 'chapel', and therefore anyone who would call themselves 'chapel' would have their funeral service at the local Chapel. Today we have buried a man who had been prominent in the village and although I know one of his daughters I had never met him. We were warned in advance that the funeral directors had printed three hundred orders of service and that the Chapel would be full with the family alone! Fortunately we have a Sunday School room and a converted stable - originally used when the preacher would arrive on horseback! When I arrived an hour before the start of the service those two rooms were starting to fill up and were full when there was still half an hour to go. 
By the time I greeted the family at the gates there were about a hundred people standing in the graveyard!  It is on occasions like this that the switch is thrown onto the outside speakers and the service can be heard even outside the Chapel grounds! Fortunately the promised rain held off and even though it is quite mild for the time of year I still wore an extra jumper underneath my black blouse and yes - a dog collar! With so few of today's visitors coming to Chapel each Sunday I feel it helps them to know which one is the minister!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

food glorious food

In response to the World blogging Action Day with the theme this year of food, I sit down to write with a full stomach! And realise that I am fortunate!
I am not a vegetarian but some years after a buddhist stayed with us for ten days, I found it very difficult to handle raw meat once more. I soon overcame the feeling and we do still eat meat but have just as many vegetarian meals as those containing meat.
However, when buying food, what is uppermost in my mind is that it is organic. We were advised many years ago to avoid all 'E' numbers and go as organic as possible for health reasons. At that time it was quite difficult to buy organic food - it depended if there happened to be a wholefood shop where you lived but over the years more supermarkets have an organic range. But I still have yet to find a local supplier of organic goat's cheese which is suitable for someone with an allergy to cow's milk.
And I like to buy 'fair-trade' food but only a few produce organic fairly traded products so big thanks to Clipper for our tea and coffee and Green & Blacks for our treat of chocolate!
Please don't think we are super rich to be able to buy organic - we have always done this on a modest pension because I don't buy prepared meals, we don't snack between meals or visit the local pub and only go out for a meal if it is a special occasion.
When ever I hear of people who find that they have some form of chronic disease I try to encourage them to go organic - how can the body recover if it is having to cope with man-made chemicals that we eat with our food?
Over the last couple of years I have been visiting the doctors in the hope of finding something that would reduce my benign tremor - I often have difficulty in getting my food to my mouth before my hand shakes and the food flies off my fork! She told me that she was seeing many more patients with  a tremor and when I suggested that it was caused by the various chemicals we have all eaten since the second world war, she agreed. 
Ten years ago, John Humphrys of the Today programme wrote 'The Great Food Gamble' - it still makes very scary reading but it might well explain why there are more people with Alzheimer's, M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), tremors and other strange unexplained problems with health.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

I've been published!

This post is much longer than usual - in fact it's huge! It is a piece I have written for the Baptist Ministers' Journal.

Personality and Spirituality: What are you? 
When looking through the annual magazine of the National Retreat Group, one can find many courses on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram held by Retreat Houses. Having undertaken one, friends are likely to ask; “What are you?”.
I will give a brief description on both the MBTI and the Enneagram but for further explanation of the different personality types a list of further reading is given.
In recent times spirituality has been typically expressed in different ways. Philip Sheldrake  describes spirituality as “the human response to God that is both personal and ecclesial. In short, ‘life in the Spirit’”. While Roy Kearsley stresses “that repentance is a moral act involving the turning of the whole person in spirit, mind and will to consent, and subjection, to the will of God”. 
I prefer to think of spirituality as our relationship with God as opposed to our knowledge of God which is theology. As with any relationship there is change and growth in becoming more Christlike and this is found in each of the descriptions.
The MBTI was based on Jung’s work by Katherine Briggs (born in 1875 in the USA) and developed by her daughter Isabel Myers who was disturbed at the number of people who were asked to undertake tasks for which they seemed to have no aptitude during the second world war. However, it was difficult for an unqualified woman to break into the psychological establishment in America and it was not until 1975 that the Consulting Psychologists Press took over the publication of the Indicator. From that moment it took off and has now become the most widely used psychological instrument in the world.
The MBTI is made up of two pairs of attitudes and two pairs of functions. 
Attitude - Extrovert  & Introvert
Function - Sensing  & iNtuitive

Function - Thinking  & Feeling
Attitude - Judging  & Perceiving
Each of us uses both, but prefers one of each pair, and it is these preferences which make up our type which consists of four letters; E or I, S or N, T or F, J or P.
Many people can work out their type from the descriptions of the attitudes and functions, but to obtain a more accurate typing and to discover how much of a preference one has, it is very useful to go on a Myers-Briggs workshop. Once booked for a workshop, a questionnaire is received, consisting of 150 questions devised by Myers-Briggs. The form is returned and a qualified evaluator plots the result on a scale of preference from nought to seventy. These results are only for the person concerned and cannot be compared with other peoples results because the score is the difference in preference only and does not measure abilities or development.
By studying the MBTI we can see how different people prefer to get their energy, take in information, analyse that information and also prefer either acquiring or sorting that information. This not only affects the way we live our lives at home and at work but also involves our spiritual lives, influencing the way we prefer to pray, how we like our church services and all aspects of church life. By acknowledging our type, we begin to understand why we may sometimes find some forms of spiritual activity lacking in meaning, fulfillment or satisfaction, and rather than feeling guilty or thinking that there is something wrong with us, we may wish to explore other ways of prayer and worship.
The MBTI can help to explain why some people prefer to worship where they are open to their senses being stimulated, as within Roman Catholic churches, while others enjoy strong biblical preaching to get them thinking and yet others prefer a charismatic service. It could also explain why prayer meetings are often attended by only a small proportion of a church and why some folk get benefit from going on retreat, whereas for others it seems to be a boring waste of time!
In a recent television program on Silence, we could see that for some, being quiet and on one’s own suited them, while for others it took several days before they could adjust to that way of life, but having discovered it, they found it quite profound, showing that prayer and silence is needed by us all but far more difficult for some to achieve.
Different personality types will prefer to pray in different ways, be attracted to different Gospels and like to sing different hymns and songs.
Morton Kelsey in Companions on the Inner Way admitted that “it is often difficult for us to see how those of a totally opposite type from ourselves can be Christian!”
This statement has been of the greatest help to me as I have also realised that not only those who I have found difficult, but especially those who I know have found me difficult, are of a different type to myself!
As well as each individual having a personality type, churches will also have a distinctive personality type and it may be very different to that of their minister!
And so we have to be very careful within our churches to understand the church’s personality if we wish to introduce change. We often say that people do not like change but it could be that a church is suited to the present form of worship. Introducing a more informal form of worship will not suit those who prefer order, whereas some changes will help others to grow in their spiritual lives.
Although we are aware that we grow and develop physically from babyhood, through teenage years into adulthood, middle years and old age, we often do not realise that our personalities go through a similar maturing process. 
It is believed that the four letters in our MBTI type never alter, but in mid-life we can start to discover and use aspects of our shadow type. I am an INFP and my shadow type is ESTJ. Undertaking academic study in my forties forced me to use my T function and J attitude.
By using our shadow type, the differences in our preference becomes smaller and as a result we become more balanced and whole people.
However, one of the problems of exploring the MBTI is that once we have found our type we can tend to use it as an excuse for the way we behave and the way we prefer to worship.
While the MBTI concentrates on our preferred way of behaviour, the Enneagram looks to our way of coping with life which in turn influences the way we act.
There is mystery and secrecy surrounding the Enneagram and its history. 
It is thought to have originated in Afghanistan nearly 2000 years ago, with links into early Christianity in Persia and then into Moslem Sufi circles in central Asia and India. Until the last century it remained an oral tradition, with the Sufi master only imparting that aspect of the Enneagram relevant to their student’s personality.
It was introduced into the United States in the early 1970s by Oschar Ichazo, who studied the system in Chile, and from there the Enneagram was passed on through lectures. 
Around the same time it was also taken up by G.I. Gurdjieff,  who was an early pioneer in adapting Eastern spiritual teachings for use by modern Westerners.  Gurdjieff worked with the teachings and developed the basic diagram of nine points in a circle, naming it the Enneagram, meaning nine points. Although the teachings were passed on to others, including religious orders, especially the Jesuits, part of the instruction was to keep the method a secret. However, by the 1980s this part of the instruction seems to have been dropped as many courses have been held and books published.
The Enneagram identifies nine personality types and their inter-relationships; the basic idea being that very early on in our life we slowly realise that we are unloved, which leads to some form of compulsion. It is the way in which this happens that affects us to such an extent that our Enneagram type is formed. Each type is known by its number but in some books each of the nine types is named after the compulsion. However, because many of us find it difficult to acknowledge our compulsions, which can be thought to be rather negative, other authors use the gift of each type to give a more positive description.
The nine types are:
One: The Perfectionist or The Reformer
Two: The Giver or The Helper
Three: The Performer or The Achiever
Four: The Tragic Romantic or The Individualist
Five: The Observer or The Investigator
Six: The Devil’s Advocate or The Loyalist
Seven: The Epicure or The Enthusiast
Eight: The Boss or The Challenger
Nine: The Mediator or The Peacemaker
The Enneagram was originally developed as a spiritual tool to be used by the Sufi master, to enable them to help their directee to grow spiritually but the way it is now presented in books and short courses does not generally encourage people to grow but is usually just for the interest of the student. 
The Sufi master would slowly discover the personality of their student through the answers given by the student to his questions. There was no one set of questions for everyone, the next question asked would depend on the previous answer. It was a time consuming occupation and although we now have books to study, it can still take a long time to discover one’s type and many have found that although they thought they were one number, further study has revealed that their first decision was wrong. This could be due to the fact that within the Enneagram we can have elements of a neighbouring type and move from one type to another depending on whether we are feeling secure or are under stress. A fellow student appreciated this attribute by describing it as the Enneagram’s “fuzzy edges”. 
However, serious and lengthy study of the Enneagram can show us our compulsions and those things which hinder us from becoming the person God created. 
At one course I attended, the tutor had made a three dimensional illustration of the nine pointed diagram, looking like a nine sided pyramid or teepee, with each of the nine sticks reaching from the nine points on the base meeting at the top. As we each mature, we travel up from the point of our type and at the same time become closer to the other types. This helps to explain why for some people it is difficult to know their type, realising that they can see aspects of themselves in each of the nine types.
Whereas within the MBTI we grow and develop by using our under developed shadow side, within the Enneagram, spirituality and development are intertwined. It has to be noted that there are some who have tried to link the two methods of typing which can be found on the internet. 
However, we have to remember that both of these personality typings were designed to be used by others as a shorthand method of getting to know the personality of another. But in recent years has become a tool for each individual to discover and learn more about themselves.
By accepting who we are, acknowledging our faults and the type of person we are and knowing that God still loves us despite all our failings we can grow and become the person God created.
But at the same time the personality typings can be used in superficial ways for ourselves or to second guess the personality of others, including biblical characters.
There are books on both the MBTI and the Enneagram which explore the issue of Jesus’ personality type and the conclusions have been that he is a perfect balance of all the personality types. Part of Jesus’ divinity is that he was the perfect human being and in our spiritual development we can be described as human becomings.
One of Susan Howatch’s characters explains that “by putting yourself under the microscope in this way, you’ve learned something you didn’t know before - and that’s definitely a step forward on the spiritual journey where our first task is to know ourselves as well as we can in order to grasp what we can become.”
And that is how we should use these personality typings; as a tool to enable us to go further forward in our walk with God.
But both the MBTI and the Enneagram are only tools, “something useful up to a certain point.” We cannot rely on man-made tools to guide us on our spiritual journey but must keep our eyes on Jesus, our one true counsellor, be aware of the love of God and be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 
Further Reading
Bruce Duncan, Pray your Way (London: DLT, 1993, reprint 1998)
Peter Malone, The Same as Christ Jesus: Gospel and Type (London:St.Paul’s, 2000)
W. Harold Grant, Magdala Thompson & Thomas E. Clarke, From Image to Likeness
(New York: Paulist Press, 1983)
Malcolm Goldsmith, Knowing Me Knowing God (London: Triangle/SPCK, 1994)
Lynne M. Baab, Personality Type in Congregations (Washington: Alban Institute,1998)
Maria Beesing, Robert J. Nogosek & Patrick H. O’Leary, The Enneagram 
(New Jersey: Dimension,1984)
Barbara Metz & John Burchill, The Enneagram and Prayer (New Jersey: Dimension,1987)
Peter Malone, The Same as Christ Jesus: Gospel and Type (London:St.Paul’s, 2000)
Suzanne Zuercher, Enneagram Spirituality (Indiana: Ave Maria,1992)
MBTI and the Enneagram

Sunday, 9 October 2011

these are a few of my favourite things

Having returned back to Wales, this afternoon I drove up one of the valleys to a very small rural Baptist chapel, only to find that another preacher arrived to take the service. I said "not to worry" and I am now home with my feet up, which will do me the world of good after my busy three days and it does give me the opportunity to reflect on Friday's course at CCDM (see previous post).
This was an introduction to personal and professional development and included several questionnaires for us to fill in at our leisure, one of which is to think about our favourite things. Apparently our favourite things are not just chosen at random but are far more likely to become a favourite because it is connected to something or someone that made an impression on us.
So my favourite colour is sky-blue-pink! As a young girl I asked my Dad his favourite and this was his reply which really annoyed me as I didn't think it was a proper colour. But it is the colour of beautiful evening skies and is most probably why my very few pieces of jewellery contain opals, which catch the light with pink and blue.
At first I could not think of a favourite food, but when I was younger I was allowed to choose what the family had for dinner on my birthday, and it was always cod curry and I still can't quite achieve making it like my Mum did!
Favourite music is the Beach Boys back from the days when one was either a fan of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones; I didn't like following the crowd!
My favourite person is/was the boy who lived up the road and accepted me as an equal.
And my favourite person from history is Catherine Bramwell Booth who was the granddaughter of William Booth who started the Salvation Army. She would appear on chat shows back in the 1970's and 80's and was well into her nineties, dressed in her uniform and had a wonderfully sharp mind - I want to be like her when I grow up! 

Friday, 7 October 2011

here we are again

I'm back at college. As I lived relatively nearby when I studied here full-time (wow, was it 19 years ago! how time flies) I never had a room at college; only a desk in the living room with the rest of the family going in and out - so I find it quite a luxury here, although many would find it very basic!
When I come to London I try to make the most of it and see as many friends and family as possible. So yesterday I went to Ealing where the daughter of my bridesmaid from 42 years ago lives - and my friend had come down from Leicester to look after said daughter who has had a knee op. Although we were not able to go out we were still ladies who lunch! 
Then it was a drive to Croydon to meet up with my daughter and son-in-law for dinner.
Today is the first of this year's 'Centre for Continuing Development in Ministry' (CCDM) and as it is the last year in this particular form, far more people are coming, swelling our numbers from 15 up to 30.
This afternoon I will be driving down to Brighton to see my younger son Paul, his wife and the grandboys and then tomorrow its a drive half way round the M25 to see my other son Mark, his wife and very new baby Oliver.
Then its back to Wales in the afternoon, and fortunately I'm not preaching on Sunday so I can have a good rest!

Sunday, 2 October 2011


This morning was the first of a series on Acts, where the disciples see it as very important to choose another to replace Judas. My, he had a gory end; the more wicked the deed the more gory the end!
I was explaining to the congregation, which was thin on the ground this morning, that numbers were very important in biblical days. There needed to be 12 disciples as Jesus had prophesied that they would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. Eleven wouldn't do - there had to be twelve.
Whereas, we don't worry over numbers, except wanting more people to come to chapel - we would be quite happy with eleven in a group.
Then something made me do a quick headcount of those of us in chapel - Eleven!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

my kind of sport

Many of my facebook friends are enjoying the rugby world cup but I have never enjoyed sport. I loved gym at school so I think it must be the competitive aspect of sport that I dislike - well that along with the fact that I was always one of the last picked to be in a team and then I would get wheezy with all the running about! Funny how I rarely got wheezy when I was dancing!
When I stopped ballet lessons as it didn't look as if it was going to be a good idea to take it up as a career, I went to ballroom classes. Same teacher but the added fun of boys! And a couple of years later I would go with friends to the Frank and Peggy Spencer ballroom in Penge on a Saturday evening to dance, not just to watch!
So as you can imagine I am a great fan of 'Strictly Come Dancing' and have great admiration for the celebrities who take part, especially those who are a similar age to myself. And for those of you who are inquisitive, I'm older than Lulu but not as old as Edwina!