I see ministers, elders, church committee members operating at the same hectic pace as everyone else… Hybels Too Busy Not To Pray

Yesterday I met up with my peer cell group (a group of four ministers who did a leadership course together in 2008). We met in Birmingham and drove out to the beautiful Lickey Hills.


We used a simple catch up format from Paul Williams’ Riverside Course: general chat, and then each person had 5/10 minutes to explain a current dilemma/issue they were working through. The others then could ask a few clarification questions to make sure they understand the issue, and then they carry on for 10 minutes simply asking questions that might help the original person think through the issue from a different angle.

Then after lunch we each had some processing time on the hills on our own. I sat on a bench and just encountered nature. The winds whistling through the trees, the panorama in one direction that movingly reminded one of my companions of the view over John the Baptists’ home village (with David and Goliath’s battle ground just over the other side of the hill), the soft, recently wet ground under my feet, and the sun on my face. I had slowed down to be with myself. I had slowed down to be with God.

The day then repeated itself as we presented another issue each and retired to the Bullring for coffee and train departures. Each of us in the peer cell are in a different context – the vicar in the well resourced West London parish, the curate in a pioneer training role holding diverse groups together and dreaming of theatre shaped church, the vicar with two churches in a northern diocese that he has served since ordination 11 years ago, the pioneer minister who has been acting team rector in a challenging urban parish and who’s main ministry orientates around Sundays in cafe and a market stall outreach. For me it is such a wholesome leveller to hear and reflect on the diversity, mission and challenges experienced in this little snapshot of the diversity of roles and opportunities in the Church of England.

On the way back I drove out to visit one of my mentors, a vicar in plush Dorridge (yes, really Birmingham has nice bits London folk!) But as I drove the SatNav and I think the Spirit steered me through Spark Hill. It’s Ramadan and the traffic slowed to a near halt as cars sought parking spaces to access the overspilling road-side supermarkets. It was time to prepare the break-fast meal, and a swarm of fasting humanity was communing together on the streets of Britain’s second city. I found myself praying utterly naturally in a Brummy/Black Country tongue (that is English with a yam-yam feel). It was moving to pray with and for these fasting close cousins who are dedicating themselves to ‘seek God while he may be found’.

Then I was with my mentor for a precious final hour. There was something of the John Collins about him, and I wasn’t surprised to find that not only had he been a regular visitor to Camford Magma when John was vicar and wonderful charismatic things were happening (perhaps unique at the time), but also that his sending vicar had been one of John’s curates at St Mark’s Gillingham – David MacInnes – then vicar at St Aldates.

It’s good to be with God and it’s good to be with some of his friends…

It’s good I don’t need to drive to Birmingham every time I want to slow down to be with him too… the wind even whistles through the trees in Chiswick.