Monday, February 23, 2009

25 things about me

I got tagged on Facebook by Jon for this. I'm not going to tag anyone else though.

1. I was born completely deaf in my left ear. Same as Rowan Williams.
2. I'm 6'1" tall and 17.5 stone overweight.
3. I have a long ponytail - for the second time in my life - as a result of a Nazirite vow I made with myself. I'm not going to cut it until I've finished my book. As I've been wanting to finish a version of this book for nearly twenty years that may be some time.
4. I'm currently in therapy trying to work out why I haven't done the book.
5. I've lived on or near the River Blackwater for most of my life, including six very happy years on houseboats. I've also lived in Oxford, Cambridge, Alnwick and lots of places in London, especially Stepney.
6. I have an IQ of 174 (the 99.8th percentile according to Mensa) and a First Class degree in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford University, but the academic achievement I'm most proud of is getting a scholarship grade in my English Literature STEP, which I took at the same time as A Levels.
7. I was rejected by Oxford the first time I applied - I had applied to read PPE; they told me I should have applied to read English. I took a year out and applied after taking my A Levels - definitely one of my best decisions.
8. The worst mark I ever received in an academic exam was for the Wittgenstein paper in my Masters; I feel aggrieved about the injustice of this even now. (Despite protests from my tutor there was a resolute (and not incomprehensible) refusal to re-mark. I now understand how and why it happened, and it's a long story.)
9. I spent four years working for what was then the Department of the Environment as a Fast Streamer. This provided some royal jelly in terms of management training, which has held me in good stead, but I left because I was bored and didn't want to drive a desk any more.
10. I spent the academic year 1996/97 working as a caretaker in a primary school. During that time I appeared on Blue Peter.
11. I dropped out of a PhD at Cambridge after two terms for a complex mixture of reasons, academic and spiritual. I'm sure it was the right decision, but there's a lot of unfinished business there. (Unfinished business is a bit of a theme in my life.)
12. I failed my ordination training through not completing the academic syllabus. I was ordained anyway because I 'met Bishop's requirements' - principally through having done a theology degree already. I only completed the MA after getting ordained (which is one example of finished business.)
13. I presided and preached at my father's funeral. I think it was the most constructive outlet for my anger, and it crystallised a core part of my vocation.
14. I took a year out from parish ministry in 2002/03 to recover from several things, principally exhaustion. I came very close to starting a PhD at Durham but after a lot of prayer and reflection decided to come back into parish ministry. The right decision.
15. I like to wear colourful shirts.
16. I proposed to my wife seven days after we started going out. That was about 11 years ago now. That was a very good decision, possibly my best ever.
17. I enjoy singing but can't stand the sound of my own voice. That applies to my speaking voice as well.
18. I am prone to visions, premonitions and religious experiences. I'm trying not to bury these things so much these days, which is difficult because I tend to see references to religious experience as theologically dubious.
19. I've recently started using a motorbike. I only passed my (car) driving test in 2003, on the same day as I was appointed to the Mersea job.
20. I think I have some gifting for spiritual direction, although I've never been formally trained for it. This seems to have been recognised by others, and people are (informally) being referred to me. I am suspicious of the formal recognition process as I see direction as being a core part of the priestly vocation, it is precisely the 'cure of souls'.
21. I'm going on sabbatical this autumn. As well as trying to finish the book (see above) I want to do a lot more sailing. Sailing is one of the most profoundly refreshing things I know.
22. I don't believe that the Church of England knows what it is doing. I think it is propped up by establishment and maintained by inertia. There are days when all I want to do is kick away all the supports and set fire to it. Then there are the other days, when I think it is massively under-rated and under-appreciated. I try to remember the latter on the days when I am prone to the former. It might be a grace that the Church doesn't know what it is doing as it allows God some room in the process (!) but that being true doesn't mean the church couldn't do better.
23. There are three things in ministry which I value above all else: presiding at the Eucharist; teaching the faith; and intimate spiritual conversation.
24. I don't believe there is such a thing as mental illness. I believe there are two things which are presently described as mental illness: physical illness which has mental effects, and spiritual problems.
25. Throughout my teenage years and early twenties I expected to go into a career in politics. I still occasionally feel the pang of temptation, but I am very glad that God prohibited that path for me.

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