Clergy Corner

A Life in the Day of…

RUTH CROSLAND

Hello and welcome to ‘Life in a Day of…’ Ruth Crosland. I have been licensed as a Lay Minister since 2007. Much to my continued surprise and frequent joy my previous incumbent suggested I offer myself for selection – and guess what, the panel agreed!

I currently live in West Christchurch, not far from Bournemouth Airport, having moved here about three and a half years ago. Before that I actually lived in the parish of a church where I had worship for over 40 years. I share a home with Helen Griffiss. We have been friends since 2006, when I did my reader placement with her and the congregation of All Saints Church in Mudeford. When Helen retired from being the vicar of Mudeford, we decided to pool our resources and bought our current home. It is in need of quite a lot of updating and modernisation. We have a five-year plan and despite Covid and some setbacks due to drain issues (nothing more to be said about that) we are pretty much on track! Home is a lovely space for offering hospitality to others, something which we both enjoy, although sadly that has not been possible this year.

Also at home there is my little terrier cross-breed dog, Mollie, and Helen’s cat, Magnificat, usually known as ‘Maggie’. Mollie is sadly not a good role model for dogs, having a few issues caused by her one and only owner! She can often be quite judgmental and is often not accepting of others – somewhat embarrassing as I am an ex-social worker. Having a dog has been for me a real pleasure over many years. My first dog, Kim, reached 15 and my second dog, Lucy, was also 15. At the tender age of nine and a half, I’m hoping that Mollie will make the grade.

Our day often starts with a river walk which is close by and frequently we are lucky enough to witness the flash of a Kingfisher. Kingfishers have a special place in my heart and in my memory. Some 50 years or more ago, I can’t really believe I said that but it’s true, I was the patrol leader of the Kingfisher Patrol at the local Guides company. It’s a real treat, after sitting for a short period of time on the nearby bench, to see the flash of the orange and blue of the Kingfisher as they fly so speedily up and down the river. They seem to me to be creatures of habit and it’s often quite possible to predict their flight times.

For me this time of the day is when I usually bring to God all the cares and concerns that I am aware of. I know as I walk along the road of the woman who has recently been bereaved; the neighbour who was bereaved some time ago; the young father who has PTSD; and the family with the new puppy… These moments are like a prayer walk which I’ve heard other people say that they do. For me this is usually the only really quiet part of the day. Just Mollie and me and the occasional other dog walker.

One of my favourite books is a book written by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg in which he talks about how having his dog, Mitzvah, made him a better human being. There is no doubt in my mind that animals have much to teach us and to bring into our lives. Mollie and I have travelled extensively around Europe on our own, her pet passport taking her to all sorts of places where she has mostly been well accepted. For me travelling with her has instilled a sense of confidence to go to new places, try new things and to meet new interesting people.

Most days I get up just after 7am. Mollie still has a work ethic and 7.20am is far too late to get up! The first job of the day is to let the dog and cat out and make the tea. Occasionally I am up much, much earlier, if there is something in my mind going around in circles I make it a rule that if I’m still awake after half an hour I might as well get up and make a cup of tea. These early morning sorties downstairs often provide the glorious opportunity for some catch up TV. Recently I watched a fascinating documentary about Maggie Hamblin and was captivated by her subjects both dead and alive.

I’m quite interested in art and I’m hopeful soon of catching up with a Radio Four programme called Moving Pictures. Apparently it’s possible to download the pictures on a computer. It has been well reviewed in the Radio Times. During this summer I developed a habit of watching episodes of the current hot series known as Fleabag. It was much discussed at the time as one of the characters was a ‘hot priest’ and many of the actors employed the technique of ‘breaking the fourth wall’, something which I didn’t really know much about.

I prefer to watch dramas because I’m interested in how the characters develop, being interested in people generally and how they tick. I’m not really keen on murders or forensic science programs but at the moment Monday evenings are a joy as they’re full of quizzes. Even though of course I have no idea how Only Connect really works! Years ago I remember, during my reader training, the Rev Duncan Strathie, him of the very flash waistcoats, encouraging us to keep up with popular dramas so that we could occasionally reference them in our sermons. So that’s my justification for watching all sorts of things!

Breakfast is usually Greek yoghurt and fruit in the summer and porridge and fruit in the winter, with the occasional croissant and cooked breakfast thrown in. My morning walk gives me a chance to reflect on the jobs and activities for the day. Most days there will be phone call, some days emails and always encounters via Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime it seems. Although I am reasonably proficient with technology, I do find some of its use quite challenging.

At the end of my working life, the role I was in meant I needed to supervise and mentor social work staff. It was usually non-stop from 8.30am to 5.15pm each day, with a brief break for lunch. Having been lucky enough to be able to retire early, I decided I wanted to spend my time in three particular ways, first more time with Mollie, secondly more time with the Church and thirdly having more fun! Of course none of those things are mutually exclusive! So far I feel I can tick all of these three boxes.

My skills as a social worker have been useful for our congregation but surprisingly I have developed a ministry with young people and worship. This is such fun! I never really saw that coming! As they say, telling God our plans always makes her laugh!

Being a retired person I find my life incredibly busy and have not yet achieved a sensible work life balance. Strange really because I’ve always been aware of the value of time and what it is to give and to share. But unfortunately my time management skills leave something to be desired.

Lunch is usually a light snack, cheese and biscuits, cold meat, fruit. Heinz tomato soup in the winter is a real treat.

When the country went into lockdown, I set up a WhatsApp group for our Church congregation so that we could keep in touch with each other and keep each other’s spirits up. Never did I realise what a delightful and affirming group it would be. New links have been made, plants have been exchanged, memories and photographs shared and of course the inevitable jokes. Cakes were made and sold for Christian Aid and members have felt less isolated. It’s been such a blessing to all of us who have joined in.

Joining the benefice of AVC in the present time set, I recognise how different things are because of Covid. I am by nature a gregarious person – I greatly enjoy the company of others and getting to know people personally. I’m also optimistic and hope in the not too distant future that this will become possible.

During the long hot separated summer, much work has been done by us in the back garden. If you’ll excuse the pun I’m not by nature a gardener, having grown up living mostly in flats. I have, as a result of Covid this year, learnt a few new skills, including how to drain a pond and set up a pump and filter, how to set up a water butt and far too much about drains!

Having been licensed as I said since 2007, there is still an element of surprise for me when I need to prepare a sermon that people are going to listen to. Not being a reader of books, I have an ability to procrastinate for a considerable amount of time before putting pen to paper or typing on the computer. Another aspect of my personality means that I’m better with deadlines in the same way as when parking the car I’m usually better in a tight space than one with lots of room.

Writing sermons doesn’t always come easily to me. I like to have read the Gospel well in advance so I have some time to reflect on the passage, read extracts from Bible commentaries and other sermons on the Internet. Sometimes I find I’m guided by the Holy Spirit. I try as far as possible to consider how this passage might affect those who listen and how relevant it might be to us today. The congregation of my home Church have always been accommodating of my learning and development and also enjoyed the odd humorous moment. I often think, as I prepare a sermon or act of worship, that people see me as more of a Martha than a Mary and I think to some extent that’s true.

From time to time I also find it useful to browse through some of the books I have bought over the years at places like the Greenbelt Christian festival. I am a particular fan of Ruth Burgess and John Bell from the Iona community, Mark Yaconelli and Nadia Bolz Weber, a very strident Lutheran priest with scriptural tattoos up both arms.

I am a person who likes to have lists, usually more than one. Always on my list are phone calls to Church members, friends, emails to be answered and tasks relating to home admin. Although I think technology has made some things easier, if you’re not careful it can also seem like an irritated friend sitting in the corner waiting for your instant response.

At some point in the day there will hopefully be a more interesting walk. Mollie is a bright little dog and understands when we’re on our way to Hengistbury Head with wonderful sea views across Bournemouth Bay, nowadays punctuated with ocean cruise liners.

Having not long been in our present home, there are always tasks of the DIY nature to be completed. I set myself a goal of decluttering boxes from the loft during the last lockdown, but as yet they wait patiently.

Helen and I usually take it in turns to cook. We have one or two signature dishes each. Helen cooks rice to perfection and I can cook a reasonable Moussaka. To complement supper, a bottle of red wine might be opened. I’m very keen on Montepulciano, or for special occasions, Saint Emilion.

By the end of the 10 o’clock News, it’s time to head upstairs and read a magazine or perhaps do a crossword before settling down to sleep with a review and thanks for the day with the hope that no night time thoughts will invade.

This year at Christmas all will be different. One of the things I shall miss especially is talking to the children of our preschool about the Nativity story. The awe and wonder when they come into Church in the semi-darkness but with sparkling lights, is always is a magical moment. Still we hope that next year it will happen again.

So now the best advice I was given. I don’t actually think I was given this advice personally, but I think it’s a quotation that I’ve heard and read: “Try everything once except country dancing and incest”. However I do really like country dancing!

Advice I would give: Well we do know it’s always dangerous to give advice, however one thing it’s always worth reminding ourselves of is that we always have a choice!

And lastly what I wish I’d known? Well I suppose when I was younger this thought might have been helpful for me to have known: Be yourself as far as possible – it’s what others want to see. When we’re younger we don’t always appreciate that.

I hope that the rest of the Christmas season is a Blessed time for you and I look forward to meeting some of you next year.

God bless. Ruth Crosland.

A video of Ruth’s ‘Life in the Day of…’ can be seen here: https://youtu.be/H5O-dQxRQ6s