Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A day in the life of Rev Gail Souppouris, Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again and I hope you've had a splendid week.

Well, the kitchen's virtually finished, just need to install the aubergine glass splash back and Bob's your uncle. Once the brick dust has settled, I'll compose a blog on my top ten tips for a painless kitchen installation, in the meantime, here is the second in the series of, "A day in the life of." I hope you enjoy it.

Rev Gail Souppouris, 57, Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, worked in social care for twenty years before being ordained. She lives with her husband Kyri and has four children, one grandson, five chickens and two semi-feral cats, Amber and Nectar.

At the beginning of the day I pray. If I don't pray, perhaps because I'm rushing, I feel its lack by about 10.30!
I need to be up and breakfasted in order to open the church by half past eight. Opening the church every single day and making sure that it looks welcoming to everyone, whether they have a faith or not, is one of the most important bits of our mission.
A lot of people think of churches as somewhere that you have to go and do something, but to me, one of the joys of this church is that it’s a place for people to come and simply to be. Certainly in the summer, people will often use the bench at the back garden. If it looks as if they’d like me to come down and sit beside them, I will. You can usually gauge that by saying, “Hi. Morning. How are you?” If you’ve got the dog collar on it sort of gives an opening.
It’s very interesting when you’re on holiday. If somebody discovers that you’re a Reverend, suddenly you’ll find yourself in the corner of rooms being asked to listen to peoples’ problems. It could be that they’ve got a problem with God and they want to have a really good rail and sometimes its because they’ve got something really deep and difficult and you’re an anonymous person that they know is going to listen. The same thing happens with the bench outside the church.
My diary is divided into three bits for morning, afternoon and evening, and its really easy to say, “That’s a blank, I can fit an appointment in there,” but its important to keeps gaps. What you’ve got in your diary is a single thing but you need all that time around it. A school assembly, which might take 20 minutes, could have taken up to 4 hours to get organised. I’ll need an hour to start thinking about what I’m going to do, and then at least an hour to do the power point and sort out the songs and then just before I go, I need at least half an hour to get ready because I usually take practical things.
There’s also a matter of engaging. At St Nick’s they’ll all be from church families so you give a completely different assembly than you do in Buckingham School, where an awful of them probably wouldn’t know how to say the Lord’s Prayer. So what do you say to youngsters that brings out what I believe, but equally, touches them? So you’re going for morals, if you like, but I always try and include something from the Bible so they’ll get a little bit of information about what Christianity is about without thrusting it upon them.
For a funeral, I’ll need to do the visit, which will take one to two hours; I then need thinking and praying time; I then need to write the Address and sort out all the practicalities with the Funeral Directors. I might need to do a second visit, if there are any particular issues, and then you drive to the crematorium or the church and very often you’ll end up going to the wake as well.
Looking at my diary for the coming week, I’m going to Shoreham Airport to conduct a small ceremony to scatter ashes of somebody whose funeral I didn’t take. I’ve had to get to know the Chief Mourner and understand who the person was in order to put quite a short service together. But that will be good because I’m the Chaplin of Shoreham Airport. Then, I’ve got a wedding on Saturday and a big gig in the church in the evening. My husband and I are doing the refreshments for that because I don’t think anybody else can do it, and then on Sunday we’re blessing shoeboxes to go to Romania, which is brilliant. On Monday, we’ve got a meeting to try and clear the church porch. It’s amazing how much stuff comes through the vicarage letterbox so we’re going to try and organise the notice board, and in the evening we’ve got a Parochial Church Council meeting. Later in the week, we’ve got a Churches Together meeting which we’re holding here so I need to make sure that we’ve got refreshments organised and obviously I’m there for the meeting as well.
I love worship on a Sunday morning. We have a Healing Service once a month and that can be remarkable, a time just to minister to peoples’ souls. There are sorrows but there are so many gifts. I love that and Bible studies and Lent Groups and all the things that our church family do, but if you want to know what I am passionate about, it is about reaching out to people who think Christianity is rubbish.
When I speak to somebody who says, “I don’t come to church. I’ve got a faith but I can’t see any point in coming to church,” my eyes gleam. I don’t want to say to them, “You’ve got to come to church; you’ve got to believe in this or that or the other creed,” I’ve got to say to them, “Isn’t there a space inside of you where you need something spiritual? Isn’t there space inside of you that aches for something that is beyond you? Where are you finding that? Are you finding that in New Age mysticism? I love science fiction myself, if you looked in my DVD collection, I love science fantasy, but we all need, deep within us, an understanding of something that is beyond us. When I do a funeral or a baptism visit or when I prepare couples for a wedding, I’d like to be able to reach out even if they only say, “Well, I really liked that Vicar because she listened to me.” So when they have a trouble, maybe their teenage children are being an absolute pain in the backside, maybe they lose a baby, maybe they lose a parent or a partner, if they can then identify with that person who actually listened and seemed to feel that there was something important that God could offer, they might say, “I’ll go and speak to them now because I’m in trouble.”
My days finish at very different times because very often I have evening meetings. If it’s all finished by 9 then that’ll be the time to slump on the sofa with a cup of tea and watch something mindless on the television. If the meetings don’t finish ’til 10 – 10.30 then it might just be something quick and without caffeine before going upstairs. I prefer a shower. My husband prefers a bath, so we negotiate each night. Before I settle down in bed with my book, I use whatever Bible notes I'm currently following just to read a short passage of Scripture and think a little on it. It only take about 3 - 5 minutes, but it rounds the day off perfectly. I usually switch off the light somewhere around midnight.
Next week, I'll be featuring John Bradshaw, Chairman of Shoreham Beach Residents Association. Until then look after yourself and see you next week.

Friday, 15 October 2010

A life in the day of Liza McKinney, Marine Ward Councillor.

Hello and welcome to my blog. I hope you've had a splendid fortnight. Mine's been mixed. Apart from a fascinating three days interviewing for the blog, and celebrating our NCI's successful application for Declared Facility Status, I've spent the whole time wrestling with the kitchen re-fit. We're back in now, albeit without a floor, blinds or tiles, but we've got an oven and hob. Believe me, if you'd spent three weeks living off microwave meals, you'd mention it too.

Last time we met, I mentioned that Liza McKinney would be featured today. She is the first of four 'a life in the day of,' blogs which will also feature Rev Gail Souppouris from the Church of the Good Shepherd, Maireadh Knight, our Police Community Support Officer, and John Bradshaw, Chairman of Shoreham Beach Residents Association.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed getting to know them.

Liza McKinney, 77, has been a Shoreham Beach Residents Association Councillor since 2000. She lives alone and has two sons, Damien, 50 and Julian, 49, eight grandchildren and 3 step-grandchildren.

“As a Councillor, I’m afraid to say I’m a very early riser, so I’m normally up around 6 o’clock in the morning. I suppose that’s from the days that I commuted, when I had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to catch the train to London. I used to cycle to the station, put my cycle on the train and then I’d cycle from Victoria to the Treasury in Whitehall. People have often said to me, “How did you dare to ride in London?” In actual fact I only got knocked off my bike twice.
By 7 o’clock, I’ve had breakfast and then there are papers to be read. I’m afraid to say that the paperless society, as far as the Council is concerned, is a laugh a minute. The size of some of our reports are absolutely gynormous. Sometimes my dining room table looks more like an office desk. I then turn on my computer and see if anything has come in.
I re-read the papers for meetings that day with a fine toothcomb. It takes up a lot of time during the morning and I sometimes have to seek briefing because you’re not an expert on everything just because you’re a Councillor. You need to understand what is being suggested and what it will mean in reality to our residents out there.
I’m not one to have lunch to be honest. Coffee and a biscuit will do me because I have a serious weight problem so I struggle to keep the weight down. I do go to the gym. I go three times a week so if it’s my day to go, I’ll go roughly at 2 o’clock. I will spend at least an hour and 15 minutes. Once a week I go to Pilates which I find absolutely wonderful.
About 5 o’clock in the evening I will listen to all my telephone calls. I have an ansaphone and there could be residents with problems. Then, of course, Council meetings are held at either 6.30 in the evening or 7 o’clock. Sometimes they’re short and end at 8 or 8.30, sometimes, like on one particular day recently, they didn’t end until half past ten. There is many a week when I don’t have an evening at home.
I’m Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and alternate Chairman of the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Adur and Worthing as well as on a number of sub-committees.
As Chairman, our Committees have the right to look at most of the decisions that Cabinet Members are going to take. This is important because if you’ve got individual Cabinet Members making decisions, as you might say, behind closed doors, you need a backstop to say, “Hey wait a minute we don’t think this is a very good thing”, or “Look at the money you’re spending” or “Is it economical?” or “Is it in the best interests of the residents?” We are, if you like, the voice of the residents making sure that what is being agreed is right.
As well as being Chairman of the two Committees, I also attend Cabinet meetings, not just as an observer, I can speak up to defend whatever recommendations we might have made as a committee to the Cabinet.
I also attend Joint Strategy Committee meetings which means that where there are joint services between Worthing and Adur those come before a Joint Strategy Committee where Councillors from Adur and Councillors from Worthing sit together to decide on policies and strategies. Again reports that go to them, come to the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee giving us a chance to put our five pennith in. We have also just completed research into facilities for the disabled throughout Adur.
They are important meetings so when I come home I have to turn on the television otherwise I’ve found that when I go to bed, I’m going over the matters discussed and what should be done about them. Before I going to bed, I check my emails to see what’s new or if a meeting's been cancelled.
You always hope that on Saturday and Sunday you may have some peace. But very often, particularly in the summer, I’ve got residents ringing up on a Saturday or a Sunday evening. Sometime because the street light outside their house hasn’t been on for a time and they worry about security; others because rubbish has been scattered all over the road or the bins haven’t been collected round the shopping areas. Also, of course, in the summer I do get a lot of calls if people on jet skis have been encroaching into the swimming areas. I have been called out because a party’s been going on and it’s got rather noisy. Against advice, have tended to put my clothes back on, if I’ve been in bed, and go down. I’ve found that whenever I have been called out late at night, and at 1 o’clock in the morning on one occasion, if you go down and speak kindly to the people concerned you can get the noise turned down. If there is a problem with noise, which is, after all, the most common thing we get called out at night for, you can actually do something about it. Very rarely do you have to resort to getting the council and the police involved.
I do have long days. Most of the time, I don’t get to bed before 11 or 12 o’clock at night. No matter how late I get to bed, I have to read and I’ve always got books on the go. At the moment I’m reading “The Cobra” by Freddie Forsyth which I can recommend to everybody. It’s absolutely fantastic. I can’t put it down. So I probably read until 1 o’clock some nights, which is really not very good for me but I don’t need, like a woman Prime Minister not so long ago, a lot of sleep.”
Shoreham Beach has returned independent Councillors since the 1950s.
Next week, we'll spend a bit of time with Rev. Gail Soupppouris but until then, have a great week. Ta-ra.