Monday, 24 March 2014

A day in the life of Rev Gail Souppouris

Hello and welcome to my blog. This week sees the last of the old interviews for, "a day in the life of.."  This "day" was first published in 2010, and when we met, Rev Gail had to conquer her nerves before she could share her passion for her vocation. 

Rev Gail Souppouris, 57, Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherdworked 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.
     Rev Gail is still at the church of the Good Shepherd and was one of the team that produced last years' memorable Passion for Shoreham.
     Next week, will see the start of a new series of "a day in the life of.." The first will be a day in the life of a commercial airline pilot who, amongst many surprising insights, gives his own view of what could have happened to Malaysian flight MH370.
   Well, time to go. Thanks for dropping by and see you next week.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Behind the scenes at this years' Adur Festival

Hello and welcome to my blog. It’s lovely to see you again. This week, I’m going to take a break from re-publishing, “a day in the life of,” to bring you a report on what goes on behind the scenes at the Adur Festival.
The Adur Festival began in 1987 and, up until 2012, was financed and managed by Adur District Council. In that year, the Council decided that their continued support was unsustainable, so in 2013, Ropetackle Trust, a charitable organization, stepped in to take over.
The Festivals' funding now comes primarily from the Arts Council and Adur District Council. Mella Faye Punchard, Adur Festival Development Coordinator, explained how she tries to bring it together.

Mella Faye Punchard

The festival is a celebration of art and community in Adur, so my role is to reach out to the community to create a sense of unity and cohesion; to match people together to help to create their vision; to assist with funding applications; to advertise the festival and organise some community events, like this years’ street parties.
 The festival can’t grow unless the community takes ownership of it, so in the lead up there are public meetings to decide what the festival should be like.

February’s public meeting at the Ropetackle.

Its got staunch supporters from community groups, like Friends of Shoreham Fort or East Adur Lions Club who organise and manage an event and register it as part of the festival. Then there's the local people, such as Elizabeth Meinert of Pop Gun Productions, who are really important. 
They come forward and say, “What can I do to help develop the festival? I’ve got a plan, how can it fit in? These relationships are much more open and are vital for the festival’s growth.  For instance, I was in the process of organizing a street party in Fishersgate when Elizabeth Meinert offered to help. She’s now taken that over and is applying for funding for a marquee for an exhibition, performances and other community activities during the festival. She’s finding more and more avenues into the local community so Fishersgate can feel like the festival belongs to them.
 I’d love the festival to grow in spectacle and the quality of the arts coming into Adur so we had outdoor performances and street theatre that was at home on the national stage. That’s why part of this year’s budget has gone on the giant snail from Insect Circus and the Black Eagles Acrobats who will appear at the street parties being held on 24th May at Fishersgate Community Centre and Eastbrook School, Pond Road, Shoreham and between Culver Road and Penstone Park Lancing.
     Ultimately, I want each person to feel that they are part of something that makes an awe-inspiring whole. So rather than, for instance, a community music group sitting in a village hall hoping that someone will turn up to their event, they are out on the streets and Spanish acrobats are performing to their music. I’d love Adur to have something like the Winchester Hat Fair. That’s a great role-model.
Thanks you for your time Mella. I’ve already put 24th May in the diary.

Thanks readers for dropping by and see you next week. Ta-ra.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A day in the life of John Bradshaw, ex-chairman of Shoreham Beach Residents' Association

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again.
     I'm feeling tired and grumpy this morning.  Got no-one to blame but myself. I stayed up too late, boring myself rigid with our company accounts.
     Tiredness is no excuse for slacking so time to return to another of the 2010 series on "a day in the life of." Today you have a chance to re-read John Bradshaw's contribution.

John Bradshaw, 74, lives on Shoreham Beach with his wife, Judy and Punch, their Jack-Russell cross. He has two grown up stepsons and has been Chairman of Shoreham Beach Residents Association for over 10 years.

“I always get up between 6-6.30 am. Always eat breakfast, and then the day starts. I listen to Radio 4 because I find that it gives me a lot of information. I always read newspapers. I walk the dog, usually on the beach in the morning and in the afternoon I walk Punch along the riverbank, Widewater or on the Downs. The weather is usually kind to us, but not always, but it doesn’t matter. Punch doesn’t like the rain. I’m not sure that I like it either.
     In the summer I usually swim in the Harbour. I love it when the tide is in high at 6.00 o’clock in the morning and I can go and swim, usually on my own.
     I’m retired, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life. You can alter things; you can do things you like, not necessarily when you want to, but when it’s convenient, let’s put it that way.
     I’m the Chairman of Shoreham Beach Residents Association. I’ve probably been Chairman too long, but it’s very interesting because it gives you knowledge of what is going on in the area, you can help people out, you can look at very interesting things. At the moment we are very heavily involved in the new footbridge which many, many people have got massive ideas on, a lot of which are not going to happen. It all comes really down to a question of costs. We have been consulted and we’re now waiting to find out from the engineers exactly what is going to happen. One thing that people haven’t quite realised yet is that the car park is going to close during the period of construction because it’s going to be used by the workmen. That is going to cause a lot of hassle and a lot of problems for people, but it’s going to have to be lived with I’m afraid.
     I also do charity work. I was employed in the newspaper and magazine distribution industry and we have a charity called Old Ben or NewstrAid, it’s got two names. It was set up by Charles Dickens, so it’s been going for a long time. I’m the Almoner for West Sussex which means that I visit beneficiaries in the area. I’m also the Treasurer for the Sussex Committee which does fund-raising and things like that and on the National Welfare Committee. I find this very interesting and it gives me the opportunity to give something back to a trade that I worked in for forty-two years and gave me a good living.
     I’m usually in bed by 11.30 and I go to sleep almost immediately.”

In February 2013, after 12 years of service, John stepped down as Chairman and took up the position of Vice-Chair.

I promise to be more alert next week when I hope to bring you a behind the scenes look at this year's  Adur Festival. Thanks for dropping by and ta-ra for now. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Shoreham Fort: Seven Forts Challenge

Hello and welcome to my blog. 
   If you're a newcomer, pull up a chair and come on in, there's plenty of room, unlike inside the mini-van that took five of Shoreham Fort's Friends off to start their gruelling 50 mile sponsored walk from Fort Nelson, Fareham, to Shoreham Fort.
Packed inside are Craig Searle, Hayley Cropp, Tony Gilfrin, Andy Vincent, Gary Baines, Julie Searle and Phil Penfold.
   Craig had spent the preceeding ten months meticulously planning the route which would take in Forts Southwick, Widley, Purbrook, and Farlington Redoubt. Called the Seven Forts Challenge, the aim was to complete the route in 24 hours.
   After a great send off at Fort Nelson, they set off at 10.50 a.m. on 24th August.

For the first mile, the Trafalgar Drummer accompanied them, then it was heads down. 
All that marked them out from other members of the public was their Friends of Shoreham Fort hoodies, and Tony Gilfrin’s crocodile onesy; worn to celebrate the fact that they had almost reached their target of raising £1857, the amount representing the year in which the Fort was built. Shadowed by Phil and Julie in the support bus, they made great progress, but the walk along the shingle beach from Bognor to Littlehampton, took its toll. By the time they had reached Littlehampton Fort, Gary had injured his knee, Hayley her back, and Craig his calf muscles. 
  By 4.00 a.m they had reached Ferring.  Then the rain set in. Tired, wet and injured, the support team fought their own exhaustion to lift the walker’s spirits. Meantime, back at home, Sharon Penfold who was posting their progress on the Friend's Facebook page  said, “I could just tell that morale was going through the floor.”
            Nevertheless they trudged on, supporting each other and taking strength from friends and family who cheered them on.  
            They finally arrived at Shoreham Fort at 8.20 a.m. They had completed the route in 22 hours. “ I never in a million years thought I would do it. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Hayley.
            For the next few days, the walkers nursed their injuries, tended their blisters, and slowly re-gained the use of their legs.
            They are still trying to raise their target of £1857, and donations can be made in person at one of the Fort’s volunteer days or online.