TSSF Europe Becomes Digitally Social!

twitter-312464_640As part of our online efforts to become known to people inside and outside the Church, and to support Third Order members, we have entered the Social Media age a little further and created a new Twitter account and Facebook Page!

So if you Tweet, or simply follow other Tweeters, do follow our account by visiting us at https://twitter.com/tssf_europe. Here is our first ever tweet:

Facebook_logo_(square)Also, please Like our new Facebook Page by visiting https://www.facebook.com/tssfeurope. And don’t forget there is a Facebook Group for people who want to discuss the life of Saint Francis and what it means to be a Franciscan nowadays here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TSSF.Europe/

Christmas cards

Some members of TSSF will have seen the Christmas card of the Birth of Jesus, featuring a ‘still’ from the coming film about the life of St Francis; it has been printed partly as a herald of the film, which should be available on DVD early in the New Year.

News about how to obtain the cards will be posted soon. Watch this space.

The cards and the Francis film are undertakings by a number of Tertiaries with the encouragement (but not formal involvement) of Provincial Chapter.

Francis film – Francistide update

The following email has been sent to Areas (to ACCs):

Just before our Francistide area meetings, the “Francis” film steering group would be grateful if you’d alert your areas to progress on the film, and the imminent availability of good quality film-related Xmas cards. I attach a pdf showing a mock-up of the cards.

The cards are large format i.e. A5 size (A4 folded in two) which will be suitable for 2nd class post. We’re pricing them at 50p each, although direct sales aren’t easy in a dispersed order so they’ll be available soon by post at 20 cards for £9.99, plus P+P.

Please keep an eye on the TSSF website for imminent information about the card distribution website, now being finalised. You’ll also see other material soon on the TSSF site, such as a link to the forthcoming Little Portion Films website (the “home” of the film) and also a very positive Church Times article about the making of the film (attached here).

The “Francis” film is not an official TSSF production but we’re grateful to Provincial Chapter for financial support, and for encouragement, and we’ll be equally grateful for your own support in making this information available to interested tertiaries.

Pax et Bonum.

John Wiltshire
Chair of Francis film steering group
Link Tertiary

TSSF Provincial Officer Elections

At the close of nominations on 22 September, there were two nominations:

  • John Lovatt (Mercia Area)
  • John Wotherspoon (Mersey Valley Area).

for the office of Provincial Treasurer and an election is being held.

There have been no nominations for the office of Provincial Communications Coordinator. (Still no nominations – 23 October.)  A further call for nominations has been issued. Any nomination on the form already issued (with the 22 Sept closing date) will be accepted as a valid nomination up to the new closing date, 30 October. New Nomination forms and copies of the Guidance notes and role description are available on the web as well as from your Area Team.

All Professed Tertiaries of the European Province may vote in the election for Provincial Treasurer, and are strongly urged to do so.
Voting papers and candidates’ electoral addresses have been sent to Areas; Tertiaries should receive these at the latest with TON 53 in November. The electoral addresses are supplied to give you information on which to base your vote and you may also contact the candidates and those who proposed and seconded them.
The voting papers and electoral addresses are also be available from the website. Names of voters are checked against membership records and to make that check, votes (paper or electronic) must have a clear indication of the voter’s name and address; votes are confidential between the voter and the returning officer.

Chris Petrie, returning officer, 24 Sept; edited 4 Oct 2014

PS – the job of returning officer is not part of the duties of Provincial Communications Coordinator but a separate job undertaken to assist the Provincial Secretary.


Francis film project – update

The “Francis” film – update, August 2014

We’re pleased to say filming took place at Hilfield Friary as planned during July. It was widely considered a success. No film’s without its moments of panic, but this one went pretty smoothly. Film_IMG_6719edited[1]The experience was enjoyed by all – director, crew and actors but also by the host community at Hilfield, many of whom found themselves among the cast. We think “Francis” is going to be a fresh and striking look at the story, simply shot in modern dress and presenting Francis as an attractive and compelling figure for contemporary and especially younger audiences.

Do have a look at these early stills – two images from the film itself, and two others. They include both the younger and older FrancisFilm_IMG_6590edited[1]. Film_IMG_7794edited

So at the beginning of August we now have large amounts of film “in the can”, and a lot of optimism about the eventual result. What next? Firstly much reviewing of the footage, then intensive editing throughout September to include sound, music and the specially commissioned painted stills showing Umbrian scenes to complement the Dorset setting.

Then in no time after that we need to be promoting and marketing the film, hoping to ensure DVD sales but also to try to get a foot in the door at one or two film festivals and if possible with a mainstream film distributor. If you have any contacts that might help us with this promotion, please let us know! With a bit of luck “Francis” may be available in time for Christmas 2014.

But let’s remind ourselves why we’re doing this. We see it as a work of mission, building on Paul Alexander’s well-known and loved one-man theatre performance to reach a larger global audience – and so to make our Lord, and his servant Francis, known and loved throughout the world in line with our TSSF Aims.

It’s only thanks to the generosity of individual tertiaries, TSSF Chapter and the SSF Legacy Fund that we raised enough funding to get to this stage, and a part of what we need to complete and distribute the finished film. And it’s equally thanks to the commitment and faith of crew and actors, who’ve so far received only token payment, that the project has got this far.

So we still need to keep raising funds for the coming stages, and to pay actors and crew more suitably than we’ve done to date.

If you’d like to discuss the Francis film project, please contact John Wiltshire at katherine.wiltshire1@ntlworld.com or phone 07717 547672 (ignore the CQC work message).

To donate online, please visit our charity giving website: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/deniseeasteal1

Lastly, watch out here for further updates, with more glimpses of the film itself!


TSSF presence at Greenbelt Festival 2014

Greenbelt moves to its new site at Boughton House this year but TSSF will still have its presence there (mostly, our stall in the G-source marquee), as for the last three years.
We have some tertiary volunteers to support the stall, but are keen to have more. If you’ll be at Greenbelt, could spare a couple of hours and would like to meet other tertiaries at the festival – please contact John Wiltshire TSSF at katherine.wiltshire1@ntlworld.com or on mobile 07717 547672 (ignore CQC voicemail).

Greenbelt 2014: Travelling Light
22 – 25 August 2014
Boughton House, Northamptonshire

South West Cluster Day

On a beautifully sunny Saturday 21st June tertiaries from the South West of England met at Crediton in Devon for the day.

We spent the day celebrating the Eucharist, presided over by Hazel Sharp, our link tertiary, and explored the theme “Building Bridges.”

Each area present led a part of the Eucharist and Paul Bodenham, the Provincial Formation Guardian, gave the Address which is available to read here.

Paul Bodenham’s address to the South West Cluster Day

Let me tell you a story of two Desert Fathers:

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said, “Abba, as much as I am able, I practise a small rule, all the little fasts, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet; as much as possible I keep my thoughts clean.   What else should I do?”    Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands towards heaven, and his fingers became like torches of flame.  And he said, “Why not be turned into fire?”  

Jesus makes a similar point to the Samaritan woman at the well. Don’t just settle for the rope and bucket, pulling up just as much as you can carry home, and then coming back for more when you run out. Why not be turned into torrents of living water? And ‘torrents’ is what Jesus is offering here: potamoi in the Greek – Matthew uses same word for the floods which come and sweep away the house built on sand in Jesus’ parable.

Why not be turned into torrents of living water? Well, I’ll tell you why not – you’ll make one heck of a mess.

We find Jesus’ promise to the Samaritan in our Principles, don’t we? If we let our profession truly change us, we will become ‘channels of grace’ (Day 30). That sounds very dignified, dare I say very Anglican. It puts me in mind of Gertrude Jekyll’s gardens at Hestercombe, watered by trickling rills. But what is running through this ‘channel of grace’? Irrepressible torrents of living water. And what do the Principles have the nerve to ask of us so those torrents can flow? To be ‘willing to be emptied of self, and to surrender’ to Christ. To make Christ known and loved everywhere, to spread the spirit of love and harmony, to live simply; to serve through prayer, study and work, and be turned inside out by humility, love and joy.

Hmm. Suddenly coming to the well every day with your bucket begins to sound a lot easier, doesn’t it? Jesus and Abba Joseph warn us that we can use the forms of religion, yes, even personal rules of life, to excuse ourselves from the risks of discipleship and community. That is why penitence is so important – it keeps those channels of grace scoured clear.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I have to say I’d much rather talk with than talk to, because I’m still trying to make sense of what I’m meant to do in this peculiar job of Provincial Formation Guardian. I listen at area meetings, to the Area Formation Guardians. I read every word which Area Teams wrote for Chapter last autumn. Never mind, I have been asked to talk to you, so I’m going to have to stick my neck out for these 20 minutes, and you’ll get your say over lunch.

I soon discovered a huge appetite for ‘lifelong formation’. I think people are wanting to say that the Third Order is not about clinging to Abba Lot’s little rule, it’s a crucible of change, where the support of a shared discipline empowers us to take risks of discipleship, make discoveries, become Abba Joseph’s flames of fire.

Well, with a working group of Area Formation Guardians we’re looking at loosening up the annual report form, so that instead of ticking boxes, it asks open questions which are more attentive to change in the landscapes of people’s lives. Some AFGs plan to give them back before the next Francistide so that one year’s report can be a starting point for the next. It’s got to be better than shredding them.

Small ideas, and they won’t change the world. It’s great that there is a desire to make the Third Order a place of personal growth. But I don’t think we can stop with personal spiritual growth. As the Principles reminds us at the start of every month, we are professed not for what we can get out of the Third Order, but for we can enable each other to give.

Let’s just look at the vow we make at profession:

I give myself to our Lord Jesus Christ, to serve him for the rest of my life in company with my brothers and sisters [that’s us], seeking to spread the knowledge and love of Christ, to promote the spirit of love and harmony as the family of God, and to live joyfully a life of simplicity and humble service after the example of St Francis.

So why are we professed? To encourage each other to serve Christ by fulfilling the three Aims. Now since I was professed in 2004 I must have spent hundreds of hours at Third Order meetings, before becoming PFG and since, talking about aspects of the personal rule of life. But it has dawned on me that’s missing the point. The Rule of the Third Order is not the personal rule, but the rite of profession (and particularly the vow), the Principles, statutes and constitutions, and at the heart of it all is the Aims – and I’d ignored them. Am I alone? Does it matter?

I’d like to give another reason why it might matter, besides being our solemn vow. I did a comparison between our Principles and those of the First Order SSF. The two sets of Principles are largely the same, but there is one major difference. Where the First Order principles set out the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, ours set out the Aims. So the Aims are as important, distinctive and demanding to us as the evangelical counsels are to our First Order brothers and sisters. Theirs are poverty, chastity, obedience; ours, we could say, are evangelisation, reconciliation, self-giving.

And then when we renew our pledge each year, I discovered when reading the rite of renewal, the pledge we are renewing is not the personal rule of life, and I had thought. Read the rite of renewal for yourself, and you’ll find that our pledge is to serve Christ in the three Aims – evangelisation, reconciliation, self-giving. We place our rule of life on the altar only as a kind of manifest of our pledge.

There’s one thing I wish the Principles did say about the Aims – and that is that we should apply them to ourselves before we presume to inflict them on anyone else. To ‘make Christ known’ I must make room for him to take flesh in me. To spread ‘love and harmony’ I must reckon with the seeds of violence in my own lifestyle and character. To ‘live simply’ I must ransom my appetites from their enslavement to consumerism.

The Aims are not a duty. If I submit to be the object of them, they are a royal road to joy and freedom, for others and for ourselves. Joy Cowley’s Aotearoa Psalm is a great commentary on our second Aim:

We are called to be bridges…When I become a bridge for another…I escape from the small prison of self and exist for the wider world, breaking out to be a larger being who can enter another’s pain and rejoice in another’s triumph’.

We are not professed for what we can get out of the Third Order, but for what we can enable each other to give. The Aims make us a community in mission. In the collect in our Vigil we told God: ‘We find our purpose in belonging to you and to one another’. It is mainly in our local groups that that belonging happens. So if the Aims have their rightful place, the evidence will be in our local groups. Let’s look at our local groups, then.

At their best they can be a place where each unique gospel life is named, cherished, nurtured and realised. There are lots of imaginative ideas around. In some local groups, the members have discovered deeper relationships from doing their annual review of vocation in twos or threes. Some look to the year ahead as well as the year past. They identify how the group can help them, and what they can offer, and these conclusions become building blocks for planning a year’s programme.

But in an important survey undertaken in 2009 by Denise Mumford, a Tertiary in London, 44 per cent, nearly half, were not entirely satisfied with their local group. One Tertiary told her: ‘Local group thinking needs further revision’; another: ‘It is something that I feel needs further research and attention. Advances made during the novitiate are not always followed up after profession.’ And another: ‘Fellow members of my Small Group are most supportive and caring, but I do not think this amounts to formation in the spiritual life’.

Another Tertiary said more recently: “After I was professed I felt suddenly adrift, with no Novice guardian, and a need for encouragement and challenge. I found it with my spiritual director but not in the Local Group.” These words, only a year old, echo uncomfortably closely the very reason our network of local groups was formed in 1999: that ‘after their profession, many…felt that there was too much a sense of “being left on their own”’.

What we should do about voices like these? We cannot pretend that everything is fine. I believe we can find an answer in the first communities of Francis and Clare.

They drew people together to leave everything and follow the footprints of Christ. Reduced to their common humanity, they became brothers and sisters, with each other, with lepers, and with all of creation. They shared all they had, practically and spiritually, and trusted each other with their lives. Francis did not found monasteries, but simple shelters of mission and homecoming, mission and homecoming, mission and homecoming. It is his gospel fraternities which provide a template for our own.

Do our local groups enable us to live up to our gospel aims – evangelisation, reconciliation, self-giving – as those early communities did to theirs? Are they places of radical trust and transparency, where we encourage each other in our endeavours as they did? Are they places where we can discover what is ours to do in a world (never mind a church) which is falling into ruin? Are they outward-facing gospel communities, from which we sally in prayer, study and work, to earn a crust, and to which we return to tell all that we have seen and done? Possibly not all of them, and not yet, but perhaps some already are, and all of them can be.

As you know we are gathering views for what the next General Chapter might seek to achieve. Two aspirations recur in the responses so far. One is that we release the Franciscan missionary impulse for our times: ‘to open up hope in the real good news of Christ in the imagination of our culture which is distracted and despairing’, to grow in ‘engaged Franciscanism’, confronting a temptation to become a ‘holy huddle’, a ‘cosy club where we can find support but not challenge’ or to fragment into a collection of individuals each following a private spiritual path.

A second recurrent theme is closely related: our membership is ageing, and we must open up to a younger generation. We must enter an ‘unknown land’, post-Christian and post-modern, anxious about emerging crises, financial, environmental, existential. This won’t just mean promoting ‘our’ Order to students and young adults. It will demand fundamental changes of us, whilst also calling us back more radically to the example of Francis.

In longings like these, the Order is praying, as we are about to pray, ‘Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true, where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew’. If we are going to sing that prayer with sincerity, we will sing and pray it for our local groups. There is a longing to become a community in mission, to forsake the bucket for the living water and flood the world, and the little rule for the flames of fire and cast it on the earth, and that longing is finding a voice. These are exciting times to be a Tertiary – I would say important, even necessary, times.

For now, let me leave you with three small suggestions. One is to tell me over lunch that I’ve got it wrong, or perhaps that I’m stating the obvious. Another is to share your own ideas for what General Chapter should address – it says how in Little Portion. The third is to take your personal Rule out of its envelope. Let it breathe, see daylight, set it free. Let it feel the imprint of the world, witness its beauty and tragedy. Let it be creased and crumpled and stained. As you renew in October, lay it naked on the altar with an undefended heart. In doing so let us trust each other, and be worthy of each other’s trust. And then may the world find the gospel written in your life.