I'm now into the third week of minding the shop for my vicar, as he relaxes in sunnier Antipodean climes, and thus far all is going startlingly well. I'm beginning to appreciate that being the curate of a good incumbent is one of the best jobs in the C of E...to be given so many opportunities and protected from so much hideous admin is a truly blessed state. This was brought home to me forcibly by last night's Standing Committee which lasted from 7.30 till almost 11.00...as it was largely setting the agenda for PCC in a fortnight, at which the same issues will be trawled through by an even larger and chattier cast the whole thing felt remarkably pointless...but the good news is that when M is at home, I don't actually have to be there.
It is alarming how easy it is to be occupied with this sort of stuff, though...and I so nearly mucked up hugely last week. The vicar had suggested that I might usefully visit S, a great stalwart of the church, who had been ill for ages and was currently hospitalised...her condition had been deteriorating in October, but she seemed now to be improving gradually, and I knew she was being visited by a huge army of Mothers' Union ladies, retired bell ringers et al, as well as her devoted husband. So, though I planned to go, she didn't feel like a top priority.
However a phonecall from her frightened husband last week galvanised me into action and saw me visiting the following day...S was feeling better again by then, and it was a good visit..our conversation ranged far and wide and I looked forward to spending more time with her soon.
Yesterday morning the phone rang...she had taken a sudden turn for the worse and died on Sunday night...BUT she had had a happy afternoon in being pushed around the hospital grounds by her husband, the chaplain had responded to my email and taken her Communion that morning and now her husband wants me to do her funeral, despite the fact that his son is married to the daughter of a former (Forward in Faith) incumbent of this parish. I feel as if I've been rescued from the very brink of disaster...I so nearly got it all wrong...so nearly didn't make time for the right things...so nearly let S, D and most of all God down...but now, having spent time yesterday and this morning with the whole family, it all seems to be gloriously all right. During our ordination training, a hospital chaplain came to talk to us and I'll not forget him saying that his regular prayer, as he went onto the wards was "Lord, redeem my foul-ups"
Today, I'm so very very grateful that he has.