The alarm went early yesterday, but I didn’t much mind as it was the most beautiful morning….periwinkle blue sky, chestnut candles blazing all over Charlton Kings and birds doing their best to wake the long departed in the churchyard as I made my way up to the 8.00 Eucharist. It was a morning full of possibilities.
Rather belatedly, we’d decided that I should learn how to set the Table for the Eucharist. With such a noble army of servers at St Mary’s, it’s not a regular part of the job here, but I’m well aware that it’s now or never for learning these basic skills of vicaring. It gave me an interesting new perspective on the service and underlined how very anxious some of our servers are. Very sad. With some surprise, I found myself praying my socks off for the Holy Spirit to arrive in force and sweep the whole lot of us off our feet. I’ve never experienced charismatic worship, but even I with my full crop of catholic prejudices know that there are times when it would do us all a power of good to have a Power of Good arrive.
Sadly, this wasn’t a day for obvious answers to prayer, though, but rather an ecclesiastical assault-course. I survived a full Sung Eucharist with Procession, a Youth Group lunch for Christian Aid, a Churches Together Pentecost Party and even Choral Evensong (for which I did indeed complete the sermon in the very nick of time) with a growing sense of deflation. Rather grumpily I blacked out the parish centre for my session with the youth group, wobbling precariously on a table to reach the velux windows and wondering why I was bothering.
Then two things happened.
First, Chris, of the late lamented know:follow blog just happened to drop in as he was passing…reminding me that not only is there a whole world out there beyond Charlton Kings but that God has introduced me to all sorts of wonderful people in it.
Next, the youth group session actually worked. I’d not tried a guided meditation with them before, but they seemed receptive as they sat in the dark, around my Pentecost fire*, and let me lead them through the events of that memorable day in Jerusalem. Later, I gave them space, and some cut out "flames" and invited them to dream their dreams and God’s dreams for the world.
I ran the session four times, for groups of six, and all of them were different, and all valuable. Our older youth group is currently split between those who come largely for the football and those (mainly choristers and their friends) who are more willing to engage in discussion, take part in community projects, and generally challenge the image of the Yoof of Today. But, as I learned through Into the Wilderness and the Maundy Watch, I can’t make any assumptions about which kids will more readily become still before God.
My short term dream for the group, is a trip to Taize next year. I suspect my family will see this as “work”, but for me the time spent with the young people last night was a badly needed restorative and their company in the silence a real gift from God.
*btw, in case you’re interested, (and with deep gratitude for all your suggestions) , I finally opted for the no-tech variation approach to the flames of the Spirit…lots of tea lights in a sand-filled glass bowl, which I wrapped round with a sort of crown of orange crepe paper. It sounds naff, I know, but actually looked remarkably effective, since the flames flickered constantly. It would have been even better if I’d remembered that a black-out might present me with problems when it came to reading my script…but heck, if I don’t know the story of the coming of the Spirit by now I’m definitely in the wrong job ;-)