After our holiday cum trek round Norfolk churches, Saturday saw a more significant pilgrimage for the Flemings. My youngest son was confirmed in Gloucester Cathedral, in a service that made use of the whole of that wonderful building to reflect what was happening for the 33 candidates. Bishop Michael met and welcomed them at the west end and asked what they sought from the church, then made their way up to the font, where 4 candidates (3 from our parish) were baptised, and the rest of us liberally sprinkled in remembrance of our baptisms. Next, with suitable singing along the way, we travelled to the head of the nave, where the confirmation itself took place...J's sister acted as his sponsor (though 3 godparents had managed to join us, choosing which to ask for this role was a diplomatic impossibility!), and she stood behind him with her hand on his shoulder, which was rather lovely. At this point I realised The clergy were behind candidates and sponsors, in a large semi-circle which seemed to underline our role as faciltators, who had in a small way helped to launch the candidates on this stage of their journey. At this point I discovered why clergy are probably best advised not to marry their offspring, as I was decidedly weepy...in this context it didn't matter in the least, but if I'd had to say or do anything more than stand there it might have been awkward.
Once confirmed, the next stop was through to the chancel, where we all received Communion,and finally the newly confirmed, carrying lighted candles, led us all out into the world to live and work to God's praise and glory.
The age range of confirmands was terrific:a couple who were definitely elderly and one small girl who surely couldn't have been the minimum recommended age, 10, plus a good overall balance of adults and teens: it almost looked as if the church might be getting something right for once, which was encouraging.
The Bishop, God bless him, pointed out to me afterwards that the next time we met int the Cathedral looked likely to be my priesting on 2nd July...suddenly it feels very real.
With that in mind, I've spent the first part of this week on a pilgrimage of my very own, at the retreat house at Llan in the Shropshire hills. Space. Silence. Infinite care from the wonderful Andrew and Jill, who mediate so many tangible experiences of God's love...
Add to that, perfect weather and alot of very positive spiritual spring-cleaning, and I've come home a gently smiley curate.