and begin retracing my track, I'll remind you to remind me, We said we wouldn't look back"
Thus sang Jane in Salad Days, - the summer musical par excellence, which always takes me straight back to Cambridge, and damp performances in Sidney Fellows Garden. With another child now having finished school, looking back is probably best avoided - it's truly disturbing how fast the time goes. On the other hand, this week's Friday Five was an invitation to look both forward and back with a purpose, and having finished tomorrow's sermon (and fighting shy of Big Scary Talk for Tuesday) I do need to do something else for a minute or two.
So...here we go
1. Share a moment/ time of real encouragement in your journey of faith
I blogged this at the time, so anyone reading me then will have to forgive the repetition, as its one of the best encouragements ever.
In January last year, we'd been having a few alarms and excursions over the re-ordering of St David's Chapel, leaving me feeling that I'd managed to alienate and hurt people without even realising...WonderfulVicar had one complaint that to receive the Sacrament in the re-ordered chapel had left the parishioner feeling "unfed" for the first time in all his long life. I'd carried those words round as a heavy burden that week, and went up to say Morning Prayer in the controversial chapel with not much hope of leaving the heaviness with God. When I got there, I found a young man whom I didn't recognise sitting in the dim chapel.
He said "I often come in here to pray. I hope you don't mind..." "Mind???!!!..."
Then he told me his story. Brought up anti-church he'd had an amazing direct experience of God, unsolicited and unexpected, which had changed everything for him. He brimmed over with the joy of it all,- it was quite hard not to cry listening to him celebrating all that God was doing in him,- quite without any inteference from the church! M. recognised that community wwould be important later and had tried various churches looking for somewhere to make his home. He'd been to our local mega-church a few times and valued their life and enthusiasm but needed quiet too, and had enjoyed very different styles of worship in other places. He clearly understood that God is so much bigger than our attempts to constrain him, and had found Him in all of the worship he'd experienced. He had never, he said, left a church feeling empty.Wonderful words to counter the weight of my "unfed" parishioner.
I'd mentioned that I'd arrived to say Morning Prayer, and M was keen to join me,- but by this time I was thinking "How do I subject all of this shining reality to the multi-coloured ribbon complexities of CW Morning Prayer? What if it's the thing that stifles all that wonderful life and growth?"
I explained the rough idea of the Office (he was really tickled by the idea that I have to pray as part of my job) and offered him the option of either doing it by the book or just talking to God together. He said that he was always talking to God (somehow, this came as no surprise at all) and would love to see how formal prayer felt. So we prayed the Office together, and it was quite wonderful! Reading those phrases I heard them through his ears, as if for the first time, and they shone with truth and beauty
"In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us..."
And, of course, the burden of tradition that had weighed me down was lifted in the process as we celebrated God's reality together in a life-giving blend of polished phrases and intense personal communication.
I've not seen him since, - so for me he remains an unexpected angel, someone sent to remind me that God is alive and active here and now. I've loved that chapel ever since.
More recently, I was hugely encouraged at the end of the Spiritual Direction course by very positive comments from the course leaders. We ended our time together with an extended Eucharist, and at the Peace the whole group was invited to share with each other anything we’d particularly valued about travelling together. People are both kind and affirming, and that’s something else to treasure.
2. Do you have a current vision / dream for your work/ family/ministry?
Rather a hot issue now I’m into my 4th year of curacy, and teeter on the edge of trying to make dreams a reality. Ideally, I’d like to serve in this diocese (FabBishop and beloved friends close by) in a slightly run-down parish, somewhere that isn’t too sure of itself, with a church that is struggling to hold things together. I suspect that it’s only when the church confronts its insufficiency that it can become really open to God (scary stuff…but no good saying it if Im not prepared to at least try and live it)
Becoming part of a community that is serious about mutual dependency, and excited about exploring together, looking for God in unexpected places and joining God’s activity there. Back to my favourite postcard, in fact…
3.Money is no object and so you will.....Offer to take on a “house for duty” post in that sort of parish, perhaps (since the diocese is determinedly amalgamating parishes left, right and centre to save stipendiary posts) ?
But my real “Money is no object” dream is one I shared not long ago, as part of another “Five"
I have a strong sense that my ministry should be about making safe space for hurting people, so the dream involves using a rambling Victorian vicarage (with lots of real fire places) as a sanctuary for pretty much anyone who needs one. Of course, this would be part of the life of that community that was "serious about mutual dependency and excited about looking for God"...Is this a dream or a prayer? I'm not sure.
4.. How do you see your way through the disappointments? What keeps you going?
People I love, believing in me and telling me so.
Revisiting in my journal times of encouragement, times when God has felt real and close.
Meeting God in the Eucharist, and knowing that healing only comes through brokenness.
Music - Bach covers most things.
5. How important are your roots?
Define roots. When I lost my parents at the age of 18, that pretty much ended my sense of belonging to a family…no aunts or cousins about the place though I’ve always been good at acquiring (and pretty good at keeping) honorary relatives. But I’m very aware of where I come from, in terms of childhood and of education, if not of place.
In faith terms, I guess my roots matter hugely. When I agreed to marry LongsufferingClockmaker, a cradle RC, it seemed only logical that I should convert. He was part of a large and determinedly Catholic family, while I was on my own, and already at the Catholic end of the Anglican spectrum. Minimal theological revision necessary, - but the reality of finding myself part of a rather disengaged RC parish, in contrast to the all-embracing activity of my previous church was a very different matter…and as for the liturgy and the music. I soon realised that there is more to church membership than theology and returned home with relief only 4 years later. So yes, I guess roots are important.
6.What would you like to add?
As someone whose life, like my home, is never in the order I'd like it to be, I'm aware of the danger of always waiting till things are "right" ....which, of course, is a recipe for never committing fully to anything. Looking ahead is exciting, and looking back can be encouraging, but here and now is where I'm called to be. Here and now is where I should expect to find God.