If you're feeling weary, I suggest you just move straight on. I'm not quite sure why I'm blogging this - it's not, I promise, in an effort to claim the "most clapped-out clergy award" for 2007. I wanted to simply blog the ordinations, but somehow the rest of life intervened...so here we are.
In the tradition of the best primary school literacy assignments "What I did at the weekend".
On Friday and Saturday afternoons there were weddings – both lovely, both involving couples of whom I’ve become very fond during the months of preparation. I ought to relish every second of weddings, I know, but though I’m now well into double figures of weddings conducted I still find them hugely stressful. The service has so much of spectacle about it, it’s really hard to keep it anchored in real prayer,- and there's the little matter of the legal responsibility too. This weekend one groom tried to sign the registers, instead of writing his name in full as it appears on the certificates. If anything else potentially untoward happened during the signing, I just didn't notice it.
Friday’s wedding featured the small daughter of the couple, whom I’d had the pleasure of baptising last year. It was absolutely right that she should be actively involved i her parents' wedding but, as she is a card-carrying toddler, her contributions were rather distracting even at times when distraction should have been outlawed. I'm still not sure how else we could have arranged things, but when the groom spent much of the nuptial blessing looking over his shoulder to check that his daughter wsn’t about to come to grief, I did feel I’d failed them rather…
Still – no real issues, barring the weather (and even I don't feel responsible for that one) and some great singing from the Saturday congregation, who gave every impression of being quite used to finding themselves in church – quite unusual in these parts.
From the Saturday wedding I drove over to Gloucester for the Ordination of Priests. Awesome. Completely awesome. Several good friends (including one blogger) among the cohort, - a joy to be among those laying hands on them, and I was privileged, too, to glimpse A’s face in the moments after FabBishop had anointed her hands. She was looking at them with the same wondering incredulity that was such a part of the experience for me two years ago.
Immediately afterwards I wrote on the blog…
"+ M anointed our hands, which felt like the most powerful thing that's been done for me, ever. It has somehow turned them into a sacramental sign in themselves, in that whatever I do, I use them and am reminded of my priesthood, a non-negotiable part of the person I now am. It meant that on Sunday, when I stood at the altar saying those HUGE things, I could look at my hands and remember the Grace that had been prayed down on me."
And that has been absolutely the way it’s worked for me. There they are, sacramental signs whenever I preside at the altar, but no less during the rest of life and ministry. Sometimes before a challenging encounter I find myself tracing the shape of the cross on my palms, reminding myself that what happened to me that day has changed everything, that I’m not doing this in any way because I think I can, but because God is doing it in me.
Great sermon by Paul Bayes…He started by quoting Alistair Campbell’s famous comment to a journalist attempting to quiz Tony Blair about his faith “We don’t do God”…and pointed out that God is never something we do, a puzzle to be solved. God is a mystery to be entered into….In God we can rest and make our home.
He said lots more, all of it good – I should have blogged it last night, but by the time I got home from a rather good concert by St M’s choir the need for sleep was utterly compelling.- and the events of today have overlaid the clarity of his message. I’m sorry. It would have borne repeating.
But today has been one of full-on public ministry…the sort of day that picks you up with the sound of the alarm at 6.45 and deposits you in an exhausted heap somewhere around now really! 8.00 Eucharist was its wonderful, stress-free, God-centred self. I love that service so so much, against all and any expectations. 10.00 was Patronal Festival (St M’s opted to stick with the old BCP observance of the Visitation, for assorted practical if confusing reasons)…so clergy in copes and bemused or delighted people milling about with banners and singing “Ye who own the faith of Jesus”. About half- way through the procession I caught the eyes of a family who’ve joined us recently from a nearby church of rather more evangelical persuasion….Spent the rest of the hymn wondering and worrying whether this would be the thing that sends them scurrying – which would be sad, when we’re just getting to know them. In fact they seemed to have enjoyed it all. Not sure quite how I feel, really.
Too many “regulars” away on holiday – that’s July for you in an affluent and largely retired congregation, so it felt a little strange celebrating our common life. Ah well.
Strawberry teas on the vicarage lawn had to be relocated to the parish centre. Less stressful in many ways, but it did deter some of the OpenHouse families who had rightly deduced that space might be in short supply….Still we mustered a small contingent of children for the treasure hunt which fed into worship on the theme of the fruits of the Spirit, and to my relief there were no signs of disapproval from the traditional St M’s members, who appeared quite happy to indulge in a little light percussion and a “whole body Amen”.
Evensong was Evensong, really – some good singing, a fine sermon from J the Reader, but a very weary curate officiating. Then Youth Group….and now I’m home.
So many different celebrations, which I’ve felt really privileged to be part of.
The beginning of a new life for D&E, J &K and for 13 priests , and a celebration of community and continuity for the people of St M’s.
For the curate, a reminder of how rich and varied and exhausting this calling can be.
And tomorrow a new week begins, WonderfulVicar heads off on his hols and I wait to see what will come my way.