As a dyed-in-the-wool optimist, living with a rather more cynical household (whom I sorely need to keep my feet on the ground) I find that more often than not I need to curb tides of positive feelings, lest they overwhelm everyone else and – let’s be honest – bore them rigid.
But the trouble is, I really do love my job and nearly all aspects of being part of the church (small “c”) here as well as the Church – and that optimism keeps on breaking through.
So, though I’m a day late for Sally's gridblog, I’m going to post about today – and the things that happened to make me come home smiley from every foray up to church.
The day began with the 8.00 Eucharist – a smaller congregation than normal, as it’s bitterly cold and the 8.00ers are mostly fairly elderly…Before ordination, I dreaded the thought of this service – but that was before I encountered the concentrated devotion to God and to worship that this congregation represents. As you’ll know if you read here often, St M’s is a church that values its music and liturgical niceties - and so indeed do I – but there are times when they can make things feel a bit anxious. That’s when the opportunity to preside at a service where the only requirement is to pray with and for others feels like a really special gift – and today the congregation included a visitor, a younger woman who told me that she had recently moved into the area and was in the middle of a church-tasting exercise, to try and work out where she might belong. She commented on how much she had enjoyed the space and peace of the service, the gentle welcome - and how lovely it was that this was offered every week. She even said she would be very comfortable joining us regularly.
Bizarrely, something else that made me feel positive was what amounted to a very quiet complaint. Having enthused last week on the blog about the way this congregation had adapted to being offered a short address, one lady came up to me at the end today to ask "Have we always got to have a sermon...it seems to interrupt the flow for me". When I told her that, yes, our plan was that we would offer some sort of thought for the day every week, and added that some of her friends were in favour, she smiled, said "Well, you'll never please everyone" , shook my hand warmly and went on her way. If only everyone in the church (and the Church) could be as tolerant about changes they would not have chosen. I was so proud of her (and not only because she started by assuring me that she had really valued today's effort- - though clearly her wonderous tact and diplomacy did help!)A hugely generous offer from another regular also added a spring to my step as I came home for a quick breakfast before the 10.00 – with all the beauty and drama of Candlemas, processions, candles and one of the most lovely anthems there is…i.e. St M’s doing the sort of things it does very well, and doing them with a loving focus.
What’s more, there was a handful of new children there today – at this rate, we might actually draw together a congregation representative of the local population one of these days.
Bitterly cold by 3.30 when we set out for OpenHouse…so I had minimal expectations as to turn- out. If I were the mum of small children, I don’t think I’d have taken the time to find coats, gloves, hats and buggies this afternoon – really I don’t. But they did. A happy huddle to engage with the wholly positive theme “LOVE LIFE LIVE LENT”…which this year has the specific focus “Be a good neighbour”.
For the activity, we drew round our hands so that I can make a tree with each hand representing an individual’s commitment to try and make a difference in our community during the next 6 weeks. 27 hands – age range 1 year to – well – a bit older…And over tea people were talking about the actions in the LLLL book – planning how they might do them.
It’s actually going to happen – in Charlton Kings!
If that’s not something positive, I don’t know what is.
OpenHouse just makes me sing, though, every time…I’ve never been in at the start of a whole new service before, still less one that draws in mostly a whole new congregation –parents and young children who were completely outside the church family not so long ago. Now they ARE family – looking out for each other, growing together, praying, loving…and I'm overwhelmed by the whole thing, really.
My final foray up the hill today was for Evensong – just lovely to sit in the church and be fed for a change. Reared as I was on Choral Evensong at school and at Cambridge, this service touches me at all sorts of subliminal levels – and it too draws its own distinct congregation, who don’t necessarily attend other worship at St M’s. The perfect closure of the Naylor Final Responses is a tiny window onto heaven in itself…
I hope that the people of St M's generally realise what a gift the choir makes to them, week in, week out. I know I'll not have the opportunity to enjoy music of this calibre on a regular basis for the foreseeable future once I move on - so I do savour each note now. Happy sighs.
Then out into the stormy night to join Koinonia – my lovely shiney youth group, in silly pancake- tide mood…We didn’t achieve much, but the easy friendship that group offers is another positive among many.
Have I ever told you how much I love this job?