A wee while ago, Erin tagged me for a meme that invited me to reflect on 5 people, living or dead, who have influenced me spiritually.
I've been pondering and wondering - the list is so much longer, clearly, than just 5 and it's really hard to narrow it down. In the end I've cheated, using groups of people along the way and it's still not perfect but for the moment these will have to do...In a month's time, no doubt other voices would seem louder.
1) In my early 20s fresh from the rarified ecclesiastical enviroment of Cambridge and Durham, where faith seemed above all a matter of beautiful liturgy and intellectual coherence, I found myself part of the choir at St John the Divine, Kennington. That whole church had a huge influence on me, - such that, when I'm asked to name my "forming church", it's always SJDK that tops the list, with its multi-cultural congregation, its real sense that life and worship belonged together and, above all the centrality of the Eucharist, the offering of everyone and everything to the God who redeems and transforms....
2) While I was at SJDK exciting things were happening at the daughter church of - Christ Church, North Brixton...Fr N, nominally a curate at SJDK, was in charge of this struggling daughter church. He had listened to God, listened to the community and allowed dreams to become reality as he lead the congregation in a series of wonderful projects, whose constant aim was to make the Kingdom real in a troubled and deprived inner-city parish. So the Community of Christ the Servant came into being and gradually transformative work began - a charity shop, drop-in centre, youth projects...Lives were changed, the church turned around and faith was real and visible for anyone with eyes to see.
Since then, I've always known that one day I would be given the chance to serve God in a struggling urban setting - and here I am. N, of course, would accept no responsibility if I told him. He has struggled enough when I've attempted to suggest that he was a formative influence in my vocation to ordained ministry...but the how as much as the what comes from those days in South London.
3) Before ever I got to Kennington, though, one long-dead Bishop awoke in me the knowledge that I was a person of faith, that I cared about God and the church. In my first term at Cambridge, I was given an essay on Lancelot Andrewes and from that, as I've blogged here came so much else. Andrewes made me stop to read and to reflect...His words enthralled me, and through them I connected afresh with the Word, full of grace and truth.
4) Much more recent - the priest who conducted our ordination retreat before my diaconal ordination has influenced me in ways I'm probably only half aware of...During those precious 4 days, he consistently modelled the priesthood we aspired to. He has been known to visit here, so I won't say more, except that I am abidingly grateful that, on the cusp before FabBishop arrived, and with him a new DDO, we were given the huge gift of a "home grown" retreat. It was remarkable, and so often in the small every-day crises of parish life I recall his words and am strengthened, comforted or challenged. It makes a difference, daily, to the sort of priest I try to be.
5) The many children of the churches where I've worked, worshipped and learned since I began this journey in ministry...most notably, perhaps, the Little Fishes of St M's. Their eyes are so clear, their instinct for the God-moments unwavering...Dillon, with his practical demonstration of the flood of divine love that pours over us at Baptism...Sam, determined that nobody should be excluded from the Kingdom feast, sharing his bread crumb by crumb with the prams full of sleeping babies...As so often, though officially I was there to minister to them, it was always I who received ministry.