Of all the things to get one excited, the prospect of a Deanery service - even one to celebrate a new deanery, formed from the union of two others - seems unlikely, to put it mildly.
However, I have to say that the service of celebration held in Church in the Valley this evening was nothing short of staggering.
Despite a grey and dampish winter evening, well over 250 appeared from all sorts and conditions of parish...My little church was full almost to overflowing.
We sang and prayed, we lit candles for each benefice of the new Deanery, and placed them on a map of the whole area while a soprano with a beautiful voice sang "Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the holy one, is here"
We listened to an excellent sermon which took as its starting point a South American fish with four eyes, then we sang and prayed some more.
And through it all, there was such a sense of God's presence that it was electric...
I had chosen some bits of liturgy by Dorothy McRae McMahon - which sometimes seem more of an expression of hope than of reality. Tonight,though they were spot on
The people of God have a human face
We laugh. We weep. We wait in hope.
We lift our eyes and stub our toes.
We love and struggle. We fail. We stand again.
But God is God, and Jesus is the Christ.
And the Spirit will lift up our feet.
God is in the centre. God is at our endings.
Nothing lies beyond the love of God in Christ.
We are the people of hope
Together we will celebrate the moments of new life.
Afterwards we moved into the church hall, where each parish had been invited to provide a display to share something of their life and their story...Those stories were such good news. So much creativity and engagement. So much beauty. So much committment.
To coin a phrase, accounts of the demise of the Church of England have been grossly exaggerated. Tonight left me full of both hope and gratitude.