When the post arrived this morning, it included a postcard from our diocesan retreat house. I fell upon it with delight, because since Wednesday evening my thoughts have kept drifting in that direction.
On Wednesday 16 ordinands, to be made Deacon at Gloucester this Sunday, began their ordination retreat, and among them is my soon-to-be colleague (who may develop a blogname in the fulness of time, but is as yet blisfully anonymous)...
To be honest, it's been quite hard to think about much else, as the experience of my own ordination retreats is still so fresh in my mind. I've imagined the group standing in the Chapter House to take the oaths of allegiance to the Queen and to the Bishop (in all things lawful and honest)...enjoying a very English tea (mine was at the Deanery)...travelling to Glenfall.
I've remembered my own expectation that now was the time when I really would be found out, my inadequacies revealed. An announcement would come from ABM to say that there had been an administrative error and I should never have trained at all...
Actually my diaconal retreat was one of the most significant events of my journey so far. Because I was ordained beside many with whom I had trained at WEMTC, in some ways the experience looked a little like just another WEMTC residential - but during those 3 and a bit days we found ourselves moved along on a process which presented us at the Cathedral as ready as we ever would be for what was to come. It was a time of huge and lasting blessing.
So, I've been thinking and praying for this year's ordinands, and praying with extra fervour for the nearly-Curate and for our role here as a training parish. When I was first asked to consider receiving a Deacon this Petertide I was incredulous. The phone-call came just a few months after I'd arrived here, when I was still wrestling on a daily basis with the absence of my very own, much beloved, training incumbent and trying to work out what it meant to be priest-in-charge in these two parishes.
Now they expected me to train someone myself?!?! Laughable!
In much the same spirit that I started my diaconal retreat, I continued with life as usual, confident that "they" would wake up to the impossibility of pursuing this route. It just wouldn't be fair to the ordinand...
A few weeks later, an email arrived introducing us to one another. Could we at least meet and talk? The diocese recognised my anxieties (how, for example, could I hope to train someone who will exercise a high proportion of is ministry outside the parish, in his workplace?) but thought we would both benefit from meeting face to face anyway.
And when the meeting actually happened - challenge suddenly became opportunity.
I remembered with joy that you really can't be a training incumbent without doing heaps of theological reflection.
I recognised that I was being offered the chance to learn about ministry here in greater depth by facilitating another in ministry.
I thought about how WonderfulVicar allowed me to find my own way in ministry, while providing support and friendship and mopping up diasters when they struck.
I remembered the delight of praying the Office regularly with a colleague (though we've not yet worked out how this will actually happen, given work committments, that was so much at the heart of my curacy I'll do everything I can to make it possible at least once a week).
And so I became, characteristically, excited.
I loved my curacy.
I'll do all that I can to enable my new colleague to have an equally happy experience - and I'm so looking forward to learning with him, and from him as we travel together over the next 3/4 years.
I first received an Ember Card when Hugger Steward's godfather was ordained back in the 1980s. In those days, we giggled rather at the implications of the concluding lines
"Please pray also for Fr X and the parish of St Y's where Z is to serve"
teasing our C that with him as their curate, they would need all the prayerful help they could get.
The diocesan Ember Card this year doesn't mention prayer for training incumbents and parishes - but it would surely be welcome.
Meanwhile, if you are so inclined, here is the prayer on the diocesan card...
Father, you have taught the ministers of your Church
to be the willing servants of others.
Give to those soon to be ordained deacon
Skill and gentleness
in the practice of their ministry,
and perseverance always in prayer;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.