Friday, June 27, 2014

1 month in - a few inconclusive thoughts in a time of change.

Today being 27th June, it is exactly one calendar month since I started my new job at Coventry - as I had 3 days of orientation before my installation/collation on 31st May.
The past couple of weeks have felt quite different - as if I'm actually beginning to do things that might be useful to other people, rather than being found (or finding myself) things to do to help me learn the new context - or, worse still, to keep me amused! They've also felt markedly busier...instead of automatically heading for my bike the moment Evening Prayer is over, I've returned to my desk on more than a couple of evenings - though thus far I've not brought work home (unless you count sermon prep).It's interesting the difference that not living over the shop has made. On the whole, once I'm home, I switch off - and, because I'm still finding the learning process quite exhausting, I tend to spend my evenings in vegetative non-contemplation. At the moment I don't feel responsible for the community I serve in quite the same way as I did as a parish priest...I'm wildly in love with the Cathedral & indeed with the whole city - but I don't carry it around and worry about it as I did in the parish. This may be simply because I haven't quite picked it up yet (though +Christopher did indeed give me the cure of souls at my collation, and I don't remember saying "No thanks!") It may be because there are colleagues with whom to share the angst. Or it may be that the poor Dean has the special privilege of worrying about the Cathedral and its communities day and night, and thus I don't have to.

Whatever - I'm not complaining!

During the past couple of weeks I've started to do some visiting - some housebound members of the congregation, some sterling souls who have been heavily involved in the life of the place for many years - and while I've asked them what it is that they most love about the Cathedral, and what one thing they would like to change (different answers to both questions from practically everyone), many of them have asked me what has struck me most in these early weeks.
And of course, there are many many answers to this.

I'm constantly struck by the amazing privilege of praying in that space every day.
I can't decide whether I prefer Morning Prayer, in the circle close to the West Screen, where we are bathed in light filtered through John Piper's incredible window
Or Evening Prayer in the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and the glittering angel has a resonance close to that of Orthodox ikons
Or is it best of all to stand in the ruins, confronting the charred cross but with the sky open above me...
I just don't know. 
All I know is that it is good to be here - and that each and every Choral Evensong feels like the most tremendous present from God...something I have loved all my life, that I'm now part of on a regular basis - and I get to call this WORK!

I'm struck, too, by the sheer unexpectedness of life. Whatever my diary may say at the start of a day, I can be confident that there will be a whole host of unplanned encounters...symbolised for me by an "ordinary" Tuesday Evening Prayer, at which the congregation grew from 2 to 48 during the course of the Office as a whole pilgrim group from Hong Kong wound their way up the nave to join us in the Lady Chapel.

But above all I'm struck by the multitude of people who give of their time and energy to the work of the place. 
I was taken on with the brief of "Nurturing the Cathedral community as a reconciled and reconciling people" but there are so many Cathedral communities..
The congregation who gather for the Eucharist on a Sunday morning, that is the most visible expression of our life of worship
The smaller congregation that find God in the beauty of Choral Evensong and those who are drawn to the informality of Cathedral Praise - not to mention those who appear to share in the Office.
The Cathedral choirs - men, girls, boys, - who offer their talents every week - and those who find time to step in and enable the choristers to take the occasional break
The welcomers, stewards, guides and lay chaplains
The vergers - both full time, asssitant and honorary - whose patience and calm in the face of even the most idiotic of rookie canons is truly impressive
The servers
Those who sew, wash, iron, press...
Those who keep track of the archives
Those who clean, polish, weed, shore up & sand down
The assorted staff who ensure that music happens, schools are welcomed, special events take place, the world knows that we are here AND can buy a souvenir of their visit
And that's just the people I could think of without effort...I'm still so new that there will be many others I've not even registered yet...
The Cathedral Community is more varied and diverse than I would ever have imagined...If I were to try and draw a Venn diagram, it would be complex, multi-foliate...

It seems clear to me that I am called equally to love and serve each and every grouping and I dream of a space in which they could all become aware and appreciative of each other...

So I guess that it is that complexity of Cathedral life that strikes me most
and is probably why I'm so consistently tired at the moment.
But it's a good tired...and exploring the life of the organism that is both my spiritual home and my place of employment for the present is endlessly intriguing, enthralling and rewarding.
I'm blessed to be here!

1 comment:

UKViewer said...

Sounds wonderfully, bewilderingly, confusingly beautiful and joyful all at once.

Sharing the burden for the first time, but with a specific brief is like a team ministry essentially, with the dean leading gently and the pastors looking to specific areas, probably with some overlap as complex organizations inevitably have.

But what a privilege to serve the diverse communities you describe and the people you meet day to day, hour by hour. That might be described as a macrocosm whereas parish might be a microcosm of God's Kingdom.

Prayers for you, but I have not doubt that very soon you will have found your way around the complexities and will be less tired, if not more comfortable in this new role. Sometimes being comfortable makes me uneasy, because it's pointing a lack of risk taking - so I try to move a bit nearer the edge.... which is the reality where we'll meet Jesus and he will welcome us.