As I begin writing this, I’m a couple of hours away from going away on retreat, before I am ordained a deacon in the Church of England on Sunday. If I was a proper blogger, I’d have been thinking about this for quite some time in readiness for dazzling whoever reads my writings with some wisdom, insight or humour which makes them at once stop in their tracks and marvel at the gifts and talents (coupled with humility) that God has given me. Sadly, this isn’t the case. I’ll never be a famous Christian blogger. Instead, as it ticks past midday, here are the contents of my head.
I said goodbye to my wife a couple of hours ago. I won’t see her until Sunday. Next time I talk to her properly I’ll be a deacon/curate and have a bit of white plastic round my neck. I don’t know whether people will notice that first, or the black cassock I’ll be wearing, the white surplice that I’m pretty convinced makes me look like a levitating soufflé, or whether my seemingly-defining features (suave, debonair good looks and/or wheelchair) will draw the most attention. I don’t know how I feel about ontological changes. I don’t think I understand ontology well enough to know how I feel about it, and the idea that when the Bishop puts his hands on my head on Sunday (must wash my hair) and prays a powerful prayer, I will become something, or someone else. What I do know is that once a person makes a step like being ordained, nothing is quite the same again. God does something, the Church does something, I do something, but almost equally, those who love and care for me do something too, and everything changes. I was struck as she left this morning as Jo left that she has committed and sacrificed so much so that I can be and do this, that neither of us really have a clue what we’re getting into, but that there’s no-one I’d rather be getting into it with.
I’ve got to be silent from after dinner tonight for most of the next four days. I don’t know how you feel about being silent, but I have a busy mind, sometimes troubled, sometimes rejoicing, but hardly ever quiet. Lots of books and leaflets exist on how to be silent and how to make the most of the gift of silence and I really appreciate them, but the truth of it is I’ll likely find the next few days a challenge. Be thinking of me!
I’m looking ahead to a new life and a new job (I know it’s a vocation really) as a colleague and team member of the Emmanuel Group of Churches in Northampton. Rather unbelievably, as this move has been a long time coming, I start there on Monday. I have so much to learn, but I’m very excited and feel very honoured by the welcome that I’ve received there so far. Come visit sometime.
You’re supposed to say that you feel unworthy at times like this. It’s the done thing. I often feel unworthy. It’s my default position. I find it easier than confidence, peace, happiness or anything else. The thing is, this time I feel like I’m in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. This is strange, and oddly frustrating (don’t ask how my mind works). I feel pretty good about the whole thing though. I suppose I could theologically reflect about why that is while I’m away. If I come up with any answers I’ll probably blog about it! Anyone who knows me or has spoken to me in the last few years knows that the last few years have been something of a journey (hate that phrase, but it’s true) and that there were a lot of times when I didn’t think I would be here doing this. There were even more times when I didn’t even want to be here. The thing is (and here comes the vaguely spiritual bit) sometimes you can’t run from the thing that God wants to gift to you. Ordination is a huge thing, it’s a responsibility, but it’s also, next to Jo and my family, probably the biggest gift and privilege I’ve ever been given. I don’t know from my own experience yet but I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out to be the case. God has been constant and abundant in His provision throughout my life, perhaps unsurprisingly as that is His character and mode of operation, but on a day like today it feels important to stop and acknowledge that truth afresh. I’ve tried hard to escape from His love, grace and generosity, often a lot too hard, but “where can I flee from your spirit?” Nowhere. There’s nowhere that any of us can go which is beyond the welcome of the Spirit. Wherever you are at this morning I hope you know that somewhere deep within.
And so, in spite of a maelstrom of thoughts and concerns, I can go in to what is next knowing and believing what hindsight tells me loud and clear. God is with me. God is with us. God is for us. This is His life, His ministry. I’m me. Bizarrely He wants to partner with me in doing the next part of something. It’ll be fun finding out what it is.