And so, here I am. On the other side. This morning I woke up and, oddly, felt quite ready to put on a green clergy shirt and dog collar. Fortunately I put on some other clothes too. The last few days have been incredible. As the response to my last blog has been so favourable (even my mum liked it) I thought I would write again and let you in on how ordination retreat, and the ordination itself, have left me feeling. If I did this fully, it’d take a lot longer than I have, so here, once again, are the key contents of my head this Monday afternoon.
Firstly, even though I spent most of the last few days in silence, I feel like I made a lot of new friends. There’s an odd kind of companionship and intimacy which develops in silence. I couldn’t tell you an awful lot about the cohort of people that I retreated and was ordained with, I have very little memory of where they all are today, what they used to do, how many kids they have etc. I do know though that those ordained deacon and priest in Peterborough Diocese this year are, without exception, a wonderful group of people. Each has their own history, call and future, but I am so looking forward to getting to know them, ministering and serving alongside them in the years to come. The site at Launde Abbey was relatively accessible to me (in the way that a thing is accessible as long as one is assisted) and to a man or woman, each person did all they could to enable me to participate fully in every part of the retreat. This was no small feat, and I was very humbled by the servant-heartedness of all. This might sound trite, but I really mean it. If you wanted a mark of a group of people who were fit to serve in Churches, this was one. I hate having to ask for help. Maybe one day I won’t need any anymore? Who knows. So, in a funny kind of way, one of the key things I will take away from this last week is a whole group of new friends. What a great gift that is.
Secondly, robes are exceptionally warm.
Thirdly, I had a clear sense that God was with me. I’m not a person who clearly senses very much most of the time. A combination of cynicism, scepticism, anti-depressants and so on usually puts paid to that these days. That said, it was very clear right from arrival at Launde that I was in the right place, at the right moment, doing the right thing. This is not common in my everyday experience, and it was, well it was just really great. I can’t really describe it any better than that. I was acutely aware of the prayers and love of many people, near and far, especially every time I survived showering on the picnic chair that played the role in this production of “The Shower Seat”. Thanks for looking out for me, pray-ers and well-wishers.
Fourthly, it was so good, after four days, to see my wife, family and friends yesterday morning. It felt like years that I’d been away, but of course it wasn’t. However, as I wrote the other day, I was reminded again of how much we need each other and how fortunate I am to have such an amazing wife and family/friends around me. I know not everyone can say that, but I’m often guilty of taking it for granted. Don’t try and do things on your own. That was the key message of the whole service yesterday. We’re not built for flying solo, in life or ministry. I don’t mean, before you jump up and down, that a life of singleness isn’t valid. What I mean is that we need fellowship, community, a family of some kind. Jesus needed it in His earthly life. So do we. God has it in the trinity. It is impossible, as the diaconal ordination service told me yesterday (as if I didn’t know) to fulfil the tasks I now have as an ordained person in my own strength. God is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever He has called me to. It is the same for all of us.
Fifthly, as I was rolling around the shopping centre where my new Church is situated, earlier, I was amused by how many people didn’t know how to react to me. Granted I was in a wheelchair, dressed as a vicar (I’ll get used to it) with a green clerical shirt on, but i was left to wonder, “have I really changed that much?” The shopping centre is one I’ve used regularly throughout my life, a lot of people locally know me by sight (the perils of being obviously different) but here I was in a new state, a new uniform, a new way of being. Things had changed already. The strangest thing of all is that I already feel pretty comfortable with who I am and what the new clothes I wear signify, even as I don’t have much of an understanding of what this new ordained state will really mean for me, my life and the lives of those I love. I suspect that this is the greatest evidence of the activity of the Spirit in my midst over the last few days. I am here and it feels somehow just right. I never thought I would write anything like that.
Lastly, I’m preparing a testimonial talk, to be given over the next few Sundays at the three Churches in the Emmanuel Group. The main idea of this is to introduce myself and Jo and to explain how I think I got to where I am. As I’m thinking about this, I have come to one clear, annoyingly trite and yet unswervingly true answer: it is Jesus that is the reason I am here. Without Him I really would be lost and flailing around in the world, and I’m not even a Calvinist. He has brought me here, to do whatever it is that is coming. How exciting this actually is. I’m here to serve the Church and the community around it, to learn and to grow (hopefully no further outwards). How lucky am I?
I’m a Rev. Blimey.