As many of you will know by now, Wednesday is a (enforced?) study day and my main task over the last few weeks has been to pull together stuff from my blog, journal reflections and various networks to put together a portfolio of my first 2 years as a pioneer curate which will be used to assess me in my ongoing training (CME? potty training … whatever you wish to call it!)
A real value of blogging and journalling is that it shows me where I have come from. I look at some posts and wonder if somebody else has hacked my blogger account and written a few posts while I wasn’t looking! Other posts I remember and think, ‘wow … did I really think that?’
The beauty of reading through a few years posts as part of my portfolio reflection is that it gives an opportunity to see what I have missed while I have been living in the experience. It can cause a reaction of ‘how on earth did I miss that?’ My recent experience has been just that.
As I have read over various accounts of encounters I have had with various people it has become clear to me now that I have been receiving peoples confessions in an informal way.
The first and most obvious was my encounter with a man nearly 20 months ago now who I have not seen since who knelt and wept at me feet for 5 minutes before sharing with me stuff he felt guilty about. Others have been less obvious at the time, but clearly been times when people have felt the need to share stuff that they have been holding onto but stuff, as well, that they wish to share with others and ‘get off their chest’.
Over the last 2 years the number of these encounters is well in to double figures and seemingly takes up a large part of my time when I am out in the community. It seems there is a need for people to be able to share stuff that they are holding onto and want to get rid off. It seems to me that a ‘priest’ is a person that people feel able to share their stuff with in a public place. I wonder if churches advertised confessionals as a service to the community if people would make us of them? I suspect not.
This whole area gives me a lot of stuff for thought. Clearly my regular presence has caused some sort of trust to develop. Interestingly, though, it is not the people I meet with every day, in the main, that these encounters have happened with. They have tended to be irregular visitors who have seen me in conversation with ‘the regulars’ who then wish to share with me.
I say regularly that part of my role is digging within the wells of our tradition and finding fresh water for this culture at this time. As we dig, I have said, we find things in our tradition that we have forgotten about and stopped doing – or, of course, we find reasons why we are doing things and realise the need for that disappeared 50 years ago!
When my portfolio is submitted (the deadline is about 2 weeks away) then I am going to spend time digging into the tradition of confession. There is something here, I think, that is needed by the wider community and my experiences in the pub and coffee shops make me think we need to consider how this practice may be reframed for the people of today.
Any thought … please get in touch.