This is church?

Tomorrow, with my other colleagues in the diocese, I will be renewing my commitment to service as a priest in the cathedral at the Chrism Eucharist. This year Bishop Graham Cray is preaching and so I am looking forward to that.

For the last few years this has been a special time as we have all got together, with our bishop, to pray and re-commit to serving God and the church.

This year will be no different …. it will be still be a special time … but this year I find myself frustrated as to what the church has or is becoming.

Tonight I was planning for the MSM session that I will be teaching on next week and this video clip will be used:

It brought tears to my eyes tonight because I really do believe that this is what church should be. I really do believe that this is what I was ordained to be involved in. Sadly …. I also really do believe that the institution means that the meetings, sales, buildings etc etc etc so often take a higher priority than discipleship.

I guess I’m struggling to believe tonight that anything will ever change …. and that’s hard to stomach.

Because … if church is not about making disciples, if it’s not about love and liberation ….. then why church?

But …. tomorrow … I really do want to believe that this can be church …. so I will simply pray …. Lord help my unbelief!

 

ordained to …..

A few people I know have been ordained deacon or priest this last weekend. This time of year always causes me to stop and consider again the promises and commitments I made at my own ordination … and when I do that it can sometimes be quite a scarey experience.

I am also reminded of these words that Richard wrote in a card to me on the day I was ordained. I have returned to them regularly throughout the last four years.

These last few weeks have also brought out some more interesting thoughts on the experience of ordination …. a reflection of 25 years of being a priest by Stephen Cherry and an interesting 17 ten steps starting on June 8th from Steve Tilley who works at Holy Trinity Nailsea where I was youth worker centuries ago! Two interesting articles … go read …

60 years!!!

Today was a pretty special day in the cathedral and one that I don’t think I will ever repeat again. Today we celebrated the 60th anniversary of John Prior’s ordination. I have never heard of anyone celebrating 60 years of ordination before. I can’t believe it is a very common occurrence.

John is an amazingly gracious man who simply loves the cathedral, and loves people more. In my mere 3 years here John has consistently been a great support and encouragement to me. That’s nothing to do with me – he is a great support and encourager of lots of people. I think what is pretty amazing is that John does not really ‘get’ what I am about but …. he is still one of the most supportive characters I know, who is always excited just to hear stories. John loves God and loves people. John is one of those few people who you will find no-one to say a bad work against.

Today I had the privilege of being John’s deacon as he presided and preached to mark this 60th year. A gracious man, a loved man …. and a man who us young ones would do well to look up to as we wonder how to move forward. I clearly did not know John 60 years ago – but today he is a man who still loves what he is called to do. I so pray that I can still have that attitude in just 10 years time, let alone 60!

Thanks John for being gracious to allow me to share such an exciting time in your life.

more on women bishops

Maggi points to some petitions supporting women bishops. You can sign these if you, like me, want to see this happen as soon as possible, and as equal bishops with the other bishops that already hold office – rather than the ridiculous idea thought up by someone who though it acceptable to have women bishops on a different (lesser!!) level than men bishops. A bishop is a bishop, male or female, is equal in the sight of God and as soon as people get to grips with that then the better for us all!

Anyway to sign go click a link below depending on who you are:
you will sign something like: ‘we ….support having women as bishops on the same basis as men are bishops and we urge the Revision Committee to prepare the draft legislation with a code of practice, as requested by General Synod in July 2008, in time for General Synod in February 2010.’

For women clergy sign here

For men clergy sign here

For the laity (male or female!!!) sign here

I guess this is a good place as ny to answer those people who have shown surprise that I have not commented on this offer from the Roman Catholic church. I guess I have not commented because, to be frank, I’m not really that interested. If people wish to leave a church that embraces diversity and welcomes discussion and join one where one person is allowed to make all decisions unchallenged then so be it.

The reason I mention it here is because it is my honest hope that this will enable General Synod to go back to its original decision which agreed women bishops without alternative arrangements. The pope has made this offer to help out those who oppose the move … so I don’t wish to be insensitive but can we please move on now to what the overwhelming majority of Synod voted on after due though, discussion and prayer.

I look forward to our first woman bishop … be great of it was in Rochester!!! Shame it won’t be 😦

my first burial

Today I took my first burial service which has given me a lot to reflect upon.

It may sound strange, but I seem to enjoy’ funerals. Maybe that is not the right word to use, but I had never really realised what a real honour and privilege it would be to share with a family at such a difficult and painful time for them. It seems to me that this is a real time when we can support people and really be of help by giving them an opportunity to remember, say goodbye and lay the person to rest. I think as well it gives us an opportunity to help people realise that it is ok and perfectly natural to grieve fully, which is painful, as well as be able to remind them that death is not the end. The Christian story is one of hope. Death is a real taboo subject, and I think we have a role in bringing the mystery and questions out into the open so that people can deal with them.

Today was a privilege. The family were lovely and although their loss was clearly incredibly painful they were holding onto the love they have for each other and enjoying memories that nothing, not even death, can take away. I shall continue to pray for them as they continue their lives without their loved one.

This role continues to surprise me but I’m not surprised by that!

southwark ordinations

It’s been a great weekend apart from seeing the Gills throw points away.
Sunday it was fantastic to be part of the ordination service and see friends priested in Southwark Cathedral. being asked to lay hands on Nic Nic was a real privilege and a very special moment. It won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

It’s amazing to think how far this group of people have traveled together. There has been a lot of laughter, pain, contemplation, prayer, questions and alcohol involved but most of us now are at the end of the beginning of our journey if you get my drift.

It’s been a good journey and I hope we manage to stay in touch even if early signs show it’s going to be difficult! For now though, congratulations to all my SEITE friends who became priests yesterday; you are all cool!

How did we get here?

It was a real honour to be at St George’s Greenwich last night to join with Jeremy as he presided for the first time at the Eucharist. I’ve traveled the SEITE journey with Jeremy and there have been key moments that the friendship of this guy have kept me on the ‘straight and narrow’. Jeremy has become a good trusted friend and so being there last night was important to me. Not only is he a special bloke, but his family are totally wonderful too.

Jeremy had asked Canon Grahame Shaw to preach on this occasion and he asked the question ‘how have we all got here?’, wanting us to consider, I think, our life journey to this point so far. It is an interesting thing to reflect upon and I think, for me, I also need to consider the thought ‘where have I come from?’.

I am amazed how, by looking back over my journey this far, how little decisions have had major consequences. One little decision of going to Warwick University rather than join the RAF meant I met Sarah, not only my lover and best friend – but a soul mate in many ways. If I had not met Sarah at 18 I am fairly sure that I would have lost my fledgling Christian faith which then was a mere few months old.

Likewise on SEITE if I had not met Jeremy, and a few others that won’t remain nameless (Dave, Jen, Babs, Nic Nic) then I wonder whether I would have completed the course.

So … today as I travel to the final KCME session of the year in Canterbury, while I sit on the train I shall be reflecting upon that question … how did I get here?

everthing has changed – and yet nothing has

I woke up on Sunday morning a priest! How weird does that sound!
The whole experience is still pretty strange to get my head around.
I guess the best thing I can say is that I am still taking it all in.
It’s the end of a very long journey, and the start, I guess, of a new journey or at least a new direction of my journey altogether.

I said earlier to someone that I feel like everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed. That sounds strange but in some way makes an odd kind of sense to me.

The weekend has been amazing: ordination, followed by presiding at the Eucharist has been quite an emotional experience. As the service progressed I was struck by an increasing sense of privilege that it is to preside and be able to serve people in this way. It was special to be able to share in this special meal with many friends and family. It was not until I got home and was nearly asleep that I realised that in all the emotion of the moment that I forgot to take the bread and wine myself – clearly I need to remember that one in the future!

I felt Bishop Brian did an excellent job and both his charge to us on Friday evening and his sermon at the ordination really hit me. In his talk on Friday he reminded us that we are to delight in God. A delight in God should mark my ministry and so be distinct from the world around.

He also spoke a little about mission and worship being totally interconnected. As I listened I think I focussed on what he was trying to say: some churches are imbalanced with a focus on worship style or a focus on mission. Worship should come from mission and mission should flow from worship. It’s both/and not either/or.

In the sermon Bishop Brian gave a clear instruction – we are not to be busy. We are not to be so busy that we lose sight of people. We are not to be busy so that we have no time for people. We need to be with people. This is one thing that was aprticularly ringing in my ears as the service came to an end.

The weekend was special – thanks loads to all of you that joined me on the day, some traveling great distances, and to an even bigger number of you who have been part of this amazing journey over the last few years. Thank you for your patience with my ability to frustrate, your love when I was downhearted, your encouragement when close to giving up, and your friendship which has meant an immense amount to me.

God bless you all.

your last Sunday as a deacon!

I walked into the cathedral library this morning to robe to be greeted with ‘well… your last Sunday as a deacon!’ It’s true, and yet it sounds and feels quite strange as well. It’s been an interesting few days, and a really good weekend. It’s my last weekend before I become a priest, and I have found myself looking at things slightly differently over the last few days.

I am looking forward to this week, and I step into this week with some apprehension. This time last year I was finishing training and this very weekend was the leavers weekend. It is weird to think only a few months ago we were contemplating being ordained deacons, and the time has rushed past and here I am, priest minus 6 days!

It has been a long journey, for me I guess over a few decades which has just accelrated over the last 5 years or so. This week will bring the time into a sharper focus. On Wednesday we will start our retreat as a group of curates at Crowhurst before we return to Rochester on Saturday for the ordination service.

For me it feels like a completion is about to occur. As the date has got closer I have had a increasingly greater sense of being incomplete. In the past God has spoken to me through this to show me it is time to change. This time the change involves becoming a priest.

As I step into this week, I will be stepping carefully, wondering more, watching and listening. I will hopefully get to meet people in Wetherspoons in the early part of the week (some of whom have asked for tickets for the ordination service which bowls me over with amazement). But as I walk, I will be continuing to ask and reflect upon what this completion entails.

If you get a chace, please pray for me and the family as this week unfolds.

half a day in the life of a curate

Another interesting day today which looked to have ‘traditional curate’ type day written all over it.

After morning prayer the day continued with my regular review meeting with Adrian. We chatted a little about my essay and a lot about the priesthood. He asked some interesting and challenging questions – such as ‘after priesting will I be different in W/spoons?’. After reflection I am not sure. It’s easy to react and say ‘no, I’ll just continue the same’ or even ‘yes, I’ll feel different and so act different!’

The truth is I don’t know as I don’t really know what is going to happen, how I am going to feel. I did not think ordination as a deacon would really effect how I felt … but it did. Something happened! I don’t think I am talking ontological change, but I’m not just talking functional or role change either? I prayed, made promises, and asked God to give me strength to carry out certain tasks, and something happened!

I’m still processing all this stuff and think I will continue to doso.

So – how I will act in w/spoons following this and how people will react to me is still quite a big unknown. I know as we get closer to the priesting in June there is an increasing feeling of being incomplete within me. It’s hard to explain and express. It’s a little like knowing there is a need to move on.

Following this I met with Jean and we chatted about mission and stuff. We put together a way forward for engaging with next years sweeps festival which I am quite keen to explore.

I then spent some time ‘rehearsing’ the eucharist service with Neil. I will celebrate my first eucharist as a priest in the cathedral the day after I am ordained. I feel ok about this at the moment, but I know the nervousness will increase as the day gets closer. Going through stuff with Neil today was incredibly useful. Despite sitting through many eucharists over the last few months, I was surprised how much there is to learn.

After this I met with Matthew for lunch. Matthew is a priest and my small group leader from KCME. WE had a great chat about how things are going. Another good time.