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.

a priest … a what?

It’s been an odd day today – a KCME day. KCME is our ongoing training as curates and i always seem to find it difficult. I do not know whether it is the subject matter, the style of delivery or just simply that after 3 years of training and thinking that actually I just wish to get on with stuff and so part of me resents having to come out a day every month to look at stuff.

For me, and I hope this does not sound ‘arrogant’ in any way – but being the lone pioneer on this course which is set up for parish ministers does not really support me or challenge me in what I am doing. My fellow curates are excellent but I struggle to understand and relate to their issues from parish life as I am sure they struggle to understand my issues from having no parish and constantly being out in the community. There are common issues, such as the transition we have experienced, but the actual day to day routines of what we do are pretty much miles away from each other.

Today was quite helpful as we started to think about ‘the priesthood’ and what the difference is between being a deacon and being a priest. I guess, if nothing else, today has caused me to realise that I need to think and reflect more on what this next step actually means for me. What will be the difference? Will there be a difference? Should there be a difference? All I know is that I feel grossly inadequate, as I did on the day of my ordination as deacon. In many ways the scarey thing for me is not only what the role is, or what I think it all means – but also what other people believe it to be and the expectations that those other people have not only in my ability but also in what or who I am as a person.

In the Church of England there is a functional role that goes with being a priest, but I’m pretty convinced that the change is more than functional – or is it? I’m not into ontological change, but I do think it is more than purely functional. As I said, I need to think more on this as the date is fastly approaching.

If you are interested – this year for Rochester Diocese curates the date in Saturday 27th June at 3.00pm in Rochester Cathedral. I should be getting some tickets soon so if you wish to come let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Oh well … off to reflect more I guess.

adding not replacing

It’s been quiet in my blog world due to a number of things – a holiday (which I am still in!) after Easter and the necessity of using spare time to get to grips with an essay to be handed in on Friday.

For the last few months I have done a good amount of background reading and so when I came to start writing the thing yesterday the words seemed to flow pretty quickly and the task is now done. Whether it is any good I don’t know, but if nothing else it has succeeded in what I believe to be its aim, that of getting me to reflect on what I am called to do, who I am and what all this ordination stuff means.

This reflection was fueled by events on Maundy Thursday at the cathedral when all ministers came together to renew their vows and receive the oils of healing, baptism and chrism to use in their parishes if they wished.

During the service certain sections of people were asked to re-affirm their promises. First layworkers, then deacons, then priests and then the bishops. One of my colleagues was shocked when he realised he was one of the few priests that re-affirmed his deacon vows. We chatted about this and he rightly said but all ordained people are deacons, we were deacons first and stay deacons and need to reaffirm our vows as deacons even more so when we become priests. (not his exact words but my interpretation). My ordination as a priest in June does not cancel out my ordination as a deacon.

Earlier in the year I remember disagreeing strongly with someone who suggested that the real ordination was the ‘priesting’ not the deaconing. Using the same rationality of my colleague I was stunned as I firmly believe ordination to be about serving as Jesus served and seeking to be a blessing in the area we are called to serve. I feel if we lose this focus then we are on very shaky and dangerous ground. For me, ordination only works if it is about putting ourselves out to serve rather than to be looked up to due to some title.

In my research I have found that Steven Croft agrees with us (or is it us with him?) and I quote:‘in the popular understanding of ordination, the diaconate is seen as a temporary state, passed through on the way to becoming a priest’ but ‘the call to the diaconate is ‘the deepest and most profound honour and commission which the church can bestow.’ (Steven Croft Ministry in Three Dimensions (DLT 2008))

As I listen to people share their stories I am becoming more and more aware of what an honour this role is. Please pray that I and my fellow deacons can retain this perspective and that next year, when we attend our first maundy Thursday service as priests are willing and able to reaffirm our deaconate vows as well.

ordination

It’s a weird word, meaning lots of different things to different people. Being ordained is quite strange too in many ways and the reaction in others as a response to it are wide and varied.

Today I had a study day and although most of it was used to think and start to write my sermon for Sunday morning I reflected a little on ‘what is this ordination lark all about?’

I remembered a card with great words about ordination from my great friend Richard sent me which was a great place to start my reflections:

You are not ordained to minister; that happened at your baptism.
You are not ordained to be a caring person; you are already called to do that.
You are not ordained to serve the church; this is already implied in your membership.
You are not ordained to become involved in social issues, ecology, race, politics, revolution; for this is laid upon every Christian.

You are ordained to something smaller and less spectacular:
To read and interpret those sacred stories of our community,
so that they speak a word to people today;
to remember and practice those rituals and rites of meaning that in their poetry address people at the level where they operate;
to foster in community through word and sacrament that encounter with truth which will set men and women free to minister as the body of Christ.

Today I have been attempting to read and interpret sacred stories so that they may speak into lives I connect with.

Remembering these words gves me a level of excitement as I look forward to the rest of the week.

Thanks Richard!

nervous retreating!

Today I start with 10 others on the retreat before ordination.

I feel quite strange, nervous even, which has come as a bit of a surprise.
I am nervous about what is going to happen on retreat, I am nervous about the reality of this step and feel totally inadequate for the task ahead of me.

The retreat is being held at The Sisters of St Andrew in Edenbridge. I will join this community today and then then not see my family again until we all meet up for lunch with the Bishop of Rochester on Saturday afternoon before the ordination service in the cathedral.

The program looks good as we have five sessions looking at Philippians with a sub title of ‘Models from a missionary pioneer and master pastor’, although I hope the bar is not set too high as I feel very lacking already!

I doubt the sisters will have a wifi connection – but if they do I will possibly be blogging about my experiences, although to keep in the spirit of retreat I will not be answering emails, replying to comments or visiting facebook.

As I look ahead for these next 4 days I continue to feel apprehensive, not just about the rereat and ordination, but also as I feel I am pretty much presenting myself to the Trinitarian God in a way that I do not think I have done before and so I couple that with a desire to look for what God will be doing and saying.