Sunday, July 20, 2014
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Certainly I've found friends whom I'd never have met otherwise.
I've never been much use at dissembling, so people know who I am - and where I minister - and that sometimes means I have to be rather cautious.
But if people know who I am, they also know my passion for a fully inclusive church, a place where everyone can be certain of a loving welcome, just as they are...because, of course, that's how God welcomes us.
Practically, this means that I've been part of "Inclusive Church" since the beginning, that I've struggled as the message that my beloved C of E proclaims from the housetops seems to speak too often not of loving acceptance but of fear and exclusion. It also means that someone sent me a link to this, asking me to review it here.
Quite honestly, I can't think that any words of mine will have more impact than the video itself.
I think it's beautiful...
Beautiful both in message and in execution
Because, at the end of the day, the story of someone discovering just how much God loves them is always worth hearing.
Three-quarters of the seed – 75% - lands in obviously
unpromising places....on paths, in the bramble patch, among the stones
We're living in the age of the Spirit, and Jesus calls us to be his witnesses throughout the whole earth.
And that means, that we- you and me- are now cast in the role of the sower, charged with sharing the word of the kingdom.
If that's the case, then we need to listen to another voice...the one that says
Friday, July 04, 2014
We all woke early at Holland House, Cropthorne.
The previous night had felt quite strange, as my cohort of not-yet-revs returned to the retreat house, having watched those a year ahead of us (and oh SO much wiser and more grown up) kneel before our new bishop to be ordained priest. Together we had been on the most amazing journey, led by the then Director of Ministry, who both spoke of and demonstrated what lay ahead for us....he seemed to embody all my highest aspirations in priesthood and I was both encouraged and daunted.
Meeting +Michael, just days after his enthronement, I had voiced some of those fears, and been assured
For the first time of many I discovered he was right.
But first there was the self-conscious breakfast in clericals, next the anxiety that we should happen on a fatal car smash between retreat and Cathedral and risk either fraudulently offering sacraments with no authority behind us, or seem heartless as we shot past down the M5.
Oh, and the ordination knickers!
A whole vat dyed red at our last WEMTC residential, a secret reminder of solidarity with our fellow students being made deacon in Bristol, Hereford or Worcester. It was good to have something to giggle at, on that day of high seriousness...
Listening to the words of the ordinal, it was hard not to panic...How could I, how could any of us, hope to do this?..but then the liturgy acknowledged this
"Because you cannot bear this weight alone, pray earnestly..."
Now it was our turn to kneel as choir and congregation sung
"Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire...."
and the Litany, including all our names
"For Geoffrey, Emma, Jenny, Linda, Sheila, Kathryn, Timothy, Sarah, Brian, Jacqueline, Mick, Charles...let us pray to the Lord" "Lord, have mercy".
The bishop's hands on my head, a realisation that, on this Independence Day, I was more fully and obviously dependent than ever before - and that this was absolutely alright.
The joy of offering the chalice to so many friends who had, quite wonderfully, somehow managed to be there
The thrill of walking out together, - NOT a formal procession but bishop and clergy setting out to get on with mission and ministry, said +M at our rehearsal,- as wave on wave of applause carried us into the brilliant sunshine.
And yes, he was right.
Ordination does work, and so much has, by God's grace, flowed from the day on which I made such a public declaration of dependence.
I am truly and startlingly blessed.
Monday, June 30, 2014
This weekend our Cathedral, like many others across the country, has been on its best behaviour as we have welcomed the friends and families, parishioners, past, present and future and a more clergy than you could shake a stick at (unless, of course, you are an awesome, multi-gifted verger, who can shake a stick, or at least a verge, at any and everyone) for two wonderful ordination services, for priests yesterday and deacons today.
This is scene setting only, as it was VERY important for everyone present that things ran smoothly and, despite gremlins in the sound system this morning, that's exactly what happened.
And 14 new priests and deacons emerged from the Cathedral to serve God and his Church, - and behold, it was very good.
But last weekend, when so much went WRONG, was equally helpful - if only for the learn-pigeon Canon Pastor.
Let me tell you about it
First of all, because of back-to-back gala dinners in the Cathedral, the 8.00 am Holy Communion service was diverted to our friends at Holy Trinity, just up the hill...and because this is the Cathedral's month, I went with it, complete with an abridged-version of the sermon I had prepared on the Common Worship lections for the 10.30 Cathedral Eucharist.
Except that Holy Trinity use the BCP readings - so I had to produce an instant thought-for-the day...which, thankfully, was relatively straightforward.
Fast forward to the Cathedral Eucharist, where the Deacon decided to abbreviate the gospel, omitting the portion on which my sermon was based. Never mind. The full text is printed in "Cathedral Matters" so no harm done & on the whole the sermon seems to have gone down OK.
Home for late lunch, and snooze in the garden - relying on the return of OH from a supermarket dash to rouse me well before I needed to leave for Evensong. Except, his trip lasted way longer than expected and I woke, aghast, with 10 minutes to get myself to the Cathedral, robed and ready.
Made it, by the skin of my teeth, though without proper footwear or collar (oh, the blessings of choir dress, which hides a multitude of sins)...and was beginning to relax and think "I can do this Cathedral lark" or something similarly inappropriate, when we reached the "Final Suffrages" - the set of responses which close Choral Evensong here.
The organist gave me a note. "Strange" thought I "That doesn't sound like a "D"...More like the "A" that has been the intonation note all through the service...But I don't have perfect pitch. I'm probably just loopy..." So I sang the phrase on the page in front of me, still unhappy about the pitch - it felt way too low..at least a 5th...
No response at all from the choir.
I looked desperately at the director of music, who looked equally desperately back.
I couldn't make any sense of what has happened. I know I sang the notes on the page...but clearly Something was VERY WRONG.
After what felt like a couple of centuries, the Director of Music sang the plainsong intonation - and the choir responded - with plainsong.
NOT the responses I had in front of me at all.
Later I discovered that I had not taken leave of my senses.
The note that sounded like an "A" WAS indeed an "A"...
I had been given the wrong music for the Final Suffrages...because, when Evensong is sung without the gentlemen, the choristers always do plainsong, regardless of which Responses they've used earlier.
Not my fault after all - though I have seldom felt such a complete and utter idiot!
But, coming in to work the following day, I realised that I was now far more relaxed, less worried about getting things right.
Because, of course, I had got all sorts of things very publicy wrong - and nobody had died, the Cathedral had not imploded, and God was and is still God!
Of course I will do all I can to manage the intricacies of Cathedral worship - and indeed Cathedral politics - according to the customs of the place...but it will never be perfect, and actually that doesn't matter.
Intention is all - and mine is to give God my best efforts in everything.
That's what really matters.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Most of these have been in Gloucester Cathedral, as you'd expect for one whose public ministry emerged in that diocese, - though I've also managed Hereford, Winchester and St Paul's too along the way. Every time, the service has been splendid - beautifully put-together, with words, music and symbols all combining to underline the power of the sacrament and the awesome reality of a group of people committing themselves to the ministry of God's Church. I've always appreciated the way the Cathedral "stages" the event, in such a way that those coming to celebrate the ordination of friends or family have been convinced that it was really quite effortless, just part of what a Cathedral does - and that the Cathedral would carry the whole proceedings, come what may.
Several times at Gloucester I've found myself with a job or two - for new priests and deacons are always involved in Communion, as are their training incumbents. I've never quite known what I was doing - whether I was really in the right place or what I would do if my chalice ran out before the line of communicants - but have comforted myself with the thought that there were always Cathedral clergy, as well as an army of servers and vergers, on hand to rescue me if things went wrong.
Now, suddenly, I'm one of those clergy - and, though I was deacon of the rite I was all too aware of just how little I really know and how very dependent I am on the expertise of others! As the Cathedral geared up for the weekend, the Precentor's office, where I have a desk, was the hub for all sorts of comings and goings as he and the Director of Music, organist, Head Verger, Head Server, Church Wardens and more planned and revised and planned some more til all was as good as it could be. And it was very very good - most particularly the way the team swung into action to ensure that little things (and not so little - the failure of the radio mic system springs to mind) would not interrupt the proceedings but all would be done not just decently and in order, but with devotion and delight as well.
And the good news for me was that, though I now know exactly how swanlike the proceedings really are (calm on the surface, paddling like crazy beneath), there was no sense of de-mystification, no "Wizard of Oz" moment when knowing the workings spoiled the wonder. Instead, I found myself moved almost to tears by the privilege of reading Matthew 16 to those about to be ordained priest.
"On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven".
For me, reading those words in that context - and conscious of the ways that the "power of the keys" has been transformative in my own life and my own ministry, the words were electric and I would not have wished myself anywhere else in the world.
Today's deaconings were overflowing with joy.
The congregation were so full of conviction as they responded to the bishop's question
"Is it your will that these candidates be ordained deacon"
it was impossible not to smile broadly - and there really was no need to try.
A wonderful weekend - and a privilege to be part of it.
Maybe by next year I'll know enough to be useful!
Friday, June 27, 2014
The past couple of weeks have felt quite different - as if I'm actually beginning to do things that might be useful to other people, rather than being found (or finding myself) things to do to help me learn the new context - or, worse still, to keep me amused! They've also felt markedly busier...instead of automatically heading for my bike the moment Evening Prayer is over, I've returned to my desk on more than a couple of evenings - though thus far I've not brought work home (unless you count sermon prep).It's interesting the difference that not living over the shop has made. On the whole, once I'm home, I switch off - and, because I'm still finding the learning process quite exhausting, I tend to spend my evenings in vegetative non-contemplation. At the moment I don't feel responsible for the community I serve in quite the same way as I did as a parish priest...I'm wildly in love with the Cathedral & indeed with the whole city - but I don't carry it around and worry about it as I did in the parish. This may be simply because I haven't quite picked it up yet (though +Christopher did indeed give me the cure of souls at my collation, and I don't remember saying "No thanks!") It may be because there are colleagues with whom to share the angst. Or it may be that the poor Dean has the special privilege of worrying about the Cathedral and its communities day and night, and thus I don't have to.
Whatever - I'm not complaining!
During the past couple of weeks I've started to do some visiting - some housebound members of the congregation, some sterling souls who have been heavily involved in the life of the place for many years - and while I've asked them what it is that they most love about the Cathedral, and what one thing they would like to change (different answers to both questions from practically everyone), many of them have asked me what has struck me most in these early weeks.
And of course, there are many many answers to this.
I'm constantly struck by the amazing privilege of praying in that space every day.
I can't decide whether I prefer Morning Prayer, in the circle close to the West Screen, where we are bathed in light filtered through John Piper's incredible window
Or Evening Prayer in the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and the glittering angel has a resonance close to that of Orthodox ikons
Or is it best of all to stand in the ruins, confronting the charred cross but with the sky open above me...
I just don't know.
All I know is that it is good to be here - and that each and every Choral Evensong feels like the most tremendous present from God...something I have loved all my life, that I'm now part of on a regular basis - and I get to call this WORK!
I'm struck, too, by the sheer unexpectedness of life. Whatever my diary may say at the start of a day, I can be confident that there will be a whole host of unplanned encounters...symbolised for me by an "ordinary" Tuesday Evening Prayer, at which the congregation grew from 2 to 48 during the course of the Office as a whole pilgrim group from Hong Kong wound their way up the nave to join us in the Lady Chapel.
But above all I'm struck by the multitude of people who give of their time and energy to the work of the place.
I was taken on with the brief of "Nurturing the Cathedral community as a reconciled and reconciling people" but there are so many Cathedral communities..
The congregation who gather for the Eucharist on a Sunday morning, that is the most visible expression of our life of worship
The smaller congregation that find God in the beauty of Choral Evensong and those who are drawn to the informality of Cathedral Praise - not to mention those who appear to share in the Office.
The Cathedral choirs - men, girls, boys, - who offer their talents every week - and those who find time to step in and enable the choristers to take the occasional break
The welcomers, stewards, guides and lay chaplains
The vergers - both full time, asssitant and honorary - whose patience and calm in the face of even the most idiotic of rookie canons is truly impressive
Those who sew, wash, iron, press...
Those who keep track of the archives
Those who clean, polish, weed, shore up & sand down
The assorted staff who ensure that music happens, schools are welcomed, special events take place, the world knows that we are here AND can buy a souvenir of their visit
And that's just the people I could think of without effort...I'm still so new that there will be many others I've not even registered yet...
The Cathedral Community is more varied and diverse than I would ever have imagined...If I were to try and draw a Venn diagram, it would be complex, multi-foliate...
It seems clear to me that I am called equally to love and serve each and every grouping and I dream of a space in which they could all become aware and appreciative of each other...
So I guess that it is that complexity of Cathedral life that strikes me most
and is probably why I'm so consistently tired at the moment.
But it's a good tired...and exploring the life of the organism that is both my spiritual home and my place of employment for the present is endlessly intriguing, enthralling and rewarding.
I'm blessed to be here!
Sunday, June 22, 2014
But, he says, it is worth it, for he has found an open door, an escape route from the confines of the eternal cycle of karma to freedom and dignity as a child of God – and for Andrew, that's worth any amount of abuse. Following Christ has helped him to find himself...his vocation...his purpose in this life and beyond.