Nervous excitement woke me up early. I put on my glad-rags and left for the cathedral before my neighbours had begun to emerge into the daylight. I didn’t want to be late.
I descended the Mendip Hills into Wells over an hour before the service began. The Cathedral greeted me as I emerged from my car, and the Bishop of Taunton waved as she walked past. As long as I kept both in sight I was going to make it in time.
As it was, I crossed the threshold into an almost empty cathedral. The scissor arches welcomed me along with the stewards who handed me the Order of Service: “The Ordination of Deacons on the Second Sunday after Trinity, Sunday, 29th June 2019”. The big day, the moment I had been looking forward to had arrived: my friends were getting ordained!
This was not my day, this was Jane’s day, and Margaret’s, and Martin’s, and Simon’s. We had started at Sarum College together on 21st August 2017, and whilst my time there continues for another year, theirs had come to an end.
One by one more guests began to arrive. The excitement built up with each one. Complete strangers exchanged smiles. Families and friends gathered together, giggling nervously. People perused their Orders of Service, sounding their delight at spotting the name of the ordinand they had come to support. The anticipation buzzed around the cathedral – it felt like a wedding, and we were waiting for the brides.
People were called to their seats. Conversations stopped. The organ struck up. The choir processed. Then came the the College Tutors, the Clergy, the Readers and the Bishops. It was happening!
The Bishops opened the West Doors to welcome in the 13 Ordinands we had come to celebrate, their walk from the Bishop’s Palace complete. Down the aisle they came with their sponsors and future bosses, the former to hand them over, the latter to receive them into their curacy.
Two years previously I had attended a similar service and was told “this will be you in three years time!”. Back then it was a distant concept, too close to the end of seeking the chance to train for ordination and too far from being ordained to fully consume me. Today it was closer. Today it was ‘this time next year’. Today it was supposed to be occupying my mind, but it wasn’t. There was joy and excitement but it was for my friends, not my future. Occasionally though, that future began to break through.
As the service progressed my mind occasionally wandered away from the glorious spectacle in front of me. The words spoken to the Ordinands became words that would be spoken to me. The robes they were wearing became robes that I would wear. The seats in which they and their families sat became seats in which I and mine would sit. But those wandering thoughts were few, and they didn’t last for long. Each distracting thought faded quickly, the joy in witnessing my friends being ordained being no match for them. Even when we exchanged signs of peace there were no winks, no “this time next year”, just joy, sheer and unadulterated joy for those we had all come to support in marking this day of transformation.
It was only when we had returned home that thoughts of the days to come overtook thoughts of the day just been – I knew that any day now my diocese would send me details of the church they had discerned might be a good match for my curacy. And so in the heat of the afternoon sun, my wife and I sat with our feet cooling in a paddling pool and speculated on the possible places we might be moving to – we soon realised the futility of that! Instead we turned to ‘this time next year’. We made mental notes of how we would help our children to enjoy and appreciate it*. We talked about how my scheme to remain cool under so many layers of clothes wouldn’t work, and thought of ones that would. And I remembered the assignment I had to complete before I could close off another year of training. But even as I went to work on that assignment I knew that I would get nothing done.
I switched on my computer and the photos I had taken that day appeared on screen. The assignment could wait. Today was about those who had been ordained, people I knew and people I didn’t. It was a joy to be savoured, a blessing to give thanks for, a new bunch of Reverends to pray for, and so I did.
God bless you Reverend Joanna Barr, Reverend Martin Collett, Reverend Anna Creedon, Reverend Laura Downs, Reverend Katy Gough, Reverend Tracey Hallett, Reverend Margaret Hayward, Reverend Lucy Jordan, Reverend Jane Sutton, Reverend Simon Taylor, Reverend Patrick Webb, Reverend Nigel Williams, Reverend Francesca Youings, and all the ‘new Revs’ across the Church of England.
*Ordination Explored by Rev Ally Barrett and Rev Elizabeth Lowson is an excellent booklet to help children understand and enjoy an Ordination service.