This time now

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.

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Preparing underneath the scissor arch of Wells Cathedral

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.

OHfdWUN+T3SfpAgctvDXyQPeople 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 beenI 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.

Silently Speaking

Sunset over the island of Coll

Listening to the silence

Growing up as the youngest of three, opportunities to talk were few and far between.  Each one had to be seized upon in case it would be a year before another would come again.  Silence was my chance to speak. 

Whatever the truth of my memory, the impact was that silence became an entity that I needed to fill; if I didn’t, and it continued, I would become increasingly uncomfortable.  And so I filled them.  I would jump into the silence with whatever opinion, facts or half-baked humour I could muster.  It wasn’t always the best idea. 

Filling the silence risks not hearing the very thing that needs to be heard.  Increasingly I’ve realised that isn’t me.  

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Now, what was I here for?

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The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat)

Transforming something unknown into something known lies in the future. We can use our imagination and other people’s knowledge to paint a picture of what it might look like but it is only when we catch up with it, when the future becomes the present, that we begin to know the unknown. And so it has turned out with my Ordination Training.

As the training reached full-speed in early October (my studies in September were fairly light) the impact on my daily life quickly became clear: each day would be filled from rising to sleeping. My wife and I both needed to continue with our full-time jobs, my children still needed to be taken to school and clubs, household chores still needed to be done, and occasionally we even needed to eat. The only space for study was my ‘spare-time’, something I enjoyed using to spend time simply being with my family and friends. The study mean that this time would be limited, I would not be able to socialise quite as much as I did and this blog would not be added to quite as often as before. As such this post is as much an account of what it is like to train for ordination whilst working full-time as it is a reflection upon it. Continue reading

Nothing to lose

 

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Preparing to worship at New Wine

 

The New Wine festival is taking place in Somerset this week and next. I can’t be there but reading tweets from those who are, and listening into some of the sessions being streamed live on the internet, has reminded me what a key moment my last trip to the festival turned out to be on my journey towards ordination training. Continue reading

Time Turning

 

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Hermione Granger’s Time Turner (TM & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR.)

My family have discovered Harry Potter this year, and not just the films. The books have grabbed my son’s interest like no other book has done before; a previously reluctant reader he now can’t stop reading and has encouraged me to read the books too. So as a family we came across the character Hermoine Granger using a Time Turner in Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban in order to turn back time so that she could study more subjects. Going to services ordaining priests and deacons has been like having a time turner myself, only turning time forwards not backwards. Continue reading

Leaving the Shadows

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There is a time for everything, a time to be anonymous and a time to be named.

Writing anonymously or under a pseudonym is nothing new and the reasons for doing so are numerous. Anonymity is a mask that enables both good and bad. It can be hidden behind by those seeking to abuse or to avoid abuse. It can remove perceptions of a person or reinforce them. It can be liberating or confining.

Like many, when I began exploring my sense of calling I searched for other people’s experiences; I didn’t find much and as I began my journey I soon discovered why. Exposing the deepest confines of our soul to ourselves is difficult enough, exposing that to others is on another level entirely! Exposing developing yet incomplete experiences and thoughts adds to the vulnerability: views and understanding change over time so to talk about something can create unhelpful misperceptions, especially when a blog post is read in isolation. It also risks ridicule and embarrassment when naivety or errors are exposed.

When I started this blog I had one thing in mind, to be as open and honest as possible as I explored whether I should be trained for ordination. I had seen people begin exploring ordination with rose-tinted glasses and be hurt when the challenges came. Some of those I spoke to as I took my first tentative steps wanted to make sure I went into it with my eyes wide open; the discernment process, the training for ordination and the life of a priest would not be a fairy-tale bed of roses, at times the thorns would be undeniably present. Continue reading

A Tribal Sales Pitch

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Discerning which opinion and direction is the right one to follow.

Everyone has an opinion, even if that is to sit on the fence or have ‘no opinion’, and most are quite happy to share it, but often how we share it says as much about us as it does about the thing we are talking about.

When my wife was pregnant this was all too obvious, almost everyone we met had a tale to tell and advice to share: “don’t eat peanuts”, “eat peanuts”; “don’t give the child a dummy, you’ll end up regretting it if you do”, “give the child a dummy, you’ll wish you did if you don’t”; “breast is best”, “bottle milk is fine”; “I did this, you should too”; the list goes on. They wanted to help us bring up our child as well as possible but their opinion would often conflict with another well intended piece of advice.

Opinions and advice can help people to make a decision, but they can also be a way of justifying a decision we have made. Promoting the pathway we took helps us feel good about our decision, if we admit to it’s flaws that exist we can wonder if we decided correctly. One strengthens our position, the other opens up to nuances that can be perceived as a weakness by ourselves or others. Continue reading

Climbing up to Cloud 9


I keep being asked “have you come off Cloud 9 yet?” and it’s made me question myself why I’ve not been on it.

It isn’t surprising that people expect someone to be ecstatic when they have been recommended to train for ordination (see Going to a BAP, again!), and it has been humbling to see the reaction to my recommendation.  When we see someone work hard for something and then achieve their aim we are generally excited and pleased for them (that doesn’t mean it cannot also be painful for us, especially if we hoped for the very same thing). But being recommended for ordination is not an achievement to be gained, it is a decision to be discerned.

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Silent Running

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This blog has brought amazing companions on my journey of discernment.

The time has come. No it is not time to leave for my second Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) but it is time to take a step back from social media and concentrate on what this whole journey has been about. It is time to focus on God and His calling for me, and it is time to do that in private. It is, perhaps, a more difficult decision to have made than it might appear.

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Guilty as not charged

A picture showing the police id parade and line up from the film The Usual Suspects

I am used to be one of the usual suspects

I know I’m guilty of something, I just don’t know what it is.

When a car horn is blown or its lights flashed in my direction I look to see what I have done wrong and, usually, find nothing. When my name is called out in the street I look round expecting to be admonished but see a child being called back into the safety of his parents instead. When my boss asks to meet with me in private I walk into the room expecting to told off but leave having been encouraged. Perhaps it is down to the suspicion that my time of reckoning for all the times I have done something wrong and got away with it has arrived. Continue reading