"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19
"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The State of Play
Without wanting to be (too) self-indulgent here, I thought I'd let you know how things currently are with me.
Please feel free not to read.
I went back to my old church last Sunday following the principle of getting back on the bike you've just fallen off sooner rather than later. It was good to be back in that worshipping community and a number of folk greeted me with hugs and a number of whispered conversations of support and incredulity. "Please don't leave us. It would be our loss".
I returned this week for my final service as Lay Minister where I led the service and preached in the absence of any clergy. It felt right to be there but ironic that I was fulfilling this function in a relaxed, natural and more than competent way - or so it felt to me - for the last time. I am not sure how many members of the congregation realised that, but the feedback was very positive and encouraging. It will, indeed, be their loss. I don't write this to big myself up (and I recognise how self-centred that last sentence might sound) but because I was at ease in the role: this is what I do. It's what I've been trained for and it's what I'm good at and I felt confirmed in that ministry again today.
I'd not been to church much since before Christmas but I had been to All Hallows a couple of times with Rachel and Anna. On both occasions I was asked to administer the chalice which I saw a real desire to recognise my calling by that community and their determination to stand in solidarity with me. In this Anglican Church the congregation have been more vocal and more proactively supportive of me. It almost feels as if this group wish to see a resolution and a good outcome more than the folk at the old place. I don't think it is that, though: at All Hallows there is a greater sense of possibilities and new beginnings - not just within that congregation but within Anglicanism itself.
I have been lucky of late. I have eaten curry, eaten chicken salad, and drunk beer with good clergy friends - so much so that I might just burst. The level of support and quality advice has been wonderful and I have been privileged to have been in such good and wise company. In addition I have been reading the wonderful range of advice, comment and discussion which has appeared on my friend's blog relating to my recent experience - something in the region of 122 comments all told: all valued, all helpful and many incredibly perceptive. If you made any contribution to those comment threads, on whichever blog, I thank you too for your kindness, your concern and your support. I have passed those on to my former church authorities. I know this will probably be interpreted as mischief making but I felt there was material in there that needed to be heard and reflected upon.
I have also taken the step of exercising my right under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act in requesting copies of all material held about me by the authorities of my old denomination. It may be a pyrrhic victory to discover that the balance in my references, reports and testimonials is positive and in my favour but as that is the only sort of victory available to me at present I'll be happy to take it.
I have reached the stage where if it were to transpire that my journey into ministry should remain stalled at this point, I could live with it. The journey has most certainly not been wasted.
I do find it difficult, though, to believe that my journey into ministry is to come to this abrupt end. I can not conceive of why God would have brought me this far only for His will to be (admittedly, as I see it) thwarted by men and women. This hiatus does seem to be an unnaturally abrupt interruption of the natural rhythms of ministerial formation thus far.
Going back to my leaving of All Hallows to seek my spiritual fortune, so to speak, around 2001/2002; to my growing sense of a call to ordained ministry; through James Barnett's motivating sermon in 2005 that spurred me into action; via my return to the Lutherans; a validation of my sense of calling; talking in hushed tones to Gerard Aylward in the back of a coach on the way back from the BBC studios so that I could actually hear myself say it all out loud; through two years on the Yorkshire Ministry Course and a fabulous parish placement in Tallinn; imbedding in the lovely community at my old church; through graduation; a period of Lay Curacy and "time of reflection"; through continuing IME and additional Lutheran theological training and finally to a successful navigation of my Final Examination with the Lutherans. God has brought me to this point only to say "No"? I don't think so.
I don't know what the future holds but I am quite buoyed and have a sense of anticipation at what God might do next.
I appreciate having been upheld in prayer but when you think of me be reassured that am in good mental and spiritual health. I think the Lord has work for me to do yet. Keep praying, please, that between us we figure it out!
With Much Love