On this day, the Feast of Ss Peter & Paul, I was ordained Deacon at St Ninian’s Cathedral in Perth. At this moment I think I was returning from the strangest pre-ordination retreat ever (at the Bield, Blackruthven) where I stayed in the house with the family and some large dogs. I don’t remember much about it, except that I’m sure that the Priest there seemed to be putting me off rather than encouraging me. I know I did not swim in their lovely swimming pool although I was encouraged to borrow a ‘cossie’ and do so. I do remember hanging out with some friends who were also there on an overnight conference and getting into trouble for not keeping silence. (‘Twas ever thus.) Yes indeed, it was strange.
When I left I went back to my garret, above the Bishop’s Office, to get ready for the final rehearsal at the Cathedral. I remember my new shirt was inky black, my collar hard and strange around my neck, my new trousers and blazer were black – as were my shoes, of course. (But you knew that.) I was excited about seeing all the friends who were coming and who had supported me through some difficult years of study. And I was nervous about the ceremony and the promises I would make. I didn’t know this Bishop as well as I knew my old Bishop in Edinburgh, and had already embarrassed myself (and him) by calling him Darling. Something which he referred to in the service, and became known to me as Bishop Darling for ever after!
On that occasion I was the only Deacon being ‘done’ so I had got to choose the hymns myself. They were: Sing we of our Blessed Mother; I heard the Voice of Jesus Say; Come Holy Ghost, our Souls Inspire; Who is this so Weak and Helpless; Let all Mortal Flesh and Soul of my Saviour; Tell out my Soul. The mass setting was Mozart’s Coronation Mass and many of my home parish choir at St Michael & All Saints had come to join with the cathedral choir to make a big noise. And my Parish Rector, Rev Kevin Pearson (now Bishop Kevin) preached gloriously – and told that awful joke about the mice with skateboards in heaven.
I was going to say that was the beginning of my ministry, but of course it wasn’t really. That had begun long before and been nurtured by some very good people. So today I give thanks for them all. You know who you are. I’m still not quite sure how I got here but I do know they’ve been the happiest 11 years of my life. Mostly!