There is something about having time off from ministry to make you think more about ministry. And then I came across this Ordination address from Henley Henson, Bishop of Durham 1936:
Nearly 50 years have passed since I was myself ordained in Cuddesdon Parish Church on a lovely summer morning in 1887.
How well I remember the tumult of conflicting thoughts which raged in my mind, and perhaps hindered me from entering as fully as I would have entered into the solemn yet exalting service! How little I guessed what lay before me! The immense failures which would overtake me too – ardent beginnings; the disappointments which would shadow my later course; the growing sense of inadequacy which would become a settled resident in my mind…
The happiest years of my ministry were those in which, as the vicar of a great industrial parish, I was nearest to the people. Faces look out at me from the past – toil-worn faces radiant with love and confidence. Nothing of what men foolishly call success is worth comparison with the experiences which those faces recall…
I say to you then – love God and love people. Count nothing excessive that you can do for them. Serve them in your office for the love of Christ, and they will surely give you back more than you can ever give them.
Just came across this wonderful ordination prayer. I share it with you because it is true.
You think you have been ordained to the Church of Jesus Christ? No! You have been ordained to the Church of Noah. And in your church you will find some asses. You will find some pigs. You will find some snakes. And, the Lord willing, you may find some sheep. But they are all worth saving.
Last week I read a super book – highly recommended – When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. It was quirky and amusing and poignant and would be a great read for a book group. It tells the story of a family over four decades and cleverly uses world events for each chapter to set it in time. There are gay brothers, lesbian aunts, eccentrics of all shapes and sizes – but most of all there is family and childhood friends. My only complaint would be that there are so many ‘issues’ covered but none of them in any great detail. (And no, there wasn’t much about God in it either – god being the name of the pet rabbit.) 4 stars.
The other book that’s been on my bedside table for weeks and one to ponder slowly is Richard Giles’ Here I am: Reflections on the ordained life. I am a big fan of his books on liturgy and using church space but this little book takes each of the sections in the ordination service for priesthood and examines them. It should be required reading for anyone exploring a vocation, for those in training, and for those who have been ordained for yonks. It is easy to read, evocative, amusing in parts, and deep in others. A book to be savoured and dipped into time and time again, possibly on retreat. I felt that I needed a journal alongside it to tease out my own reactions to some of it – and there are a few underlinings and exclamation marks throughout my copy now. 5 stars.
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!
Took some time out today to have coffee with R who is going through the process of selection for ministry. In sharing my story it has made me think back to those days of uncertainty and scariness. One of the hardest things must be when you really believe you are called but the process doesn’t think so. How that didn’t happen to me, I’ll never know, but it did happen to friends. It is a long and soul searching process and there really is no choice but to be brutally honest – to be yourself.
R has to start thinking about why she wants to be a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Why this wee church? Good question. For me it was probably its eccentricity, liberal attitude, Scottishness, great liturgy, and that you can practically get to know every single Episcopalian – or at the very least each ‘type’. You didn’t know there were types? Oh yes.
Over to you…
At OSP yesterday for the ordination of Fr Simon. It is always nice to see how others do things and I’ve never been at OSP for an ordination before for some reason. I think that deep down I knew it was going to be a marathon, and I wasn’t wrong. And you’d be hard pressed to spot Simon in the sanctuary for the amount of clergy and servers that were there. Lovely choir – with trumpet – Oh how I want a trumpet player in my church – doing Widor which I’ve heard before but don’t know well. It was suitably important.
We clergy had our own server to keep us right because visiting clergy and notoriously badly behaved. As ever we get the best seats which always seems to be a little unfair really. Somehow I think we should get the worst seats but there you are. In St Andrews Diocese, where I was ordained (by two bishops no less!) we didn’t do prostrations and I’ve always felt a little cheated by that. There is something so completely sacrificial and … and… what do I mean? Oh I can’t think but it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn in the Nun’s Story. And whenever you lay hands on someone you can’t help but remember your own vows and how they’re holding up. Hmm.
Lots of lovely hymns – and I mean lots – all very catholic and two that I’ve only heard on Walsingham CDs. Communion in bread only which we all dipped our mucky paws into a ciborium for, which seemed a little weird. Oh and it was a concelebration which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I do, however, have very upsetting experiences of observing concelebrations so that is always difficult.
All in all it was a lovely day. Lots of familiar faces. Surprised, nay shocked, to see some servers not in shiny black shoes. Tsk tsk. And I had an opportunity for a little witness on the way home with the drunk woman who insisted on sharing my taxi.
Apart from comparing surreptitiosly one another’s shine on shoes and length of tassle on stoles and whiteness of albs and that sort of thing, what else do we talk about?
Well at today’s ordination (and a marathon it was too with a sound system that seemed to be operated by someone determined to scare the heebeegeebies out of us) I heard the funniest Easter Vigil story from Fr J. There were runaway cars, exploding airbags, a sleepy organist, a lost Gloria and disco lights. I tell you, you just had to be there!
Saturday was cleaning day at church and a skip had been delivered for the remnants of the Big Clear Out. Despite begging for assistance to fill it and give the church a wee makeover, I arrived to find two faithful souls (with their hubbies – thank God) and one new member. So it was left to us to cart all the big stuff to the skip and give the church a wee spit and polish, or in D’s case a once over with vinegar and water and now we can see through the glass once more. An hour or so later four more faithful souls turned up but it was not exactly the turn out I had hoped for.
Any suggestions from Blogland on how to get people to love their church more and want more than anything to keep it looking nice?
Then it was a quick rush home to get showered and transformed into something more respectable to attend Bill’s ordination at St Michael & All Saints. Oh, they were all there! The glitterati of the SEC were out in force and there were more altar servers in the sanctuary than some churches have in their whole congregation. Bishop Douglas preached an excellent sermon full of good advice for the novice priest. The music was glorious, as ever, and there is nothing quite like a church full of good singers belting it out. (Not to forget Philip Sawyer who did wonderful things on the organ.)
Then we all spilled out into the garden to fight off the wasps and enjoy the nibbles and catch up on the news. All in all, a glorious day and God must be happy with such a sterling effort.
Lovely ordination yesterday in the cathedral when Hilary – one of my CMD 1-3 flock – got ‘done’. I do like a bit of F’n Darke. Not much evidence of Advent at the cathedral though, which was a pity.
My next dilemma is that St Michael’s Parish church is holding their annual Christmas carol concert on Sunday night. Now my little flock know that I don’t approve of singing Christmas carols during Advent but one of mine is the bandleader so I have to give him a plug. Oh dear – the dilemmas we face in ministry.
Went to the cathedral yesterday afternoon for 3 ordinations (2 to the deaconate and 1 to the priesthood). Lovely mass setting (Schubert in G) and good sermon by the Rev’d Canon Peter Allen. 7 deacons in the front row and only 6 priests. Why are our clergy not turning out for ordinations, please? And why, when you have 7 deacons plus 2 about-to-be-deacons, did the Dean read the gospel? (Mind you, he did do it beautifully!)