Category: Vocation

The firsts and the lasts…

With a fortnight to go before I move (Thursday 4th..) I felt it was about time I wrote again on my blog. I can’t imagine who’s reading with any interest… But I’m so touched by the lovely feedback I’ve had on previous posts.

This has been a bizarre month – a very different way of living. It’s been a month full of lasts and firsts. Usually I’m planning events and projects several months in advance, and there’s been none of that – planning extends no further than the immediate move on September 4th, getting things together and hoping I won’t forget to buy anything really essential in advance (I remembered to put toilet roll on the list last night). Although there are hints and ideas forming about what I’ll be doing in Sheerwater, it’s quite a blank canvas and very much a role I have to mould myself, with guidance of course. Whatever I end up doing day-to-day it will be busy, varied and no doubt challenging.

At times August has been quiet, none of my usual rushing from one meeting to another in the village – I’ve had my last PCC meeting, Village Hall meeting, etc.. I have my last Panto meeting the evening before I leave. But there have still been lots of little projects to finish off, which has ended up taking up a lot of time. I’ve also been busy sewing my cassock.. The test version made from floral fabric is complete and the black cotton gabardine has been cut out and is ready to sew together as I write.

Most emotional perhaps are the ‘last’ services I’m celebrating as a member of St. Cyr’s Church. I’ve been a member of the Church for my whole life, and all my big faith moments have been played through that building and the people who make up the family there. Although I’ll return occasionally of course, as a member of the congregation there I’ve been to my last BCP Evensong, I’ve had my last service sat in the pews, and this Sunday is my last service there – where I’ll have the honour of acting as Deacon again. Only God knows the future, and I may well end up being turned down by BAP (the Bishop’s Advisory Panel) and returning, penniless, with my tail between my legs.. But I’ll cross that bridge if and when!

Although I’m around the following Sunday, we only have Matins on a 5th Sunday and I did want my last service here to be Eucharistic – so I’ll be heading to Gloucester Cathedral that day instead. Again, a place with a lot of meaning and a family I feel a part of – albeit on the very outer fringes. It will feel like both a ‘sendoff’ from the Diocese to spend my last Sunday there, but also a sign of the possible future (all the DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) meetings take place in a room with a window looking straight out onto the Cathedral… As if you need reminding what you’re talking about!).

But despite all the changes it’s not sadness I feel, because it all feels ‘right’. Among all the lasts there are plenty of firsts too – first time giving Communion from the Reserve, first time visiting my new flat, first time meeting many new and interesting people and (perhaps scariest of all actually) first time wearing all black clothing… I was aiming for Dane from ‘The Thorn Birds’:

 

“It’s the only way I know to show God how much I love him.”

 

But I probably end up channelling Carmen Ghia from ‘The Producers’:

 

“Listen you broken-down old queen. He was drunk. He was hot. You got lucky. Don’t ever call here again!”

 

Anyway, that’s quite enough to be getting on with. Thank you for reading this far, and if you did feel able to spare me a prayer in the next fortnight I’d be very grateful.

Exploring Vocation

I’ve started this blog, and written this post, because I want people to understand why I’m going down this particular route – in my own words.

But first, a quick bit of background – when I left 6th form in 2009 acting was the only profession I had in my heart, and it had been for ten years. However when I attended auditions at drama schools I quickly realised none of them was the right place for me. It wasn’t even the career for me. Almost overnight I changed the whole plan for my life. One morning I drew back the curtains and realised what my calling was – the village community I had grown up in. I started designing websites, and offering other technical support, as a means of paying my way and remaining at home to be a part of the village and community, everything from the PCC and Village Hall to the annual Pantomime.

June 15th 2013 is the day that changed my life. I was visiting Gloucester Cathedral with a friend, it wasn’t a religious trip but an architectural one. For those who aren’t aware, I attended the Cathedral school from the age of 11 onwards. We had daily ‘Chapel’ services in the Cathedral, so I know it well – it’s like an old friend. I know the smells, sights, lights, people and essence of the place.

That day it was different. The very air was different. The moment I walked in I felt it. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like someone was standing behind me the entire time. Over lunch my friend asked if I had ever considered being ordained. Quite a few people have asked me that, now I look back, but as far as I’m concerned you have to be called to such a role – and I hadn’t felt called. But in that moment I knew what the sense in the Cathedral had been. I wanted to say “no”, but in that moment I knew the true calling of my life and couldn’t say the word.

And so a quick message for any neighbours who might be reading this. As I’ve said, I have felt deeply called to be a part of the village community. I had imagined I would remain within it for the rest of my life. However my calling now is to full-time ministry, deployable wherever God and the Church see fit to send me. I have gained so, so much from my time in the village. I hope from the bottom of my heart that I have given something back as well. It is incredibly sad to think of leaving, there is so much I will miss and so many people I feel attached to. But this feels completely the right thing to do, and I put full trust in God that He will guide the community very smoothly without me…! I am hoping to spend a year somewhere completely different, as a Lay Pastoral Assistant, as part of the discernment process.

The ‘discernment process’, the long period between being called and being approved for training, is tiring and often painful. Every potential ordinand has their own individual difficulties to face – and the prospect of being ordained forces me to ask some difficult questions and to be open about very private aspects of my life.

Through any sadness, and the occasional darker moments of pain, the last year has given me two great things – a much deeper connection with God is one. I face a crossroad, and I can choose to go down my own path, doing what I want, but if I do then I have to believe my own willpower can drown out God’s calling. And there’s no way I’m that strong. The other road, God’s path, will require an enormous amount from me. There’s no way I’m that strong either, but at least if I follow that path I go with the promise of Christ ringing in my ears: “I am with you always.” As long as I can keep a good relationship with Him, God will give me whatever strength I need.

In the course of a recent conversation someone used the phrase: “you want to be ordained…”. I struggled with that, and after much reflection have to answer (in a very Anglican way) “yes and no”. It’s not the path I might have chosen for myself. And yet the thought of being turned down, the prospect of not being approved for training and ordination, leaves a great sickening feeling within me because I do want to be ordained, with all my heart, mind and soul. God loves me, and I love God. As in any mutually loving relationship I want to please my other half. I simply want whatever God wants.

The other great privilege of the last year has been the opportunity to meet and get to know some incredible people. The Church is the body of Christ. But it’s a human expression of the body of Christ, and humans are fallible. Being an ambassador for the Church means representing an institution that is often – or often appears to be – deeply ‘un-Christian’. But I have met so, so many dedicated people on my journey so far – people in whom the light of Christ shines, from whom loves pours out. Many of them will probably read this post. Few of them will recognise themselves in that description. That’s humility. For every occasion when the Church gets something wrong there are thousands of unsung heroes quietly leading the life God has set them, making a fantastic impression on the world. It’s long been my belief that if you leave the world a less loving place than you found it you’re getting Christianity wrong. It’s a privilege to meet so many people who are getting Christianity right.

So I end on a very positive note. For any talk of pain or worries, I’m well aware of the many wonderful opportunities and privileges that would be open to me were I to be approved. When people get in touch privately and ask for guidance or prayer, when you have the opportunity to help people connect with God, or when you’re just in a position to see someone’s faith grow… Words cannot express what that means, it’s the true work of the Church and the idea I could play a more intensive role within the Church is the definition of humbling.

I’ll occasionally be blogging as I go, it seems a good way of keeping people up to date with my journey and a place to occasionally throw out thoughts that are buzzing around my head. Thank you for reading this post, for your time and your interest. And thank you to all those who have supported me to this point, in whatever way. If you’re a praying person I’d deeply appreciate it if you’d perhaps hold me before God occasionally – it’s like a burst of energy whenever people do. The last year has been an incredible journey, and it’s only just begun.

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