I’m off in a minute to my pre-ordination retreat. Hilarious really, as its always been the thing I have entirely ruled out and didn’t believe in. But here I am.
This is the kind of thing that can happen when you make one of those mad promises to God – “Here I am, send me”, “I give my life to you Lord” “Your will be done, your Kingdom come”… and then suddenly, there you are, being strapped into the roller coaster while they waft the incense over you.
Be careful what you wish for, that’s what they say isn’t it. It’s been the best of times and the worst of times. In for a penny, in for a pound. How I ended up here was by the Gamaliel principle (Acts 5:34) – just say yes to it until the point at which God says no. And so far, all the decision points have been doors opening, and so here we are.
And its a good place to be, a right place to be, and although I’m a little edgy and excited, I’ve rarely felt more settled and steady about something that I didn’t want or agree with. Which just goes to show that the Spirit blows where he will. And when we listen and bend our will to hers, however hard that may be for the extremely willful among us, it is in our best interest to know that God is God and to shut up and follow! It is true that the centre of God’s will is a very calm place to be, all striving has ceased – at least momentarily.
I have to shout out to the Church of England, which although from the outside appears to be a rather bonkers place, is in fact like a Tardis of grace which opens up and guides you through its complexities, and the Diocese of Gloucester in particular. I’ve no idea what awaits on the other side, (apart from curacy at the Upper Room 3.5 days a week and in tetbury Parish 1.5 days a week) but I’ll let you know how it unfolds.
Regarding the whole notion of priesthood and what it means – and how pioneering intersects it as a vocation and ontology – most of the stuff I was suggested to read just didn’t resonate with me and all of it seemed just like the stuff I was doing most days as a “lay person” (aka – a person!! ) and so was hard to square. For me the answer lies in the sacraments, and in the prophetic; exploring what emerges from these and how they play out in my context has been the key to understanding what might be going on. the most helpful book I’ve read about it is Images of Formation by Sotirios Christou and contrasts the “traditional” images of formation for priesthood (steward, watchman, messenger, shepherd) with a biblical list of typologies that I’ve found massively more helpful (pioneer of faith – yes!! – builder, navigator, freedom fighter, fool, suffering, servant, prophet) A much brighter and more recognisable list! Formation is something that is talked a lot about and no-one explains what it means! For me its been about space, to explore, grow and stretch, search and articulate questions, and to discover who I am in Christ and lay down a load of old stuff. I’ve discovered I LOVE theology with a great passion and want to swim around in thinking and discovering who God is and how he is at work in the world around us now. And much of that discovery has been thanks to my teachers and tutors at CMS, who have opened up a wider space to explore to think about mission and how to communicate the Gospel well in the 21st century, which was what I needed. Thanks guys!
I’m not sure how extroverts manage 4 days of silence on a retreat – I may need to sit in the car and play loud rap music for some of the time as that’s what I’m finding energising right now – but sure, it will do me no harm to rest my vocal chords. Thanks to everyone who has inspired and encouraged me and helped me see beyond the fear of being squeezed into “standard boxes” – those don’t really exist but you have to discover that and work your way through your fears about them! The best thing about this Church I’ve discovered is how much wide open space there is to shape your own box. That’s grace. Amen!