Only by the Grace

I read a quote in a recent tweet that said ‘Writing is easy. Sit down at a keyboard and open a vein ..’  it hit an instant chord, as I have often known the truth of that, but never more than with this blog post. Writing does sometimes feel like giving your life blood. The 1st of August- one month exactly since I was ordained, and although I have tried before, it has taken me until now to be able to stand back from that day enough to put some elements of it into words. A day like no other in my life to date, which I am still absorbing.

I woke early, with a feeling not dissimilar to the morning I got married. Butterflies of excitement, tinged with nerves. Such a big day, on so many levels.

It was a beautiful morning, and I stepped outside for a few moments of solitude, with just the sheep for company. The retreat house is situated in a very rural setting, in a beautiful secluded valley. The pastoral imagery of sheep/shepherd and the dual call to lead and yet always to follow, had been a very present one over the course of the retreat.  In the silence following morning prayer, the only sound was the distant bleat of lambs.

Know that the Lord is God. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture”                        ” Feed my sheep” Psalm 100 

A smooth 40 minute drive to the cathedral. I don’t remember much of what I was thinking, apart from being conscious of being in public in my collar, for the first time.  My emotions were very close to the surface, so it was much more about feeling, than thinking.

Some waiting, and then the solemn legal parts of the process, prior to lining up to process from the Bishop’s Palace to the Cathedral. The last few steps of a long, long journey, I would be stepping out of the cathedral at the start of the next.  The congregation were mostly a blur of faces, although I caught sight of a friend and her little girl as I started to process up the aisle, which delighted me, and grounded what was happening in the context of lots of dear people I love and who have shared this journey with me, being here to cheer me on.

I didn’t know where my family were seated (they had ticketed seats in a reserved row) but it was only about ten minutes into the service that I spotted them. Another jolt of emotion.

The service is a solemn one with a variety of symbolic components to it.  We were called forward by name. Presented by our Archdeacons commending us to be ordained. In my case the Archdeacon had been my attachment incumbent of most of my training, and a good friend, adding an extra dimension to the process. I had done a placement in the cathedral the previous year, and loved every minute of it, falling in love with the ancient building, and making lasting friendships amongst the whole variety of people who make up the cathedral’s staff. It had become a ‘home from home’, and being ordained in this second spiritual home was a deep joy.

The sermon was given by Revd Dr Alison Morgan, author of The Wild Gospel and A Word on The Wind: Renewing Confidence in the Gospel, who had led our retreat. She did an excellent job explaining to our families and friends something of this crazy calling God was asking of us.

Then the moment itself. Called forward again to be charged with the solemn task and role to which we were called, and asked to make a series of vows, to which we answered ” By the help of God, I will” . Something echoed by the Bishop in his next words :

In the name of our Lord, we bid you remember the greatness of the the trust in which you are now to share: the ministry of Christ itself, who for our sake took the form of a servant.. You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God.

Words that need to be kept constantly in mind, as I step out on this new journey.

We then knelt  around the altar for about ten minutes of prayers, sung and said, before the Bishop came to each of us to lay his hand on our heads and confer ordination as Deacons upon  us.  Although kneeling in public, for those ten minutes it was just God and me, I was largely oblivious of anyone else.  The Bishop’s hands felt very heavy on my head as he prayed for the Holy Spirit to equip me for the work He was calling me to do.  Our incumbents stepped forwards to vest us in our stoles across our Left shoulders symbolic of our Deacon status, as servants of God and His Church.

The Ordination service is set within the context of a Eucharist and during the sharing of The Peace we had the first opportunity to greet family and friends. A deeply moving moment accompanied by many tearful hugs.

Coming out of the service was a surge of joy, greeting so many lovely folk who had come from far and wide to support me. It was overwhelming, and the day continued in a similar way as we gathered in my sending church for a celebration lunch. I couldn’t stop smiling. After all the solemn intensity, I felt like I was floating on air, with a heart brimful of thankfulness.

As a tiny child I sang an old chorus, picking up the words of a psalm, ‘ My cup is full and running over’ ,  little did I know then how full my cup would be filled, or why.

2 thoughts on “Only by the Grace

  1. When I was a child we sang “my cup’s full OF running over”. Grammatically awful, but I think it says something profound.

    Every blessing on your future ministry.

    Like

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