Monday, 30 June 2014

On Becoming a 'Rev.'

A friend of mine who attended the ordination service on Saturday evening later said to me, "That moment when the Bishop put his hands on your heads...did you feel it?  All noise in the cathedral just      stopped     Even the children who had been making a fuss throughout the whole service were suddenly silent.  What *was* that?"

As someone who doesn't regularly attend church, my friend wouldn't usually speak about the presence of God and so struggled to describe what he witnessed, but his wife told me he had spent a good deal of the service in tears.  

How can I possibly describe the incredible, overwhelming experience of being ordained?  Of course I was excited and terrified in equal measure.  Part of my nerves were obviously related to the importance of the occasion and the commitment I was undertaking but part of it was also distinctly more prosaic - what if I tripped on my cassock and went flying in front of the Bishop?  What if I forgot what I was supposed to say or where I was supposed to stand?  What if I just ended up blubbering through the whole service?  (Trust me, I am *not* attractive when I cry!)  But in the end, despite the butterflies in my tummy, being ordained was the single most powerful experience I have ever had, perhaps other than becoming a mother.

How can I describe the atmosphere? The cathedral was packed with friends, family and supporters of the candidates, the stunning voices of the men and boys choir soared over us, the formal robes - particularly those of the bishops - glittered as they caught the light and of course there is no better setting than the cathedral building itself which is nearly one thousand years old.  All these things combined to overwhelm the senses but it wasn't *just* these things.  

There was also a very tangible Presence in the cathedral.  To put it quite simply, but also incredibly profoundly, God was there.  I cannot possible explain to you how I know this, there are no adequate words.  But God was there in the way the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck rose.  God was there as people who would never normally cry in public were in tears.    

God was there as Bishop Jonathan reminded us, "You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God..."  God was there as we knelt in silent prayer and my entire body shook - not with nerves but in reaction to His presence.  God was there in the holy hush as Bishop Jonathan laid his hands on each of our heads in turn and prayed, "Send down your Holy Spirit on your servant (Charlotte) for the office and work of a deacon in your church."

God granted that prayer and the Holy Spirit was there.  Even as I write this and try, incredibly inadequately to describe what happened, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck are rising and I'm covered in goosebumps.  I'm using a lot of words to say, in essence, that there are no words than can truly, or even remotely adequately, explain it.

Eventually, as these things do, the service came to a close.  We processed out to the cheers and applause of those who love us and will continue to support us in our ministries to be presented with our licenses.  So I am now officially a 'Rev' or, to use the technical term, "A Clerk in Holy Orders".


So what did you do this weekend?!  

Saturday, 28 June 2014

It's Today! It's Today!

Today marks the beginning of an adventure for me, and of course for the whole family.  It is currently 5:25am and for once, I haven't been woken up by a certain small wriggly person shouting for my attention.  At this precise moment in time, he is around 30 miles away and probably tormenting his Daddy while I'm on the last day of my pre-ordination retreat at a gorgeous place called Shallowford House.  We've spent the last twenty-four hours in silence (those of you who know me well, stop laughing, I have stuck to it!) and it's been amazingly freeing.  In fact, it's really quite amazing how easy it is to pray when all the noise of modern life just......stops.  No TV, no talking (not even over meals - there's been some hilarious attempts at sign language for "pass the salt please"!) and despite the occasional fit of giggles, it's been so quiet here.  When you stop talking and sit still, there's room and space to hear the birds...and God.

And the reason for all this rather odd behaviour?  Well, as I said this has been my pre-ordination retreat and this evening, starting at 6pm in Lichfield Cathedral, I will join 21 other amazing people of all ages and backgrounds to be ordained as Deacons in the Church of England.  This moment is the culmination of a very, very long period of discernment (twelve years in my case!) and the end of an incredibly intense period of academic study (three years commuting to college and more essays than I want to remember).  This evening, all of that hard work, patience, prayer, waiting, testing and questioning will be confirmed as the Bishop will place his hands on my head and ask God to, "Send down your Holy Spirit on your servant (name) for for the office and work of a Deacon in your church..." 

Then, the next "great adventure" will begin (a beautiful phrase borrowed from a friend, thanks Liz).  From tomorrow morning, I will begin serving my curacy with the parishes of Shifnal, Sherrifhales and Tong and working under the tutelage of their fabulous Vicar, Rev. Chris.  

I am so excited - I feel like a child on Christmas Day or a bride on her wedding day and I keep wanting to dance around and shout, "it's today! it's today!" but I guess the other FAR more sensible ordinands who are sleeping in rooms around me probably wouldn't appreciate it if I did!  

So for now, a brief note to say thank you to my amazing husband for supporting me completely on this crazy, stressful, difficult and long journey.  For being willing to wave goodbye as I left for college yet again, taking Adam with me, and knowing he wouldn't see either of us for three days a week, every week for three years.  For walking with me, holding me up and wiping away the tears when it all felt too much.  Thank you Chris.  

Before I get too gushy and start doing the celebrity at the oscars act and thanking everyone from my cat onwards, I will sign off.  But to those who have walked with me on this journey - you know who you are - thank you.  For those who will welcome us into your churches (including my adorable often very noisy little boy), thank you.   Please pray for me and for my family, especially tonight but continuing as we start this next phase in our lives.  And if you want to, feel free to come visit me in our three parishes, I'll probably be found lurking there most of the time from now on!

It's today!  It's today!  #givinginanddoingalittledance 

Over and out.