On June 25th 1994, fifteen years ago today, I was first ordained in Llandaff Cathedral. Here is a photo - surrounded by twenty good friends who came to cheer me on as I first ventured into Wales, knowing nothing of my new home country and pretty much the same of the life and ministry to which I was committing myself.
But I knew the Lord who was calling me. That was enough.
I see in that photo one friend who beat me into the ministry and at least five who followed me. There are two others who serve full time in ministry without being ordained, one as a missionary. At least two clergy wives, which is a more-than-full-time calling.
I see yesterday and wonder where it went; I see tears and laughter and triumphs and breakdowns and people and service and glory beyond words. I see a life lived that I would not swap for all the world.
I am grateful to be here. And to be going out tonight with friends from St Catherine's who want to be grateful with me. I've had a couple of lovely cards, and I'm a bit emotional. I pray there is far more to come than I can imagine; and that I shall have the common sense always to cling to Jesus so that I may last the course and do some good.
(The Next Day)
Fifteen of us (how apprpriate) went to the Grillhouse for steaks. Here are various photos. We were joined later by Dan & Gemma, who struggled to find it, hiding behind the Lanover.
I was really touched that everyone came out for the occasion, and we had a lovely time. Kev, who runs the place, is having his daughter christened with us in September, so it was doubly nice to hold the gathering there.
It made me remember some old stories. Joyce, Annamarie, Jane & Yvonne were clearly enjoying themselves enormously from the amount of laughter at their end of the table. "It's the Holy Spirit," I commented. (Not sure how true...) But that reminded me of taking communion in St John's Cymmer, year two of ordination.
I looked at the communion table as I was saying the communion prayer that morning, thinking to myself, "there's something odd about this, something not the same..." As we got to the Holy, holy, holy, I realised what it was. There was no bread & no wine there. I was consecrating thin air.
For a moment I wondered if anyone would notice; could I get away with just miming the whole thing? Then I spotted the bread & wine on a side table, so as we sang the Holy, holy I walked over to the side table, picked up the bread & wine, brought them back & placed them in a religious manner as if I had always intended to do it this way.
I would've got away with it too - if I hadn't looked up & seen Ange, the church warden, with an ear-to-ear grin on her face as she stood at the back of the small Valleys church. She'd seen right through me. And as I tried to continue the prayer, I giggled. "Terribly sorry," I said, paused, and tried again. But you know what it's like when you aren't supposed to laugh & you just can't help it? I did it again. I paused again. The third time, despite my pinching my fingers in order to produce pain to try & stop the laughter (I failed), one old lady, half way down the church turned to her neighbour, and in the loudest stage whisper imaginable said: "It's the Holy Spirit!"
And then I really did laugh out loud - and they joined in.
I take it back - I think when we have such pleasure in each other's company, such friendship & joy, then (though it may not be obvious at the time) maybe it really is the Holy Spirit after all. That memory is one of my fondest of that congregation - there's lots more to it, and I can still see the general joy on each face, and feel the wonder of that morning's worship. We take it for granted; but the gifts of God come in many shapes and sizes & are things for which we say "thank you" however they come.
So I say a fresh "thank you" for last night, and for those who came to bless me!