No, it's not strange. Yes, it's a calling rather than just a job, but I'm still very much the same person, just not doing the same job. Three times this last week I've had people ask me for advice on matters of life and faith and work. It turns out my life in Christ and who I am was never about where my pay packet came from; and who we are seeps out, good and bad and indifferent. That's a tricky thing! And a reassuring one.
It's fair to wonder if I miss it.
No is the honest answer. Sometimes I miss the attention; but the attention is what I disliked the most too. That's human contrariness for you. People are ignoring me for who I am now. That's refreshing. And I enjoy attempting faithful anonymity. When you are the vicar, you have to be nice to people in Tescos, just in case they know who you are. They always know who you are. When you are anonymous, being nice can be done because it's a good thing. I take pleasure in this, and in the forgiveness for the failing to achieve it.
Because I so enjoyed leading and speaking, some are concerned I miss these things. Please believe me - I don't. I am simply delighted to be in Calverley, to be a part of a lovely village fellowship led by a good man who has a wonderful knack with liturgy and Scripture. Good Friday morning was a delight. Today, Easter Sunday, was a total joy. John has a way of adding to the liturgy with seasonal material that lifts it makes it special without making it unrecognisable from what we know and use all the time. I have been to some places & felt that the congregation must never know what is coming next; John constantly refreshes the service and shapes it with wonderful sentences that let you know exactly where we are in the year without ever, ever making you think "heck, what's going on now?" He is a superb liturgist, using whatever resources he has with a brilliant sense of what a congregation needs. Today was a classic example of it. A straightforward communion that rang out with Easter joy. Do I miss leading? No - I love being a part of this church, led so well. And his preaching today was wonderfully warm and personal, and took us into the heart of the Gospel, good news for us, by peeling away at the Mark narrative and found in two words (two words of apparently inconsequential narrative detail) a depth of grace and mercy and joy and application of God's love that surely cannot have failed to touch any person present. I loved it.
I guess the questions I am asked are concerns that come from loving hearts which seek to find out -
Do I have regrets?
No. God is good. Behold, he makes all things new. I am not in a place of loss but of finding. Discovery is wonderful, and following Jesus may not look like we thought it would every step of the way, but Easter - of all times - tells us that when we are tempted to look back and feed regret we need to see angels on tombstones, sleepy guards shamefacedly stumbling away, and hear magical words reminding us that the truth is no longer tied down where we or others once left it, last Friday, last year, whenever: He is risen. And rising, raises us with himself. This is news. And new. And glorious truth that gloriously renews.