When Phil was inducted as vicar at Calverley, I watched with gathering emotion, because I knew deep within that my own time was coming. I listened to the words, and felt the power of the promises, and understood that what was right for Phil in Calverley would soon be mine somewhere else.
At that point (and we're talking mid-May) I hadn't even applied for this post. But I was pretty sure I'd be looking at early autumn as my time - though, to be fair, in part that was because I wasn't clear I could cope with it being much later!
When it came to Wednesday night at St Nicholas' in Tackley, the skies were grey, the air heavy with the promise of rain, and I was both totally thrilled, and slightly disconnected.
It was strange, emotionally speaking. I guess I'd spent a whole week getting the rectory into a liveable state. There we go - classic me. In order to function well, I need my home-space sorted. It had been hard work; it has been worth it. John and Clare were amazing on the first day, and Dad & Lorna were astonishing over the weekend. Their help was phenomenal.
But I'd so focussed there that it wasn't till Wednesday itself that I took time to ready myself in any way for the spiritual side of the challenge ahead. No - I take that back. Building a home for me is all about creating a haven which works in terms of inviting people in for hospitality, and having space in which to pause and relax and breathe for myself. Both of these things are essential in ministry, and it's interesting how that was such an overriding priority during the first week.
But it wasn't till Wednesday itself I consciously prayed; thoughtfully prepared; took time with God and mentally began to realise what lay ahead of me.
During the service there were many highlights: I entered the church early, before anything began, to hear the choir rehearsing my 'Salvation's Songs' hymn. They sounded wonderful, and it was profoundly moving to hear those harmonies being sung in that place as I walked in. Bishop Colin was lovely (as always) and has subsequently sent me his sermon notes so I can take time to reflect on his words; I am deeply moved by his kindness.
There were amazing people in church (in addition to all the people in the parish whom I am looking forward to getting to know) from pretty much every part of my life. Mum, Dad and Lorna, Pauline & David from the first church I ever attended, Cathryn from the first church I was organist at, my headmaster from grammar school & his wife (where I came to faith), Oxford friends, Aberystwyth friends, a glorious band of folk from Pontypridd, Nigel & Angela whom I met during my first curacy, Ian whom I first met skiing, Ed & George who are such a key part of my jazz life, Sylvia & Brenda from Calverley, too many people to mention, but I can't not mention again John & Clare who through so many years have been such good friends, and Chris & Ruth, whose ability to laugh and cry at the same things has made my life rich beyond telling.
If a person is judged by their friends, you get quite the wrong impression of me. I'm honestly not that good. But I am that blessed. And these folk were only the ones who had made it on the day, and I haven't included the ones who sent cards or best wishes. I thank you all. You are wonderful.
The highlight was singing hymns and seeing your faces and knowing that God is good.
Today was my first Sunday.
I could get used to this; we had a united Benefice service at Steeple Aston. It was all a bit Anglican and rather lovely. I just about remembered how to do this! (It's been a while...) We'll see what the future holds, but people are super here, and coped with my (probably idiosyncratic) ways well. We sang and prayed and shared the Scriptures and the bread and wine. It was great to be here, to be rector, to be vaguely in charge and totally enthused.
This morning I started with an old Rabbi Lionel Blue joke, then (via an exposition of Luke 15.1-10, but really 15.1-2) gave the congregation the tiny challenge of loving everyone, because that's what Jesus does, and we must do what he does. I apologised for starting with such a small task, and promised I'd raise the bar in future weeks.
Oh well... I guess it's one way to mark an arrival.