Friday, November 29, 2013
Another birthday boy, CS Lewis, had a memorial stone placed in Westminster Abbey last week on the 50th anniversary of his death. It was a great occasion - and I felt privileged to be there. I had a ticket amongst the general populace in the South Aisle but as I arrived I saw my old friend Spud, who had organised the whole thing, and he gave me that most precious of things - a 'friend, come up higher' moment. He decided to find me a 'better seat', which turned out to be on the front row at the east end of the choir. The royal family seats. 'What was my connection with CS Lewis?' I kept being asked. 'We share a birthday,' didn't quite feel like the right answer...
The sound of CS Lewis' voice from a BBC recording during the service was a beautiful moment; as was a new anthem on one of his poems.
On my birthday this year I am in a grateful frame of mind.
A year ago, I was beginning to ponder a return to full time ordained ministry after my time in Leeds, and now I have a new home and role, the three parishes are just great, and I am back in Oxfordshire amongst the dearest of friends.
I've received all sorts of gifts this week. At that CS Lewis service, someone I haven't seen for ages told me they follow this blog, and have found it a real help from time to time. Well, that encouragement blessed me. Thank you. Meeting a young couple to discuss a baptism, one of them told me that they had heard me preach a couple of times and found things I said to be surprisingly understandable(!): would I speak that way about the baptism? They had even found they had changed something about the way they lived after one of my sermons. I tell you - any preacher who hears that said to them genuinely feels like they are walking on air!
And the photo at the top is from a couple of nights ago, as Clare & David MacInnes invited me over for supper to celebrate my birthday, and Clare & John Hayns were there too. One of the deepest gifts - these friends who mean the world, and now I'm just down the road from them.
Life will have its ups and downs; there were a couple of moments in the last year when I got a bit stressed! There will be a few of those moments in the year ahead, I don't doubt... But this year's birthday is not about accruing new gifts; simply being very, very thankful for the very, very many good gifts that have already come my way.
One extra thought.
In Pontypridd, it was a running joke - and sometimes, to be honest, it did get me down a bit - that I somehow ended up celebrating my birthday each year either by taking a funeral or by sitting at the bedside of someone who was dying.
You will all be glad to know I am not taking a funeral today!
I did take one yesterday, though...