Tuesday, July 08, 2014
ever rolling stream
In youth, time flies. We spend it like the money we don't have. We will always be able to pay back later.
The currency gains in value. I intend to spend a lot more of it yet - though the years tell me I may already have spent more than remains; and the experience of the years tells me to value the currency, because who knows what lies ahead?
So we gathered to celebrate Mum's 80th Birthday. I drove up from Oxfordshire, Gill & Ben flew in from Florida. We had a party; it was a blast. Lots of friends and family and laughter and Mum loving every minute. I took her to a concert in Manchester - Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Excellent. The encore, just Wynton Marsalis & the rhythm section extemporising for ten minutes, will remain in my heart for ever as one of the musical highlights of my life. Mum adored it. She said she felt drunk on the music - which is perfect; as it should be. We were on the second row, and time stood still. I say it was ten minutes - I actually have no idea how long it was. It was an eternity, it was a second, it was glorious.
Gill and Ben then came and stayed with me at my place in the shire. We travelled on what was actually the 20th anniversary of my ordination. How grateful could I be? To be bringing Gill & Ben home, to be welcoming them here, to share a few precious days together.
We live a long way apart; we live very close. Life has lots in store for us yet, and yet we begin to make plans for what the future may hold.
Another musical highlight: years ago I took Gill to see Madama Butterfly at Covent Garden. This year, on a whim whilst in Manchester with Mum, I rang the box office at the Royal Opera to see what was playing whilst Gill was with me. I took Gill & Ben to see Tosca - Placido Domingo conducting, Bryn Terfel as Scarpia, and the glorious Sondra Radvanovsky as Tosca. I've seen this opera a hundred times; I've never seen it done better. We had a terrific time, made all the better by tea beforehand with cousin Louise & Selihah at Delaunay's.
The weekend came around, and with it a service to mark that 20th anniversary.
At first, I'd wondered whether I would publicly mark this moment. And then I had to. I had to because I am simply so grateful to be here. I wanted to take the moment, to live in it, to say thank you to God and stop time and stand still and be thankful. I am here because of his faithfulness. I am here because of the friends and family who carried me through dark days. I am here because of everything, despite everything, and with great, great joy.
I couldn't say it quietly in a corner.
It was a terrific day - and I was thrilled to see friends from years gone by and friends from places far and wide in church. Welsh connections, Wycliffe people, St Aldate's friends, both couples for whom I have been best man, and in Joe Martin a US friend and the purveyor of the best excuse for being late I ever heard anywhere. Clare Hayns preached beautifully.
A good group stayed for lunch on the Rectory lawn, and it seems that for this week Champagne has replaced Coke Zero as my standard beverage.
In the service we sang an anthem, a piece I wrote for Geoffrey & Jeanette Cotterill's wedding in June 1989. We sang it again in the evening at a service where they gathered former St Aldate's music group members to lead worship in their current church. The photo could be from 1989 or so, with a little ageing added to it. Very bizarre.
And that's the gift. For in the pausing to remember, to enjoy, to be grateful, to thank God and to love people, the ever rolling stream goes back and forward and cuts in and out and stops in its tracks as we take time to enjoy time and refuse to be its prisoners. It is another of the Lord's marvellous gifts. And maybe it is in possessing and having been possessed by so much more of this gift, that the open thankfulness for past and future are what make this moment also feel like such a present.