Friday, November 29, 2013

another year

Ryan Giggs is 40. Amazing. And still playing at the highest level, as he showed in leading the charge in this week's 5-0 victory by United over Leverkusen. Goalies last that long, but midfielders die young. Unless they are Ryan Giggs.

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.

And me?

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...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

pastoral epistles

I have a new email address as Rector here, and have been doing my best to answer questions and keep up with requests as they have come in. Here is a flavour of rural community life so far.

Dear Rector,
I hear one of your walnut trees has blown down in the storm. This is a sign from God: even so, he is blowing down the Church of England, and especially that awful little man Justin. Justin! What a name.
Would you like to come for tea, some time?

Dear Rector,
I am told that one of those dear walnut trees has blown down. It reminds me: I had an old maiden aunt with a dressing table made from walnut veneer. At least, we thought it was veneer, until one Bonfire Night, for a wheeze, we threw my aunt on the bonfire as the 'Guy' - and she took forever to burn, so perhaps she was made from solid walnut?

Dear Rector,
Do you intend to castrate your new dog? If not, my daughter would be interested in using him for breeding.

Dear Rector,
Do you hunt, or are you a Liberal Democrat? I realise you aren't married, but I could find a horse for you if you would like. Coming from the north I expect you're quite handy with a gun, so you will join our New Year Shoot, won't you?

And my replies (in reverse order):

Dear Sir ... ... MP,
I am afraid I will be away at New Year. Perhaps another time?

Dear Churchwarden,
Sadly for your daughter's spaniels, Harry is not long to be entire. But thank you for putting this thought in my mind.

Dear Headteacher,
Bonfire Night does bring back memories, does it not? I had an uncle whose neck was solid brass, I swear.

Dear Bishop,
I would be delighted to come for tea.