Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pilgrim continues his way

Thank you for following the Edge of the Centre trail this far. If you want to keep in touch with all that happens as we journey into retirement, click on the following name link to visit my new blog. It's called 'West of the Centre'

Monday, April 19, 2010

Farewell Sunday

It was pretty late by the time I got to bed after yesterday's banquet. With no eight o' clock to get up for, I slept in and arrived at church rather too late for my own comfort, as there's always an assortment of pre-service checks to do before getting started. I was amazed that there were so many people there, and few missing who'd been there late last night. There were over seventy of us in church, as many as on Easter Day, an occasion to thank God, after thanking each other last night for the many blessings of years shared together.

I preached around the St John's resurrection Gospel text in which Jesus says to Peter "When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." It's one of the few references to the trials of old age in the New Testament, and it gave me an opportunity to make some special affirmations about this remarkable community of elders who give so much of themselves in faithful witness to Christ and his church.

There was a special 'retirement cake' for everyone to share after the service, which was a great pleasure, and then many farewells. Nevertheless I couldn't help being struck by the thought that this time, the first time in forty five years of life together, we are not moving on, but staying here in Cardiff. This is finally the place where we settle down and make our home. There are people in a small city that we will see again quite often, out and about, such is the nature of the place. The relationship will change, of course, once they have a new Vicar, but bonds of affection shared by mature people are such that change very little, regardless of circumstances.

So, although I am leaving the job and the role I have occupied, we are paradoxically coming to rest rather than moving on. And that's something I have longed for this past few years in a way I never imagined, having been such an energetically restless soul all my working life, always wondering where I am meant to be and what I am meant to be doing there. I don't know what the future entails. Once we've moved, life, limitations notwithstanding will be a skyline of opportunities for adventure and creativity - and to do new things in exploring the depths of God. So I didn't feel sad, as much as in awe of the occasion, of this new beginning. As Nicodemus once said: "Can someone be born again when they are old?"

After lunch I went out and did two out of the three home communions
I was committed to do post Easter, and have avoided doing so far, because of my nasty fluey cold. Then I popped in and had tea and a chat with Percy and Alwena before returning to church for the second Evensong of the weekend, a lovely quiet and ordinary way to conclude a final day of ministry before moving on into retirement, feeling very blessed indeed.

During the day several times I recalled the painful end of my ministry on the Côte d'Azur, where I was compelled to move on to make it possible for the Bishop to deal with unresolved conflict between the diocese and the chaplaincy. At my last service with the little congregation I had gathered in the Bordighera cemetery chapel over a nine month period from the remains of a congregation scattered due to closure of the San Remo Church, I broke down and wept after the final blessing, overwhelmed with sadness. There was no way of knowing if it would continue - this small enterprise which I cherished during dark and disturbing times with the Monaco congregation. Happily, eight years on, that congregation still meets for worship.

I returned to the diocese, and six months later was welcomed into St John's, overjoyed to be entrusted with a new ministry, but if I'm honest, I was still hurting. From the kindness and welcome I received flowed healing and new life that has sustained me through the challenges of the seven and a half years since then. I reckon there are many others who could say the same about their experience of becoming part of this church, and for a huge variety of reasons. Long may it remain so, for it gives the greatest glory to God, being a 'church for others'. My final blessings given today were for me experiences of joy and fulfilment. What more could anyone ask?

Here the story I have been telling of my life as a city centre pastor, through all the changing scenes of life, draws to a happy conclusion. It's time quit blogging for a while in order to ponder. I'd like to keep a journal of whatever follows on in life after this point, but at the moment I'm stuck for a blog name that might be as catalytic of fresh thought as this one has been. Hopefully that will be in my next and therefore final posting.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A feast to remember

Yesterday afternoon, Lynn and Pam took us in their car down to Llanbleddian, in the Vale, to meet up with other parishioners to sing Evensong in the Parish Church of St John the Baptist. It was a day of glorious sunshine, and all the flowers of spring were evident in the lanes as we travelled. Having charged up both cameras for the trip, I stupidly rushed out carrying neither. Fortunately Pam had a Nikon digital camera with her, which I was able to borrow and record something of the occasion for the parish website.

Llanbleddian has a tower of the same age (15th century) as our St John's, by the same Somerset architect, another gift of the wife of the Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker). We were welcomed by our band of ringers who'd arrived ahead of us to ring before the service. I ad libed a sermon based on the couple of lessons, chosen after we arrived (one of those bits of planning we'd all forgotten), and it went down quite well. We were given tea and cake by some members of the congregation, and that gave us all a chance to socialise, and return an invitation to Llanbleddian to come up to Cardiff for a special Evensong of their own at some future date. Although Evensong is done less than ever these days, it is still a much loved act of worship for many people. I'm proud and glad that a relatively small number of people attending St John's regularly make it their habit to offer Evensong to the passing world every Sunday.

Then we drove on through the lanes to Llanmihangel y Bont Faen, a small hamlet a couple of miles to the south, situated in the Rectorial Parish of Llantwit Major. Apart from a few farms, there is a fourteenth century Parish Church, set in a grassy wooded hollow with a running stream nearby, and a beautiful well menatained sixteenth century mediaeval manor house, Plas Llanmihangel, where we were booked in for an evening meal, thirty nine of us! Pauline gave us a talk on the history of the church, which still uses oil lamps for illumination, and has a baptismal immersion font underneath the floor close to the pulpit. It can't have been much used, however, since it has pews astride its cover.

Plas Llanmihangel opened its door to us at seven, with an apéro while we found our places in the seating plan. All credit and thanks to Pauline who organised the whole event perfectly, and gave us an arrangement that provided an opportunity to sit down and eat together as a congregation, and enjoy several hours of company and conversation, while eating a superb meal. It's a rare occasion for none of us to be serving a meal to others. So much serving others is done regularly by members of the congregation, that this was a special treat for all. It was what I'd hoped might be possible as a farewell celebration, rather than a stand up 'do' with a cast of thousands. Just a gathering of many who have shared with me as incumbent in the journey the parish has taken through these years of change.

There were speeches, a most generous presentation and toasts afterwards, all full of warmth and affection. The ringers presented me with an inscribed tribute recalling the quarter peal rung in honour of my retirement at the end of last month. It is a most unusual honour and something of which I shall remain very proud indeed. It was gone eleven when we left for home. For some, it was the latest they'd stayed out for many a moon. A thoroughly good time was had by all. From every angle it was one of those unforgettable days, a memory to treasure in times to come.

When we got home, I uploaded the photos taken during the day. The results are here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Final Friday

There were fourteen of us at the noon Eucharist today, bringing the weekday total up to thirty two, much to my satisfaction - the weekday average is up by 25% over seven years of upheaval in the city centre. When I arrived and people around the place asked me where I was working, I was often surprised to hear people say that they thought St John's was closed, even though the church had been kept open daily, even though the tea room was running regularly. I guess the clothing of the tower in scaffolding for a year, plus a few inevitable closures for safety reasons once it was realised this had to be done, did send out messages to the public that needed to be contradicted at a later date.

Getting people back into the habit of expecting the place to be open with regular worship on weekdays as well as Sundays took several years. We're not talking here about what went on in reality, but what people working around the city thought was happening. Making sure that the public is aware of the welcoming presence day by day did involve publicity, looking for occasions to make known the life and activities of the church, and not fighting shy of the possibility of a little controversy, if that's what it takes to get noticed.

I have encountered such disappointment among city workers and worshippers that there is no news of a sucessor, no possibility of a public handover, that would help make my successor known as Christ's ambassador in the city centre. The doctrine imposed from above is that 'the Parish' will have get on without an incumbent and live through a process of bereavement, while the recruitment process goes on - despite the fact that my departure has been planned and made known for over a year, and that undertakings were given that the interregnum would be as short as possible. What 'possible' means in this context is considerably different between those who look in to the city centre from outside, and those who have to carry forward the church's mission in this context. It's no wonder that the church as a public body finds itself unable to retain the measure of public respect and credibility it thinks it deserves.

After the Eucharist, I enjoyed a couple of hours at the sink, washing up in good company as usual. We wished Pauline happy birthday for Monday coming, with a nice bottle of bubbly, during the quiet period. Today there was a lunchtime organ concert, well attended, and it brought another wave of customers in afterwards. Just think next time I stand at the sink in the tea room, I'll be just a volunteer like all the others. I hope that everyone else involved won't find this too hard to get used to.

Once the activity died down, I went to my bank and acted upon Financial advice received earlier in the week, and began to move money that arrived in my current account a couple of days ago. Good to get it all safely locked down, where it won't any longer make me nervous to have around. A strange place for me to be indeed

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another last day

Karry Watkins from the Parsonage Board came by this morning to look around the house and assess what might need to be done for an incoming new incumbent. I nagged on about double glazing to reduce further the energy costs, now that loft and cavity wall insulation have been done, just prior to our departure.

There were just half a dozen of us for the noon Eucharist. As I arrived the contractors working on laying the south churchyard path called me over to inspect their work. The paving slabs being used are not fresh from the quarry, but come from a stock-pile to us at a reasonable price. Many have been used before and weathered well. Once laying is complete, and the grouting has weathered a bit, the paving will settle quickly into an environment of ancient stones. I think the result will be pleasing to the eye.

I made it to the Governors meeting, on by bike today, not on foot, and was annoyed to be just five minutes late, and arrive during the prayers. The diocesan religious inspector delivered his report as part of the OFSTED inspection and was fulsome in his praise. At the end of the meeting Father Roy attempted to persuade me in front of the meeting to stop on as a governor at least until my successor is in place. I had to remind him that such matters were not ours to propose, but rather the diocesan education committee. Which was perhaps better than saying "Enough is enough."

I have loved being part of the life of every school it has been my privilege to serve as a pastor. I have never enjoyed being a Governor, although it has been an ex officio duty in three places where I worked. Educational policy comes largely from above, and the governing body has to comply with all sorts of policy impositions and decisions so complex that common sense is never sufficient and usually boring 'training' is required. The capacity to change or question any thing is so limited, that for the most part governors are obliged to become 'yes-men' if only to support the staff, and make their lives less onerous. Pedagogy and community learning struggle all the time against being stifled by useless politically driven resource wasting bureaucracy. There must be a better way, to raise our kids and not exploit our teachers surely?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A decent picture

There were unusually, a dozen of us for my last Wednesday midday Eucharist today.

I'm now at the stage of finishing off things that I committed myself to doing, like the new Parish Electoral Roll, and entering summary statistics into the Archdeacon's Annual return. It's a decent picture. St John's has grown and held its own over the past three years since the separation of the city centre parish from Cathays. We've more than made up for people lost through death or moving away. The electoral roll is a steady sixty. Averagely there are forty communicants per Sunday and nearly thirty on weekdays, most of whom don't come on Sundays, plus Evensong attendees, making ninety regular worshippers a week, apart from the many big occasions St John's hosts. There's a lot that a young more energetic priest will be able to build upon.

At the end of an afternoon of administrative pottering, I rushed over to Tregegarville School for a Governors' meeting only to discover I was a day early. I'd mis-read my diary. The few remaining staff were quite amused by this, and must have put me straight into the 'dotty old Vicar pidgeon hole. Ah well, it meant that I got home early enough to cook supper for Clare, who is beavering away at re-decorating the house ready for the move. I get do do my stuff in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


In this my last week of full time work, I realise that I need to think a bit more about what else I/we will consider doing, once we've moved to Pontcanna, got the house how we want it, made all the overdue catch up visits to family and friends, and found a different pace of life.

Life for the past forty years has been dictated by occupying a social role in relation to fellow Christians, defined by the Parish as the place to be. However busy or not the job may be, from time to time, the nature of the commitment and the solemn pledges on which it rests makes for ties akin to marriage, and that has not been without its conflicts and difficulties over the years.

In retirement I remain a priest and pastor, but for the first time become a volunteer, with more choices, fewer obligations, and a new sense of freedom to be more of a husband and father, without the excuses of the job to hide behind. As well as this I can play a different role in the community as a 'citizen', contributing the useful skills and experience as a helper, rather than initiator of projects. I don't have to remain politically neutral if I don't want to. I can join the fray, or turn my back on it. Both seem possible, depending upon my mood!

For the moment, a little back office support for Cardiff Business Safe in its crime prevention role is something that will keep my mind exercised, and give me a different kind of glimpse into the world of business. I'll be doing the same with Cardiff Street Carers' Forum also, as this evolves. We had a Representative Group meeting at County Hall this evening. Recently the pace has slackened somewhat, because the council officers we've been dealing with have been preoccupied with other project and not been able to give their full attention to seeing through what's begun. It's normal I guess. Everyone is keeping lots of balls in the air in their jobs, and there's always a gulf between imagination, ambition and reality. I can see that when I look back over my forty years as a cleric in the Church. Would it have been any different If I'd had the self confidence to pursue the path of being a priest in secular employment?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Money matters

All my working life I've lived in houses owned and maintained by the Church. We've managed to bring up three children and succeeded in living decently within our means. So having a visit from a Financial Advisor is a something of a novelty. I had a 'Fiduciare' in Switzerland whom I paid a few hundred Francs to fill in my tax forms, as these are notoriously complex and difficult. Even if you get by speaking French in everyday living, the local, cantonal and federal terminology of taxation merits getting someone else to take the strain on your behalf. UK on-line tax filing is a doddle after all that - and free.

Anyway, the Financial Advisor came because the bank noticed I had some savings needing to be re-invested, and I realised that there'd soon be a pension lump sum to consider as well. In fact the notice from the CofE pension fund came through the door in the morning's mail, not long before the man himself arrived. I've been out window shopping to find out more about 'financial products' as they now seem to be called, and become more and more bewildered by what it's possible to do. So it was good to sit and discuss with someone who wasn't pushy and who could get me to think about myself and my attitude to money.

Cautious, risk averse, that's me. If you've got enough to live off in your regular pension income, then the rest is rainy day stuff like insurance, in my book. OK then, call me mean. Life is a lot more enjoyable the simpler it is, the fewer options you have, the clearer the options. Honestly, even thinking about managing savings makes me nervous, because of the options.

I'm thankful that the credit crunch has delivered us from assault by tempting credit card offers of late. Mind you, I still haven't got over my moral indignation at the strapline 'Access takes the waiting out of wanting', ad that must have been all of thirty five years ago. These days, we may be less amenable to borrowing than we were, but I'm not quite convinced that there are really enough decent incentives to save. It's a habit we may need to re-learn. And I have to do some more thinking about the place of money in my life, in a way quite differently from those years of providing for a family.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Big birthday boy

Today I turn 65, and become a pensioner - well not quite yet - I have another week of work, and then ten days of full time effort in house moving before my resignation takes effect. The effects of the nasty bug that has laid me low for the last fortnight are still with me, sapping my energy, so today I felt more like an old man than I usually do. However, the sun shone and bathed the sanctuary with light for my final eight o'clock service for four faithful worshippers, and that felt good, after so many dark cloud laden, rubbish strewn early Sunday beginnings - yes, there's even less rubbish these days, so things are improving, slowly.

There was a good congregation at ten, despite it being Low Sunday, when often many are away. We had a baptism, the child of a couple I'd married eighteen months ago. That was delightful, even if somewhat exacting with my batteries on low. At the end of the service, Pauline came down from the back and got everyone singing 'happy birthday'. There was a birthday cake to follow, over coffee, with candles that re-ignited themselves when you blew them out. Such kindness. So hard ot believe it's me having a Significant Birthday.

The last time that happened to me was when I had an Easter birthday in Geneva. It comes as a bit of a shock when it happens. That time I didn't notice the improvised organ fantasia on the 'happy birthday' tune during Communion, and thought people ere smiling just because it was Easter. A priest leads from the front and is the centre of attention, but the only way to make this a true act of service is empty oneself, with the detachment of an actor on stage absorbed in playing a role. It's what a priest does for God and suddenly to become the focus of a different kind of attention is bit like being awakened out of a deep sleep.

After church Owain Clare and I went to a favourite Indian restaurant - the Vegetarian Studio for lunch. It's a friendly family place with a little Hindu shrine on the wall just outside the kitchen, and some of those working there had evidently been worshipping at the temple up the road before starting their day.

We went home for tea and another birthday cake and presents and phone calls from the kids - lots of new CDs, a shirt and a fabulous cooking pan with which I will be able to cook paella for four instead of two! Whilst listening to my first new CD, I fell asleep soundly. I seen to need to do this at the moment as well as having a good eight hours in bed. Dozy old man! Then it was back to church for Evensong before spending a quiet evening on the sofa with Clare in front of the TV. No stopping on for a final St John's Friends' committee meeting. Time to leave them to plan a future that won't involve me. Nobody is indispensible, after all.

I remember Mansel Gower recounting, some forty years ago how shocked he'd been when he quit teaching A level Maths at 65 one week, then the following, he was drawing his first pension at the Post Office, and the counter clerk was speaking to him loudly, clearly and slowly and with quite a different demeanour than when he'd been in previously - as if he was suddenly old and decrepit, no longer capable of counting out the few quid the State was passing him across the counter. Attitudes to age have changed as people have remained fitter and healthier for longer. Sixty five is the new fifty, or so they say - just as long as you're not burned out or fighting a bug. Fitness we can do something about, but health is a gift not to be taken for granted.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Visitor from afar

As I was tidying up after the lunchtime Eucharist today, I was approached by a young woman, who asked if I was Father Keith. I looked more closely and realised it was Dr Laura Ciobanu, on a return visit from Bucharest, where she teaches and practices medicine. We met when she was doing some specialist training here four years ago, and have met twice since when she's returned to see friends. All these meetings could so easily not have happened, but somehow were meant to happen. On this occasion she'd been told that I was unwell and had probably left the church, since I'd slipped into the sacristy after the service to work with Philip on an email for a few moments.

Last time she brought us the gift of an icon of St John the Baptist from home. This time, there was a special personal gift for me - some holy oil and incense grains from Mount Athos, the home of Eastern Orthodox monasticism. It was just so touching to be remembered, and to see her again. Her Father is a priest in Bucharest, now semi-retired following a stroke, but active in prayer and pastoral guidance in his local church. I bet he must be proud of his accomplished daughter. She went home, after her internship, to do something about medicine in her homeland, rather than earn a relative fortune somewhere else. She said it is so hard because the whole system is still run by communists, hanging on, with little vision or new sense of direction, not knowing how to address the need for change or cope with it when it happens. Much like here I suppose, though more far reaching in consequences where she is. Being here for her was a bit like being a dream world where dreams came true. Back at home, the dreams are more like nightmares.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

No more Returns

In the morning's mail was the City Registrar's Quarterly Return form. My very last one to complete and send off. This is a full copy of the marriage register entries for the previous three months. It's a requirement of an Anglican cleric's job that these be filled in, signed as a correct record and returned to the office in City Hall - one of those mundane chores that Vicars 'just do', that come uninvited with the job, along with the status of being a legal registrar for church weddings. It's a task that requires concentration, patience and no distractions. I've never been good at it, always hated it, and will be glad to see the back of it. Working to make the ritual of marriage a wondrously joyful experience was always a challenge and a pleasure. Solemn form filling was always a nightmare to me.

When I went to Halesowen as Rector 20 years ago, there were 90 weddings a year. There could be up to two dozen wedding entries a quarter to be copied on to the sheets provided (NOT a photocopy, NEVER a photocopy). Thankfully, I had an elderly Parish Clerk who did the copies in immaculate copperplate, and brought them to me, on time, for my 'certifying' signature, as Vicar. By the time I left, recession had set in, weddings dropped to sixty and continued spiralling downwards from there. The Parish Clerk retired, and form filling eventually found its way to the Incumbent. Since I've been here, the most weddings I had in any quarter was four, and only slightly more in any year. In seven years at St John's, there have only been two dozen weddings.

On the other hand, colleagues in the Diocese in Europe are often busy presiding at ceremonies for couples in romantic holiday locations, where it's possible to hire a local church and invite minister to bless a couple after civil ceremony conducted elsewhere. Separation of church from state in most of Europe makes this the norm. It gives pastors more pastoral freedom to engage with people where they are. Last week, Church in Wales clerics were advised that parliamentary has approved the relaxation of restrictive residential qualifications for couples wishing to marry in a church with a personal or spiritual association for them and their families. This follows a similar move in the CofE a couple of years ago, reducing the need to apply for an Archbishop of Canterbury's Special (expensive) License. I don't think this extra bureaucratic concession will have many extra couples rushing to the altar. Having enjoyed a much improved quality of ministry to married couples in the nine years I was abroad, I'm sad I didn't see the separation of the legal engagements of marriage from its sacred celebration in the UK during my working life. There seems to be little appetite for such change.

Well, I made it to the St John Priory Chaplains' meeting this afternoon, which is just as well, since the Prior has asked if I will stay on as a HQ Chaplain. Hopefully, the local Cardiff division will also be able to make occasional use of my pastoral interest. While my involvement with the Order is a result of being Vicar of St John's in the first place, it's opened up a world of interesting pastoral engagements for me that looks set to outlast retirement. I was pleased to have an opportunity to address the meeting about the development of pastoral ministry to St John's teams staffing the Millennium Stadium plus one or two other major permanent event sites staffed by St John's in Wales, like the Builth Wells showground, and the Llangollen International Eisteddfod site. Chaplains visiting events for other reasons would I believe find their day much enriched by spending time alongside first responders on stand-by at big events.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Downs and ups

My nasty bug hasn't given up without a fight, even after a couple of days of lying low at home, but I had to summon the energy to go in and celebrate the noon Eucharist today. Just my luck to be faced with the need to remount a dislodged cycle chain before setting out. I arrived just as the tower clock was striking the hour, to find that my key to the outside sacristy door wouldn't work, requiring me to enter through the South Porch, making me even later getting started. Afterwards, I set off on foot for a meeting of St John's Chaplains down at the HQ on Ocean Way, only to find I was a day early. It was clearly not my day. I should have gone back to bed. Instead, I spent a couple of hours checking subscriber data with Ashley over in Southgate House to conclude the afternoon.

There are two memorable things about today. The first is my discovery of a remarkable series of photos sent via Twitter from the International Space Station by a Japanese astronaut. I'm not a Twitter fan, nor a user, but to put this communications channel to such marvellous topical use can only be good for our sense of the world we are privileged to inhabit. Check it out - here. One of my best bits of new insight from visiting this site is that the Japanese have a different name for each daily phase of the moon. Like the Inuit having hundreds of words for kinds of snow, this tells you something about observation, and the value it's given in cultures other than ours. The other memorable thing is that several days ago I was invited by Ed Walker the editor, to be a guest blogger on the Wales On-Line website. I responded, and learned today that my post was published here yesterday.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Feast of Feasts

How lovely the sun was shining when I made my way to church for the early Eucharist of Easter Day. It was quiet, with just four of us there, and just as well. I'd not been unable to do more than think through the bare bones of a sermon during a night of coughing and turning, let alone commit to this paper as I usually do. I just had to improvise my way through, and for me that always means being longer than if I'd really disciplined my thoughts into text. Ah well, at least it meant that I was sure I had something coherent to say at the Sung Eucharist.

There were over eighty in church for the Sung Eucharist and 69 communicants, with many foreign visitors. We started with the Paschal Candle and Easter garden blessings and a rehearsal of the Easter shout; Christ is risen/He is risen indeed for use throughout. The sermon and even my sung parts of the service went OK. A lady from Connecticut expressed her appreciation for what I said, declaring it was "Sincere, from the heart." Yes, and that's about all - no record of this one anywhere, except that I recall starting from "It is finished", and attempting to read it as Jesus having accomplished fully his Father's will, and now finished with just being in one time and place. From the cross he moves on. From the empty tomb outwards to the world in every age - finished with the particular situation, moving towards universal relevance in every age, to becoming 'all in all'. Well, that's what I think I was on about.

The whole was more endurance than enjoyment, as I am still feeling groggy. It's not at all how I might have hoped to spend my last Easter in the Parish. I'm still far from over this vile bug that's plagued me now for a whole week. After refreshments, I gave Iris a lift home and gave her sister Hilda Easter communion. She's also poorly and in bed at the moment. It wouldn't really be Easter without home communions. There'll be a couple more during the week.

It's great that the family (apart from the Canadian residents) have been with us this weekend, even if a shame that I've been tired and lacking in energy to join in. I slept intermittently after lunch and before Evensong. At least that made it possible for me to go and lead the service. There were two dozen of us there - a dozen in the choir, the rest sat scattered about the nave, and watching, as passing visitors often do. I wonder what they make of what we do and say on an occasion like this. But we don't do surveys, we just try and welcome everyone with a smile and in the name of the risen Lord.

We finished the evening chez nous, watching 'South Pacific' on TV then re-running 'Mamma Mia' on video. We were all in bed before midnight, tired out.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

My last parochial Good Friday

It rained as I made my way to church for the Good Friday Vigil. The streets were pretty quiet, and I thought that would result in few people attending. However, I was mistaken there were around thirty people were there for the first two hours, with some comings and goings, and numbers rose to around 50 for the Liturgy in the final hour. Although I was still feeling pretty groggy, my throat was not nearly as sore as yesterday, and my voice held up throughout. It was hard to feel much. I did my best to remain focussed and put in as much energy as I could into preaching. On this occasion it meant not singing, and that was strange - being quiet for some of my favourite hymns of the year. The important thing was getting to the end without cracking up and causing a drama. Without the quiet support of church officers, willing me on as well as sharing in the liturgy, it would have been much harder.

Afterwards we had a quiet, most welcome cuppa and toasted hot cross bun, all relaxed and homely up in the tea-room, closed for the day, then home to await family arrivals and get some rest. In fact, we agreed to cancel Saturday night's Easter ceremonies, rarely attracting more than half a dozen people, so that I could have a full day to recover before Sunday. No point in taking any risks at the end of such a hard-going final parochial Holy Week.

Late in the evening I popped back to church briefly to see how the ' Pub Church' team was getting on with its Good Friday outreach for city clubbers, organised by Pastor James Karran and University Chaplain Trystan Hughes. They had different videos of Christ's Passion being projected in three different spaces around the church, and some mediation stations, focussing on Way of the Cross events. They were pleased to have had a good response from passers by - I guess the loud music pumping into the street from a church will have made some curious.

Richard and Philip were there, Evan was expected. A really long day for all of them, and a sign of their strong commitment to make the church a place open to all kinds of activities that may bring people in, and make them think. I was too tired to stay long, and so grateful that I didn't have to stay to the end. But above all I felt immensely proud of having been part of this small team that has quietly self-effacingly made so many wonderful things happen for others in over the years.