Wednesday, February 25, 2009


It's good to stop. Ash Wednesday has been quite a busy day for me. First a school assembly, sharing with Fr Roy Doxsey in a penitential service, ashing children, staff and parents. Then the first of three home communions in different places. Then three quarters of an hour at home to write a reference ready to deliver to County Hall this afternoon, then the midday Eucharist at St John's, followed by the second and third home communion. Then a trip down to County Hall to deliver the reference, and home for supper before the evening's Sung Eucharist. Over 250 people received the ashes, and 37 people made their Communion. And I preached three times.

It would be interesting to find how how many colleagues would say that this level of liturgical activity was also typical for them on Sundays and special days. We willingly make an effort to reach out to people in different circumstances and offer God's gifts to them, and I believe it's appreciated, for the most part. What does concern me is the whole issue of quantity versus quality. It's not easy to give of one's best when there's so much to do.

The late Dean of Monmouth Gareth Lewis was a great friend and supporter of my ministry in the days when I was U.S.P.G. representative in Wales. "What people need most from you" he'd say, "is your freshness. You can bring a new perspective and a different energy to them in their routine parochial lives. We all need a little bit of freshness from time to time."

If there was anything new or different about what I brought to parishes at that time, it was a fruit of the freedom I had from the grinding tasks of parochial routine, freedom to visit and learn from many different church communities in the course of doing my job representing mission in the third world, freedom to understand what was developing in other countries, either through reading or personal encounters.

I never travelled abroad with USPG. Just as my turn arrived, I left for another job. But I know what a difference travel makes, because of how much I gained from journeys made while I worked in Switzerland - not only into neighbouring European countries, but also the Balkans, Syria, Jordan, the Holy Land and Mongolia. Nowadays my travel is confined to holidays, which have more the character of recovery than discovery. Books and TV are not enough. I need to go to places and interrogate them for myself in order to be refreshed in a way that makes a difference to what I can give out. But there's not much chance of going far again before I retire.

Although I'm settled, and accept the demands and routines of pastoral life, there's still a restlessness below the surface in my dreams and imaginations, a longing to drink from wells again in distant places. For now I just have to live with the desire and not stifle it.

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