Monday, February 08, 2010

Unloading the past?

Today I made myself go up into the loft and tackle the half dozen or more crates of archived documents spanning more than half my life in ministry. Time to sort them out and thin them down to what I'll be able to store in my new half sized study. This was not an easy task, as so much of the material I came across evoked memories as strong as any set of photographs I have processed of late. Old documents publications and letters with a few exceptions had to go. The occasional travel journals and spiritual diaries continue to be hoarded, for quiet future review.

I admit to being a hoarder, but then I used to think that one day I might need all that stuff to write my memoirs. Then I got to the stage of thinking - who would be interested in anything had to say about the last forty years of clerical life? Then last year, I spent a couple of quiet days writing a 'spiritual' autobiography, in an effort to trace some of the key influences that have shaped my life and ministry. It was an act of gratitude more than anything else, not the stuff of an ecclesiastical best seller.

Yet, funnily enough, I always wanted to be a writer and to publish books. The one book I have written received sympathetic attention from a religious publisher who declared that there was no longer a market for the subject. It's only one person's opinion, but it made me think why waste time courting book publishers? Eventually I put a download link to the book files from this blog. A few people have found it there say they have read it. That'll have to do.

Together with a huge load of ancient school governor material and outdated City Council publications, I had a full car load to take for re-cycling. It's more than a year since my last throw out of old material. The fact that old documents arouse memories makes me wonder, does throwing them away mean that recollection will be that much harder? Is this where old age memory loss starts? I put it like that because those materials - papers, pamphlets, pictures, minutes, letters, newsprint, OHP slides, diagrams, teaching notes are more than just raw data. Feelings are attached to them. These are part of the memory, and can be the key to unlocking other buried memories - like the Proustian madeleine biscuit.

There were twenty at 'God on Monday' this afternoon. Next week it's half term. The following Monday is an INSET days, the Monday after that is St David's day and the beginning of the school OFSTED inspection. Then we re-start, and after four Lenten sessions, it'll be the end of term and Holy Week, and for me, the end of 'God on Mondays', a much valued occasion of my ministry in the school over the past four years. It'll end in its present form with my departure. Who knows what new creative impulse my successor will contribute to the school?

Times have changed and a fresh approach is needed. The school is a busier place these days, and I wonder if this means that associated informal worship activity hasn't been crowded out of the mainstream priorities in its life. It's changed beyond recognition since the closure of St James'. No doubt it will change again, with a fresh mind and pastoral heart applied to the situation. There's no shortage of good will, on the part of parents and staff, that's for sure. All things are possible.

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