On 25 June this year, I made promises to God and to Bishop Andrew. Promises such as declaring “my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures”, my “obedience to the Bishop of Guildford … in all things lawful and honest”. I promised that I would “promote peace and unity” – that’s a big ask these days, I think I might have my work cut out on that one alone. And also I promised to be obedient “to the minister in whose cure I may serve” – that’s obedient to Alan and Lesley – but only provided that what they ask of me is lawful and honest. Heavy, solemn promises … crikey, what brought me to this point?
And people ask me, “What’s it like now you’re ‘done’?”.
Well, it’s been a long journey, for me and for all those who have supported, guided, helped and prayed for me. Thank you to you all – particularly Alan and Lesley and especially my poor, long-suffering husband Bob. Three years: 39 pieces of marked work (average 60% mark), Monday evenings over at Guildford, residentials, sermons, parish placement …
But what is it really like being “done”?
If I’m honest, I remember little of the day itself. The week before, I had finished my final assignment on the practical aspects of pastoral care, so all my coursework was done. Nothing left hanging over me, but through that week, I became more aware of a deep feeling which had started as unease, morphed through worry into a state of panic, tinged with excitement. Dear God, am I ready for all of this?
“You’ll be fine, no need to worry, it’s normal to get butterflies …” Yes, I’m sure it is all right for you. But this is me, I’m the first person ever in the whole world to feel apprehension – er well, maybe I exaggerate a bit … Actually, the most helpful comment I received during this time was from a lady at St John’s who assured me that already she could see the joy of God within me as I inhabited the role of minister. What a lovely thing to say, thank you.
So the great day finally came. The service was scheduled for 5.30 pm at St Peter’s, Farnborough. I and my fellow Licensed Lay Ministers-in-waiting had spent the day in shared, quiet study and preparation – by now, the butterflies had turned into giant pterodactyls and I was a bit shaky. Would Beki, my daughter make it, would Mum manage to get into the church in the wheelchair, would I stumble over the words in my reading or perhaps trip over my robes? Oh heck!
But then, we made our promises to Bishop Andrew and lined up to go into church for the service where we would be “done”. Waiting in the procession outside in the sunshine, I felt a huge sense of relief. I’d made it! Beki had arrived safely, Mum was carefully installed at the end of a row, I could almost quote the Old Testament reading I’d rehearsed it so much. My friends, family and supporters all ready to cheer me on and the sun shone. Now all I had to do was pledge my life to God.
Do you know the feeling, when so much is going on around you, you are caught up in the midst of it all and you simply go where you are told and do what you’re told? At times, the service felt a bit like that. But somewhere between the time outside when I had felt sense of relief and part way through the service when we sang “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul”, nervous anxiety had done a complete somersault into pure joy so I could “sing like never before …” There is such depth to God’s love and at times, very special times, we are able to catch a glimpse of God’s love at work in our lives.
“Done”? I’ve only just begun!