'Time flies when you're having fun', as the saying goes. The last 12 months have certainly flown by but the four day silent retreat I've just done did drag a bit!
The retreat proceeded my 'final' ordination as priest - at last I hear you cry. The ordination was a truly memorable and awe-inspiring experience for me, although it was the longest service my kids have ever attended, at over two hours. The Bishop did tell them afterwards that they could be excused church for the next year to make up for it! Also thank you so much to all those people who braved the heat and the journey to support me.
Even though I have now been ordained as priest my job title is still curate and remains so for a few more years. I will continue to be a deacon (which means servant) but you will see me lead a little more.
I am now able to celebrate at services of Holy Communion, to bless, to lead the prayers to absolve us of our sins and to marry you! Everything except Bar Mitzvahs in fact.
A year ago I was waxing lyrical to you about having to be silent for a few days. Well, as before any ordination service,all those who have spent the last year as deacons have been with me on retreat. For four days we pray, have four services a day, pray, think, pray, sleep, read.And did I mention pray?
Anyone who knows me or my family knows we are a noisy bunch, so it may sound surprising to most of you, but this year I really did see the attraction of being quiet, of stopping my noisy life for a few days, of putting a hold on doing and allowing myself to be a human 'being'.
I spent some of my time on retreat reading, particularly on what it means to be a priest. What stuck in my mind was the call that a priest should encourage and enable people. My role as priest essentially continues to be a witness of the love of God in my own life and to encourage and support you in your relationship with God. I still don't know all the answers, but I know where to look!
I've just had to swear an oath that I will 'continue to stir up the gift of God that is in me'. I understand this to mean that I must continue to be willing to ask and face up to the uncomfortable questions of faith and support you in your questions because it is only in addressing these that we can grow.
I remain convinced and committed to the knowledge that we were created out of love and made to love each other and God.Of this I'm sure. I am privileged to be able to say now - God bless you today and always.