Sunday, 23 June 2013

Full Circle

This morning I was awoken at 5.30am by a cat vigorously plucking away at the loose bit of landing carpet which has come away from the bar underneath our bedroom door. The landing carpet in Barton Place was laid in a similarly shambolic manner (because I laid it) so they used to do that back there too. Fortunately, I was reasonably well rested, having fallen asleep rather early on the living room rug after half-a-bottle of wine (thank you, Andrew), a nice Chinese (thank you, Canton takeaway) and half a large bar of Galaxy (thank you, alcohol-induced lowered self-will), with Paul watching all the episodes of 'Airport Live' he missed during the week we've had no TV (thank you Rev'd Training Incumbent, for drawing husband's attention to this).

At 7am, or thereabouts, a tiny voice will appear over the baby monitor, and earnestly say something like "ro-ro-ro", "da-da-da", "ayyy" or "geh-geh", any of which may be loosely interpreted as "oy, I'm awake you know, bring me my milk!" But I'll use the hour or so before this happens to write what will probably be my last post, at least on this blog.

So, I'm getting ordained in precisely 1 week.

For the last little while I've been thinking a lot about deservedness. As I reflect on these last couple of years the only thing I can think is that I haven't deserved any of it. Going right back to the process of discernment and the BAP, there was no way I deserved to get that letter from the Bishop saying that - yes - the BAP were recommending me for training. Looking around me at St David's, I was always aware that the vast majority of people were older than me, had been Christians for longer, and had more experience in a whole host of the skills and qualities which you're asked to evidence during the discernment process - so why on earth should I be the one with the cheek to say I think God is calling me to a role of leadership and service in the church, to break bread and minister to his people as Priest?

Reflecting on my experience at college, again, I've not deserved any of what I've received in material terms. Mr A and I rocked up at Cuddesdon just shy of two years ago. We were given a lovely flat with no bills to pay, plus a student grant enough to live on, and invited in gracious hospitality to three meals a day. I was enrolled on a Masters at one of the top Universities in the world and given the priviledge of learning from, and alongside, some very fine people. Why invest so much in me? Not because I'd done anything to deserve it, but because the Church believed that God was calling me to serve as Priest. In the secular world, you'd have to had done a lot of climbing the ladder before a company invested so much in your continued training. Either that or signed a contract saying you'd pay it all back if you changed your mind or didn't complete the course. I was asked to sign no such contract.

And here I am in a large house with nice furniture (resettlement grant), with no rent or mortgage to pay. Materially speaking, I have been given all I need. A stipend is not a huge amount of money, but it's supposed to be enough to take away financial worry and allow you to concentrate on ministry. So I'll never own a sports car, but if all I want in life is food on the table (and probably to be able to visit the Canton Chinese takeaway on a weekly basis) and occasionally go on holiday somewhere reasonably nice, that will be ok. But I haven't deserved it.

We didn't really deserve Arthur. People say that children are a gift and that really is the case. I don't want to get all soppy and go on for paragraphs about his lovely little face, but I could. In a few minutes I'll go upstairs and open the curtains and he'll greet me with a big smile and an excited wave of the arms. As parents, babies put their trust in us to look after them. It's a huge responsibility, and as they grow up there's any number of things we can do to break that trust. But their initial, primal instinct is to trust Mum and Dad to give them all they need. They haven't seen our CVs, haven't asked whether we have any prior experience in bottle-making-up or nappy-changing or making decisions about administration of Calpol. So we haven't deserved their trust. But from the first day they put themselves fully into our care.

I won't deserve to wear clericals or to be called 'Reverend' or any of that stuff. And I won't deserve occupation of the place of trust that any of that brings. This non-deservedness is a hard thing to accept, but one which I feel is important to maintain. The moment anyone, clergy or not, decides that the gifts God has given them are a result of their own deservedness, something is lost. 'Grace' is the greatest term in the Christian vocabulary, it is what everything in the Christian faith comes down to. A gift freely given, and undeserved.

Anyway, I've written this Blog post having been unsure of how it will end. But standing in awe of God's Grace would seem to be the ultimate place. So I will sign off with that thought, and ordination looming, into a future which will be marked by as-yet-unknown things, to go to places I do not deserve to go, to meet people I do not deserve to meet, and do things I do not deserve to do, but to embrace it all because of God's grace.

"For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name."

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