My first week in the parish has been amazing, wonderful and varied, whilst also providing challenges expected when getting to know new people and a new area – I only got lost once, thanks to the SatNav! I’ve been hugely blessed with people’s kindness and generosity and have ended the week so thankful for the experiences I have had.
There have been a number of threads running through the week, but the one which seems pertinent is that of #memory – memory making, memory lost, and memories to cherish as well as memories of how things used to be. My own memory making, and that of colleagues, has involved a number of celebrations following last weekend’s ordinations. It was just wonderful to share such special occasion with so many of my friends and family….
The first few days in parish involved getting to know people who belong to the different groups which form part of our church community. I even got to play bingo with Tuesday Friends…although the competitive side of me was disappointed not to win!
I had the privilege of witnessing the Pre-School Leavers’ Service, as they were presented with gifts to send them on their way. I’m not sure what was more moving; the performance or observing parents watching their child’s performance, keen to capture the moment. It was a beautiful example of memory-making and love.
I also attended, and later led, my first Communion by extension in a Care Home – what a privilege to bring a breath of fresh air in the form of this sacred meal to people whose memory is perhaps not what it once was in some cases!
Being present in the parish, as well as looking after my own needs at times, has meant that I’ve been wearing clothes that feel weird in public places, with a mixture of reactions. It’s amazing both how many people do and don’t notice!
Nobody told me that the clerical collar would take some wearing in! I had been tugging at my collar for a few days, feeling a bit uncomfortable, before I noticed marks all around my neck where it had been rubbing!
Sharing in Fr Clive’s first celebration of the Mass was a true privilege – and what a celebration it was!
My interest in people and their stories has been fed this weekend, not least by one parishioner who invited me into his home where it became apparent just how dedicated to cherishing memories his late wife had been – each one encased in a ceramic thimble displayed around the house.
My first Deanery Synod meeting led me to think about our churches, what purpose they serve today in our communities and how this differs from ‘how things used to be’…
Prayer for people, parish and world as a discipline is a habit which has been formed within me, but the sheer joy I have discovered this week in the silence of prayer as I bring situations and circumstances before God has been truly wonderful.
On my day off I went into Leicester city to find schools congregating around the cathedral, having taken part in the big bike ride – the mixture of joy and exhaustion mirrored my own sentiments perfectly!
I have witnessed just how precious memory is this week, how frightening it can be when it becomes hazy, and how threatening it can feel to challenge it. How aware of this are we as we interact with one another, with little idea of what each of us are really carrying?
Bringing all of these threads together I was reminded of a poem I wrote last year about memories:
The Echoing Tunnel
Complex journey; seemingly endless
tunnel, a tiny prick of brightness
in the distance – is this the holy grail?
Catch a glimpse of all that lay before…
nothing that darkness fails to obscure.
Of times gone by; experiences…
of people, places, words and faces.
Some are forgotten, distant and dim
whilst others continue to dwell within,
to haunt and taunt, calibrate to fail.
The eyes adjust, determination
over-rides defeat, condemnation
slips away slowly leaving room for
a hint of hope. Faint at first, still raw
from echoes of life lived long ago,
yet gradually it starts to grow.
Here, within the tunnel, a new pale
emerges – ceasing agitation
overwhelmed by anticipation.