The Shinkansen Travellers

Traveller life forces on ahead at the speed of light.
The shinkansen practically flying along bullet speed lines.
Moments have passed,
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

There is barely any attention for the present, the here and now!
And yet already travellers have reached Tokyo.
“Tokyo ha shuuten desu”
“This is the last stop this train will make”

Lives once lived and now gone.
And for what – achievements, marks made?
What remains in these once occupied seats?
They lie in wait for the next travellers.
Lost property is moved on to join a throng of impressions.
Allusions to travellers emeriti lie amongst unaffected effects.
Just occasionally one such suggestion is left behind.
A find which causes future travellers to ponder.
“What went before?”
“Or more aptly who?”

Such intrigue is unusual on this otherwise silent journey.
Travellers are lulled by the steady rhythm of the shinkansen.
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

Could such curiosity be imagined?
Or does such an object point to hope for this journey?
Perhaps the unknown destination is not to be feared.
Yet all travellers can do is remain;
reading their newspapers on the train,
littered with everything and nothing, perceived yet rarely known….
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

Left behind…

As autumn falls around me, I’ve been thinking about this idea of being left behind. I have had the great privilege of planning and leading two funerals this week, and have been reflecting on the differences in approach of each and the reasons for these aside from obvious character distinctions.


This led me to further ponder what and who we leave behind, the order and disorder of that, as well as when the leaving behind takes place. Last year I was invited by a church to speak to a group of people who had been brought together after they had suffered loss. I had been asked to share my story with them, and as I prepared I was struck by how familiar that feeling of being left behind was for me.


I was never the quickest learner in my class, something which I have since learned was probably due to undiagnosed dyslexia, and as my peers whizzed on past I was often left still scratching my head. My sister left home as I started secondary school; I effectively felt like an only child after that. When it came to making decisions about sixth form and university, my friends seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do, as I continued to ponder and seek that spark which would ignite my interest.


It seemed that people were always rushing on ahead of me, knowing exactly where they were going, as I ambled on via Japan. On my return after four years of living there, I still did not really know what I wanted to do – except that I did not want to teach! Strange then that I should discern a calling to teach shortly after that. That is perhaps where I stopped feeling so left behind and found my direction, but it had been a long time coming!


And now I find myself looking at a new horizon. Having been ordained deacon nearly four months ago, this horizon is less familiar than it sometimes feels. Indeed it was only a short time ago that I was living, working and worshipping within a very different community to the one that I now find myself serving within.


This transition is not a bad one; it is one which I have been eagerly anticipating, and have spent the last few years preparing for; and yet I have been so conscious over the last few weeks that with every beginning, there are a number of endings. I am not sure we allow ourselves enough time or space to process these endings as well as the beginnings – I am certainly guilty of throwing myself into the next thing! Now, here I am, still very much loving this way of life and path that God has put before me, whilst also feeling a twinge of culture shock.


Here there are those things that are cast aside or strewn along the way rather than intentionally or carefully left behind in designated areas.


There are those marks or tags which people want to leave to show that they were, or indeed still are, present. These instances of leaving aspects of life behind are more likely performed in chaotic, or even desperate ways. A part of my culture shock is not knowing how to walk alongside those who are on such a different path from my own. I have been reminded in Craig Greenfield’s Subversive Jesus that Jesus would have been far more radical than I, and far less privileged. Jesus made it his raison d’être to walk alongside those whose lives were most chaotic, who lacked any real sense of what privilege would feel like…so how much of that sense of privilege do I leave behind as I learn to walk this path?


How much do I allow my feet to make imprints on the ground, in the hope of bringing about real social change which could have a positive effect, and where do I forget the bigger picture and just hold the hands of those who need company on their lonely path? What most contributes to impacting that sense of being left behind, or loss and loneliness? As Olivia Laing in The Lonely City puts it:

“We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.”

First week in parish…

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.

New Years Eve

#522 #newyearseve encourages us to think about the previous year – #losses, #hurts and #pains inevitably form part of that picture for me, but there are also rich #blessings to focus on. In an effort to not let pain overshadow, nor to #losehope for 2017 when something goes wrong, I hold onto these blessings: an amazing unexpected trip to Japan, the confirmation of my title post, a loving and generous college community and my ever supportive family. What do you hold on to?

Sense of loss

#493 A #senseofloss or #bereavement almost, for a way of life that has become so normal in its busyness and diversity. What now?!