Search

Tea and Theology

Tag

Prayer

Identity

DSC_0006.jpg

Our sense of identity is so important for our mental wellbeing, and yet identity is a complex weave of so many different aspects of self, some of which we can control and some which we cannot. Four weeks ago I was ordained priest, and I think I can honestly say that the weeks which followed that long anticipated and celebrated occasion have been some of the most challenging I have ever had; they have certainly called me to question who I am in this new role. At ordination our Bishop read the ordinal for priests; it was quite an overwhelming moment just before taking my vows to hear all that is expected of a priest. The following is a small extract which summarises quite well the events of my last few weeks:

“…They are to bless the people in God’s name. They are to resist evil, support the weak, defend the poor, and intercede for all in need. They are to minister to the sick and prepare the dying for their death….”

Every aspect of priesthood is a huge privilege, and yet the real and huge life issues I can be dealing with mean that it is easy to lose sight of a sense of self.

DSC_0002.jpg

A number of years ago I took a job with Loughborough University as part of the Widening Participation governmental agenda. This meant that I was no longer a teacher, and it was much more difficult to explain what I did for work. I had not realised how profoundly my identity had been tied up with my profession, and it was a painful shedding of something that had been life-giving for me; I came alive in the classroom, and loved the challenge of helping students to develop a thirst for learning and a passion and enthusiasm for my subject (Religious Studies).

I had thought that after spending a year as a deacon, it perhaps would not feel so different as a priest, but that is not so. Indeed, everything feels very different! It feels like I am revisiting aspects of identity all over again. For one thing the stole we wear as part of our robes when we are taking services is now worn over both shoulders, rather than just the one.

CSC_0185

It is a reminder of the yoke or responsibility that we bear as priests. Every time I put on my stole I am humbled by a feeling of insignificance – in truth I am not now, nor will I ever be ‘good enough’ for this, yet here I am.

Having the responsibility and privilege to bless people is truly wonderful; blessing or anointing people who are sick, or close to death is just beyond words. It is so painful to be alongside people as their loved ones pass on from this life, yet there is something compelling about needing to be there in the darkest moments, as well as those times of joy, in order that no one be forced to face these situations alone.

I have also been stopped on a number of occasions, asked if I am a priest, and whether I would mind praying for the enquirers who were usually people of different faith. It was as though they thought that my prayers may be, somehow, more valued.

DSC_0271.jpg

In addition to all of this the summer holidays began two weeks ago and each day since our church has been a Holiday Hunger hub, seeking to feed any children in our area whose parents cannot afford lunch for them as they usually receive free school meals. The stories that some of these families carry from a western country is truly shocking and leads me to another aspect of the role of priest which feels different as I explore it – that of advocate; helping people to find their voices and stand up against serious injustices.

Within all of this my identity has become more complex to pin down. It is not for shallow reasons that I might tentatively see myself as being what someone needs me to be in that moment, but rather for profound reasons: because God lives and loves us and I am called to be a person of prayer and peace to serve as a reminder of God’s love for us each and every day.

When I was much younger, an art teacher at school described me as a jack of all trades and master of none. That hurt me to my core as a tentative 12 year old, desperate to find that thing that I would excel in. Turns out I  excel in being a jack of all trades….

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Ascribed to Eleanor Roosevelt

Ignatian Spirituality

“Speak little, listen much.”
St Ignatius of Loyola

Images of Work

If you had to find an image for the work you do – whatever it is that preoccupies most of your time – what would it be?

This is mine:

Sometimes ministry can feel quite lonely so the lone dandelion represents it well. There are a number of other dandelions around, but actually I am often slightly separate from everyone else – you can really stand out in a clergy collar and people react in a variety of ways; I have had some crossing the street to avoid getting too close! There is something wonderful about what I do though, and about being a little on the periphery. Whilst it can be slightly lonely at times, it can also be a real privilege to be alongside people at the happiest and most difficult times of their lives. That is represented in this photograph by the light and vibrant green in the foreground and the darkness looming in the background.

How about you?

The Encounter

DSC_0038.jpg

Above the beauty and bustle of the valley
An expanse of heather filled space awaited.
The beautifully radiant blue sky was fresh,
Fragrant with the scent of the morning.
A light wind wound its way towards me –
It caressed my face urging me ahead.
Every step gave way to astonishing awe,
Wonderment grew within…my heart raced;
A mixture of excitement and delight
At all that my eyes were able to take in.

From the edge I heard only the wind.
Stronger now it whistled around my being
Awakening, sharpening my senses.
A man standing some way to my left,
His gaze undoubtedly directed at me,
Drew my attention momentarily. I looked
In that way which we often try to look,
Without looking like we are looking.
His was staring intently, still unmoved,
Yet I walked towards him…as if being drawn.

Close enough to speak, uttering silently,
His eyes remained thoughtfully on mine.
Reading me, delving right into my core,
Like one would an old abandoned book
Beginning to read on the page it fell open at –
It’s like he knows me…like I know him,
Even though I have never seen him before?
He had familiarity in his beautiful radiance,
His face attracted attention, necessitated it –
Its depth of wisdom brought a perfect peace.

His eyes were infinite dark ink pools with
Potential and understanding illuminating.
Pure kindness and laughter lines surrounded,
Softened, magnitude emanating, without threat.
His smooth olive skin blushed by the wind
Was accented by a beard outlining his jawline.
Wavy almost black hair blown about his face
Failed to distract from his present occupation: me!
An unusual encounter avoidable with a sharp turn –
Why, oh why, would I even contemplate that?

Unable to move, unaware of life around me,
Why do I not want this moment to end…ever?
It’s like I have been noticed, no not noticed…
Not merely seen for a spilt second!
Truly encountered and profoundly known.
Such knowing continues as I remain unable,
No unwilling, to move. Silent for if I dare
This moment will be gone, over, lost….
Oh that for once bringing ruin would fail me,
That clumsiness in word and deed would absent.

There is something about this moment
Which tells me none of that matters.
It is insignificantly significant in that
It is relevant because it is about who I am
But it is also irrelevant. It does not change now.
It will not stop it or move it in a direction
Other than the one already intended, and yet
It happens due to the insignificantly significant;
Because of who I am utterly and completely.
So many feelings washing over me right now….

I am known from the deepest part of me
Right to the crumb of toast which has rested
In the corner of my mouth since breakfast!
Every single memory is part of that knowing
Those I love and those I would care to forget
Even those that I have sought to push out –
Guilt and shame can overpower and overwhelm –
But they are there also and they are known.
That is undoubtedly good, perfect and right.
Fear, insignificance and inferiority melt away….

I am liberated floating over the artistry of the valley,
Then quite suddenly, with the blinking of an eye,
His or mine…this moment passes. Freedom
Begins to fade, fear and insignificance pervade.
Perhaps slightly less consuming…the man
Has moved. I turn around slowly yet he is nowhere.
Nowhere amongst the vast expanse of heather.
Did he disappear, was he ever here? My heart knows
He was and is and ever shall be…transformed
I yearn for this again as I realise that this is prayer.

Prayer as knitting

#lamentandhope #lentreflections

Broken lent study

#lentreflections #lamentandhope

One Body

This is the week of the year dedicated to Christian unity,
a time to join together to pray for the possibility
that one day we will be a whole body or community
which celebrates and commemorates catholicity.
A week where each of us align our intentionality
to that of God our maker our creator, and the reality
of the body of Christ which draws such responsibility
from each believer regardless of individual sensitivity.

It is so much easier to focus on matters of disparity
rather than actively seek those areas of commonality.
How happily we slip into ‘them’ and ‘us’ in our humanity
and quickly identify those points requiring conformity.
We fail to remain awake to worldly ways of destructibility,
instead straying like sheep, we are allured by animosity.
Previously indistinct notes become matters of legality
further severing bonds which bind with fierce brutality

What if one week became two, three or four of generosity
of spirit to our fellow believers? If we espoused the ambiguity
of the mysteries surrounding people and God’s interactivity,
and perhaps laid aside the centrality of certainty or clarity
on issues often known to divide like gender or sexuality?
Intent on establishing a universal and obligatory morality
which ignores God’s upside-down justice for austerity,
with the God of surprises does it not all lack reliability?

I pray for unity which extends beyond human probability,
one which disciples to favour quality over quantity
and places Jesus’ example and gospel of inclusivity
at its heart – Jesus of the marginality not the majority!
I pray for unity of the body of Christ where vulnerability
is held and cherished, with division hidden by invisibility.
A unity which recognizes Christ Jesus as superiority
and all who make up the body as existing in equality.

Beholding!

I have begun a journey with a book titled Eyes of the Heart – this is an eight week journey into contemplative photography. This is something that I have almost instinctively found and begun to develop independently, but it is marvellous to read about how someone with a very similar heart to my own has made sense of using photography as a form of prayer.

This week focuses on beholding aspects of life. There were two main meditations to complete: the first to take 50 photographs of an item that you are familiar with and; secondly to limit yourself to one photograph a day which truly beholds a shimmer of God  in our world. It has been amazing to have such a focus on my contemplative prayer, and I chose to behold my pen.

After taking the first 20 or so photographs, I wondered how I was going to find 50 photographs to take of such a small object – I think it was shortly after this that the beholding really began. I started to think where and how I used my pen, and photographed it with those items as well. I also began to think about my relationship with my pen – I often feel that my writing is divinely inspired and I wanted to find a way to depict that divine meeting the material in some way. I began to play with shutter speeds and focus of lens, and it produced some pictures that I really felt brought that divine inspiration to light. Equally I thought about my own emotions when trying to write: sometimes there is flow, other times impatience, others still there can be a lack of inspiration.

By the time I had got to 50 photographs, it felt like I was just getting started! Here is a selection of the photos – 50 seemed a few too many. What do you see when you look at them? Is it just a photograph of a pen, or do you see more to it? Could you try this meditation with something which is important to you? Good luck if you do!

CSC_0082CSC_0076CSC_0087CSC_0088CSC_0107CSC_0033CSC_0115CSC_0069

Beyond the Study

The comfortable security
gently draws me in.
The old leather arm chair
sits in the corner waiting
to envelope, to take me home,
back to a time and place
which no longer exists
with the charm and charisma
of wonderful nostalgia.
The leather smell releases
as I sink deep into the chair
which empowers the dreamer
to dig deep into the soul.
I close my eyes to explore
the space and place I have
been brought – past, present, future?
None of it beyond reckoning –
I am outside time and space.
I sit at the top of a castle tower,
overpowered by darkness.
Light clusters around a small candle
to my left – I reach out for it
and take it as I tentatively lean
towards the top of the steps
the urge to step out and explore
overtakes me…and I go!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑