So this week, Husband is to be ordained… again. And this is not – (as someone rather helpfully worded it on Facebook)- because it didn’t work last time. But is, rather, a “next step” kind of deal.
But… isn’t he already a Vicar? I hear you ask. (If not, he better stop wearing that collar! I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, unless you’re Dawn French… which, you know, he’s not.)
But yes. Yes he is a Vicar, of sorts. It’s just that he needs to be ordained again in order to be, you know, more Vicar than he was before. In technical terms, he was ordained a Deacon, and is now going to be ordained a Priest.
“You’re married to a Priest?!”
My hairdresser likes to clarify each time I manage to get in for a quick fringe cut.
“Well, no, not technically…” I begin to respond, but spare her the details (because, you know, I don’t really know them).
“Oh no, I suppose you couldn’t be could you?” She replies. “So… do you just live together then?”
“Oh gosh, no!” I laugh, realising the confusion. “That’s not what I meant… he’s definitely my husband!”
“Oh… but I thought Priests weren’t allowed to marry?”
“That’s Catholic Priests,” I clarify. “My husband is an Anglican Vicar. But trust me, either way, having a mistress and three illegitimate kids on the side would definitely be alot worse in his line of work!”
“Oh yeah!” She laughs again. Then thinks for a moment and asks the million dollar question.
“So… what’s the difference between a Vicar and a Priest then?”
I point out a few obvious differences between Catholics and Protestants, (namely me and the kids!); but, as far as this upcoming “Priesting” of my already-ordained Husband is concerned? Honestly…. I haven’t a clue.
I guess the way I like to get my head around it is a little more on the practical and professional side than the spiritual, which is currently beyond me. For I understand, in professional terms, that he has now passed his “probation year”. That they’re now quite satisfied he’s not dodgy, (though nobody asked me!), and so they’re now willing to go the whole hog and give him more responsibility.
Which makes sense.
The extra responsibilities, however, are where the whole thing gets a little weird and hazy for a free-church hippy like me.
The new responsibilities– or privileges– that he will be gaining when he is ordained Priest, as opposed to Deacon, are basically all about blessing. So, for instance, he will now be able to conduct wedding ceremonies, because he will have the spiritual authority to bless the marriage. He will also be able to lead certain liturgy, that he wasn’t able to before, because he will have the spiritual authority to pronounce blessing. Most significantly, however, he will be also now able to bless and preside over The Blessed Sacrament- aka the Eucharist- aka Holy Communion, (aka dishing out the bread and wine, to you and me.). This is why, in some Anglican circles, they say he’s gaining, “magic hands.” I.e. Hands that can bless.
The Church of England’s jargon term for this change in spiritual authority is called ‘the ontological change’. And some claim to feel very, very different after it has taken place.
Which is interesting.
Interesting, firstly, as a spouse; to imagine and anticipate a significant shift in holy authority in the man you’re also married to. You know, the man who just said to me, and I quote; “I don’t get constipated… I just don’t sh*t anymore.”
I mean… Can he get any holier than this?!
It is also interesting, theologically, given my own spiritual tradition, and our current ‘low church’ context. I mean, I get that us lowly lay folk can’t do marriages or bless bread and wine, in a practical sense. I do get that. But, as a free church hippy and all… I don’t get why we can’t just eat and drink in remembrance of Christ, without a big song and dance about it. And I don’t get why we can’t just lay hands and bless people, in the name of Jesus, like they did in the early church. And I certainly dont get, even from an Anglican perspective, how he could have been ordained as a church leader, walked around in a collar for a year, hatching and dispatching people, without being able to do any of those other things before.
In fact, I don’t get it to the extent that, if you asked me to describe my feelings towards this week in one word- which Husband did with a smirk!- my first response would be…
For me, this week is inconvenient.
It is inconvenient that Husband has to go away for another 4 days and leave me at home, alone, with two toddlers and a baby.
It is inconvenient that they’re not even dropping him off home afterwards – I have to go and pick him up at another long service at the ruddy cathedral!
It is inconvenient that, not content with taking him away for half a week, they also have to host rehearsals at said cathedral from 5pm til 7pm the night before he goes. You know, as if they actually brainstormed the most inconvenient hours in the day for a spouse with kids, and- just for a laugh!- thought they may as well go with that.
And it’s a funny experience, really, being so cynical and selfish at this stage in the game, because you’re privvy to alot of other people’s experiences too. I mean, I am observing a lot of hype on Facebook at the moment. Other Curates or proud spouses are throwing parties, drafting in guest speakers, getting very emotional about the changes to come. Even my goddaughter has made a mini stole to match her Daddy’s, ready for his next, big ordination! Meanwhile… I’m just watching, slightly perturbed, from a distance; wondering if there are any other guilt-ridden ways that this hoo-ha needs to inconvenience me any further?! Like… nevermind stoles… do I really need to bring the kids along?! I mean, those services go on for hours. And, please… oh God, please tell me I don’t have to invite my poor family of ‘nonnies’ to yet another pompous service?
Seriously…. seriously …. do we have to do all of this again?!
Thankfully, assures Husband, not.
Though he does laugh; “aren’t you even a little excited to receive Communion from me?”
He knows what’s coming now.
“Excited?! Are you kidding me?! ”
Firstly, Communion is about Jesus and – as far as I’m concerned – has nothing to do with the person giving it out. What a bizarre queston! And secondly… no. No, oddly enough, I am not in the least bit excited about dragging the kids along to St Looless, (who are, incidentally, beyond excited about Husband finally “becoming useful”!). All so that I can try and contain them and their unprecedented levels of madness, because they’ve not seen Daddy for best part of a week, and there he is on stage, being all sombre and holy and important; which, let’s be honest, is going to be so bizzarre and awkward that I’m terrified I’ll burst out laughing anyway!
(Huh… maybe there’s a good reason Priests don’t have wives after all?!)
So hey. There you have it.
Once again this ordination retreat thing is weird… but I get it.
By which I mean that I get he’s doing something significantly weird…. and that he needs to be around people who get it in order to do so.
Which, evidently, as inconvenient as it might be; clearly and conveniently, isn’t at home with me!
(Just as an aside… if you’d like to read more about the ontological change, from people who do get it and will be going through it, I’d highly recommend this blog – by a newly-wed female curate, for an extra angle; and this blog– by a newly-out male curate, for another. If, however, farcical frustration, frantic family life and frequent faux pax is more your thing… then yes. I’m afraid you better just stick with me! Thanks for reading.)