As you probably gathered from last Sunday’s blog, I wasn’t exactly expecting very much from this weekend. (That’s Husband’s Ordination to the Priesthood- for those just catching up.)
Well, actually… That’s not exactly true, is it?
I was expecting chaos. And confusion. And quite possibly the usual ridiculousness that, if nothing else, at least makes for entertaining blog fodder.
And at first, to be fair, that’s exactly how things looked, come Saturday afternoon.
The in-laws arrived at lunchtime, and the babysitters at one o’clock; all ready for us to make an orderly exit at 1.15. Naturally, of course, as Father-in-law is an avid early bird, Tiny chose this particular afternoon to have the feed of her life. So, aware that he had been out to the car three times by 1pm, and was pretty sure it was packed and ready to go; I began to feel the pressure to “hurry the *fudge* along now, Bridget!”
By the time Tiny had finished feasting, we were already ten minutes behind schedule and I still hadn’t donned my standard, breast-feeding edition outfit.
The first pair of leggings, it appears, had lost their way to the laundry basket and found themselves back in my drawer, covered in stark, white baby sick. The second had a hole in the knee and the third were evidently maternity-editions, as I definitely looked more Nora Batty than I had hoped to achieve.
Given the amount of brainpower it takes to choose an appropriate outfit just to walk to Sainsbury’s in these days, I was not about to find another in less than five minutes, that’s for sure. I also realised, at this point, that it’s been so long since I wore a pair of high heels that I don’t actually remember where I put them when we unpacked.
But… Why am I telling you this?
Well, because, as FIL’s heart palpitations were now rising audibly from the floor below, I had to concede that these issues would remain unsolved today. Which is my excuse, you see, for being a complete and utter hypocrite; writing two blogs about Husband’s informal clothing choices… and then turning up to his Ordination these:
Turns out we are quite the pair!
Still, at least no one was looking at me…
FIL was waiting in the car by the time I ran downstairs, said goodbye to the kids, and joked to the sitters that they were bound to have just as much fun as we were going to. (Hashtag lols).
“Yes, try not to be too overcome with emotion, now, won’t you?!” Sitter #2 called after; and we laughed, like the cynical spouses we have become.
In the car, more hilarity ensued, as the plot to paint my toenails was foiled by the generation-who-don’t-trust-Sat-Nav. Long and short of it; I failed at navigation, we got lost, took a wrong turn or two and wound up parking in the no-parking-tow-zone, ten minutes after bums-on-seats time, much to FIL’s pure delight.
Thankfully, however, as expected, bums on seats time turned out to be utter nonsense and I managed ever-so-quickly-and-discreetly paint them there.
Heck. What? No, I wasn’t doing anything…
“Do you want to know?!”
Ahhhh, Lovely Lady. Good friend and faithful post reader.
“It’s the red one!” She mouths. “I saw him on the way in!”
I do love publishing our ridiculousness online.
During the service, other moments of hilarity included the guy in front of me, in the funky Hawaiian shirt, jumping up to his feet and thrusting his hand out to pray for one particular Ordinand with such dramatic force that he almost lost his balance; before thumping back down to his seat quite definitely when she was “done.” I couldn’t help but wonder, at this point, whether I ought to try and outdo him? You know, stand on my chair; shake in the Spirit; maybe throw the baby?!
There was also the scary ten minutes that I realised how Anglican I had become; pointing out “beautiful stoles” to MIL, and telling her- with a genuine sense of pride- that the regal-looking Arch Deacon was “my mate… I know him!” (Just, you know, throwing that one in there again for points, clearly…)
Then came my favourite moment of mental madness, as the Bishop came to ordain a woman named Jacqui. Which was as solemn and serious a moment as any, of course. Except… well except that he spoke her name in such a slow and defined tone that I fought hard to suppress the image that immediately came to mind. And I managed. I did! I suppressed it well. Until MIL asked tentatively, “…do you watch Friday Night Dinner?”
Oh my goodness…YES!
YES I DO!
So, yes. There were definitely moments. The usual farcical moments!
But do you know… there were other moments too. A surprising amount of real, genuinely moving moments, which completely caught me off-guard.
Moments which I think began with the procession of the Ordinands (Priests to be ordained), walking down the aisle, accompanied by the lay people, (regular folk who serve in church), whom they’d asked to present them to the Bishop.
Last year, Husband asked a close friend to carry out this honour, and so it had been a big topic of conversation. This year, however, he was going to ask one of the Church Wardens, and that’s about as much as I cared to note. I mean, it seemed like a very usual and ordinary thing to do. However, as I watched the long and slow procession, I let out an involuntary gasp when I saw Husband near the back, accompanied by a woman whose appearance was anything but “usual ” or “ordinary”!
“Oh, ‘eck,” she had apparently said to Husband as they enetered the Cathedral, “everyone looks right posh, don’t they?!”
And I don’t know what it was about the striking image she presented; but seeing her there amongst all of the old fashioned, traditional, clergy trappings; amidst all of the expected pomp and ceremony; presenting Husband for ordination, because he’d asked her to, without even thinking about how strikingly different she looked to everyone else…
I’m just going to have to admit it.
I had a lump in my throat.
I was overcome with emotion.
There was just something about her, about him choosing her, that just seemed so unapologetically real. It took away the bizarre abstractness of the event for me, and brought the real life, community, context and ministry into the weird otherness of the service. And at this prompting, I looked around and realised that the people who had come specifically to support him this time were mainly from our current church context; people he was working with and had connected with and built relationships with. Even staff from the local school had turned up! For this year, curacy– and, indeed, ministry– was no longer an enigma. The people had real names and faces, and… well… a sense of style that blew red shirts out of the water!
This year, all I had expected was a repeat of last year.
And maybe it was- who knows? Like I said, I didn’t really get it.
But perhaps, because I wasn’t harbouring a secret pregnancy; or looking after toddlers; or overwhelmed by the idea of curacy; or worried about my non-Christian family; or recovering from sickness bugs and moving house and leaving college; or all of the above…. Perhaps that is why, this year, I took it all in.
I listened to all of the promises made; noting how heavy a calling they placed, not only on him, but also on me. I acknowledged my own place in supporting him and encouraging him to keep them up- not least the one about keeping his household in order!- and it made the invitation to stand up and declare our support and our prayers for each Ordinand all the more poignant and significant.
We are in this together, and today, I actually feel present and participant in the process.
After this, the surprises just kept on coming.
I mean, the Sermon was brilliant, (no… really!) As the speaker reviewed the weight of the promises made, she highlighted that these new Priests were also still ordinary people who would make mistakes, and could only attempt to fulfil them by the Grace of God. She then implored the congregation to explore their own gifts; to step up or out in faith; and even to step into or return to faith for the first or last time.
“Come and speak to us,” she said, as though chatting to a friend, “we’ll be hanging around the font at the back after the service, and we’d love to help you pray.”
An altar call… at an ordination?
I wasn’t expecting that.
Communion followed, and MIL was amazed to see the Bishop kneel down to our level in order to bless Tiny. Apparently, that was not to be expected either.
Still, there was better to come.
After Communion, when all were seated and checking the Order of Service to see what was coming next, (and how much longer this was going to take!) … the Bishop broke into spontaneous worship.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No Turning back. No turning back.”
Even as MIL said loudly, “well that’s not in the programme!” I had tingles down my spine. He carried on singing into the silent, hallowed halls until gradually, more and more people joined in.
“Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back. No turning back?”
There it was again; another straightforward, simple, loud and clear invitation to follow Jesus; to know God; right here, at the most unexpected time and place.
I don’t know how anyone else felt about it, but I was amazed.
All of this stand up, sit down, liturgical pomp and beautiful-but-overdressed ceremony was interrupted by an act of unsuppressed, unscripted worship by the guy in the biggest hat. It was so unusual and unexpected that it was, indeed, unavoidably moving.
I’m welling up as I write!
At the end of the service, one of the parishioners gushed, “aw, I bet you’re dead proud of him aren’t you?”
To which I replied, “Yes, actually- I really didn’t expect to be.”
And I don’t think she was expecting that!
But it was true! And not nearly so much then, as it was on Sunday. For even if Saturday defied my expectations; Sunday, I was sure, was going to be painful. For Sunday would see me, and all three, headed to St Looless for the usual farce and anarchy.
We got ready in time. We arrived in time. We were greeted by grandparents and friends who were more than happy to help us and entertain us. And what’s more… “there” had changed. St Looless is closed while they build… you guessed it… a loo!
Ha- lei- LOO- yah!
(Not even sorry.)
Meanwhile, they meet at the school, where there’s not only toilets, but a separate kids area, a kitchen, and corridors to be loud in. And somehow, there’s atmosphere. There’s a closeness; people are sat together over a few rows, instead of spread out and separated. There’s a welcome informality; a sudden sense of family. And they’re reaching out to the local, deprived community, in ways I’ve never been aware of before.
It felt really good to be there.
And thus, Husband got up, in this setting, in his smart(ish) suit and collar. To preach and then to lead his first communion; in a school hall, in front of a makeshift altar.
And this was the biggest surprise of all.
See, it’s years since I’ve really listened to him speak. I’m usually out and busy with the kids; or at best, distracted and disengaged, even when physically present. The last time I heard him, it was OK. (You know, he’ll do, but it’s not his main gifting). But this time? Well, this time I was present. I was undistracted. I was tuned in… and he was amazing.
I wasn’t expecting that!
He explained the ‘ontological change’ to the congregation; assuring them that I had apparently told him that, Priest or no Priest, he’d “still be an idiot!” (Though, in reality, I’m sure it wasn’t half as polite as that!) He went on to explain how excited he was to preside over the Communion table for the first time… but that it was nothing compared to how excited he was to imagine all of the places he might share Communion, with all of the people who might come to faith in Christ, in the future of the Church. He spoke passionately and with genuine enthusiasm about the shift in the Church; the reimagining of what it means and where it meets; the how and when and where we might share the love of Jesus with those would otherwise never experience it.
And… do you know what?
I was excited.
Despite my reported cynicism and clear disapproval, I was excited to take Communion from this man; this Church leader; who just so happens to be my Husband. I was excited, for probably the first time ever, to know and to feel that the Vicar I’m going to follow around and be led by for the rest of my serving life is as excited about Jesus and mission and fellowship as I want to be. I was excited to know that Spiritually, as much as relationally, I am in good hands.
Once more… I wasn’t expecting that!
For whilst I did expect blogging gold;
It was more of the humorous kind.
I didn’t expect to write one of those posts,
I know I’ll have to re-read in more frustrating times.
For I wasn’t expecting,
at the end of this most inconvenient week,
To be so energised by a Bishop singing A Cappella!
To be reminded that the Church isn’t dead,
(No, not even the C of E!),
When placed in the faithful-
and not magical-
Hands of leaders like my fella.