I was commissioned as a Church Army Officer in 2000, and spent 9 years working in parishes, mainly with children and families. In 2009, I began ordination training at Ripon College Cuddesdon. I married Clare in July 2000, and our first child, Nathan, arrived on September 22nd 2010.
My account has been terminated because, apparently, I either "had too many tags" (6) or "posted too many links" (2). Hmmm.
So I won't be using that site again! I changed from here because the other one seemed to be a lot more visually appealing, but I never had that problem here! So I am coming back!
Cenobite's Community will return later today - as soon as it is created, I will post the link here. Unfortunately, when they deleted my account, they obviously deleted the blog too, so I am going to have to try and remember everything I put in my first post - that may take a while!
That's it. My time at Ripon College Cuddesdon is over. (Notice I don't say that my training is finished - there's still a lot more of that to come, both during my curacy and afterwards).
We finished our time here with the Leavers' Service this morning. It was a good way to end, with the whole community coming together to celebrate the Eucharist. At the end of the service, those of us who will be ordained later this year went forward to have our deacon's stoles blessed, and then our families joined us to be blessed together. It was very important to me to have Clare & Nathan there at the end, as my ordination will have a profound effect on their lives as well.
After that, there were lots of goodbyes, although we'll still see a few people as we are not moving until Wednesday next week. The good thing is that there are a few ordinations we will be going to next week, so friends will be seen again very soon! The challenge is to make sure those friendships are maintained past the summer.
I will post again before we move with a few reflections on my time here at Cuddesdon, so look out for that one!
Today we had our Leavers' Retreat - a day at Highmoor Hall, led by the college chaplain, Raymond. He gave us some thought-provoking insights on baggage (what we need to leave behind), luggage (what we will be taking with us) and buggage - the recognition that there are some things we would like to leave behind but for whatever reason can't quite do so, at least not completely, not yet.
In addition, I did a fair bit of reading, walking, and (unusually for me in the daytime) napping. We then ended with Raymond anointing each of us with the oil of joy and gladness, which was a lovely way to finish, and prepare us for the Leavers' Service tomorrow morning.
I will blog about that and how I feel to be leaving later. But what I really want to pick out from today is the importance of retreats. It is shameful to admit that I did not have one retreat in my time as a Church Army Officer (9 years) - which is shocking, really. I will have a pre-ordination retreat in September, but I am determined to make the time for one retreat a year post-ordination. It is so important to take proper time out with God, and to do so away from the parish. Ask me in a year's time if I have managed it!
The Leavers' Course started today, and suddenly it's starting to hit me that we finish in less than 3 weeks! I've always known this, but with things like exams and Themed Study Weeks to think about, it's been something that's there but not totally on the radar. But now there's nothing else to focus on!
There's lots of different things happening. We will have some spiritual and theological input, as well as practical things like Child Protection (not that I've done any of that before!) and Canon Law. Today we began by thinking about 'desert island theology' - basically what might sustain us during curacy. One thing we were asked to do was to think of three books that we would have on a desert island; my three were:
Love's Endeavour, Love's Expense (Vanstone) - a remarkable book about God and authentic love
Restoring the Woven Chord (Mitton) - a book about Celtic spirituality
The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) - my all-time favourite novel!
Martyn (the principal) gave us a long list of books which sustain him - I have read a grand total of one of them! But that does mean I have a lot of suggestions of things to read in the future!
We are currently in the middle of the latest Themed Study Week, this being one of the weeks where we get to choose out of a number of options.
I am doing a week on 'Community Mission', a fascinating topic which has already raised a number of questions for me, arising out of the experiences and stories of those who are facilitating the sessions.
The thing which is really becoming central for me is to reflect upon what my calling to be a priest is in this context. There are a number of factors that have caused this:
We were asked to do an exercise in which we write what we would like to see in our own obituary. The first question to help us reflect on this was, "What has been achieved?" I really struggled with this because I just don't think in terms of 'achievement'. My aim is basically to 'act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God'; if I can do this, and in some small ways contribute to the human flourishing which is God's intention for all his people, then I will be happy.
One visitor was very honest with us about an experience he had with a parishioner, in which he was so focused on bringing about transformation within the local community that the parishioner voiced how she felt pastorally neglected. Having done a Long Essay on liberation theology recently, I am very enthusiastic about tackling structural sin, but at the expense of neglecting the pastoral needs of individuals? There's a balance there which is fine and full of tension.
Today, the question was asked about what a parish priest is called to be: chaplain to the congregation or to the community? On paper, the answer is simple: 'the cure of souls' is for the whole parish, not just the congregation. But when the congregation have the expectation (be it explicit or implicit) that the priest is there primarily for them, then how does one handle that?
Lots to reflect on, therefore! Tomorrow we will be visiting a project in Reading, to see for ourselves an example of 'community mission in action'. Then on Friday we will reflect on the whole week together. Should be interesting!