I can hardly believe that it is a year to the day that I became a priest. I feel like lighting a candle and singing! 365 days since I knelt in Liverpool Cathedral with many friendly hands on my head, back and shoulders and even more prayers being offered from family, friends, parishoners and colleagues alike.
In the moments before I knelt down, I was nervous and excited. I felt a sense of purpose and I was ready. It felt right.
But it was as the Bishop laid his hands on my head and prayed that I felt something shift. It was as if I had been at 99%, loading, waiting to be complete and suddenly there was that final jump to 100%. Poppy fully-loaded. Poppy as I was meant to be. Poppy the Priest.
But what’s happened since? Well, despite that phenomenal moment in the Cathedral a year ago, it hasn’t all been plain sailing and I have still had moments of doubt- of course! But on those occasions, I have reminded myself of my Priesting and felt reassured.
So, I have given it some thought, and here are some highlights of my first year as a Priest…
1. My First Communion Service. Naturally, this takes top spot. The first time I got to fully take a service with bread and wine was the day after my priesting. My good friend Ross came up from Oxford to preach (see the sermon recorded live here). I remember him talking about Jesus sharing a meal with his disciples and it had such an impact that by the time we came to the part in the service where we shared bread and wine, I looked out across the church and saw the whole room for who they were: Jesus’ disciples. It still gives me shivers when I think about it.
2. Preaching. I think that it’s probably something to do with confidence and knowing the congregations better than ever before, but I am finding that preaching is increasingly such a joy. I have always since I can remember felt a call to teach. Preaching is a form of teaching and I love it. I love creating sermons, I love delivering talks.
3. My first wedding. Weddings are great. When I did my first wedding, the service started, the doors opened, the music played, and the bride walked in… it was like a fairytale. The groom turned around and by the time the bride got down the aisle, tears were in both of their eyes and I was blown away to be so close to such a special moment… so much so that I actually forgot to speak! In all those films, in all those other weddings, someone else has always said the opening words- and I almost forgot! Thankfully, we all laughed and it went well in the end.
4. Home Communion at Christmas. Some people are too frail to get to church often. We take communion to these people. At Christmas, I arranged to take communion to a lovely and very faithful couple who were too unwell to come to church. I had a cup of tea and a piece of cake with them, and then we had a little service in their living room, just the three of us. The Holy Spirit was undeniably present and we all felt it. At the end, the husband said ‘thank you for bringing the Lord to us, Poppy’. I felt like I had done very little. But it meant the world to them.
5. Beginning Theology. During a particularly rocky few months before Christmas, I went with my boss to help lead a course called Starting Theology. This is to get people who feel a call to ordination started in theological study. The people on the course were so refreshing. They were joyful, optimistic and delightfully nervous about what God might be calling them to. There were, of course, real concerns and worries about ministry, but group was such a joy to be a part of.
6. Hair Chop. Ok, so this one is not strictly related to being a Priest. But my sponsored hair cut was definitely a highlight of my year, especially because the supported in Formby. (Blog here).
7. Imogen’s dedication. The other weekend, Nathan and I headed to Retford to speak at the dedication service of the baby girl of one of my oldest friends. This took place in a Baptist church so it was quite different but it was thoroughly enjoyable and a real honour to be involved. Imogen is a beautiful little girl, and such a credit to her Mum & Dad, Jenny & Pete. Here she is, listening to Nathan read a letter about her dedication for her to read when she grows up!
8. Concelebrating at St Giles, Aintree. I was invited to preach and concelebrate (share the bread and wine bit with another priest) at a church across the deanery. St Giles is ‘higher up the candle’ than Holy Trinity or St Michael’s. Strangely enough, this happened the same weekend as Imogen’s dedication in Retford- so it was a weekend of two extremes! Eventhough I am not from a high church tradition, I enjoyed being able to ask questions about why things are done as they are and learn that everything is pointing to Jesus!
9. My Cell Group. Again, it’s not strictly related to being a priest, but I am loving how much my cell group from college support and love each other. The four of us message fairly frequently and meet up four times a year. I always come home from cell group retreats inspired, enthused and determined to be a better minister!
10. Mindfulness & stillness. This year I’ve been trying to learn to be still. Ministry is overwhelming. There is always something else to do and you never know what’s around the corner. It can be quite intense! But I’m doing a mindfulness course, which is helping me value taking time to stop, be still and check in with myself.
So there are some of my favourite moments! God is always faithful and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.