I’ve felt so swamped and tired over the last couple of months that I’ve struggled to write any blogs apart from my Weekly Check-ins. But I couldn’t let today pass without offering a few thoughts because 4 years ago today, I woke up, put on my dog collar and headed to Liverpool Cathedral to officially become a Reverend.
I think I’ve said before that ministry is both better and harder than I ever imagined, and I absolutely stick by that four years in.
Being ordained is a huge honour and massively uncomfortable at the same time. It is spiritual and practical. It is completely draining and at the same time it gives so much life. It is, to quote Call The Midwife, the very stuff that life is made of.
This last week I had my first experience of what I’m going to call The Big Three in Three Days. On Saturday I preached at a wedding, on Sunday I did a baptism and on Monday I attended a family funeral which Nathan took. It takes time to get used to dwelling in the extremes of life like this. In ministry, we see the beginning and the end, we see the very best and the very worst of days. But we also deal with the chair-moving, email-sending, floor-sweeping, tea-drinking mundane.
To begin with, it felt like whiplash. Death, baptism, PCC, prayer, school assembly, funeral. But bit by bit I must have got used to working like that. I’ve come to appreciate those gear shifts from light to dark and back again, because God is in all of it.
When I think back to that day in the Cathedral four years ago, I remember going and looking at the door. I was so nervous and I felt sicker than I’ve ever felt before and so I thought I’d just go and weigh up where the exit was. I wasn’t necessarily going to walk out of it, but I just wanted see the door so I knew where it was if I needed to leave. When I got to the door, I found it being guarded by a member of the vocations team. The conversation went like this:
‘Yeah, just looking’
‘Are you going to go back upstairs?’
*sigh* ‘yeah, okay’.
I don’t think I would have walked out of the door even if there hadn’t been somebody making sure that nobody did a runner! But I learned in that moment that you can’t be half in. You can’t really just dip your toe in. You can’t half commit. You are in or you’re not. You can’t dwell in those places of life and death, pain and joy, light and dark, without being fully committed.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that decision to stick with that ministry is costly. There can be frustrations with leadership, both locally and further afield. Working almost entirely with volunteers can be problematic. Knowing that some colleagues don’t agree with our ministry can hurt. A work load that never ends can cause all sorts of issues if you let it. Sometimes, people let you down and that can be a tremendous blow.
If I’d have known four years ago how much I would have struggled with some of that stuff, I’d have been shocked. But I think I would have done it anyway. Because, as I heard in the Cathedral four years ago, we cannot bear the weight of this call on our own.
In most funeral, wedding and baptism sermons, I say something along these lines; God never leaves us. In the mundane, in the graft, in the pain, in the joy, in the dark, in the light, He is there. And it’s so amazing to have spent the last four years witnessing that and pointing it out.