My other anniversary posts might have been a bit late into September, but it is unfortunate this year that I have made it into October before getting round to it. I do think I can be given a bit of slack though, due to the global pandemic and the small matter of getting ordained.
So it's finally happened. I'm sitting here in a clerical collar. And I must say I really haven't processed the whole thing yet. Let's start with a look over the last year.
It's been a much bigger shift than my last anniversary posts have covered. Last September I was starting third year, courting a curacy, and worried about my dissertation. I was part of a community, with a house full of friends, and I had a very full and exciting summer with lots of travel and new people and experiences. I felt like I was on a conveyor belt.
Now the whole world has changed, and then my corner of it has changed even further.
I didn't get to enjoy my final term and engage in the the rituals of ending properly. I moved house in fraught and subdued circumstances, back to a city with a very different rhythm to the one I was leaving. An empty house with my three pieces of furniture, all on my own, my first time in full control of a household. I started a curacy without being ordained, and with worship a far cry from what is usually is.
When you read the literature about stress, I tick most of the boxes for big life changes - moving house, new job, committing to a relationship, money worries, on top of times of uncertainty, lack of control, and additional responsibilities. I am very lucky that I have secure employment and housing, and I have not been bereaved, but I think it's still fair to say I have had a lot to handle.
Yet again, it is lots of life stuff, not so much God stuff that has taken most of my time and energy, and whilst everything has been turned on its head (again), the religious stuff is coming to the fore, but not so much my own spirituality. Learning and committing to a new church as one of its clergy, at a time when everything is weird and we don't know what Advent will look like, is bloody hard. All clergy have to put effort into maintaining their own spiritual lives underneath day to day ministry, but I think those of us starting curacy this year are at a disadvantage that we have more to get under without the benefit of years of practice.
Anyway, the ordination. Here's a glimpse of what I was feeling the day before it happened, and some snippets from the livestream of the service itself.
(the full ordination service is available here)
It definitely now feels like I've started something, I'm in a new chapter (and of course, I have joined deanery chapter, haha!). Who I am has now clicked into place with the life I've been living, and all the small inconsistencies have been smoothed out. Even just watching this video back a few weeks later, I do feel like a different person. It's not dramatic, but it is noticeable. And I'm not as worried about having a 'schema'; all the rhetoric about being yourself as a clergyperson rather than fitting into a set pattern of 'what a priest is' makes so much sense - who I am behind this collar is as much a clergyperson as my colleagues, but in so many different ways, and that's beautiful and marvellous.
My sense of self has definitely cleared up since I wrote about it in August. I am no longer fractured or unsettled. My identity is more certain. I cannot know how this all would have gone down if I had been ordained in July in a world without Covid-19, but no matter.
How are me and God doing? Well, in a previous post I wrote "God and I have a very slow-moving relationship, because it is true that I do better at things in life if I get to work up to it in a thorough and methodical manner. God understands that better than I do when I'm being blinded by my enthusiasm and passion." This still rings true. I understand quickly but retain slowly, so building up to being an ordained curate by doing it as a lay one first might have been a bit of a blessing.
God is the undercurrent, as always. I get comfort and reassurance when I stop and check in. As per my MO, daily corporate prayer is an anchor point, particularly the eucharist on a Monday evening. The eucharist has also been a touchstone place for me and God.
Am I still on my axles in God's workshop? I haven't thought about this imagery much lately, but I re-read some posts and came across it. I thought when I last wrote about it that I would eventually "set down off the stand ready to hit the throttle into curacy, to warm up the tyres and get to grips with the upgrades, so that I can journey well in the rest of my life in ministry". I don't feel like I've necessarily hit the throttle as such. I was stuck revving the engine with a depressed clutch for a while, but I have nosed out the garage doors now. I can feel the sun on my new, novel parts, and I'm slowly testing out my new shape and features in the yard.
I can see the life-long learning ahead of me. Growing as clergy will happen every day - slow days, days off, bad days. I like who I have become in five years. I am where I should be, lucky son of bitch that I am. I love God, I love people, I love the Church (for all its flaws). I love being ordained, at least so far.
Being public property will get wearing. Working too many hours will be hard. Holding people through the highs and lows of life will take a toll. Meeting problems I cannot fix will wound my soul. I cannot predict what else this life is going do to me, or the people in my life. I cannot predict what my life will look like. But thank God I was called so young - the unexpected adventures ahead, the anticipation of the unknown, it's an incredible gift. I hope I never take it for granted. And I hope I can keep taking you along with me.