I started my blog nearly 4 years ago when I was fortunate enough to secure a sabbatical in the United States of America.I had spent 10 years in Temple Balsall engaged in parish work, the support of the church school and the constantly demanding work of overseeing the organisation and delivery of care for older people.
The blog was kind of diary – a way of trying to process some of the experiences of Washington DC and Chicago – perhaps also a way of trying to achieve some sense of measured wisdom about both my life and ministry.It was also a place where I enjoyed having a little fun – gently teasing some of the peculiar realities of America and perhaps also asking one or two deeper questions ! It was also a place where I was able to show some of my photographs and capture some of the people and conversations that was so enriching during that time.
The blog has continued and this month has clocked up over half a million visitors – I suspect mostly by some kind of accident but I’m told there are one or two faithful followers.
Very soon after my return from my sabbatical and engaged on a process of discernment which led to my moving from the West Midlands to the Thames Valley and the very particular and peculiar at ministry of St George’s Chapel within Windsor Castle. There are of course a number of important sensitivities in Ministry and holding one’s counsel is part of the proper professionalism that belongs to any priest.So much of my musings has been contained within my journal and indeed within the periods of quiet prayer that punctuate the day.
There are number of people who have asked me to return to some kind of personal journal simply because they are intrigued by what life is like here, what happens in the shape of the work. So I thought I’d engage in a little bit of reflection by way of some of the little snippets of my week that certainly provide me with a hugely enriching, stimulating and sometimes challenging ministry.
The alarm went off as usual at 5:45 AM and I’m grateful for a fairly cheery disposition which allows me to jump out of bed and move downstairs for a good pot of coffee. I was intrigued by an early-morning programme on radio four about rambling and especially the conversation with a man who had struggled with depression.it was a reminder that things are rarely what they seem to quickly we can take some kind of refuge in not realising that for many people life is a struggle and the most have to live with the shadows within and around them.I wonder if we would get so upset or impatient with others if we simply stopped to ask what it was they were living with and what might be the cause of their particular way of doing things?
The College is quiet and living in my house set into the north wall of the castle there is a huge sense of space and the sky. From my bedroom window I can see one or two delivery vans and I think the first train from Windsor and Eton Riverside has set off for London Waterloo. From this standpoint the Thames hugs the edge of the town and the streets are empty which is quite a sharp comparison to the noise and activity of last night’s partygoers.
I get into Chapel at about 7:10 AM and sit in the Quire watching the sun dispel the darkness and gloom of the morning through the stained glass of the West End just above the Albert Memorial Chapel. This is time for prayer and reflection offering one’s hopes and fears, the activities of the day ahead of the many things left undone in tidy piles on my study desk. Matins begins as I’m joined by three others, including one of my colleagues, for this service of prayer and reading. This is a time set apart for God to forget self and open up to the promptings of God’s love. It’s rhythm and pattern is an anchor point at the beginning of the day.
Matins ends and I moved to the Bray Chantry to prepare for the celebration of the Eucharist. This is the feast Day of Augustine of Canterbury and we properly remember those many men and women who brought the message of Jesus Christ to our shores, whose pioneering and creative ministry change the very nature of life in this country for the good. It seems particularly appropriate to pray for the Church of England and its work in so many ordinary ways in parishes and deaneries and dioceses – and at this moment of transition for Rowan Williams and those responsible for choosing his successor to lead the Church of England into a new stage of its mission and ministry.
By the time I get to behind the altar the sun is streaming into the chapel lifting one’s eyes upwards. The prayers left by visitors to the chapel are read and we name before God all those who are in particular need of Gods Love or indeed have recently departed. There is a powerful and mysterious sense of being part of something bigger and greater – of being enriched by Scripture – of being fed by the bread and wine of holy Communion.
And so this is a small glimpse of how the day begins. Matins and the Eucharist acting as an open door into the conversations activities and tasks that lie ahead.
And today I need to catch up on soem desk work and prepare for a visit of my parents and sister from Durham.