Morning Prayer, on my own, close to the site of the Shrine of John of Beverley, with the low sun illuminating the sculptures of broken pilgrims on their way to holiness. Psalm 65 reminds an end-of-the-week Vicar that God is “the hope of the ends of the earth” and makes “the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy”.
Two hours of graft at the computer produces a notice sheet, worship schemes, the booklet of music for our new Communion setting, and the Candlemas liturgy. Seems to me that putting the right stuff into people’s hands at least prevents worship from going wrong, and gives it every chance to shine.
Then a few minutes to sharpen an address for the slightly tricky funeral at noon. These things gestate for a while (the visit was on Monday), and then come out almost fully formed, but a phone call (during my earlier typesetting) from a family member I’d not met previously kept me on my toes. To the Crematorium, and a change with a minute to go: a planned poem will not now be read by a mourner, and mustn’t be read at all. I’m not sure how my observation of the dynamics of the relationships between mourners changes what I do on the day, but it’s good when the tightrope is negotiated and its clear at the end that the words (mainly supplied by them) have done their work.
Straight from there to Oncology at the Hospital nearby. One of our most active people has been completely and suddenly felled by cancer. I’m in no position yet to sum up what’s happening, and am only one of many who will accompany my friend in what will unfold. But there are intimacies I witness with his family today which squeeze through my clerical professionalism. Not something to treat lightly, being there at such a time as this.
Quick lunch in the hospital cafe, in glorious sunshine. A meeting back at church about an art exhibition, with the sunlit Minster looking impossibly wonderful. Back at the desk there is news of one of our office volunteers who was blue-lighted to the other hospital two days ago, and had an emergency op yesterday. So off to visit her: she lives on her own and I don’t think twice about the two hours the whole thing takes. Fantastic mixture of humour and reflection: the lady opposite is loudly talking to a nurse who is doing tests. “I’ve got tickle-itis” she declares. We assume this to be diverticulitis, but the nurse replies “I thought only Ken Dodd had that”, and people recovering from major surgery try not to laugh too hard. There is the most amazing sunset.
Tonight is our Youth Cafe (as featured on Songs of Praise earlier in the month). 200 young people swarm through the Minster, and an army of the Minster’s congregation (very few of whom would say they are youth workers) sort the whole thing out. Once again I’m amazed at the variety and commitment of the people of God here. There are so many parents picking up their offspring when it ends that the police have to come and sort out the traffic. Our Youth Minister deems this ‘a result’.
I have generated very little of what has happened today, and so much of it has been a gift. You take your training and experiences and humanity and personality and shabby attempts at prayer and your theology and into this grubby pot God pours riches. There is much that’s unfinished. My friends are ill, and one is critical. A family continues to mourn, and I hope they can see hope as they make the journey through grief.
This was only one day. Perhaps I’m over dramatising it. Lots of other clergy will have done similar, and much more vital, stuff today. But this job is stonking sometimes, and I can’t quite believe I do it. Thank you to those who make it happen, and let me in to their depths and their joys.
And your prayers for those who sleep tonight in trepidation, and worry, and wonder. “To you, O Lord, all flesh shall come” (Ps 65. 2)