So, in a week and a half I will be heading off on retreat, and in 17 days I will be Received into Full Connexion and Ordained (Conference willing, as always in Methodism!) along with a number of friends and colleagues. Many of my fellow ordinands have been commenting recently about the joy of their testimony services and the amazing send off it has given them as they prepare for ordination. My testimony service was a while ago now, as in Cornwall it was done as part of District Synod. Yet I too have been buzzing with excitement and joy after a service I felt to be a very powerful precursor to the experience of ordination.
This past Sunday Saltash Churches Together held their annual joint Pentecost Service. It was a Eucharist held at the Parish Church of St Nicholas and St Faith, presided at by the Team Rector, with me preaching. It was an amazing experience. SS Nick & Faith is a “bells and smells” church, so there was vestments, and incense, and bells, and the Rector presided facing East, yet at the same time I preached not from the pulpit but amongst the people, in the same spot that the Gospel had been read from, my wonderful Baptist colleague and friend honoured the occasion with a proper “Baptist blue” clerical shirt but no vestments (and concelebrated amongst the cassock-albs, stoles and chasubles so dressed), and while the more than 200 people came forward to receive Communion or to be blessed they were accompanied by the sounds of Africa as a group of Zimbabweans visiting the Saltash Circuit sang for us.
In agreement with my ecumenical colleagues I held back from concelebrating as, while I have authorisation to preside, I am (obviously) not yet ordained and I did not wish to offend the discipline of ecumenical partners so instead I mirrored the local Curate, who is to be ordained Priest the same weekend as me. I didn’t need to concelebrate to feel immensely blessed though – the experience of preaching to such a crowd, and assisting the distribution to wave after wave of communicants was more than enough! The preaching in particular received much feedback – one or two complaints about visibility (a risk I knew I was taking and thought worth taking) but generally very positive. I can’t produce the sermon on here as I did it using only notes, but I can produce the notes:
Yep, I preached with just 140 characters as my notes. As it was Pentecost, the Feast at which we recall the powerful descending of the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples I felt it right that I preach “on the spot” (which is not to say scripted sermons can’t can’t be powerfully led by the Spirit, they certainly can be) with a simple and very tight idea of where I was going. Given the feedback I’ve since had, it certainly worked – thanks be to God!
I’m now in the process of working through my last two weeks in Circuit before ordination retreat. It is an odd feeling, with an awareness that there is still work to be done (including a Circuit Meeting I think may be a little feisty this evening), yet keen to hold onto the buzz of Pentecost and not wanting to do anything that might upset that.
Given my propensity not to blog much recently, and therefore an unlikeliness I’ll post again before ordination, it’s appropriate to say now how grateful I am for all the support I’ve had through this blog, and how much sharing this journey with you, my friends and cyber-neighbours, has meant. So thank you, and I look forward to carrying on the journey with you on the other side of ordination. For now, I sign off not with my usual signature, but with a request for prayer: