Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First thoughts from Easter School

Sneaton Castle, Whitby. Home of the Order of the Holy Paraclete.

Principal Dr. Christine's starting point to the gathered 70 was something to the effect of: "You are here because of who and what you are." That came at just the right time for me: I needed to hear that what with the difficulties I continue to face with my sponsoring organisation.

My call and the church's recognition of that call is a call and recognition of who I already am. It is not about making me conform to the image or stereotypes others have of the priesthood. God has called me as I am now and I am likely in my ministerial formation to become more, not less, me. God does not want to put me in a box. "Priest" is a generic term but it does not mean "clone".

The theme of the week is "Communicating the Gospel" and Dr. Christine in her opening address, talked about that very much in terms of continuing the story. We have had the Old Testament times and the New Testament times. We are in the intervening times but we know how the story ends.

The intervening times are exciting times because they are uncharted: we are not called to atrophy nor to repeat old patterns of being church. We have to be faithful both to the Gospel and to our context and culture: former patterns are not of our context and culture. We are still writing the story because the Holy Spirit continues to work in the life of individuals and the life of the church. I was put in mind of my own guiding principal: "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil 2.12) As we gossip the gospel we inevitably subvert the worldviews of others.

The castle is a lovely setting for a period of study, just a short walk from Whitby itself. Room allocation seemed starangely random: I have a twin room, which seems odd as I am an only child and my door number was 007. Well, you heard it here first! The rooms were nice, but unlike the police college where we often stay there were no en-suite facilities. Daphne, Hilda, Ann and I shared a bathroom: what visions of loveliness we each presented to the others on that first morning as we vied for position in the bathroom queue in our jim-jams, sleepy eyed and hair awry.

So here I am wide awake on the first morning at 5.00 am and wondering why no retreat house I have ever stayed at has curtains designed to combat the dawn. I send a text to that effect to my beloved. Some hours later she responds: "Stay at a place run by gay men next time. They do curtains very well." Good point.

Quotes of the day: "The chaplain won't be available tomorrow as he will be hearing the confessions of the sisters. All day." Those nuns eh?

Barry: "I've not been on your blog for a while. I understand you owe me royalties for the last lot of jokes."

Barry again: An elephant said to a mouse: "Why am I so big, strong and powerful and you are so small, weak and puny?"

"I've not been very well recently" replied the mouse.

I can see it is going to be a long week.