Monday, June 22, 2009

No More Vicar School 1

Hot foot from Army Day I went to my LAST EVER Wednesday evening at college. Social time over soup was very pleasant and I wondered if I was being fanciful in sensing that the conversations were slightly more animated than usual.

The session was not too taxing and was a pleasant interactive session between the Mirfield-based leavers on clergy roles, responsibilities and expectations. I didn't give much thought about it being the last night until I was driving away when it sort of crept up and hit me. I may never come back here again. (O.K. I probably will, but I might not.) I got a bit moist around the eyes, which is not good for night driving on the M62. If I feel like this now, how am I going to cope with the last residential and the Commendation Service?

I arrived at the Wakefield Police College in good time on Friday and, it being a special weekend, the York contingent were there too and the Manchester leavers: in short the whole course gathered together for the last time in that combination.

I got an en-suite as ever but poor Dr. Bob missed out again. He must be a dreadful sinner.

When we walked into the lecture theatre for evening worship, I realised that my prayer group was leading: only it wasn't my prayer group any more. Hilda and I had moved on and in our wake came John, another two-year student recently moved into our year. It was, briefly and very oddly, like an out of body experience with me relegated to the status of observer. How odd it was to see someone else behind the lectern with Vicky and Karen, but how nice, too, for Hilda and I not to have to worry about preparing and delivering worship on our last weekend.

I was very impressed by Revd Tim's evening session for all the leavers - all thirty of us - as we looked at the story of Jesus' healing of the paralysed man in groups: a Jesus group; a Disciples group; a Paralysed Man group; a Pharisees group and a Mark the Evangelists group and so on. There was a certain amount of visiting one another's groups and a final showdown as one representative from each group challenged the others. Instructive and very funny as the reps tended to be the natural extroverts and actors: brilliant exchanges between the Paralysed man's friend and the Paralysed man and between the disciples and the Paralysed man's friend. Jesus and the scribes hardly got a look in.

Then we had a party and this is where it began to get a bit emotional. Somehow - I realise now engineered - my original year group managed to sit together: suddenly for each of the six leavers there materialised a beautifully wrapped package. The others who were going on to do another year had bought us each a book of pastoral prayers - and signed the flyleaf: "To our dear friend Jack ....." (and I feel a little tearful just writing it down now). This was accompanied by a card. It was the only photograph in existance of the whole year group together taken at Easter School and it had been made into a greetings card inscribed with the legend "Things Will Never Be The Same Again." It just happens to be a lovely and joyful photo of a group of good and trusted friends enjoying each other's company.

The rest of the evening was spent in the knowledge that time was precious: a conversation with Danny, a conversation with young Mike and to bed, a little tipsy on red wine.

Saturday, Commendation Day, dawned bright and fair, and early for me due to the flimsy nature of the curtains. The first thing I saw on waking was the card and I knew I was going to have trouble holding it together that day. I went to Silent prayer at 7.30. There were no more than half a dozen of us and I plugged into Howard Goodall's beautiful and reflective "Enchanted Voices" on my I-Pod to help focus my thoughts. I remember Dr. Bob sitting beside me. A couple of minutes in I started to weep and the floodgates opened (silently of course - it being silent prayer, no racking sobs or suchlike) snot, tears the whole works. (And, typical man, I did not have a handkerchief.) It was not just the enormity of what was to come both in the short and long terms. It was also the sense of loss in the breaking up of that close knit group of lovely, supportive, Kind and very funny people. I think cathartic is probably the best description, although I am sure others would say self-indulgent.

When I related this afterwards Alex said she hadn't noticed a thing.

She is, one feels, a saint.

Dr. Bob asked me over breakfast how I was. "You seemed a little emotional earlier."

A LITTLE EMOTIONAL! He is a master of the understatement.

Still, I had got it out of my system and I was raring to go.