Wednesday, June 24, 2009

No More Vicar School 2



I was going to eat sensibly today. This is always my resolution when I come here and I always manage to find a way to rationalise not keeping it. Today's rationale was that it was the last breakfast I would ever eat in the Wakefield Police College. This was justification enough today to go for the full English breakfast, or possibly the full English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh what with there being about nineteen separate foods on the plate served in industrial quantities. After breakfast we staggered outside for the course photo in lovely June sunlight. There was a real sense of energy and a palpable sense of anticipation. Not that having a photo taken was of itself particularly significant, but it was another milestone on the timetable of that last day. And it wasn't just the leavers: many of the others commented on the atmosphere.

I don't think it would be unfair to characterise the atmosphere as largely de-mob happy. I certainly was: for some weeks now I had been distracted on Wednesday evenings, impatient for the process to reach this point - and I wasn't by any means alone.

I whipped up to my room to pack and dumped my stuff in the car. This is the last time I shall ever sleep at the Wakefield Police College I thought to myself. O.K. - enough of all the "this is the last time" business now.

Talk about "unwillingly to school" as Shakespeare put it. We wandered into the lecture theatre after a break like teenagers to French last lesson on Friday; in dribs and drabs, reluctant and wishing just to be sitting together in the sunshine, laughing and joking. Nevertheless Tim gave us another good session on Jesus' attitude to salvation based on a number of his encounters as recorded in the Gospels. I was looking at Zaccheus and we draw some conclusions about including the outcast.

I couldn't help, though, but notice slight signs of surpressed agitation around the room: the slightly too loud laugh; the fidgeting and restlessness of people in their seats; the far away and preoccupied looks and the uncharacteristic shadow of irritation crossing Dr. Bob's face as someone filed her nails a little too enthusiastically - and for far too long - behind him. Yes, it was a good teaching session but I was restless for something more or, perhaps more accurately, something else. The day was moving on and I wondered when it would change gear. I needed something about closure: something symbolic.

And that followed with our community Eucharist. Revd. Stephen was presiding with Vicky, John and Karen robed as acolytes. Hilda and I were touched to be asked to assist in administering the elements.

A couple of weeks before the leavers had each been given a plain tile with the instructions to take them away and decorate them for today with something personal to reflect the journey thus far. I had decorated mine with a Lutheran rose. Most people's were more enigmatic than that. Before the Eucharist began these tiles were laid out in a cross bordered with tea-lights and on the front row of the seats all the ordination stoles were displayed: twenty nine white/gold and one red. These too were highly personalised in their design and showed incredible creativity.

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We should never really describe one eucharist as being of any more significance than any other but in our heightened emotional states this eucharist took on a special importance, not as a theological event but as a community right of passage. The exchange of the peace was a noisy, lingering affair and tearful for some: that same cathartic experience which I had been through at early morning prayer - and it wasn't just the leavers who were visibly moved.