I will spend most of today being this age, in preparation for another 364 days of doing likewise.
As often happens, life and family and other stuff have meant that the whole day won’t be a ‘me’ day. I’m glad about that: if you had told me 20 years ago that my day would have been interrupted by the activities of my own kids, I would have bitten your arm off. Plus, I may have to tread gingerly: my friends promised me a roistering night out last night with lashings of ginger beer.
49 seems strange- old people are 49 and I don’t feel old (although my hair has grown much greyer since the above photo 2 years ago); yet I became an adult 31 years ago. There are people born after me who have children older than me.
‘Happy Birthday to me’ says my inner narcissist….
Some thoughtful soul let me pick from their vinyl collection for my leaving present. I picked ‘Physical Graffiti’- I have a lot of growing up to do musically.
For years, this was the only Led Zeppelin track I knew. Hearing it on vinyl in my front room for the first time was an immense experience: I had never fully realised how powerful they were.
Sometimes you need to do this: play something powerful on vinyl and let the music dominate.
One of the churches that I left is removing its pews today. I remember someone in that church saying that a church that held on to its pews would never grow. There are deeper reasons of course, but a group of people that hold onto things that they like expecting others to change to be like them has little future.
In fact, it is doing so much more than removing its pews; this is the first stage (building works begin on Monday) to re imagining itself as a community hub: free wifi, open every am as a coffee shop, gathering place, charity centre etc etc.
Even though I have left, I am so excited: a vision developed outside of me and seen through without me. A church taking risks while it still has strength to have a go and try something different so that others may be served. That’s church as its best!
Someone said to me that it is a legacy that I leave. I don’t believe that: it is a sign of life and ‘now’.
I have ‘finished’ as a minister of a local church (es), except I am still on leave until my new role starts on Monday. Technically, that means I can still be used if I so choose.
Someone I said goodbye to has died and I have been asked to take the funeral. With the permission of the minister taking over I will lead it in a couple of days. I am really happy to do this: the person who died was a wonderful, graceful person & I felt humbled in their presence.
I always tended to do this: if I was on leave and around, I would frequently take the funerals of people I knew. It never felt like ‘work’: more a privilege. It was one of the ‘costs’ of being a minister, I felt: but a ‘cost’ worth paying.
It is a good note to ‘end’ on though: a death of a life well lived. Then there is the service, which bleeds Hope and life in the middle of endings. I need to hear that as well as take part in it.
There isn’t. Trust me: even at my novice level I know.
But it is fun finding out.
After years of dabbling, I got guitar lessons. Progress has been slow; partly through time, lack of ability and age- learning new things in your 40s is hard. But it has been great- I have actually got to play in front of people.
And now, I am trying to learn a new instrument: the ukulele. It is a whole new world; much more lighthearted and easier. It was given to me as a leaving present- I wanted something that would stay, that I would have to work at and was ‘frivolous’.
I have already ‘wasted’ loads of time, learning a new technique and (already) a couple of tunes. Best of all, it can be easily transported and I can already envisage sitting in laybys across my new patch & playing.
There is something about music and attempting to play it that lifts and soothes- just as Saul found when David played that secret chord.
We retell stories to ourselves: especially one that have resonance to who we are. Don’t be surprised if I keep circling around leaving church ministry- my centre has gone and I am in that creative time where so much is new and uncertain.
I woke up last week with these free form prose thoughts whirring around my head about that last Sunday, over 2 weeks ago now:-
You hand over and it hits you again: this was never ‘my’ church and these were never ‘my’ people. In fact, any trace of that over maternal/paternal language has to go.
Neither can there be any talk of ‘legacy’ or any of the ‘look at what I did’ language. God judges/evaluates and if you did anything, it was in partnership with his Grace.
In fact, perhaps the only adequate response at the end is firstly ‘mea culpa’: I’m sorry- I often fell short and made mistakes. And then, secondly and at greater length: thank you for your/Your love and for letting me do (mostly) what I loved.
One thing about being around the Bible a lot: bits of it become intertwined with your story. I was thinking of this place I find myself in at the moment: out of church ministry and not yet in a church and these words from Matthew 11:28-30 from the ‘Message’ version came to me and I said ‘amen’.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Ages ago, I was reading one of the stories in the gospels about Jesus walking on the water/calming the storm. I thought of the sensation I had- knowing that I had to move/do something different and realising how difficult it would be to do that. I wrote this (and I am doing it & it is difficult: harder than I imagined).
When you clamber back into the boat,
We might have to go back through the storm,
That I just fled from,
And I am scared,
Because I am already battered.’
I have had this before a couple of years ago.
When I was assembling a play list for my ‘last’ service (yes really), I had this one just before it began.
It was intentional: as I have got older, I have come to realise that all my favourite people are broken and don’t try and pretend to be anything else.
This blog has been going for 7 years in June. For 6 years I have managed to write daily posts (ok- I cheat- sometimes several are written late at night and then stacked up).
It is not that hard to do when you have a job that encourages introspection and looking deeply at things. Before blogging, I would have acres of random thoughts jotted down in various places. All blogging allows me to do is to jot them down in one place and then inflict them on the world.
Yet my role is changing; I will be working away from home and only working 5 days a week. I used to blog in the gaps: late at night or in a few snatched minutes when I wanted some time out from working days that could begin before 8am and finish after midnight.
Soon: I will have no space in the day and although I will have much more at night, much of that time will be taken up with supporting a wife who works a lot. Also, blogging provided a vent for a vocation that latterly in some respects felt suffocating: will I still feel that same when I am in ‘honeymoon’ mode?
Watch this space: I don’t yet know.