...hear our prayer?
I have just returned from a perfectly wonderful weekend, the Curate's Conference. Yes, you might imagine such a gathering to be loaded with angst and pathos, a struggle between arm-waving and thurifying - but no, this went like a dream. We were all holed up in All Saints' Pastoral Centre in London Colney - a wonderful building, more especially in late spring when the weather has been as beautiful as it has been this last couple of days.
The theme broadly dealt with the issue of 'difference', and in providing input, offered a Keynote Speech from Revd Vera Hunt, a profoundly deaf Priest from the Diocese. Among other stuff, there were presentations from the Army, from the new-age perspective, an offering from the former Dean of St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem, workshops surrounding deaf-awareness and more besides. The Conference has a warmth about it that I reliably informed is unusual, and tensions born of the wide spectrum of ecclesial differences that we as Curates embody seemed to me (a resident at an end of a spectrum) to be largely absent. The whole shebang was capped off with a rather extraordinary (in a good way) Eucharist, the style and content of which was prepared by the Curates in all their variations of 'colour'. It worked, it felt right, its integrity was maintained. The Bish (as in +Alan, as in blog) Presided and delivered the finest sermon that I have heard from him - and all in all, I am feeling 'top banana'.
My ministerial interests are broad in scope, but one facet is my great love of and for the deaf community. My Sign Language is rusty to the point of full engine stall, but I am still greatly enamoured by all that the deaf community represents of and in itself. Deaf culture provides a very poignant reminder about how we exclude members of our faith communities without wishing to. Evidently, 1 in 7 people experience a hearing loss of one level or another, so statistically, there must be 20-odd in my average Sunday gathering. I can Sign a little, but I don't. I end prayers with 'Lord in your mercy hear our prayer' habitually, I talk at the speed of light and move around too much when doing so - and so on. This weekend has reminded me once again how valuable the perspective offered by my work with the deaf is to me and my theology and practice. I said yesterday, and I say again here, that a signed Eucharist is about as beautiful a thing as you can get, liturgically. I aspire to be able to provide such a service. With input of this importance offered to Curates, I believe that there is considerable hope for all Christians - so long as those who experienced the speech offered by Vera embrace the very mandate that she made. Yes, we have a Chapliancy to the Deaf/ened Community, but we as ministers (ordained or lay) also share in that job too.
Only one Curate commented (anonymously) on their feedback form that the whole Conference offered them nothing relevant to their curacy. How blessed that person and their congregation must be - though I guess even robots have a right to worship somewhere!
Excellent Conference, wonderful wake-up call, food for thought, warm fellowship among those of us trying to get on in this life of ours - lucky me, I say!