I am just back from a lunch appointment, and on the fairly long drive back from it, pondered the strangeness of life in minstry. I ought to point out now that this is not intended to be a Facebook-esque smug-a-thon - simply a recalling of facts.
I started the day in a normal fashion, with prayer at church. All normal, all good (save for the slighly unfortunate wording by Luke in his passage provided by the lectionary today - shall say no more). I printed off the Pew Sheet for Sunday, and thereby finally mastered the Great Whore which is the photocopier. Fickle she is; destructive she is; in control always.
Then followed a drive to Aldershot to the Army Headquarters for lunch with Lt. Col. Cole, one of the Chaplains General. Sat in the rather splendid surroundings of Governement House (aka the Officers Mess) I sat and listened to another Officer who was just back from Afghanistan. He was struggling with the level of injury his troops had sustained, citing the 'good fortune' of one lad who merely had three of his limbs blown off. Another lost both eyes. This was over lunch and Padre Cole sat and listened as this Officer poured out his heart for a few minutes. Evidently, that is not unusual over dinner - it is 'the place' for that kind of conversation. Later, Col. Paris joined us and the conversation quickly reverted to the state of politics in the Chaplain's Department (Col. Paris is another senior Padre). Politics, money, health and safety, the needs of other padres - all colliding on his desk. The three of us went and had coffee in the garden, where the conversation quickly moved to flying (I disclosed that I am a [lapsed] paraglider, and Col. Paris is a pilot). I shared my analogy of prayer being like paragliding as we sipped our java, after which point we got on to aspect ratios and angles of attack. All this in the space of less than two hours. Me, Colonels, fancy lunches - what on earth ...
On the drive back up the M3, there was a time when the traffic slowed considerably. I later discovered why. A hearse was pootling along, devoid of box, I assume on the way back from a sending-off. The driver and front passenger were fine - very proper, but the woman on the back seat had fallen asleep - and in a fashion where she was slumped to one side with her head thrown back, mouth open. In other words, she looked all the while like a carelessly discarded cadaver (she was a little pale and dishevelled too, and that didn't help). The spectacle slowed the traffic, though as I passed (admittedly 'rubber-necking' like every one else), I won a wave from the driver who must have spotted my collar.
Tomorrow I will be soaked in the stocks at the school fair that I am opening; on Sunday I will be officiating at a Civic Service for a new council. I am just about to complete my first parish magazine (don't, just don't, talk to me about parish mags).
I am a normal bloke from a normal background. I ask for nothing except that I am happy, that my family are happy and healthy, and that I am an effective
minister priest. No one is more surprised by the life I lead than I am - it is bonkers and amazing. I can be priest, father (as in dad), fool, chaplain to soldiers, an IT specialist, a publisher/editor, a preacher, a teacher, a friend, a financier, husband and son all in the space of hours it seems. I don't deserve all this, I am not trained for most of it, and I'm not good enough - I really am not!