The one thing that is hard about public ministry as a stipendary priest is that, by definition, we work away from where we grew up and away from circles of friends that we have built over time. It is easier for me in some ways because Mrs Acular and I have been relatively nomadic for over the last decade or so, so friends tend always to be at a distance, geographically speaking.
This is another way of saying that in the wake of priest's lives is a litany of names of friends long neglected and rarely seen.
Today I sat for half an hour waiting for the fruits of my loins to learn not to drown.They are achieving this well and so I can withdraw from the Pool of Drowning safe in the knowledge that they will once again prevail. However, half an hour is insufficient time for anything other than idle daydreaming over a caffeine infusion of one sort or another.
Today I sat with my Gadget of Choice and pawed over the Facebook thing, and did something that I have never done before. I opened up my 'Friends' page and scanned down the list. On iPad, the pictures are big (rather that diddly little thumbnail shots) so I was able to see faces as opposed to blurry figures of people that looked vaguely familiar. It was a wonderful thing to have done.
The Facebook detractors would say that we gather 'Friends' from among those who we really have no connection, have never met and would never want to. I am one such detractor. I have claimed, on this blog, that we only really know a fraction of the plethora of folk we claim as Friends on Facebook - that the rest are a kind of statistical stocking filler. I think I was wrong in that assertion.
As I looked down the long list, I saw many faces. They are the faces of people I have either grown up with, people I have worked with, people I have sat behind a pint with, people who I love, people who I respect, people who knew me when I was a boy, as a man, as a retailer, as a theological student, as a worshipping Christian, as a blogger, people I have known all of my life and people who (although I may not have met them at all in person) are those with whom I have connected and remain so. In short, everyone on my Friends list is someone significant to me, someone who has a meaning in the context of my unworthy existence.
As I fast approach my 40th birthday (noting the many of my school friends who have already passed that great and momentous occasion), I often wonder 'where it all went'. I have a wonderful family, beautiful wife and kids, the work I was born to do, a wonderful context in which to do that work - and a Facebook Friends list. If I wondered 'where it all went', I needn't have worried. It isn't about the moments always, but about those faces and the encounters we have shared.