I have now completed three full weeks in parish ministry - it's early days.
This morning I was just about to reach into a huge bookshelf - all white wood and endless and begin the daily office with my sister-in-law, who had wanted to join me in this huge, open, modern office space with ceiling to floor windows, when my husband woke me up.
I was dreaming.
It happened instead to be my day off. I felt disappointed because I was just about to open this book of prayers and psalms and space and intercession with someone who was as excited as I was about whom we were about to encounter through it.
Instead, I had 20 minutes to shower, make-up and get in the car, mug of tea on the go, only half full because the roads are windy back to Nottingham so that two children could be delivered to their last day of school and then hubbie and I could whiz off down the motorway to Gran, 97 years old, whom we would be visiting in Worcester. I had not woken up early enough on my day off for prayer-time.
It made me realise, as I shared the dream, mid-motorway, how essential the Daily Office has become to the beginning of my day, even though it all happened rather later today. The daily office happened in college because there, as well, a community gathered to hold the day before God.
There is a different feel to it now.
Nestled in the corner of church, with its church smell, which made me sneeze and reach for tissues in my first ten days, but doesn't now, my incumbent and I join, just the two of us, with the rest of the praying world in a time of commitment to God, both for ourselves and the parish and the wider church and world.
After this there are a number of events that are going to either occur, be discussed or be prepared - from pastoral visits to wedding rehearsals to discussions about the theology of a thanksgiving compared to that of a baptism. Funerals are observed, homilies and sermons are prepared and schools are visited, particularly for year 6 leavers' assemblies, of late.
Clergy socials or curate training intersperses the daily catalogue of events and DCCs and PCCs are an opportunity to hear new ideas being fleshed out in community with suggestions and affirmations, questions and hesitations. I have, been unprepared for the lack of resistance to change, when we were trained so carefully to anticipate it in huge measure.
... and I read that this thing that is the Church of England might be no more in twenty years time or so and I wonder...
Our articles refer to the possibility of the institution fading with the assurance that the Kingdom continues, so does it really matter?
I guess, it does.
I love this, at times, maybe, all times, fusty and much misunderstood institution with all its fears and failings and fudge, for the way that it offers people like me an opportunity to mark the pivotal moments of people's lives and take them in a God-ward direction. Baptism / Thanksgiving preparation with the CPAS course brings seekers, agnostics, spiritual pick and mixers into a space that perhaps they only entered as children, to consider again whether a relationship with God is something they are being called into. The Lord re-becomes 'my shepherd' to those trying to make some sense of the death of a relative and hopefully the bride and groom's heart leap as much as mine always does each time those words about no man putting asunder what God has joined together, are read.
Some will never return but some will. Some will not return here but will land somewhere and engage in the Kingdom... some will land here perhaps and then they will engage in this thing that is church, that is rumoured to be dying but continues to breathe. It lives.
There is much talk - net-talk - about curates not getting incumbencies and pioneers not being able to pioneer and that is indeed lamentable - when there are churches that need leadership and a church that desperately needs to continue to proclaim afresh. I am reminded also on the call to be poet-priest and look out and in and up and reflect on this state of affairs. There are such arrhythmias in the constancy of the beat. The uncertainty of future does flutter the present and I hold each move forward with the grace of an unskilled tight-rope walker because everything seems temporary now, even as I look around my front room and write this, I am not connected to it, it will only be a place I sit in for a little while before three or four years is finished and we pack boxes again.
In the several slotted slicings through each day and the unknown quantities that lie about us everywhere, I am glad of the constancy of the daily office, even if its beat is interrupted every now and then with those extra and necessary journeys somewhere else. It's helped to hang everything together this last three weeks.