Old and new

Melissa, Jem, and Natalie at the Greenbelt festival communion

Our commissioning service! L-R: Angela, Sam, Bishop Phillip, Scott, Jem, Melissa

The new year for the Way2Community is well underway, with all its rhythms to adjust to, names to learn, and community dynamics to discover. After a summer break, the new community members and I were commissioned as this year’s Way2 interns just a few days after moving back into the community house, at the start of September. Sam and Scott will introduce themselves on the blog soon, so watch this space!

For my new fellow community members, the start of this year has been predominantly a time of new experiences. They’ve been getting used to a new house, new housemates, the extensive rotas that keep us organised, new parish placements, new out-of-parish placements, scores of new people to meet, our community’s rule of life, new styles of worship and prayer… the list goes on. For me, however, returning to the community for my second year, it has been a time of both old and new experiences, a contrast which really began over summer.

I spent four weeks at home in York over August, and was busy seeing family and friends every day – both a familiar experience of catching up with people I’ve known a long time, and also a new experience: I’ve never been so densely sociable in my life! Being back at home, where I grew up, visiting my home church, day trips to places I know well – all familiar experiences. Undoubtedly the most weirdly familiar experience was going back to college, where I finished my A levels last year, to meet with my old progression tutor and go through my university application with her.

Summer also brought some familiar and brand new experiences with it in the form of Greenbelt, a faith, arts, and justice festival which I went to along with Melissa, the deputy warden of the Way2Community, and Natalie, whose time with the community came to an end in summer and is now just starting as an ordinand at Cranmer Hall. I had been to Greenbelt a couple of times before and so it was wonderfully familiar, but it was a first time for Natalie and Melissa, after I had persuaded them that they would love it. They did! I introduced them to some of the key events (in my opinion) like the LGBT+ Eucharist, the Iona community Big Sing, and the Old Plough folk club, where anyone of any level of ability can get up and perform a folk/acoustic song.

On a semi spur of the moment decision, I got up at the Old Plough folk club and sang a folk song, which, having never sung solo in front of an audience before, I forgot half the words to! I survived, and as they were low on people willing to get up and perform, when they picked on people to take a second turn, I got up again and sang another song which I knew the words to much better. Just as I sat back down, Melissa leaned over to me and asked if I’d be willing to get up with her for us to sing Skye Boat song together. We were much better together than I was on my own! Unfortunately, I had told Natalie not to bother coming to the Old Plough folk club, as there was another event at the same time that she wanted to go to and there was no way I was going to get up and sing. When we met up with her afterwards, she was torn between being proud of both of us for getting up, and being mad that she’d missed it. It took a whole bag of candy floss between us for us to calm down after singing, and it was definitely the most brand new experience of summer, but we are already suggesting songs that we could do next year!

The rest of the summer passed quickly and I was soon on the familiar 8 hour train journey back down to Cornwall. The start of the new community year has brought plenty of familiar experiences for me, as well as plenty of new ones. I’m used to the house, the rule of life, the structure of our days/week, the many rotas we have, the local area, and I’m continuing the placement with the university chaplaincy which I started before summer. However, the start of the new year always brings change, and so I’m getting used to having new housemates, and being in a new parish placement – I’ve moved from the parish of Mabe to Mawnan, the parish which Natalie was placed in last year. There’s also more new experiences on the horizon, with November bringing my cathedral placement, and January bringing my hospital chaplaincy placement, for which I have been preparing this week with my hospital induction and safeguarding training.

Alongside all that the new year of the community brings, I’ve been particularly valuing the rhythm of saying morning and evening prayer together as a community. After the strangeness of not having that rhythm of communal prayer over summer, the liturgy feels familiar and gentle, holding all the busyness and newness of community life. As I look back to this time last year, where I was only just getting used to morning and evening prayer, having not experienced it before, I can see both how it has shaped and supported me, and how it has guided my ongoing process discernment across the year that has passed and the year that is to come.

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