It’s been a busy couple of months in the Way2Community, from out-of-parish placements and opportunities to new experiences within my parish, and from a variety of areas of study and reflection to a weird and wonderful mixture of time spent as a community and as rest time. It seems like a long time since I last sat down to write a blog post, and yet it seems like these past few weeks and months have been rushing by and will continue to do so – I’m expecting to wake up one day and find it’s July already! But thankfully there is still about 5 months of this year for the Way2Community left, even if it feels like I must have been down here in Cornwall for more than 6 months by now.
So what have I been up to since my last blog post? All kinds of opportunities have arisen on top of the regular week by week activities I am involved with. The end of January brought snow to Cornwall – and chaos right along with it. The day we saw the most snow (though still not that much by my northern standards) was the day of Truro College’s careers fair, which I attended as a Way2Community member. A group of us from different denominations and roles within the church formed a stall bringing awareness to church ‘careers’ in all their variety, difficulties, and joys. We answered questions about different types of ministry, what each of us have experienced through our roles in the church, and why we are involved in ministry and church to begin with. I had some brilliant conversations with the students and was able to use my own experience to (hopefully!) encourage some of them in their own relationships with the church and faith. And upon arriving back home after the hour and a half it took to drive back from Truro in the snow, I concluded that I must be less introverted than I used to be since I wasn’t at all tired after spending two hours talking to a multitude of students, which I know just a few years ago would have exhausted me!
On the other end of the age range, we had the opportunity towards the end of February to lead a service for the residents of one of the local care homes, as part of the ministry of the local Churches Together. It was the first time for me that I had been in a care home, but the relaxed atmosphere made it feel more than comfortable for us to lead the service between us, supported by a few others from the Churches Together team. It was a short service with a small ‘congregation’, alternating hymns between a bible reading, a short talk which I wrote and gave, and prayers, and we will be doing similar services a couple more times across the coming months.
My more regular out-of-parish placement at St Petroc’s homeless society which I did once a week for four months came to an end in mid February. Most of my time there was spent helping out with the daily drop in they run for clients, but in my last week there, I had the opportunity to visit one of the houses they own, in which they are able to offer clients stable accommodation and offer support to gradually help clients become ready to move into independent accommodation. The house I visited was their largest, and is for clients with the least support needs, and so it was a fascinating morning spent observing how that is run and meeting a couple of the residents there. Over my time at St Petroc’s, and as I got to know the clients who I saw regularly at the drop in, I noticed that I became more confident and comfortable and that I found it easier to chat casually to the clients, rather than just the necessary conversation for practical matters, like signing people in as they arrived for the drop in. While I hope that I was never prejudiced against people experiencing homelessness, actually being able to get to know those people and their everyday experiences grounds them as people who experience disappointment, anger, joy, unfairness, rather than just as objects of pity or even support and understanding. Its been lovely bumping into a couple of the clients out and about since finishing my placement, and I hope I will continue to do so.
In my parish placement, I’ve been getting involved in a few new things as well as experiencing the seasonal or occasional services that have been taking place. On the last Sunday in February, I deaconed at the Eucharist service at Mabe for the first time, which involves leading roughly the first half of the service. This in itself is something I have done before, though in a very different context and style, so the actual experience of deaconing at Mabe brought a few new things with it. As deacon, I processed at the start of the service along with the priest and the choir, something I had never done before, and I wore a cassock and surplice, also for the first time. Wearing a cassock and surplice has felt very strange for me – even after adjusting one of the community’s spare ones to fit me, I still felt like a kid dressing up! I managed not to trip up or catch my sleeves on fire though, which I feel is reasonably successful for a first time wearing a cassock, and I’m sure that I’ll get used to seeing myself in one once I’ve worn it more than once. Another first time doing something for me was preaching last Sunday at both churches I am placed at in my parish placement. It was the first Sunday of Lent, so the reading was Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. My main point, or what hopefully came across as my main point, was that it is by the love manifest in our relationship with God that we are enabled to resist temptation – or that we are picked up and dusted off when we don’t. Although I have never stood up at the front and spoken for so long in one block before, it was the process of writing the sermon that I found more new and challenging, rather than delivering it. I’m preaching again in a few weeks, so I’ll get some more practise at the process of writing a sermon and hopefully it will become easier and more familiar as I learn.
Before getting stuck into my next sermon however, I aim to be making a start on my next essay in the discernment process. I finished the ‘What is a priest’ essay a couple of weeks ago, and decided with the DDO that instead of going straight onto the next essay, ‘Why are you an Anglican?’, it would be helpful for me to do a second essay, similar to ‘What is a priest’, but with a focus on monasticism. I’m going to write it as a more personal reflection on what it would mean for me to be a monk, since I have researched and written about monasticism itself more in the past than I had about priesthood. I am also in the process of arranging a placement in a monastic community in early June, where I will spend two weeks living alongside the community and participating in their rhythm of life. I hope this will give me a chance to experience the day to day reality of monastic life, meet some of the community and ask them plenty of questions, and have time to reflect on my own process of discernment.
Alongside all this busyness in the last couple of months, we’ve had plenty of fun as a community. We’ve had plenty of walks along the beaches nearby and along bits of the coastal path; we’ve played a handful of board games (in case my fellow community members hadn’t picked up on my competitiveness already, they certainly have now, after a particularly loud game of Carcassonne!); and between us we’ve nearly finished knitting a hat for the pillar at the end of our drive – on our walk to the care home back in February we walked along a street where every other house had been yarn bombed, and after discovering it was a project organised by a local artist who lived on that street, we decided we wanted to join in and yarn bomb our own house. Over the past week, my parents have been down from York to visit, and so we’ve had a couple of trips out all together. One evening, we went up to St Agnes Head in an attempt to stargaze, but as the weather wasn’t in our favour for that, we instead just enjoyed walking along the cliff top in the dark and wind. The next day, we got the train to St Ives and spent the day there, enjoying the views and remarkably blue sea, as well as the strong winds which nearly blew some of us away.
I think a fitting song to summarise these past couple of months is Live Alive, by (no surprises) Rend Collective:
I wanna live alive
Don’t wanna live a lie
I wanna live alive
And you make me alive
Don’t want to just survive
Be safe but half alive
This little light of mine
This little spark divine
I’m gonna let it shine
I am letting go of every fear
I am letting go of every lie
I am taking hold of every dream
You place inside