Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's been a great week.. or two

For my morning prayers during Lent this year I have been vascillating between using a daily devotional book written especially for Lent by a Benedictine sister, and the Jesuit Sacred Space prayer book. One of the exercises in Sacred Space this week is to look back over the past 24 hours, and identify things to give thanks for, and things to be sorry for.

I must be having a pretty good week, as I am finding lots of things to be thankful for- so much so that it kind of blows me away- and not much at all to regret or be sad about.

One special moment, not really related to my ministry at all, that I'd like to share happened on Sunday afternoon. After leading worship for the first time at Beechworth and Yackandandah on Sunday morning, I decided to have a wander around the Yackandandah Folk Festival in the afternoon.

I had a pleasant wander around the street stalls, and a lovely lunch with some folk from the Yack congregation, before heading off on my own to take in some of the music.

An amazing thing happened right at the end of the afternoon. A friend from Melbourne was up for the festival, performing with the Men in Suits choir. They had a gig at the end of the afternoon, as the last act in the Yack Courthouse. Because the choir was too large to fit on the Courthouse stage, it was decided that the performance should move outside, with the audience sitting on the grass slope, and the choir standing near the entrance to the Courthouse.

It was a warm afternoon, and it was very relaxing to sit on the grass with everyone else, and listen to the choir singing (much witty and entertaining material, as well as good singing). At one point, it started to rain. Stephen Taberner (the choir director, so those of you familiar with him and the Spooky Men's Chorus will have an idea of the ilk of Men in Suits) shouted at the audience behind him "don't you dare leave!" and noone did.

There was something very special and relaxing about sitting on the grass, feeling the gentle rain (which didn't last for very long, so we didn't get very wet at all) and listening to the music. People walking past also stopped and listened too.

A lovely way to conclude a great weekend.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I'm now officially here

I'm currently on a high, after having my service of recognition as an intern yesterday afternoon, and celebrating my first service of worship (including my first Eucharist) at Myrtleford church this morning.

Yesterday's service was great. The church was quite full, and in attendance were quite a lot of representatives of the Presbytery, as well as a significant number of friends who had come to celebrate the occasion and support me in the commencement of my ministry. (I calculated that there would have been at least 14 people who came up from Melbourne, and one from my home Presbytery of Tasmania, bringing with her the greetings of the Presbytery, and a tape of recorded messages from friends from the Sandy Bay congregation in Hobart).

It was a very joyful service, and the excitement of the folk from the Myrtleford-Beechworth congregations at finally having me here was palpable (as was my own excitement, but I think you would have already guessed that to be the case).

One friend from Melbourne commented that all the folk from the local congregations who gave speeches of welcome after the service spoke as if they already knew me and were genuinely glad to have me here, knowing all that I could offer, rather than the usual "welcome to the area" kinds of things one would expect.

In fact, one person who spoke on behalf of the Myrtleford congregation (who also happens to be one of the people who lost a home during the bushfires) expressed her thanks for all the support I have already given her and her husband since the fires ... and left me wondering, "what exactly have I done?" Not much, from my reckoning, but whatever it was, she obviously thought it significant. That's the funny thing about pastoral ministry, we can never really tell how significant what we do or say is to people.

After this morning's worship, as I did the 'meet and greet' as people went out to the hall for morning tea, a number of folk commented that they hope I will be around for a long time. So I guess that's encouraging (although I will wait until the 'honeymoon' period is over before I get too excited :-)

But in all, it's been a great start to my ministry in this place, and I'm excited (yes, still excited! :-) And this afternoon also marks the "two down, one to go" point of the three services in three days marathon that marks the start of my ministry (service of recognition yesterday, Sunday worship with Eucharist today and my first funeral tomorrow). I think I'll sleep well tomorrow night.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Well, I haven't even officially started work yet (still in the first fortnight of "settling in" time) and I have been asked to conduct a funeral next Monday afternoon.

This will be the first funeral service I have ever led, and the prospect of it, as I listened to the message on my answering machine this afternoon, struck more than a little fear to my heart. I could have gotten out of it, by claiming either that Monday is my day off, or asserting that I am not supposed to be working till after my service of recognition on Saturday, and so could have fobbed off the responsibility to someone else in this strange interim time.

However, when I spoke to the family representative of the deceased man, I agreed to conduct the funeral, as I figured that this time of grief is not a time to be dithering about marking out boundaries. And even though we have been trained to be vigilant about self-care in ministry, and to watch out for things that eat into time off, I reckon that there are some things (and this is one) where a bit of flexibility is called for in the name of compassion.

So, now I find myself with two services of worship to prepare in the next few days, as well as some pastoral visiting of the family requesting the funeral. Such is life in ministry, and you know what? I'm loving it! :-)