Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today's the day!

Well, after what seems like aeons of discernment, study, formation and ministry practice, today I will be ordained as a Minister of the Word.

As I look out my hotel room window, I note that it is raining in Hobart- which seems to be a bit of a sign (showers of blessing? :-). When my colleague Martin's service of recognition was held in Rochester, about half an hour before the commencement, the heavens opened and it teemed. Almost exactly the same thing happened just before my service of recognition in Myrtleford, and the then chairperson of the Presbytery commented that we interns had brought the rain with us to break the drought in the north east of the state (Vic).

So, rain on a significant occasion seems to be de rigeur and I'm glad to see that the pattern seems to be holding for my ordination day (and can't wait to see if it rains on the day of Martin's ordination too :-)

I have been feeling a tad twitchy with excitement and indescribable emotion for a week or so now, as I have been preparing to come away to Tasmania for this event (and a holiday that follows). When I woke up this morning I cried; but as a dear friend (and Anglican priest) assured me, tears of joy are allowed today, so I guess that's ok.

I have been overwhelmed by people's response to this whole ordination thing. From those who have insisted on travelling long distances (from Sydney and various parts of Victoria, not to mention around Tas) to be here today, and the many emails, Facebook comments and physical cards, gifts etc that I have received from a wide range of people; it's all been a bit much really. One friend even brought her husband and kids over from Melbourne, and we enjoyed some great catch-up time on the boat on Thurs night (and then breakfast at the House of Anvers... mmmm... chocolate :-)

When the room service man from the hotel brought me my breakfast this morning (yes, I know it's decadent to have room service breakfast in a city hotel), his parting comment was, "have a great day". It's not going to be just a great day- it's going to be a stunner!

So I guess I should get off the compter, and jump into it- have to have a shower, and spend a bit more time in prayerful contemplation to prepare for what is to come later in the day.

Wheee! :-)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flags and Funerals

Before all my Uniting Church clergy readers break out in a cold sweat: don't worry, it's not what you think.

I learned something new yesterday. Myrtleford is a smallish country town, and in the middle of town we have a flag pole which flies the Australian flag.

It is the custom in this town, that whenever there is a funeral in town, regardless of where it is, the flag is lowered to half-mast as a sign of respect and community mourning.

Yesterday, when enjoying a late lunch in a local cafe, I was approached by a woman (who I do know) who happily informed me that her husband is now "the flag man". I must have looked at her blankly, as she then went on to explain that he is the one who is in charge of lowering the flag to half-mast whenever there's a funeral. I must have still looked blankly at her, as she then went on to explain the tradition, and that apparently Myrtleford is the only town in the state that still keeps this tradition, and that the reason she was telling me all this was because in order to lower the flag, her husband needs to know when a funeral is to be held, and the funeral directors she contacted told her to talk to the ministers in the town, rather than them, about passing on this information.

So, after just over a year, and about a dozen funerals under my belt (although not all of these in Myrtleford), I now know about this tradition, and have filed away in my brain (a scary place sometimes) the information that next time I have to conduct a funeral in Myrtleford, I should contact this fellow so he can lower the flag.

So, it seems, you learn something new every day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

An interesting week

I know I haven't blogged for AGES, mea culpa and all that... but life has been a tad busy.

In the midst of all this busyness, I needed to make a quick observation: this week has been amazing.

Holy Week, traditionally the busiest week of the year in the church, lived up to its traditional reputation, with 5 services (all different, so I couldn't cheat and repeat any) across the weekend from Thurs night to Sun morning. I certainly felt like a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down afterwards (but opted instead for two whole days off! Well I figured if most people got to take a 4-day weekend over Easter, the least I could do was to take a 2-day weekend- being Monday and Tuesday- for a change :-)

Following that, I managed to double-book myself for a funeral on Friday morning, when I already had a hospital service (but for some reason it wasn't in my diary), so survived this by getting a parishioner to take the hospital service- I have always said that my idea of ministry is to encourage people to discover, develop and use their gifts for the Kingdom, so this was a great opportunity to put that into practice.

So having averted a possible disaster from the double-booking, the funeral on Friday went very well, with many many people present to farewell a lady who was a bit of a local legend in the town- well known and much loved. I had the privilege of visiting her in hospital before she died, and her profound faith, and desire to go and be with Jesus was a great inspiration.

Amid all this, though, also came the very sad and shocking news that a lay preacher who had conducted many services for the congregations of Myrtleford, Beechworth and Yackandandah, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack on Wednesday, only days after leading Easter worship in Beechworth and Yack. I think we're all still pretty stunned. His funeral is on Monday, and I expect it will be a huge and very emotional event.

And now, I am putting the final touches on tomorrow morning's worship for Beechworth and Yack- we are having a special ceremony to welcome some newish people in Beechworth who have decided that they want our congregation to be their spiritual home, so mixed in with the joy of the Easter season and the celebration of the welcoming ceremony, there will be a sombre note as we lament the loss of our friend Norm, who left us so suddenly during the week.

Life in ministry certainly is a mixed bag, but I wouldn't have it any other way.