Sunday 12 September 2021

Buckling down?

September 2021 feels like the first normal month in two years, and it may reveal whether I have the emotional or physical stamina for the ones to follow. The base is low, and the expectations high, which is a daunting combination. But nevertheless steps are being taken (and half a dozen people who we'd not otherwise have seen in church were among a newly launched Family Service congregation this morning). 

Things felt as though they were taking off just a bit in September 2019. I’d begun a third year in post, a newly ordained Curate was just settling in, the different parishes finally consented to convene a shared meeting which sketched out priorities and next achievable steps they’d be happy to take, and some of the relationships built seemed to be producing, for example, at least some younger people in church . 

But Deborah’s initially puzzling symptoms were already showing up and, when we returned from our annual holiday in October, the nature of the tests being ordered quickly alerted us to the nature of the diagnosis which we’d receive after Christmas, from which rapid consultations and a fresh treatment regime were to follow in January. 

And within weeks the whole country was locked down anyway, and nothing was normal through pandemic, her final illness and the first six months of my bereavement – and the national restrictions were almost my friend as none of our plans could be followed through and my work pattern could accommodate my not working full tilt as we followed her final journey. 

Now things are starting up again – and, while we remain people ‘not without hope’, our now reopened congregations seem to have settled down at about two thirds of the size they were two years ago, with the deaths and movings away having taken several key people. 

Last week brought six different e-mails, perhaps each treating the beginning of the academic year as a natural new beginning. 

The diocesan Bishop (as encouraging and reflective as ever). 

The Diocesan Secretary (a helpful summary - from links to a ‘virtual library’ of material for the whole Living in Love and Faith process in which we are invited to engage, to a reminder about the Generosity Week beginning late this month which they’d like us to keep ). 

The Church Growth teams’ newsletter (multiple copies – it is entirely my fault for not alerting them to how many of their lists I now appear upon). 

The Safeguarding team’s newsletter (where vigilance is crucial - the process of my completing the latest update training has not been finally signed off by them before this news comes of newly created training I must now undertake; it suggests a Safeguarding Sunday the week after Generosity Week). 

The Environmental team’s newsletter (with the existential issue we can’t ignore – a reminder of the Creation Season we could be observing now, until it overlaps with Generosity Week). 

The area Bishop (very welcome on his return from sabbatical leave – including the first explicit observation that ‘share contribution across the Diocese is worryingly low’). 

Meanwhile, however poor the photo, I do like the latticework of these flowers, brought a few days ago by the neighbour who had spotted it would have been Deborah’s birthday.