This year it is 25 years since I was ordained priest and I have been in active ministry ever since. I held a little gathering recently and reflected on what I have learnt in 25 years. It largely isn’t great.
I have learned that I have not got any better at what I do but I have learned to cope with my failings, perhaps a little better.
I have learned that however often I tidy my office at home it will always get messy again.
I have learned that even if I write reminders in my diary I always prepare at the very last minute
I have learned that I forget a lot of things and my memory is not getting any better. I meet people in Sainsbury’s and know I know them but can’t remember their name. Often I remember just after they’ve gone.
I sometimes forget to turn up to meetings but not very often.
I have learned that our buildings are a blessing and a curse – I love showing people round, I love the “wow”, I love being able to go on the roof at St Phil’s… I don’t love the constant feeling that I need to work on a funding bid and having to unblock the toilets and put the chairs away and I know it shouldn’t always rely on me but when I’m the one who is here and the toilet is blocked right now, I unblock the toilet!
I count it a privilege to be with people at profound moments in their life. To be with people as they die and to visit a new baby.
I still sometimes cry after a funeral and occasionally during it. I still love doing weddings and am immensely grateful for my own marriage. I love doing baptisms in all the crazy ways they come to us, the gorgeous little babies, the screaming babies, the toddlers who don’t co-operate, the youngsters who ask big questions, the adults who really commit and the adults who aren’t sure but want to be baptized.
I have learned that it is usually good to say yes and usually bad to say no but sometimes I should really have said no. Perhaps it is okay to say no to doing a wedding on Christmas day! But I hope that I always remember the primacy of Love. I believe in a God of love who is at the heart of everything and calls us to love. I have grown to love the community I find myself in and its people. Yes I sometimes get annoyed but I try to remember to love people and usually the more you get to know them the more you love them.
So thank you for putting up with me. I am constantly in need of your forgiveness and the forgiveness of God but despite my own failings I have loved doing what I do. I pray that sometimes God has been at work in me and that somehow together we make the love of God a little more real.