At your ordination you don’t really know what you’re getting into. It’s quite similar to marriage, I think. In both you have what you think are good and realistic ideas about how you got to the altar and what will happen afterwards – but years later you realise how naïve you were. That’s not a bad thing! Idealism has its place and nobody wants dull cynical realism. An ignorance about the future is part of living. (I haven’t ever been this old before!)
I felt less ignorance as I sat at the Reader’s Desk in Christ Church at the Closing Service of Synod. I did wonder, ‘How did I get here?’. Yes, there was a momentary flight of fantasy – what would they do, if I just bolted out of the building? But I sat there – a little nervous and with garnish of trepidation – and while you can take the boy away from the theatre, you can’t take the theatre out of the boy and my ‘stage management eyes’ surveyed the script, the performance space, the audience, and what had been rehearsed. What had been rehearsed were my ‘lines’ – the promises, I’d make. I had read the questions many times and the wording in reply. Would they be my wording? I’d like to think I’m a “let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’” person if I’m asked something or to make a promise but the liturgy had many more words than that. And so I read and thought and prayed. It was interesting at the first question, my voice was a lot softer than I’d intended. (That’s something I’m not known for – a soft voice!) So I upped the volume – people needed to hear (me) I thought. I could be in the moment in front of the pastors and I could see the whole scene in my imagination ‘from the wings of the stage’ watching the installation (I did lose sight of me when the pastors gathered around for the installing and blessing) but the promises were there – about the Bible, Confessions, ELCE, lifestyle – and with a very big ‘God, help me!’ which was said not because I didn’t believe or want to make the promises but because I am me – frail, fallible, fearful, a struggling sinner who knows himself to be a baptised child of God and needs God every day. I have heard of ‘imposter syndrome’ – and I did feel it somewhat at Synod – not in relation to who am I before God (he knows me and is gracious to me) but in relation to how will I behave now that I am in another relationship with those around me?
Relationships govern behaviour. I’ve said that often. And the relationship that is most important to us all is that of Jesus who comes among us as one who serves (Luke 22:27c) and I keep hoping not to get in the way! If ministry is anything – if discipleship has any ‘street cred’ – then it is about mediating Jesus so that we and those around us can encounter the One who is bread and light and life and joy and mercy and blessing – the One who gives us life to the full. And I hope that still happens among the admin of the ELCE. GS