Even though I’ve been in ordained ministry for 25 years there are still new experiences – and for some reason this weekend has seen four days of them in a row! On Friday I visited the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire for the first time in my life – a really pretty place it is too – and the new experience there was to meet a designer to commission new vestments – the special items worn by priests when presiding at the Eucharist.
On Saturday, the church marriage preparation team I’m part of led a one-day marriage preparation course for 5 couples having church weddings in Wokingham later this year. Although we’ve been doing marriage preparation courses for 10 years we’ve always done them in three parts of about 90 minutes each on weekday evenings – this was the first time we did the course within a single day on a Saturday. The event seemed to go very well and evaluation sheets completed by the couples were all positive and helpful.
On Sunday I led the invocation prayer at a graduation ceremony – or commencement I think the Americans call it – at Newbold College in Binfield, Bracknell. Although I’ve been to a number of graduation ceremonies, apart from my own, at English universities, such as when I was a university chaplain, I’d never before been to a graduation ceremony at a Seventh Day Adventist College, let alone been asked to offer the opening prayer. The ceremony shared many of the style characteristics of American college events so I intuited what would be needed from my knowledge of stuff I’d seen in American movies and transcripts on the internet; and it seemed to go well. Nonetheless I brought a distinctively Anglican style to the prayer – I was invited to be there because I represented a different Christian tradition.
And today – for the first time – I assist children of our local church school as they lead a memorial service for a much-loved learning support assistant, Wendy Flint, who died suddenly over a weekend earlier this term. For me and many of the staff of the school it is the first experience of the sudden death of a member of staff who was in the classroom on a Friday and gone by Monday;and it is my first experience of a memorial service for a staff member in a primary school with the children.
Even after twenty-five years as a priest there are still new experiences in ministry – though four such events in four days has to be rather unusual!