In two weeks I get ordained. Two weeks. That’s fourteen days. Three hundred and thirty-six hours. Just a few more turns of the earth on its axis and I’ll be walking around with a dog collar on.
I first came to the conclusion I was called to be ordained six years ago. Since then I’ve had to have numerous meetings with a vocational adviser, followed by many meetings with the ‘assistant Diocean Director of Ordinands’, undergo a Diocean Panel, have more meetings with the Diocean Director of Ordinands, go to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel and have three years at theological college. Now I’ve brought my clergy clothes, met my new parishioners and moved into my church owned property. So why, oh why, is it that I’m absolutely terrified?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited too. Eager. A huge part of me can’t wait to get on with the job. But another half of me just wants to run and hide. Part of me expects the bishop to turn up at the door and simply say, ‘I don’t think so! We both know you’re not up to this’. And you know what, I think I’d just drop my head and slowly nod agreement. I’m not up to this, I’m just not.
Just on a practical level, I’m not sure I’m up to it. Keeping organised, writing sermons that are actually worth listening to, offering any kind of help to those who lose love ones. The list could go on and on. I’m simply not up to it.
But I’m even more sure I’m not up to the projection of a vicar that people have in their heads. I get impatient. I get cross. I lust and swear when I hurt myself. I find certain people irritating. I struggle with small talk. I hate pomp and ceremony, organs and mindlessly reading out words. Some of the thoughts in my head are, well, how shall we put it … not ‘vicar-like’! A song I love says “Who I am is full of contradiction. Faithfulness and friction the companions of my heart.”. That’s me and more than I can explain, that’s why I’m terrified. I’m just not pure enough, not strong enough.
All I can hold on to is the apostle Paul’s statements about his own weaknesses:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:9-10
So if you’re one of my future parishioners, please be patient with me. I’m not really vicar material, I just slipped through. But be that as it may, in two weeks, when I stand at the front of Blackburn Cathedral and promise to give my life to serve God and his church, I promise I’ll mean it and, while no doubt I’ll mess up, I will truly try my best.
God help me! (and I mean that quite literally).