Three years ago I was released from theological college into an unsuspecting world. The bishop placed his hands upon me in the cathedral and my life changed forever.I’d like to tell you that I was instantly transformed into a confident and competent minister at that very moment. The truth of the matter is that I was a very daunted and bewildered young man wondering what the future may hold. What was God thinking sending someone like me? What if I made a complete mess of things? What if I wasn’t on the same page as everyone else?
One of the first things I did in my mew role as a minister was attend a day long meeting in which we were invited to discuss one of the key roles of the church. During that meeting I spoke at some length with an older cleric who listened patiently to my thoughts, views and beliefs about the issues of the day.
Those of you who know me will know that I can be quite animated in my dialogue. It is something that causes me constant internal struggle. It certainly isn’t what the wider world expect of the clergy in The Church of England ™. I recall putting forth my opinions about what I believed to be “the heart of the gospel”. The older cleric said some words that I in my insecurity took to heart;
It is heartwarming to hear you say this. don’t ever lose the passion that you have for the gospel. As the church faces the future we need more people speaking out about where the heart of our faith lies.
I thought no more about it but those words have stuck with me. They offered reassurance as I came to terms with the plastic collar I now found myself wearing. They have enabled me to develop a sense of authenticity about who I am as a person and the priest that I am called to be.
Forgive me for skipping forward three years. This morning I was asked to look something up on the internet. As google pulled up the results I found myself staring into that familiar face of three years ago. The cleric who spoke words of reassurance at the point where I needed to hear them was staring back out of the monitor at me. There was of course a notable difference in the image I was looking at. This cleric was wearing a purple shirt and a pectoral cross, the marks of the office of Bishop.
Be careful when entertaining strangers as you may be entertaining angels unawares.
– Hebrews 13:2