Funny how the strange days always seem the most expressive of priesthood.
It began simply enough — phone calls, emails, a bit of desk clearing, a bit of feline distraction. Then off to a number of visits. Intended conversations: ‘how are you, then?’, general encouragement, group dynamics, graves and funeral hymns. Actual conversations: ‘how are you then?’, patterns of ministry, teams and trials, complexities of relationships, theologies of priesthood, and the incomprehensibility of manuals for electronic wheelchairs.
Yes, that’s right. I spent the whole afternoon fighting with a control panel and a most inaptly named ‘joy stick’. Never were the words ‘pride comes before a fall’ more ominous — since I knew the pride had been mine and the fall would be someone else’s if I got it wrong.
How hard could it be? Surely with manual in hand, I could help this dear woman change the angle of her chair slightly. It was designed to recline, raise, lower, tip, go horizontal, go into standing position all at the touch of the button.
But just as I could never quite get the seats on my father’s Volvo positioned so that I could simultaneously see the speedometer, reach the pedals, and merge without being blinded by the central pillar between the doors, neither could I manage to get this chair-back to tilt forward without changing height, threatening to do back flips, and getting itself in ‘danger, seat unlocked, do not move forward’ mode.
Two hours, following the instructions word for word. Two hours of cyclical failure: thinking we’d got it sorted, then going one millimetre too far and setting the warning light off again. We called the manufacturer in the end. He was lovely. He got us into a position that was safe. But we still can’t change the angle of the back.
Deed badly done, there was just time for a cup of tea before evening Eucharist, where I preached off the cuff on Bishop Charles Gore. It felt a bit risky. I hadn’t noticed it was his feast day, and would not have planned to celebrate it if I had, but it was a good excuse to talk about Anglo-Catholicism, incarnational theology, and religious communities.
But all the while I preached, I felt Susan Howatch characters trying to get a look in. Home I went, determined to remember which book it was in, which character spoke of him or was based on him. Only to find that I couldn’t. Gore seems oddly absent from the books. But I was sure he was there. Sure, in fact, that that’s where I’d first heard of him. Howatch had given me a dubious but tantalizing introduction to the church.
And now I’m left with a dilemma. Will I be sensible, and forget all about Gore, Darrow, Aysgarth, Jardine, and all the others conjured by today’s feast? Will I finish a bit of work then continue to read We Need to Talk about Kevin, which Woman’s Hour and I have been reading this week? Or will I reach for my old friends once again: Glittering Images, Scandolous Risks, Mystical Paths… So simultaneously spot-on and a million miles away from priesthood in Dunoon.
Looks to be a good night for Molly, either way.