Monday, 17 October 2011

And trembling, to its source return

Well, I said the words and the bishop did the bishop-y stuff and I've been confirmed in the Church of England. I'm a really real Anglican now; you other Anglicans are stuck with me for the foreseeable future.

I felt a great peace, which is still with me, and erupts into joy. Some of you might call that the Holy Spirit. I am not certain, but prefer to say this is what I felt, what I feel.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Still here

Boring Health Crap:
1) the Mystery Illness seems to be abating, on its own. I'd still rather know what it was, but at least I'm getting better.
2) I hurt my back a couple of weeks ago. I'll be fine, but it's painful and affecting mobility and my ability to work.
3) My Gee Pee wants me to see the Trick Cyclist about medication I've been on for years (and which is working just fine for me, thank you very much). This worries me. The tablets help, you see, to the point that I feel uncomfortable when faced with the fact that medical professionals who have no idea what it is like to be inside my head might take them away. But last time I had to do this (two years ago) the Trick Cyclist in question was very sensible and so there is probably nothing to worry about. So I keep telling myself.

However, this stuff takes a back seat to something else:

I'm being confirmed on Sunday.

Assuming I don't get cold feet between now and then, that is.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Boring Health Crap continues

The doctor on Monday was pretty useless. My bloodwork is all normal, so of course there couldn't possibly be anything wrong, right?

On the plus side, I'm not about to keel over from any of the things they could test for, things that show up in blood tests. But given that I have a few chronic conditions already, none of which were diagnosable from initial blood tests, I don't feel happy about this.

I'll be back in a month for my regular meds; if I'm still having symptoms (which at the moment have me spending half a day in bed about once a week, which says a bit as I don't retreat easily, but don't seem to be getting any worse) I will see if I can get things taken seriously. The problem is, of course, I'm not a doctor -- I don't know what should be investigated next. If the doctor doesn't take me seriously the only thing I can do is see a different one.

I'm quite tired of things going "wrong" with this body of mine. I can understand the appeal of a sort of dualism, of thinking well, my body isn't really "me", my soul or personhood will somehow be released from this at some stage, the material doesn't matter, matter doesn't matter. But this is the stuff I am made of, and it is at once broken and perfect, like the rest of the world.

I live in the hope that love can transform matter.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Living Well

Whilst on holiday I read Living Well by Alan Hargrave. It is a fairly practical book looking at various aspects of finding a Rule (or habit or discipline?) of Life, with questions at the end of each section. It is not excessively long and it is personally, even affably, written, but painfully honest at times. There are challenges there for me, especially in terms of how I relate to those closest to me.

I think I'm going to end up working with some of the questions more, with pencil and paper rather than just reading straight through.

But I'm also aware that on some level, I have a tendency to want this to be a sort of magical fix. If I can just get this right, I think to myself, I won't feel so overwhelmed or inadequate, and I can be more effective at fixing the world. Ho ho, not so fast! Not by my own strength am I saved, not by my own bow. There is no perfect strategy, no perfect routine, which will mean I never feel bewildered, never feel insignificant, never feel lost.

I won't always understand everything. I am confused. I won't always be able to change things. I am weak, and I am only me. I won't always know what is what or what I should do; I will feel disoriented and lost.

And that's good.

Because God is more complex than anything I can understand, and it is right to feel bewildered. Be-wilder-ed. Made wild? Lost in wildness? Whatever it is, my bewilderment is not wrong. (Higher are my ways than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts. Oh yes.)

And God is powerful, more than I can ever imagine, and it is not inaccurate to feel insignificant. What can I do that isn't with God's help? What do I have to offer that isn't first given to me by God? (Lord, treasure up my mite...)

And God's love is huge, huger than huge, enormous beyond all reckoning. It cannot be measured or counted. Of course that's disorienting. Of course I will feel lost. What a wonderful place to be lost! (Lost in wonder, love and praise.)

None of that means I don't need a Rule, of course. An appropriate Rule, like good liturgy, gives me the tools to bring my bewilderment, my weakness and my lostness to God, to recognise God at work in the world and in my life, and to join in with that work -- especially in those challenging relationships, those where I wish I could fix the systemic problems. But it is just a Rule, just a habit, and it is just as well not to get too hung up about it.

Boring Health Crap

I have been having some weird health stuff for the last two months, which doesn't fit the pattern of any of my existing diagnoses. Blood tests a few weeks ago; I haven't heard back, which might mean they are normal, or might mean that nobody has bothered to ring me.

I have an appointment with my GP on Monday. I am hoping to be taken seriously, and that the good doctor might have some idea what is going on.

Prayers appreciated.

Monday, 8 August 2011

For you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety

I'm on holiday. Distressed by events in London but things seem safe where I am. Further comment later, just wanted to let people know I am safe.

Kyrie eleison.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


"The Latin credo means literally "I give my heart." The word believe is a problematic one today, in part because it has gradually changed its meaning from being the language of certainty so deep that I could give my heart to it, to the language of uncertainty so shallow that only the "credulous" would rely on it. not about propositions, but about commitment. It does not mean that I intellectually subscribe to the following list of statements, but that I give my heart to this reality. Believe, indeed, comes to usfrom the Old English belove, making clear that this too is meant to be heart language. To say, "I believe in Jesus Christ" is not to subscribe to an uncertain proposition. It is a confession of commitment, of love."
-- Diana Eck, Encountering God, quoted in another book I'm reading.

This seems at first a comforting sort of quote. I don't have to defend the cold hard historical facts, I don't have to say "This definitely happened." Belief is about love, about commitment, not about what can be proven to be objective reality.

But commitment is exactly what makes this sort of belief difficult. Commitment requires action. Every Sunday I go to church and I say the Nicene Creed along with the rest of the congregation, and I'm not so sure of the cold hard historical facts, honestly, but I say it because I have given my heart to this concept, to the concept of God-with-us, of God loving us more than any of us can ever imagine, of love triumphing even over death. And that's all well and good. Then at the end of the service the Reader says "Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord" -- with all that entails in terms of serving others, loving others, even when it is not easy -- and I know I will fail before I've even walked out the door of the building that houses one part of the community I now call home.

But I keep trying.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
--Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

How can I not keep trying?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Meandering update

The old demons I was fighting last week are... well, not conquered, but I've done all I can for now, and my brain seems to be letting me have a rest from that until I find out what the next step is.

Meanwhile everything else is still shifting, and I wait.

I went to Evensong at a church in the next deanery, and was asked if I'd read. I did. Afterward the organist mentioned, after we'd chatted about other things, that during the reading he'd thought I "really should be ordained".

This keeps happening. It's disconcerting that others see this so clearly in me. It's disconcerting that so much of it depends on others, on circumstances, is beyond what I can even try to control.

I mentioned a new spiritual director, a while back. She is excellent; slightly daunting, perhaps, but in a good way. And very near by, which is such a relief when so much of my life involves commuting in one form or another.

The radishes have bolted in the garden. The flowers are so pretty I haven't quite had the heart to pull them up, even though I know the sweetcorn needs the light.

I've been writing more music recently, not a great deal more but some. It feels important, and I've had some encouragement from unexpected directions.

I am terrified by the politics in this country at the moment.

I'm not sure yet what I'm using this blog for now, or where it is going. When I started it I needed a place to try out ideas, a way of interacting with a community I couldn't easily reach in person and didn't know I needed to seek, a space to reflect. I've made some wonderful friends as a result. But the real heart-on-sleeve stuff feels too precious now to put online, even somewhat anonymously. Other spaces to reflect have become more comfortable through being less guarded. I have got "stuck in" to various church communities locally, to the point that I think it is the non-church communities that I need to make an effort to engage with. I no longer have a daily commute which lends itself to reading blogs.

But I still have a feeling I don't want to leave this abandoned, I don't want to break contact. So I post a sort of "still alive" thing every once in a while.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

I am having a bit of a hard time at the moment, confronting past demons and making sure they can't hurt anyone else. I don't want to talk about it at length here, it's too public even if I am somewhat anonymous.

I am deeply blessed by the support, kindness and prayers of people who know some or all of is going on.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

I am tired. I always seem to be tired when I get around to posting here.

Things that are going on at the moment:

Confirmation preparation: This is fairly gentle, though not without some challenges. I read a book, go back and talk to the lovely grandfatherly priest who is helping me prepare. The service will be mid-October, sooner than I thought. I think we've talked about ordination as much as confirmation, now. It's wonderful to have the time and space to talk about some of this stuff.

Work balance, now: No, not work/life balance, though that could do with some thought as well. This is more to do with the balance of work that I do. As a freelance musician and teacher I need to make sure I keep on doing the long-term stuff, the practising and composing, as well as the various bits of more immediate, paid work. This hasn't been working so well recently and so I'm trying to do some practising that isn't linked to one of my "jobs" and some composing, each day. I find this harder if I don't have a routine, and at this point it's so long since I had one that setting one up is causing some difficulty. But I persist.

Work balance, later: I am a musician. Recent events suggest that I also have some sort of vocation to ordained ministry (oh, how many times on this blog or in comments elsewhere have I said "I don't think I have a vocation to ordained ministry"?)... but I'm pretty sure this is not instead of being a musician. And so I am going to have to figure out how to fit in music and ministry, practising and priesthood, composition and Communion. There are lots of part-time or house-for-duty posts kicking around the C of E these days and I think that is only going to increase. Where it might be more difficult to find a balance is during curacy; the training models all seem to assume NSM or full-time, neither of which are quite right for me. So I feel like some of the work balance stuff I'm trying to implement now is going to be important later, both in terms of having the habits of keeping the music up, and in terms of having something to show for being a musician, being able to legitimately say "Look, this isn't a hobby." Of course in all of this I am getting ahead of myself by many many years. Maybe I seem cynical, but observation of the Church Bureaucratic leads me to believe that it is worth at least thinking about these things.

My mother came to visit: we had a good week together. She started out, as always, saying she was mostly happy at home and not bothered by my stepdad any more. After a few days, as always, came the tears, the lamenting, the needing to be handled with kid gloves (he is unkind to her and she needs me to compensate by being extra nice), the dithering over whether she really should stay or go, the justifications of why she has stayed so far, the daydreaming about what would happen if he were not around any more. I've had twenty five years of this. It is tiring. This time, some of it put a few of my own experiences with my stepdad into a different perspective, which was unpleasant. Please pray, if you do, for my mother, and for my stepdad. I have particular difficulty praying for my stepdad.

I recently had an awkward Facebook request: it is from an uncle who I think molested me when I was a child and he was a teenager. There's a huge amount I don't remember. I feel sick when I try. But he has kids now, and I've realised I need to at least decide properly whether this is something to tell others in my family about, rather than just trying to file it away as no longer relevant. The knowledge of that has shredded my concentration and so since the request I've been getting very little done besides going to actual appointments. Sweetie is supportive but seemed a bit distressed even by the detail-free version I gave him, and I don't want to distress him further if it can be avoided. So I've arranged to talk to a trusted, much-loved friend about it on Monday. That will either make things clearer, or stir things up very badly indeed. There is nobody else in the whole world that I would rather talk to about this stuff, nobody I would feel safer with. I am dreading it.

My physical health: is middling. My joints aren't really appreciably worse, I can still do the things I need to do, but I've been needing more painkillers than I really like to take. In the last few weeks I've been getting bouts of physical fatigue, increased pain, and sometimes nausea, accompanied by swollen glands as if I'm fighting off a cold or 'flu, but I don't seem to get the cold or 'flu afterward. I guess I am fighting it off effectively. I can't tell how much of the nausea is thinking about things in the previous paragraphs.

On the whole it's all going well. I'd like to be physically in better shape, but all the other stuff -- it might feel unpleasant but it's growth, of a sort.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Tentative rejoicing

New spiritual director seems very good; she offered a balance of affirmation and gentle challenge that I think is what I need at the moment, and seemed to look at my life in a much more connected way than many people have.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Hey ho

Off to see new spiritual director this morning.

I hope this works out well.

...that's all, really.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Feeling vulnerable

I've been feeling tired, but also forlorn, petulant. Various things have been a bit different, the last few weeks. A dear friend has had no internet access and our usual frequent e-mails have been replaced by intermittent text messages. Teaching has been a bit fraught, with some worry over students doing exams, though I'm less concerned now. I went to mainland Europe for a wedding, and the travel was tiring. I'm behind, as always, on various bits of admin and paperwork, and feeling a little overwhelmed with it all. None of these things are major but they are all rather wearing, and the what-ifs have been creeping in.

A bit of time with pen and paper and I can see that large parts of my anxiety are linked to a sort of feeling of impending loneliness, of not wanting to be overlooked, left behind, brushed aside, abandoned. I'd like to be adored, special, cherished... and I harbour unrealistic hopes for what that means in terms of how others interact with me. I should have recognised this sooner; it turns up in a wistful feeling of "please don't go" at the end of every conversation. Stay with me, don't leave me alone, I think as loudly as I can while saying polite goodbyes. In short, I feel unreasonably clingy.

I am blessed with many people who care for me, love me, and show it. The reality is that with the best will in the world, these people don't have as much time for me as I might like, or as they might like.

Even while I understand that this isn't something to take personally, it still makes me feel uncertain, threatened, vulnerable.

How much of this is just egotism? Does it really matter whether I feel safe, if I'm doing what I am made for and helping others do what they are made for? Isn't some sort of risk always going to be there, whether I feel it or not? Isn't living life to the full, serving God in theist terms, worth any amount of risk, anyway?

But then, how much of this is that my hope of being loved, of being safe in God's love, has been something I have primarily experienced through the love of human beings? How much is a selfish demand for impossible security and how much is a yearning for that light of Christ which I do see in others (yes, even some of the atheists)?

I don't really know how to respond to this loneliness, clinginess, yearning. I can be honest, say "I'm feeling lonely and vulnerable and I don't really know why, please comfort me" and people will probably try. Of course they will! But it seems self-indulgent, somehow, to ask for that, even from Sweetie.

I can try to ignore these feelings but they'll surface some other way. The most damaging way leads to me trying to be someone I am not in order to please people. That kind of emotionally manipulative achievement is very seductive, but I know it doesn't really work. Is being aware of that dynamic enough to stop it happening? One reason I was so hesitant for so long about the vocation stuff is because I thought maybe this was me trying on some subconscious level to please or perhaps imitate some people I love and admire (which is absurd when you think about the rather long process of discernment in the C of E, but there you go).

This isn't constant or miserable enough to be a medical issue, I don't think. I've lived with mental illness before. I don't think this is it. I think this is well within the "normal" range of healthy human experience, whatever that is.

So what to do? Turn to God with it, spend more time in prayer, wait for things to change, hope something feels better soon? But prayer isn't something I do in order that I might feel better, even though it often does have that effect. What is the point of my petty nagging?

Even posting about this seems a bit over the top. It's late, too late for me really, and I'm tired. I'll say Compline, go to bed, have six or seven hours of sleep, get up in the morning and busy myself with the day. Life goes on. Fear is part of life, and I will be frightened and vulnerable and lonely at times but I will also rejoice in the smell of the rain, the sound of a 4-3 suspension, the words of a prayer. This yearning isn't some unending misery, it's just part of being alive. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.

But I would still like to be less afraid, Lord. Sorry about the nagging, it's just where I am tonight I guess. If vulnerability is part of being alive, please give me the courage to live anyway. If my heart is going to be split open for fear of abandonment every time I admire someone, please make it large enough that I act out of love rather than for the avoidance of pain. If I must be hurt by people's imperfection or just by them having their own lives to lead, help me to see them for who they are (your beloved children, every last one) rather than for how they might hurt me. If I am to be someone who sees the provisional nature of all existence, the possibility of danger at every turn, make me someone who can see all of it as a loving gift. Put my worries and anxieties in perspective. Let my desire to act in love overcome my insecurity. There isn't really anyone else I can cling to.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

meandering update

Confirmation preparation is going well. A lovely grandfatherly priest in a neighbouring parish is helping me, since finding a suitable confirmation class turned out to be something of a non-starter. I have mixed feelings about that, as I think it would do me good to work with a small group rather than individually, but I'm not unhappy.

I was to read a book, a rather dry book I must say, with various World Council of Churches statements from just after it was formed throughout the remainder of the last century, on a certain topic. I read it, and thought about it, and on Thursday I met Grandfatherly Priest for a chat. He liked my approach to the subject (which is a specialty of his). I told him about the vocation stuff (see, I don't think that would have been possible in most classes) and that was an incredibly useful conversation, too, affirming while recognising the difficulty of my position. I'm still trying to figure out how musicianship fits into this; I can't not be a musician any more than I can stop breathing, you see, and most clergy I know have precious little time for anything other than their parish work. He was keen to stress that ordination doesn't mean being a vicar, that being called to preside is not the same as being called to serve a parish. But he also told me it was Good News. I swear I could hear the capital letters. What can I say? I hope to bring good news, Good News, Gospel, regardless of my official ecclesial status. If that means being the Good News I will try, though I know my own efforts will be imperfect. I think all Christians are called to that.

We had rain today. Not enough, I don' t think, but we've been a month without which is very strange for London in April. The vegetable garden will be glad of a proper drink rather than me hobbling around with a watering can. You make the rain fall and the wind blow.

I've been feeling really tired again. Politics are depressing me. Yesterday I cooked an elaborate household meal, which went very well. Today I was terribly short with Sweetie; the old habit of pushing at the boundaries because I'm afraid of being abandoned still crops up, when I'm tired enough. I wish I were a gentler person, less inclined to be critical, less inclined to remind people of their mistakes when I'm feeling vulnerable. He is more patient, more forgiving, and has been lovely to me all day, even when I was upset.

We are away for a few days next week which I think will help.

Friday, 22 April 2011

And yet...

I had a very mixed day today.

I felt twitchy and scattered and all the things that keep me grounded, keep me connected to some sense of God in the world, seemed like things that aren't very Good Friday-ish. After all, we mustn't rush to Sunday.

I question the puritanism, the masochism, of spending Good Friday wallowing in our misery -- and especially of implying that those who take a gentler route are not taking things seriously enough.

Yes, mourning is important. Yes, remembering where we have been is important. Yes, knowledge of our own sinfulness, our own utter dependence on God, is important. We have a liturgical calendar for a reason and there is value in dark times, quiet times, solemn times, in confronting the hard truths of our lives. I don't deny that this time is harrowing for some, and that is right and of God. I don't deny that there are people who would rather take shortcuts, would rather skip the hard bits, and that we all need to be aware of a tendency to minimise, in our own minds, the suffering of Christ on the Cross.

But I spent years feeling bereft and bewildered and I am not ready to let go of resurrection hope just because the church's calendar says this is a time of remembering bereft bewilderment. I'm not clinging to hope because I want to skip the hard bits. I'm clinging to hope because if I cling to anything else I deny God in favour of my own pride. I keep reminding myself of the light not because I don't recognise the power of darkness, but because it is the only way for me to avoid succumbing to that darkness. That is true on a daily basis in my life -- hope in Christ keeps me turning toward God. Withdraw the hope and I turn away, into myself. If that means my faith is somehow small or weak, lame or shrivelled, well, too bad. It is what it is.

It took most of a day of near-paralysis, not really knowing what to do with myself, to get to the point where I gave up on thinking I "should" or "shouldn't" do things. I stopped fighting myself and went outside and did some gardening. It was that or head back to church, and the garden was closer. There is no unholy ground, only ground we refuse to recognise as holy.

Only after I came inside did I realise that burying seed in the ground is a pretty Good Friday-ish thing to do. I never sow seed and know for sure that it will grow, but the hope is always there.

My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?

When I was in highschool, we studied this poem by James Joyce:

I HEAR an army charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees:
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.

They cry unto the night their battle-name:
I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.

They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore.
My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

I don't really remember what we learned about it, but I know we studied it, and it stuck with me. Years later, when I was caught up in the mire of depression and the turmoil of a failing relationship, it expressed my fear and bewilderment better than anything else.

This week has been kindof all Passions, all week. In addition to the standard Palm Sunday Passion liturgy, there was an afternoon Palm Sunday devotion including the music of Stainer and Maunder. There was the Bach St John Passion on Tuesday night at St Paul's Cathedral. At Nearest Church we had Stations of the Cross on Wednesday, and then today the Passion was read again.

I keep hearing this, in various transliterations:
אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי
(Usually translated as "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")

And in my head, this year, it has been associated with the last line of that poem as much as with Psalm 22. It's odd, the connections a mind will make. I don't know what triggered it. I just know that I imagine Jesus on the Cross, crying out to God, and somehow these are the words:

My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small

I have a bunch of thinking to do, some of which I'll blog. I just didn't settle at the vigil last night; what I really needed was to walk. I'll walk this afternoon, and it won't be the same, because it's a glorious sunny day and despite the sombre tone set by the Good Friday liturgy I will see new life everywhere. I can't help it, going outside in spring. Love doesn't wait until Sunday to overcome Death.

Maybe it's just as well. Maybe it's just as well I go through all of this week with that hope so strongly imprinted on me that I can't quite let it go.

I've been keeping pretty busy. Holy Week is like that.

Keeping clergy especially in my prayers this week.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Eric went home from hospital yesterday. It sounds like he's still pretty uncomfortable, and he will be on medication for a long time, but is stable.

Monday, 11 April 2011


Patience does not come easily to me.

Of course I'll be upset, again and again, when I find out (again and again) that the Church is not perfect. Of course I'll be upset when I cannot protect myself and those I love from the effects of that brokenness. Of course I am broken, too; we are broken, too.

I am not walking away from this broken church, or from searching out God's intentions for me within it. Oh, I cannot fix it, I know that. But the church needs people who know its brokenness, the church needs people who are aware that it is imperfect, the church needs people with some sense of the damage it can do. To leave it to those without such awareness would be to stand by while it becomes more monstrous, more destructive. There is a time and place for prayerful standing by, for watching and waking, but this is not it, for me. There are those who must shake the dust from their feet and move on, but I don't think that is what I am being asked. Likewise, I am not here to weep and wail over the corpse. I am to command the dry bones to dance. I just don't know which ones yet!

I am also not placing conditions on the relationship I have with Sweetie. Oh,neither of us are perfect, either, I know that well enough. But we are not just happier together than apart; this isn't about mutual gratification. I know that I am stronger, kinder, gentler and braver with Sweetie than without him, and I dare to say that he feels the same about me. His beliefs are different than mine, but in being with him I am more like myself, better able to serve God. Of course it follows that the service I am invited (asked? compelled?) to take up will affect our life together, will affect him. We will talk together; I will pray and he will "mull things over"; we will talk some more. I will not coerce him or manipulate him, and any changes will be mutually agreed.

I have no idea how all this will turn out. I have to assume that God has some kind of resolution in mind, but I don't know what it is. I'd like to find out. It may take a very long time.

I guess I'll be learning patience.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Mostly angry

I am mostly angry at the church today.

I am angry on behalf of all the women who were never ordained because it "wasn't time yet" and all those who will not be consecrated bishops. I'm angry on behalf of the lesbian and gay priests in relationships who have been forced to decide between honesty about their relationships or recognition by the church. I'm angry on behalf of those who have chosen celibacy when they might not have done so. I am angry on behalf of those people who have loving, sacramental polyamorous relationships and so are turned away, and on behalf of those who would best express who they are in a polyamorous context but do not because of the church's disapproval. I'm angry on behalf of those who courageously commit themselves to another in every way except legal marriage and are sent the message that this doesn't count, doesn't mean anything. I'm angry on behalf of anyone denied any sacrament because they don't fit into a tickybox, whatever the sacrament and whatever the tickybox.

For Christ did not come to condemn the world.

What are we doing as a church, what are we doing as the Body of Christ, if we condemn those who do not fit our received, preconceived notions of sanctity?
Lord, have mercy.

What are we doing as the Body of Christ when we draw a line in the sand and say that those who stand on one side of it are worthy, and the rest are somehow not in receipt of God's grace?
Christ, have mercy.

What are we doing when we define priesthood in such a way that some who feel called to it are excluded, not by their selfishness but by their integrity, commitment and honesty? What are we doing when we define membership of the church that way, or say that church membership is somehow many-tiered with one standard of goodness for laity (which is just a fancy way of saying "people") and another for clergy?
Lord, have mercy.

What foul deception is this, this idea that we get to decide who God invites to serve in one way or another? Oh, we have to take an active part in the discernment process, certainly. But "I don't understand your choices, so your experience of vocation means nothing" is not discernment; "You don't fit into this tickybox, so you can't possibly be obedient to God's will in your life" is not discernment; it is rejection, condemnation. This rejection, this condemnation holds the entire church ransom to fear, so that those who would ask the questions of discernment (try "What is God doing in this situation? What do this person's experiences, in light of Scripture, tradition and reason, say about God's will for them? How can the church encourage this person to grow to be who they really are, for the greater glory of God?" for starters), those who have open imaginations and loving hearts, can only do what is right by pretending that they don't know, making sure nothing is official. Of course, it isn't those who are fearful of anyone different from them getting authority who are blamed for "putting the church in a difficult position" -- it's those who are trying to make the best of a bad situation, those who have got their toe caught in the door and are trying to pry it open despite the crushing weight of all that fear, those who would rather display mercy than demand sacrifice, those who act with love and welcome in Christ's name despite being told they must condemn and judge, those who hunger and thirst after God despite being told in no uncertain terms to go away until they can behave themselves and conform to the received cultural norms -- those are the people who get accused of putting the church in a difficult position.

Is this, truly, the Kingdom we are invited to help build? I don't think so. It saddens me, sickens me, this scrabbling at boundaries, bickering over control of grace as if there isn't enough to go around. Do we really think the Holy Spirit follows our measly little rules?

And yet... Love is stronger. Love is stronger than fear, love is stronger than death, love is stronger than any of the hogwash the church might throw at anyone.

I just wish I knew what that means about what I should do next.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Don't ask, don't tell in the C of E*

I'm waiting until after confirmation to go anywhere official with the vocation stuff. The bureaucracy will find it easier that way, and in the grand scheme of things a few more months are probably no bad thing. Little steps, lots of reflection and breathing.

It's better, I'm told, not to mention anything objectionable. Those who are liberal won't ask, and then it won't be an issue if they do eventually have to answer to those who would try to exclude on behalf of God. For the record, I'm not talking about not being confirmed yet, here. Let's just say I'm caught between integrity in a relationship, and the conditions the church puts on those it would recognise as clergy. So, of course, I'm way way way ahead of myself. And I'm in no real danger, which is a huge privilege. But I still don't like it. I don't like this idea that I might get away with things if I just keep my head down, keep quiet. I don't like the disconnect between where things should be and where they are. It tastes rotten.

Lord, have mercy.

*or to quote MadPriest, I think it was, "The truth will make you the Dean of St Albans."

Thursday, 7 April 2011

If you pray...

Please keep Eric and all who love him in your prayers. He had to go to A&E last night and will be in hospital for at least a few days.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

liturgy and life

I went to an Area Vocations Day.

It made me more certain that I need to pursue this vocation stuff seriously, and also pretty frustrated at the people who were organising the day. There were too many people, the vocations stuff was combined with "leadership" stuff which was pretty evangelical in its leaning and seemed to be more about equipping people for proselytisation than about a broader definition of leadership, there wasn't enough time to reflect, process, breathe... they tried to have some silence after each speaker but starting late didn't help, and the speaker who I most wanted to hear had to rush her talk rather badly (it was still excellent, and I'm glad I went if only to hear that).

There was worship, but it was almost entirely unfamiliar liturgy -- no benediction or confession or absolution, no doxology, no psalmody (except for about two lines), no sacrament. No Lord's Prayer, even, or if there was I managed to forget (I don't think I would forget). I didn't know either of the songs. There was praise and there was intercession, both in very personal terms... flattery and whining. No depth, no real cohesion.

Thank God -- a church in a neighbouring deanery has a Eucharist early on Saturday evenings for those who struggle to get there on Sunday mornings. I met Sweetie for a bite to eat and then went there, taking refuge, sanctuary. The Lord be with you, said the priest, and I was home again, never mind the unruly children running about the place, the lack of music. At some point I wept, not the anxious and embarrassed tears I'd been holding back earlier in the day, but just out of relief. I felt physically lighter and my mind seemed less dark -- en-lightened.

We talked afterward, the vicar and I, or rather she listened while I talked, scattered and unfocused after the events of the day. I floated home, exhausted, still upset, still uncertain, still frustrated but aware of being loved, connected to and grounded in the love that underpins everything.

How many times, earlier in the day, did I hear people talk about equipping Christians for outreach and mission, equipping people to change the world?

What feeds me, sustains me, equips me to do my work, is prayer and sacrament, mystery and miracle.

Maybe providing more of that would be more useful than having fancy leadership conferences.

Just saying.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Here I am.

Spoke to Sweetie about this vocation stuff, the other day. He is pretty spooked, but it went well. I did promise him I won't ask him to change his beliefs or come to church services, that seemed to reassure him some.

I talked to Gentle Vicar, said I'd been thinking about attending the area Vocations Day. He was completely unsurprised, and said he'd been meaning to ask me when I was going to start looking at vocation more seriously. A clergy friend, someone who has known me longer, who I love dearly and trust implicitly, was similarly unsurprised. She and one or two others have been brilliantly supportive, each in their own way.

I dropped off the application form for the vocations day the other evening.

It's all feeling frightfully real just now.

Meanwhile I'm nearly done the book I was asked to read as part of confirmation preparation. I have a lot of work to do where I am in addition to preparing for whatever comes next. I can't ignore the possibility of vocation to something different any longer, but I can't run away from where I am, either.

I'd better get used to it, I suppose.

Monday, 7 March 2011

More and less

Lent approaches and I've been thinking about giving things up, taking things on.

I don't want to let this just become about self-improvement. That does seem to be the gist of a lot of it for some people, and I'm not sure that's right. When I start to think about dietary changes, I can very quickly end up with a list that would have me eating perfectly, but making so many changes that I wouldn't really be contemplating God at all, because I'd be too busy avoiding fried food/sweets/meat/trans fats/processed food/etc. There's fasting, and there's neurotic behaviour.

I also don't really want to get into competitive self-denial, not even in the guise where I end up competing with others to get the self-denial "just right" rather than taking things to extremes.

I have the same trouble taking on spiritual practices. I go from "might like to try praying differently" to "keeping a Rule most monastics would find a bit on the strict side, while living a fully-engaged secular life" in about two blinks.

So I'm going to give one thing up, and I'm going to take one thing on, and I've given them both a lot of thought, trying to make sure this is about a journey toward God, not about perfectionism. I've only really told one or two people about these things and I'm not telling anyone else what they are. Even making this post is probably too far toward smugness. Enough.

However, I am going to devour me some pancakes tomorrow!

So there.

Then were we like those who dream.

I said I had more to write. I wasn't joking.

I'm someone who likes to figure things out by talking them through, writing them down, thinking about them. Sometimes I don't even really know what I feel about a situation until I've put it into words.

Last Wednesday night/Thursday morning I had a pretty strong dream.

I'm used to weird and crazy dreams of one sort or another. I generally think of them as my brain's maintenance subroutines, and best not interfered with unless they are causing me undue distress. I am hesitant to give them significance. I want to be able to explain things, and dreams are all too often inexplicable.

This dream was different. In this dream, things I've been trying to understand became clear. The answers were there all along. In the dream I was asked to write them down, and I did. I almost never have words in dreams, let alone write them. Words are for the day, the light.

When I woke, I remembered what I'd written. So I wrote it down. It still makes sense.

I was asked to write down what the church is, what I'm supposed to do there. I wrote:

1) Togetherness/unity in Christ.
2) Unconditional service.

For 2) I meant unconditional service of all people, serving God through serving God's children.

For 1) I meant the Eucharist. And it's so obvious -- there is only one bread, I've said that how many times? -- but I think, on the whole, I get so caught up in 2), in service to others and the community, that I tend to push aside 1).

So much else was going on, Thursday and the days surrounding it -- tidying and cleaning in preparation for a house inspection was just one of the things on my plate -- but this, this came along anyway. And I can't ignore it, and I can't ignore little itches, insistent scratching about vocation, priesthood even, any longer. All the same, I felt less stressed about the whole thing than I have in a while. There's plenty of time, you see, and other things this week make it quite clear that the work I'm doing now is just as important, will not be rushed.

The problem with dreams is that if I tell someone "I had a dream about X and now I feel very strongly that I must pursue Y" they will think I have come rather unhinged. I have, of course. But who'd be sane by this world's rules?

That doesn't help in talking to Sweetie, talking to spiritual directors, talking to all the people I'll have to talk to if this leads where I think it will. Explaining myself. I like explanations because I can use them to explain myself to others. If this is what I think, there's going to be a lot of 'splaining to do.

Even typing that, a part of me thinks "If? What do you mean, if? Surely you mean when?", and I stop, and take another breath, and somehow, there are no words.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

More house stuff

We had our house inspection today.

It takes a certain special something to be that rude, that condescending, and that oblivious to having just walked dog poo into the carpets we spent hours cleaning earlier this week.

But we did "pass" the inspection, so we should be left in peace to the quiet enjoyment of the property. As a bonus, the house is looking cleaner than it has in a while and, while I think it was well within what is legally acceptable before, I am happier with it in its current tidier state.

There is so much more that I could write, but I'm tired and I have work in the morning, so I think it's time to head bedward.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Home away from home

Off I went to Leafy Suburb Church for Evensong tonight. As I always am, I was glad I went. Leafy Suburb Church has been special in so many ways.

My first piece of liturgical music was sung there by the choir, in honour of Ambassador for Compassion. The choir let me sing with them, too, and though I'm only there about once a month I feel part of things, part of a sort of community-within-a-community. It's not the belonging, I think, that gets to me. I think it's that I emphatically don't belong and yet am still welcome that's so powerful. I can't come to most of the rehearsals, I don't live anywhere near the parish, I can almost never be there for the main events of that church, and yet what I do have to offer is accepted, openly.

When I first spoke to the vicar about writing a piece of music I was so scared, so scarred by previous experiences. You know, I don't think I'd willingly spoken to a priest for years, never mind initiating contact. The first choir rehearsal I went to, to figure out what the choir might be able to do, I was so nervous, so unsure what to expect. At the first service I went to I was uncertain and uncomfortable, so uncomfortable about participating in a Christian act of worship.

And yet all along the way I have been met with friendliness, acceptance, love. That meeting with the vicar was exactly as informal as I needed it to be; that first choir rehearsal was entirely unremarkable. That first Evensong service was uncomfortable for me but it was somehow okay that I was uncomfortable, and the vicar said "God loves us to bits" in her sermon. The first time I sang in the choir it felt like coming home, and every time I go back I come away feeling a strange lightness. It's always bittersweet, knowing I won't be back for a month or maybe more, but I am always glad I went. And occasionally, I find the same feeling at other places. There were bits of Greenbelt that were like that, and K's vicarage is, and taking Communion for the first time in so many years certainly was, and I went to a midday Eucharist at a city cathedral a few weeks ago where I nearly cried with the sense of welcome I felt. But Leafy Suburb Church was the first and I guess that makes it sort of sticky, so that every time I go back I'm reminded.

I don't think that the issues with the letting agents are going to go away and I will still be mightily pissed off if I end up having to move -- either in the next month or two, or this summer after our contract expires. But I am much-comforted tonight by a small community in an unremarkable leafy suburb which, for me, has been a model of what church can be like, and which reassures me I have another sort of home than the sort over which letting agents and their ilk can have any say or sway.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


We decided, more or less by default, to take a "gently gently" approach with the letting agents. Oh, the Scrabble magnets on the refrigerator say some pretty rude things about them at the moment, but we haven't written any exceedingly polite letters about our right to quiet enjoyment of the property, and we haven't rescheduled or cancelled the second inspection, due this weekend. We're trying to be philosophical about the "opportunity" to give the house a good spring clean. I'm mostly coping, but feeling stressed at times, especially the nights Sweetie isn't home.

Meanwhile, life goes on, Lent approaches fast, I have realised that I am working long enough hours to become inefficient and need to place some sensible boundaries on things. I'm looking for a new spiritual director, having spoken in some depth to people I consider spiritually astute about my experiences; I think I've found some good guidance on this, closer to home than I expected. I also realise I need to return to a regular journal-writing practice; not necessarily the public one of blogging each day, but some sort of time putting my thoughts into words. I've done this on and off for over a decade and I am always happier, healthier and more "productive" (though not always in ways that are immediately apparent) when I do it. Of course, correlation is not causation and it may be that when I am well I return to the journal because I finally have the energy to do so. So this week I've been writing in spare moments, and I think this is good. I will see where it leads.

I'm considering studying theology more formally, by distance learning. There's a course that might be suitable. I can't really justify it yet; my musical career (hah!) needs a lot of attention before I'll be self-sufficient and I can't really afford the money until then, but I'd love to do it.

I want to be planting my garden, it's planting time here, but I have to wait until I know whether we can keep living here. Still, I've done some things in containers. It's something.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

House and home

I dislike renting a house.

I dislike not being able to add solar panels, better insulation, windows that don't leak, floor materials that wear better, adequate kitchen cupboards that have doors that close.

I dislike knowing that if the landlord decides he doesn't want to rent any more, I will have to move.

I dislike inspections every six months in which a letting agent can decide to make my life difficult or easy based on the "condition" of the house. Inspections of any kind make me nervous anyway, due to unpleasant childhood episodes, but house inspections are frightening enough that I've wriggled out of being home for the last two, leaving them to Intrepid Anthropologist.

On Wednesday we had one such inspection. Previous ones had been all right, we aren't perfect housekeepers but the place isn't filthy, but I was still worried. And this man who didn't even give his name came into the house where we live, our home, and declared it unsatisfactory in all sorts of ways. He actually said "I don't know how you can live this way" to my face.

I repeat, we aren't perfect housekeepers -- but the place is by no means filthy, and we certainly aren't causing damage to the fabric of the property.

And so now we've had a nasty letter from the letting agents, saying there will be a re-inspection for which all of us must be present (why?), demanding various bits of the house are "professionally" cleaned (professional cleaners are, as my housemate points out, just people with materials, experience, and not much better career prospects), saying we must put the garden back in its original state (I've put in some raised beds for growing veg -- the plan is to take them with me when we leave -- on previous inspections they haven't been a problem) and so on. The letter is unpleasant in tone and it isn't even grammatically coherent.

I have a sneaking suspicion that what is actually happening is that the landlord wants the house back, he wants it back before the end of our contract, and the letting agents are trying to get us out by 5th April and have us clean the place from top to bottom first so they don't have to.

We do have friends who work in housing law; as I type this, Intrepid Anthropologist is on her way to visit them to discuss what is and is not reasonable and what part of the letting agent's actions constitute interference with our quiet enjoyment of the property.

But even if that goes well, even if we clean the place from top to bottom before the next inspection (5th March, at least we've got a bit of time, though it will interfere hugely with work), it seems likely to me that the letting agent would rather have us gone than keep us -- if we argue we'll be "problematic" tenants -- and we'll end up moving house again by this summer at the latest. And that, in turn, scares me. I cannot tell you how much I loathe moving house, and doing it because someone else has decided I must is very much worse than it being my own decision.

Your prayers, if you're a praying sort, would be appreciated.

I know that it is unlikely I will end up homeless. I know that even if I were to end up homeless I would, ultimately, be okay. Love is stronger than death, I keep telling myself, so this ought to be a piece of piss. It's a struggle to keep that in mind with this sort of upheaval looming. Emotionally I am veering between trying not to fret because I'm fairly powerless anyway, and a sort of paralysis around the things I can do that might make a difference (mostly, lots of cleaning) because they might not be enough anyway. Ultimately, I do not get to decide whether I stay here: someone who sees me as a source of income, as an object rather than as a human person, gets to decide.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Where I've got to

Does anyone know of any spiritual support resources or organisations for church musicians? There seem to be lots of things aimed at fairly keen laity, and lots of things aimed at clergy.

I don't want to be precious about it -- being an organist is not the same as being ordained and the amount of responsibility I bear is much less than that of the vicar. I am, in essence, a "fairly keen" layperson. But learning the music and leading choir and congregation in song is surely a different type of work, too, than reading or leading intercessions every few weeks or helping hand out pew sheets and hymnals. I don't mean to diminish the importance of these other things, but they don't require hours of practice on a daily basis.

All the resources I've found aimed at church musicians seem to be primarily geared toward musical training and certification. That's useful, but it isn't all of what I need. I've been complaining to a friend this week that it's quite possible to have a conversation about church stuff with most organists without anyone mentioning God at all. But we also tend to work in isolation, all being busy on Sunday mornings. Clergy have that problem too, but (in the C of E at least) there are various structures in place which increase their contact with one another. I only speak to other organists at all because I go out of my way to do so. I don't know any of them well enough to discuss matters of heart and soul. Gentle Vicar is wonderful but he is also my boss, overworked enough as it is, and not a musician.

My stepdad has had a bereavement. I find it incredibly difficult to pray for him, yet it seems like something I am meant to do. Mostly I try and quickly revert to just wishing he didn't exist and then I feel incredibly guilty for it.

Things are not going well with my spiritual director. I am thinking about other options, while trying to think of what I can bring to this relationship that might be constructive.

I have been talking about all this stuff to a friend of mine who I think would be a wonderful spiritual director, but who isn't in a position to offer formal direction for a number of reasons.

I am cycling a lot and my physical health is mostly good, though I am still very tired.

Gentle Vicar had surgery recently and so we have not had our mid-week said Eucharist since the first week of January. I miss it more than I thought I could; last week I had occasion to be in town at lunchtime on a weekday and went to a service at one of the city churches. The sense of unconditional welcome was wonderful. I'm not sure if I need to make a point of doing this more, or just find a way of hanging onto that feeling.

Always at church I am conscious that I am in a certain role, that to be a good organist, to serve this community well, I need to be gentle but firm, kind but truthful, that I need to listen to others, that I need to think before I speak and comment constructively or not at all. Communion is one time when all of that goes away and I am just there as myself, bringing with me all the cares and concerns of friends and community and family, yes -- I don't generally feel like I'm approaching the rail only on my own behalf, it's hard to explain except to say there's only one bread -- but it's a time when I'm there as me, not as The Organist; where I'm not concerned about trying to coordinate anyone else's responses.

The other time is when I'm improvising on the organ after the Communion hymn. Then I'm very much aware of the rest of the community, very much aware that what I do can support or detract from the liturgy, but I'm absorbed in the here-and-now of playing and somehow it works and even though I am quite clearly being The Organist, I am there as me rather than hiding behind a role.

Or maybe I just feel good after receiving Communion.

Or perhaps it comes to the same thing.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Trying not to get ahead of myself

I'm less tired now.

I did go to the doctor about the cough I've had for ages, and was offered a choice of over-the-counter medicine I hadn't considered, or antibiotics. I really dislike antibiotics so took the over-the-counter stuff and it is helping, slowly.

I haven't caught up on reading blogs; twitter is still the main touchstone with the online world for me right now. And I could apologise and I could feel guilty, but I've been practising again -- this is important -- and there is only so much time in a day.

I think the practising is what is helping most, really. I think Bach does me more good than cough syrup.

I am still getting other people telling me I have some sort of vocation to ordained ministry, as if I'm walking around with a big neon sign over my head that is plain for others to see but which somehow escapes my awareness. I don't understand, and I'm finding it a bit scary, in terms of what it would mean for me but also in terms of what it would mean for loved ones. So I played the "second-guess" game a lot, wondering whether people just see someone who is reasonably young, reasonably enthusiastic about God (and even, sometimes, church) and reasonably bright and thinks that means I should be collared... wondering how much of this religion thing is because some of my dearest, most admired friends happen to be priests... wondering whether the reason I don't see this is because it isn't there, or if it's because I just don't have a coherent enough definition of priesthood and sacrament to be able to identify it, or if it's because there's a big "NOT YET" that I need to wait out first.

Seriously, all this feels like stalling. It won't go away; it feels like I'm avoiding something, not like I'm making a decision. But the "NOT YET" is going to win for a least a while; as far as the C of E is concerned I am not even confirmed.

I don't play Bach a movement at a time or a page at a time or a bar at a time but one precious painstaking note after the next. And every note demands all my musical might, all my attention and focus and love. But playing one note at a time doesn't mean I'm not playing Bach; rather, it means I am.

So I guess I live one day, one breath, one note at a time, keep learning and growing, keep doing the work set before me, regardless of what some people say is just over the page.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Show me the manna

I'm still feeling very tired, more tired than I think I ought to be.

I had a conversation with a few different people this afternoon about churchy stuff -- feasts getting moved to Sunday so people will attend, multiple service times on weekdays, how to get people involved, why there is no secretarial support in a huge number of parishes, what to do about it all. It was a good conversation in lots of ways, but mostly I just feel tired.

My own experiences of church as a child and teenager were not exactly positive and it was the sense of unconditional acceptance, care and welcome that I found in some people (in person and online) and in some very special C of E parishes that really got me back to church. And as a result of this I tend to want to err on the side of making everyone welcome.

I'd like people to meet for the Office, or at least Morning Prayer, at Nearest Church -- partly because it would be easier for me to keep up that discipline if I were with others, but partly because of my experiences of being in different bits of London and not able to find any church where I knew this was happening, not being able to find people to pray with. My prayers alone aren't worth any less but there is something forlorn about trying the nearest two or three churches and finding that no, there is no official time for prayer on a weekday. I'm glad that where I live now there is Long Walk church to attend; I'm thinking about starting to cycle there four mornings a week, rather than just Fridays, because it would really be that much easier.

I'd like to keep the church building open if we possibly can. In London this means we need people to sit there; it isn't just the risk of things getting stolen that makes an unattended church problematic but of fairly wanton vandalism.

I'd like to see better service booklets, better pew slips, some way of combining all the paperwork so that juggling pew slip, service booklet and hymnal isn't so difficult. Yes, it would make my life as an organist easier (though I'd still need a hymnal separate from the other stuff), but the reason I feel strongly about it is that so many different printed bits of paper are a bit of a nightmare for dyslexics.

I'd like to see services at some other time, not just Sunday morning, for those who are working or have young families or whatever and just find Sunday mornings very hard.

We're a small parish with a small congregation. We might, if we're lucky, manage the "keep the church open" thing one afternoon per week -- in the summer. But the pew slips, the Office, the multiple services... none of this is going to happen, because we don't have the resources to justify it. We don't even have the good sense to work together with neighbouring parishes on most of it.

The question is, how far must one go to make people feel comfortable and welcome? It starts to get difficult, because not all welcoming measures actually work. Announcing all hymn numbers is something I very much favour, but we don't do that at Nearest Church because there is a concern people would find it patronising or that it interrupts the flow of the liturgy. Surely the flow of the liturgy should be secondary to making it more possible for everyone to participate, but not everyone sees things that way. And even if we had the budget to do the extra photocopying that would let people use one booklet instead of a bit of paper, a booklet and a hymnal, who would do the formatting each week when we already don't have any secretarial support?

I could do that, I think to myself. Except that I know I hate office work and admin of any kind, I barely stay on top of my own; I have little enough time as it is and any additional bits and pieces will eat into my earning ability; I am already doing a lot there. And Lord, I'm so tired...

And I also know that unconditional welcome is not enough. There is only one thing the church can do that will bother me more than being bossy and high-handed, and that's telling me that whatever I want will be fine! I need to be challenged. I need to be asked hard questions. I'm unusual in the degree to which I will seek these things out myself, but if church is always comfortable then we are doing it wrong. There should be discomfort, and if that means those who plan and lead worship have to put up with a bit of whingeing from those who are a little less comfortable with discomfort but need it all the same, then so be it. But I'm so tired...

Part of that discomfort for me might be in accepting that I can't just fix things by working harder. Part of it for someone else might be realising that if they don't get involved, the parish can't do the work we are called to do as part of the church. The difficulty is in discerning which is which.

My instinct always is to work harder, you see. What I can't tell is this: when I hold back, when I am cautious in getting involved, is that sensible conservation of my (already limited) time and energy? I'm so tired... Or is that scarcity thinking, a rejection of the abundance God promises?

I always want it not to be about the numbers. "Wherever two or three are gathered," I remind myself, it will be okay, this will continue, or something will continue, and I go back to bloodyminded counting of blessings, ignoring the grimness of churches that turn people away, people who hurt each other, starvation, disease, war. Two or three people gathered for Mass in a cold church redeem all that, I tell myself. And yet it is surely true that different things are possible with twenty than with two, it is surely true that three hundred could do more than thirty, it is surely true that five thousand were fed. (I'm so tired...) And so I offer up my five loaves and two fishes, and manage to feed maybe ten people, and I wonder what is not working. I'm so tired.

I'm thinking the brief vacation with Sweetie, starting tomorrow, is not coming a day too soon.