When I think back to my ordination as a Deacon 15 months ago, I could not have imagined how different things would have been for my priesting ordination. I did not imagine that it would need to be delayed because of a global pandemic, that I would be ordained in a face covering, and that the hundreds of guests cramming the cathedral in Chester would be reduced to just a few each. How different things were. A different Bishop of Chester, A different set of protocols for the service, even the wet weather was different from the glorious sunshine of before. And yet with all the changes, all the challenges, all the seeming chaos of Covid, God remained constant.
In the disrupted pre-ordination retreat, God was there in the silence, reminding me of his love for me, of his call on my life, of his pleasure at seeing my colleagues and I ordained priest. God was there in the love and support of all those people watching online and sending encouraging comments. God was there in the peaceful intimacy of the gentle and beautiful service. It is hard to explain how it was so different and yet so perfect for the times, how God’s grace and love were so evident, but in the quietness of the service, God was there.
As He was in the different Sunday service the following day. Different because having streamed services from my sofa for the previous six months we were streaming from the Church building for the first time. Different because we had real people in the church and multiple cameras to think about. Different because I was now presiding at communion for the first time. Different but God was there. The sense of joy at celebrating the Eucharist for the first time was wonderful. To be sharing that holy meal with the family of St Mary’s and St Luke’s, with my friends and my family, with those who have supported me through the long and sometimes challenging process of ordination was wonderful (I cannot thank everyone enough.) Yes, the first communion with me as priest was different from the packed church followed by a huge party that I had imagined, but God was there too.
This weekend was certainly not something I could have envisaged, but it will certainly be something that I never forget. I will never forget the love and support of my family, the guidance and encouragement from Mike and all the St Mary’s and St Luke’s and how different the weekend was from what I thought and planned. But above all I will never forget how God was present in the whole weekend, reminding me of his unchanging love, mercy and grace.
With my best wishes and prayers,