When I was running a CYFA Venture we had a timetable for an average/normal day. We then issued an apology that if anyone ever had only an average day they could ask for their money back. It was a structure but it said nothing about the excitement it could contain.
Yesterday I had what for some clergy would be counted an easy day; I had only three services to deal with all in the same church building. But a normal day? I've been ordained for 22 years this year and I'm blowed if I can remember a less normal day. Originally in my diary another clergyman was covering a lot of this day, but he had a heart attack.
It started with the realisation that the insect bite I had received on Saturday morning going for a delightful early morning walk along the Leam (the bank - I'm not Jesus or Brian Clough) had inflamed and given me a lower arm that 'looks like it has proper muscles' (Liz- ta). Had to ask the 8.30 congregation to treat the service like a panto and shout 'stop it' if they saw me scratching.
Before the service I dead-legged myself on the corner of a small table. I've done this twice now so I expect it'll get written into a liturgy. I play the piano before the 8.30 service as people arrive and managed to hit the most outrageous bum note in one of the more peaceful moments. I heard Mrs Fell speak in my ear, the way only grandmaternal pianoforte teachers from the 1960s can, that I should by now know how many flats there are in that key. She must be dead by now so it is quite scary having her whisper in my ear.
There are thirteen in attendance. It is my first early service since it has been announced that I am leaving so lots of people want to tell me how much they will miss me. This is pleasant but as I am around for two more months feels like it might be a rather long-haul of pleasant. I enjoy the occasional double-edged (I'm sure they aren't meant like this) comment such as:
'You've been around almost as long as us - it'll be like losing part of the furniture.'
'Your new job sounds a perfect fit.'
'We'll really miss your different way of doing things.'
Between services I sit in the lounge eating some fruit for breakfast, interrupted only by the need to provide a key to the PA room, an explanation for the non-function of one of the projectors and the news that our office has flooded. By the way, today's main theme - Noah.
We have some people in church to make a fuss of:
Rob and Antonia are leaving after four years with us.
Tim, who was with us for a year, then left for a year, and is coming back next year, is cycling to Hong Kong first.
Arthur, a sprightly 96 year old, is visiting churches in Leamington trying to find one that suits him. I chat to him after the service and ask him what he thinks. I believe that the expression he uses is 'bloody awful' but at 96 he doesn't speak very clearly.
We have fun and nearly manage all-age in an hour. Prayers are done with the visual aid of a bubble machine and a fan. Great idea but none of the parents seem to take a huge amount of interest in stopping the children putting their fingers in the machinery or knocking it over so I step in and stand guard.
'Have you suffered an amputation in church? Call ecclesioclaimsdirect and we'll pray for it to grow back.'
The Telling Tales interactive version of the Noah story goes particularly well. Throughout the summer we are going to be singing our theme-song, with actions:
God's people aren't super-brave super-heroes
They don't have muscles from their heads to their toes
They're not gladiators that's easy to see
In fact it's amazing
They're just like you and me
Sometimes scared (aaagh!)
Shaking and a shivering (brrr!)
But let's realise we've got God on our side
And he can do
There are actions, childen. Can you guess? Don't question the theology too hard.
Pianist Don says he wants to take on the challenge of us doing a different arrangement of the song every Sunday.
In the afternoon I receive a nice email for preaching a sermon at 8.30 saying that not everyone is called to be special all the time but all Christians are called to be ready to be special at any time. This is appreciated by someone who has spent a long time in front-line Christian ministry but is now back in industry.
Sunday evening was simply a matter of preaching and presiding at our monthly evening communion. I made the bread too.
Finished by chatting to a newcomer who wanted to be guided into front-line prison ministry. It's hard to know what to do when people you don't know want to go (with your blessing) into ministry posts. I gave him the address of the chaplain-general to prison's office.
So there we have it. By 8.45 I was drinking wine on the patio watching the swifts. Only worked eight hours and don't feel a heart attack coming on. Mind you, who does?
Liz has made a bar-chart for 'trips to the tip.' Let the decluttering commence.