Pavane for the Resurrected Lord – on my ordination as Priest

Newly minted priest (almost) dancing down the aisle of Winchester Cathedral, 4th July 2015
Newly minted priest (almost) dancing down the aisle of Winchester Cathedral, 4th July 2015

I was Priested at Winchester Cathedral on 4th July, and celebrated the Eucharist for the first time on Sunday 12th July. Momentous events in my life (so much has been working up to this point), and it transpires in the lives of some of those whom I serve. As the dust settles, it is time to take stock of a little of what has been said, done and started.

Last Saturday, the day of my priesting, started with a deep sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and a ‘picture’ before we’d eaten breakfast! The night before +Tim had charged us to ‘yearn to burn’ with the Holy Spirit, referencing 1 Peter 1:13-16 and wanting us to imagine our finger tips burning. Yet as I sat there that morning, the image that came to me was of the coals in my father’s grate, flameless but glowing red hot, bringing far more heat to any room and for far longer, than the transient flames of kindling and wood. Here was the heat of the Holy Spirit I seek from God in my ministry as a priest – something that will transmit the burning love of God for and to those I seek to serve.

That image, and the attendant sense of peace stayed with me throughout a day that reminded me both of the fulfillment of my calling coming to pass, and my own inadequacy in fulfilling it – it will be nothing without God, and without the love that knits together in Christ as we grow to maturity. It was a privilege to read from Ephesians 4:7-16 at the service and voice this, and to be surrounded by so many very special people who have had key parts to play in my own journey of faith – some reading this will know, I hope that I am talking about them!

For a variety of reasons, not least the ordination and arrival of a new Deacon the next day to the parish in which I serve, it was to be a week before I presided for the first time at our weekly Sung Eucharist. Admittedly an incredibly nerve-racking occasion, I had been blessed by the gracious offer by my training incumbent of the opportunity to have a guest preach, and the willingness of a dear friend to fulfill that task, despite the Old Testament reference to David dancing, and the Gospel reading being that of the beheading of John the Baptist (2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Mark 6: 14-29)!

Dom Andrew, talked of our need, and my calling, to dance before the Lord, through the liturgical year in what he poetically described as a “Pavane for the Resurrected Lord”. It is the rituals that I have come to St. Mary’s to learn the steps of, and it is the richness of the liturgical year, the detail of which has been somewhat lost in previous churches in which I’ve worshipped and served, that I am coming to prize highly. It is a sermon I probably ought to read every time I am to preside at Eucharist, the sacrament which for so many is so incredibly important that I must learn the ‘steps’, both traditional and contemporary, often ritualised and sometimes something more raw, which reveal Christ to those present;

“…for it will reconcile to him all the broken and vulnerable children of God present in this place, enabling us to join together once more in the steps of the round dance of our love for him.”

A Triquetra (the symbol of the Holy Trinity) by whose power we live in the circle of life and love in this world.
A Triquetra (the symbol of the Holy Trinity) by whose power we live in the circle of life and love in this world.

The full text of Dom Andrew’s sermon can be viewed here on our parish website.

It transpired that my first, slightly flat (musically), slightly faltering, steps in the Eucharist dance were to be a special moment linking my mother, a ‘fighter’ for the ordination of women long-since gone to our Lord, to another mother, one who has helped nurture me through my diaconal year, and who until that moment, had never received Eucharist where a woman presided. Twenty and more years on from all that my mother was involved with locally, it is easy to forget that for some, this remains an incredible milestone.

There are a host of other special images of the day in my mind, not least the gift of a home communion set from the parish, and the most wonderful glass-work created by The Glass Maidens of the parish with the help of my husband and son. Again there were many friends that had come from a variety of churches to which I am linked, including Twitter! But, I think for now the important thing is to concentrate on learning and perfecting the steps of the dance that our Resurrected Lord wants to teach us all; the dance of love.

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The Rev’d. Mrs.

From Ecclesiastical, our new Insurers... and my Diocese did the same!
From Ecclesiastical, our new Insurers!

Well, I’ve been a Reverend for nearly three weeks. How does it feel? A pretty good fit, like a comfortable new glove.

It’s a title that I have actually been increasingly looking forward to as ordination training progressed. There was no fear attached to it; it was something I knew would come with the calling – part of the deal. In the context of the parish I’m now ministering in, I suspect it will get well used, and I was more than happy to sign my first offering to the pew sheet as “Rev’d Rachel”.

This one's from the Church Times!
This one’s from the Church Times!

But I have discovered an unexpected emotional response, closely related to the use of the term Reverend. In many cases, on all sorts of post, I am no longer “Mrs.” and that I actually find quite distressing.

Let me go back in time, briefly, to a point a few years ago (no more than 10) when this then Editor of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union newsletter was gently chastised for not using the official and correct form of grammar for anyone who is ordained; it should be “The Rev’d. Mr./Mrs.” when the person is first referred to, and then plain “Mr.”or “Mrs.” thereafter in any extended text. I was careful to get this right from that point on.

And yet, having been ordained I find that almost everything is just written as “Rev” (popularised by a certain TV series perhaps), “Rev’d.” or “The Rev’d.”, often without the full stops or apostrophes. In some ways this doesn’t bother me; I’m not usually a pedant, or bothered about the modernisation of language when appropriate. And, I guess for gentleman who are married, who have never had an appropriate form of address to signify their marriage because they simply remain “Mr”, this perhaps isn’t such an issue.

The Rev'd. Mrs. and her Mr. on Ordination Day (photograph by our friend Stephen Usher)
The Rev’d. Mrs. and her Mr. on Ordination Day (photograph by our friend Stephen Usher)

But you see, I’m still a “Mrs.” and very proud of being so! I’ve enjoyed 22 years of marriage to a wonderful, long-suffering, man, who himself is very proud of having a “Reverend” Mrs. We think marriage is a fantastic institution that is part of our relationship with God, but suddenly any public celebration or declaration of this fact in the envelopes that arrive through my door is being hidden by the dominance of the “Rev” bit of who I now am.

Actually, what I’m really bothered by is not the lovely envelopes from friends that come addressed to the “Rev” they want to congratulate, but the envelopes from Christian institutions (like those shown above) that have also noted the change of status, but seem to think that the “Mrs” bit of me has been subsumed – she hasn’t, I’m still someone’s wife, and very proud and delighted to be so!

[Is it me? Or have other married women had a similar reaction to their ordination?]

Ordination Retreat and it’s wildlife

Park Place Pastoral Centre, Wickham, Hampshire
Park Place Pastoral Centre, Wickham, Hampshire

For Winchester Diocese, like Portsmouth, ordination retreats are held at the beautiful Park Place and Wickham in the Meon Valley.  Last week was my Diaconal retreat, shared with those being ordained to the priesthood in our diocese. There were periods of silence, reflection and free time to restore the soul and focus on the role to which I am called.

Anna Norman Walker, Canon Mission of Exeter Cathedral was our excellent retreat conductor, and for me managed just the right balance of humour, Biblical reflection, personal stories, poetry, images and music. Using the ‘scaffolding’ of the Eucharist our 5 reflections focused on the words “take”, “thanks”, “blessed”, “broken” “shared”. I would particularly commend the poetry she used, which was by Gerard Kelly (“Spoken Worship” was the recommended title – something I shall be buying for future use).

Anyway, before succumbing to a lurgy that meant I would have to be nursed with prayer and paracetamol through the ordination day itself, I took a couple of lovely walks in the afternoon free time we were given, along the edge of the neighbouring Wickham Park Golf Course and down to the River Meon at the bottom of Wickham itself, before winding back along the disused railway line to the golf course and pastoral centre. The golf course, it’s bramble and grass lined edges and it’s water features in particular, were a haven for wildlife, and alongside the insects shown below, I also saw Ringlet butterflies, Beautiful Demoiselle damselflies in courtship chases by the Mean, an Emperor dragonfly and a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly that took a Meadow Brown butterfly on the wing over a pond before taking it high into a will to shuck it’s wings and eat it!

Unexpected update: delighted that this post appears to have inspired Archdruid Eileen to the most wonderful parody of the wild life to be had on ordination retreats; Ordination retreats and their wildlife

More stoles and stories: red Ordination stole – and purple too!

My red, ordination, stole.
My red, ordination, stole.

Some while back I took delivery of what I thought would be my ordination (white – Christmas/Easter/Weddings) stole and the green (‘ordinary time’) stole, and now my stole maker has completed the red (Pentecost and Saints Days) and Purple (Advent and Lent) ones. During the intervening time the red one has in fact become my ordination stole after the new Precentor and our Bishop came up with the change of plan in the middle of our Deacon’s Day!

Once again I am totally thrilled with the way that Deborah Ireland has turned my scribbled notes and photographs, along with snippets of significant material including more bits of my wedding dress, into the most amazing creations which will mean I carry the stories of my faith journey and some special people into my ordained ministry.

P1080475cwThe red stole is all about the Holy Spirit – Pentecost being a deeply significant time for me, and if it wasn’t for the prompting of the Holy Spirit (both in my life, and in the lives of others who nudged me into getting my head round the possibility of a calling to ordination) I wouldn’t be just over two weeks from ordination  – interview with my Bishop next week permitting! Hidden in the stitchwork is the music for a favourite chorus that will make some cringe, but is one that can move me to tears and remind me of my baptism in the Spirit at St. Mike’s in Aberystwyth (Pentecost 1988) as well as many years of leading or singing in worship bands. I’ll let you guess what it might be!

P1080474cwPentecost was also about the people of God being enabled to do more than they could possibly imagine through the power of the Spirit at work in them – so there’s people there too, and though I didn’t design it with this in mind, everytime I look at one of the characters I think of my mother. The dove of peace is a bit of wedding dress, with one of the beads off the same to make it’s eye!

P1080468cwMy purple stole is double sided and it’s probably easy to spot the bits of wedding dress; losely speaking Advent and Lent. From an early age flower arranging was part of life (or at least sweep up after my Mothers’ church flower arrangements was), so as well as the symbolism of anticipating the light of Christ coming into the world, there’s a slight nod in that direction on the Advent side. There are also stars – something are both a significant interest of my husband and some very long-standing friends as well as being a reminder of the need to follow Christ faithfully even when we can’t really see where he’s leading us!

P1080464cwThe Lenten side used as its inspiration not only the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head at the crucifixion but also the nails themselves – designed from a photo of some hand-made ‘crucifixion’ nails my Dad had made by a New Forest blacksmith a couple of years ago. Those familiar with the “Water Bugs and Dragonflies” book for explaining death to young people will understand why I wanted one on a stole I might well wear to take funerals – over and above the fact that they’re a big photographic passion of my husband and I. We are really impressed at the lifelike markings Deborah has created on this Common Darter that we photographed together with my Dad in a favourite place in the New Forest a couple of years ago (see below). The dragonfly’s wings are made of net from the petticoat of my wedding dress, and some of the material is taken from a gift received many years ago from a Nigerian Catholic nun aquaintance… I hope she appreciates the use I’ve put it too.

 

That’s me all set up with vestments then. I look forward to wearing them as reminders of so much of the past, but also the importance of making best use of past experiences and interests in my future ministry, such that God is glorified.

Misconceptions #givingitup Genesis 22:1-18 16th March #Lent2014

Apparently it is exactly 15 weeks until my ordination as Deacon, according to one of my cohort who dropped that little nugget into a Facebook post today. 

How does that make me feel? 

Frightened. Interestingly the fear is not for what comes after ordination, though there is a nervous anxiety mixed with the excitement for my new ministry in a new place, but instead fear of what needs to be accomplished in the next 15 weeks. 

I have spent most of this afternoon working through a detailed commentary on Genesis 1:1-2:3 – the creation story (according to P, the priestly contributor to the Pentateuch saga). It was particularly interesting to note that even the most brilliant of Old Testament scholars can’t always resist the temptation to overlay their own theological views onto something they’re trying to be objective about. 

In her lengthy reflection on the story of Abraham’s thankfully aborted attempt to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22, Maggi Dawn poses the question of whether our view of God is skewed by our pride and other misconceptions, or whether we are suitably aware of his abundant grace in our lives?

Today, mired in Old Testament theology, it feels like it will only be grace that will get me through this next 15 weeks to the altar. That feels like a far greater sacrifice is needed on my part in this next slog through two portfolios, than the weeks and years of ordained ministry that will follow, though I suspect this is far from true.

I need to look day by day to be obedient to the sacrifice that needs to be made, the level of sacrifice that I’ve probably not exhibited so much or so willingly in ordination training as I did in Reader training,  so that I can hear God’s voice and experience his grace, directing me to more fruitful times ahead.

I still haven’t completely fathomed why I’ve been less willing to give up time and effort to climb the mountain this time round, though I think it started out with an expectation by myself and others that I carried a certain amount of useful past experience with me that would stand me in good stead. True though that might have been of ministry when I get there (and I’m not sure now), I think it has actually hindered the training process. But it’s really time to shoulder the burden good and proper now, before it’s too late.

Sorry, bit of a low post, of little use to others, but that’s sort of where I’m at tonight. 

Fame and fortune #givingitup Matthew 4v5-7 11th March #Lent2014

Some wonderful scented narcissus that Graham had bought me to come home to on Sunday filling our house with a beautiful scent (sorry we've not got smellavision yet!)
Some wonderful scented narcissus that Graham had bought me to come home to on Sunday filling our house with a beautiful scent (sorry we’ve not got smellavision yet!)

Today has been somewhat gentler. I few chores, a gentle drive back to college and a very long chat with a good friend. Not much work done, but a definite sense that I’ve been frantically on the go without a break longer than Sunday afternoons rugby match on the TV. Really looking forward to a #dayoff with Graham on Saturday though it comes with an early start getting our son to his oboe lesson and youth orchestra rehearsal an hour from home by 9.30am.

The second temptation of Christ, in Matthews ordering of the events, seems to suggest that should Jesus fall, he will be saved by the angels of God. We’d all like that wouldn’t we, someone to save us every time we make a mistake, take a wrong turn, trip up? But life’s not like that, and we have to live with the consequences of our actions, whether they be intentional or not.

What also strikes me before reading Maggi Dawns reflection on Matthew 4:5-7 was that the Devil was offering Jesus something he didn’t actually need. He wasn’t going to fall, to fail, to branch out and take risks on his own, because, apparently unlike the devil, Jesus understood exactly who he was, the Son of God (Matthew 3:16-17).

Maggi talks about the use and more specifically the abuse, of spiritual gifts, to gain money, fame and fortune. We’ve probably all seen tele-evangelists doing their thing, and I can remember how shocked we were travelling in Uganda in 2006 at how much of that style of imported television was being made available on Ugandan TV. She goes on to make the point that whilst material wealth is a far cry from life as a non-stipendiary minister, the dangers that go with local fame for spiritual gifts are no less of a danger.

Here’s something that’s a special challenge to me, given that only on Friday, I said once again that the creative act of writing sermons and leading worship, is one way in which I feel close to God. That’s not a bad thing of itself, but what Maggi is highlighting is the danger of that being the only reason why I would chose to preach and lead worship.

I have on my desk currently the Liturgy of Ordination for Deacons, in which they

“called… to serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom… to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love… [and] to serve the community… with their fellow members…”

Being a deacon, and even when ordained priest, you always remain a deacon first and foremost, is about service to others working collaboratively alongside fellow ministers, ordained or lay. In all the excitement of being ordained (which was a key emotion in yesterdays events), feeling as though a long journey of discernment and training is finally being fulfilled in God’s sight, I must remember that this isn’t about MY calling and MY place in the mission and ministry of a particular community, but about God, what he’s doing, who he wants me to reach out to in Jesus’ name, and the joys and burdens of other peoples lives, not my own spiritual gifts and preferences.

Stones into bread #givingitup 10th March #Lent2014 Matthew 4v1-4

Now, NOT my ordination stole, simply my festal stole! No less significant for all that :-)
Now, NOT my ordination stole, simply my festal stole! No less significant for all that 🙂

If anyone tells you that the Church of England, or the Diocese of Winchester in particular, don’t do change… DON’T believe them!

Today was Deacon’s Day in the Diocese of Winchester, and despite what I’d been led to expect it was a really good day. I got to see friends, existing and yet to be, as we sat together as a cohort of 12 for the first time. Important information was made as fun as possible, and our Bishop didn’t pull any punches in a seriously inspirational talk making quite plain what we were letting ourselves in for as far as being and ordained minister in the Diocese of Winchester is concerned. He was willing to make himself vulnerable to our sometimes searching questions, and very honest when the answer was ‘we haven’t got there yet’ whilst giving us as much of the ‘game plan’ as he probably could. It was obvious, that if we’re not up for ‘living the mission of Jesus’ now is definitely the time to say so, and take a step back. I remember being part of the Vacancy in See consultation a few years back and the whole of my group told the relevant folk that basically we wanted someone who would bring fresh ideas and a fresh way of doing things. We got exactly what we asked for, and now I get to help be part of the change, part of proving that the Church of England “aint’n’t dead yet”!

We also got to meet the lovely Precentor Sue, newly installed last week at Winchester Cathedral. She and the Bishop hadn’t had a chance to meet about this yet, so it was slightly like a game of tag. This was the point where we managed to get the Bishop’s head in his hands, poor man. I almost felt sorry for him as conversations about robes and stoles got very silly in a variety of ways; apparently patent pink DMs aren’t appropriate because pink is not a liturgical colour, and the laces would take too long to sort at the point in the service where the Bishop/s washes our feet!

Then I felt sorry for myself. I really must learn that if I’m going to be organised and efficient and get things done well in advance, I can expect to get my nicely laid plans well and truly shot out the water. Winchester has always (as far as I’m aware) have always ordained in white stoles, and as regular readers will be aware I’ve got my deeply significant ordination stole all finished and tucked away ready. Or at least I thought I had.

After they’d left us to the finer details of tat grants, the Bishop and Precentor had a little conversation, and the Bishop popped back in: were we up for being ordained in red stoles (signifying the Holy Spirit at Pentecost)?! Much excitement ensued from most, and in the end, I and two fellow early pre-planners, sort of gave a lopsided grin recognising that we’d be in danger of inhibiting change that signified the movement of the Holy Spirit if we didn’t go with the idea. It wasn’t like I’m not getting a red stole, and have a particular personal connection with Pentecost, and it IS a red letter day on 29th June (Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul), so… I told the Bishop I’d be ‘fine about it in the morning’ 🙂

So, after that snapshot of having to accept change when you’ve asked for it, Maggi Dawn gets me turning to Matthew 4:1-4 for tonight’s Lent reflection: the devil tempting Jesus, who is fasting in the wilderness, to turn stones into bread.

My immediate thought is that it’s not a rock that needs softening to feed our bodies, but our hearts that need softening to feed our souls, and the souls of others; we mustn’t get ourselves set on there being only one way of doing things!!!

Maggi talks about a period of 40-somethings (days, years, whatever) signifying a concentrated period of preparation and transformation in Bible-speak (as per the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the desert). How long it was in reality might not involve the number 40, and that isn’t actually a concern – the point of there being concentrated preparation and transformation is much more important. So like ordination training and formation then 😉

Maggi notes that the temptation with food whilst fasting emphasised Jesus was as human as you and I, and in turn emphasises our physical existence. I would add that this in turn emphasises that all that we are called to do can ONLY be done through the power of the Holy Spirit but that we need to know when it is appropriate to invoke God’s power in this way.

And what better time to do that, than at an ordination service! Red stole it is then!!!

PS: Graham’s blog for tonight is here.

PPS: Now very excited that I’ve realised that Canon Missioner to Exeter Cathedral and Diocese, Anna Norman-Walker is conducting our ordination retreat! At least I think that’s what the Bishop said… (note to self, must listen better!)

My stoles and stories: Ordination and Ordinary

My ordination stole,  made from my wedding dress, with a design by myself and Deborah Ireland who brought it to life.
My ordination stole, made from my wedding dress, with a design by myself and Deborah Ireland who brought it to life.

On Tuesday I collected a cardboard box that had been delivered to reception and took it to my room at college. There I tentatively unwrapped what will be my ordination (ivory/white) stole, and the green stole I might where when appropriate in ‘ordinary’ time.

Months before I had entrusted a series of scribbled ideas, my wedding dress, and a selection of photographs taken by myself, my husband and my father to the wonderful Deborah Ireland and given her, and her trusty sewing machine permission to create something wonderful.

My hands shook as I peeled back the tissue paper. Knowing my own story and being able to interpret it for others as I did in during the selection process is one thing. Giving my story, past and future, into the hands of another to re-present for me and for others in such a way that God might receive the glory, was quite another.

Deborah has done an amazing job, and now I await with excitement my purple (Lent and Advent) and red (Pentecost and Festivals) stoles. In the mean-time here are the first of my stoles and my stories:

Detail of the rams-head on my ordination stole - interpreted by Deborah Ireland from a photograph I took of a Swaledale lamb on a rain-soaked Swaledale last summer!
Detail of the rams-head on my ordination stole – interpreted by Deborah Ireland from a photograph I took of a Swaledale lamb on a rain-soaked Swaledale last summer!

My ivory silk wedding dress has been turned into my ordination stole. The image on the right (above) is one that I drew as part of my discernment process, and incorporates the silver St. David Cross (by Rhiannon of Tregaron) that my father gave me whilst I was at university, and a symbol of the Trinity. The ram lamb on the left, also makes reference to the sacrifice of Christ, but yes, there is also the a reminder of the sacrifices I must make, and a quirky nod in the direction of my lamb-like name and ‘handle’ or username 😉 The design incorporates wool from on old numnah from my mothers’ old riding tack! The wheat and the grapes speak of bread and wine, the celebration of Eucharist that I might one day celebrate as a priest.

The reverse of my ordination stole incorporates beadwork from my wedding dress and my prayers for each couple I might one day marry.
The reverse of my ordination stole incorporates beadwork from my wedding dress and my prayers for each couple I might one day marry.

But this ordination stole hides a secret. Clergy usually wear white stoles to officiate at weddings, and it was always my intention that this stole would include more than just the material of my wedding dress, and specifically make reference to my marriage and my hopes and prayers for those weddings I might celebrate with others. So on the reverse to be worn facing front when appropriate, is some of the bead-work from that same wedding dress, entwined rings for entwined lives, and a celtic cross emphasising Christ’s place within them.

P1010653cw
God’s creation represented in the wildlife that has formed part of my story

There is no such overt Christian imagery in my green stole, and yet I would say God is in everything represented there. Here is God’s creation as I have experienced and loved it throughout my life; each plant and animal represents an individual living organism with particular significance in my life. There is the oak that stands near the grave of my mother, aunt and grandparents; a Fallow buck, the animal that I have watched with my father from earliest memory; the Red Kite, the bird that has followed my life since my university years, inspired my poetry and frequents my theology college; the trout I’ve caught with my father and the badger that frequents his back garden; the thistle flower and  Common Blue butterfly that frequents my regular walks with my husband, and flag iris and Demoiselle damselfly that we seek on our more watery walks; there is cow parsley, another reference to Minstead churchyard and our wedding, and bluebells from my childhood walks with Dad near Fritham now reprised in the copse near my current home.

So those are the stories, here are the stoles, and my prayer is that I will be able to use both in the years to come for God’s greater glory.

Announcement: Title Post (Curacy)

The East end of St. Mary's which serves the parish of Old Basing and Lychpit
The East end of St. Mary’s which serves the parish of Old Basing and Lychpit

I am delighted that all being well, I will be serving my title (doing my curacy) at St. Mary’s Church in Old Basing and Lychpit with Fr. Alec Battey as my training incumbent.

The family and I have spent a few Sundays before Christmas, hopefully incognito, with the good folk of St. Mary’s, including on the occasion of their Christmas Tree festival when most of these photographs were taken.

The Chancel, St. Mary's, Old Basing and Lychpit
The Chancel, St. Mary’s, Old Basing and Lychpit

The church and community will no doubt hold many surprises for me, but there are several delights and challenges which I am already looking forward to:

  • the worship is more sacramental than I’ve experienced regularly (excepting my lovely placements over the years first at All Saint’s, Basingstoke and much more recently at Mill End and Heronsgate with West Hyde, Rickmansworth) and my prayer is that this will help me grow into the priest God is calling me to be;
  • there is a strong choral tradition – after 20+ years of helping lead worship in various styles in charismatic evangelical churches, cantoring at Sung Eucharist will be a whole new set of skills to grow into, so I hope their choir director is feeling brave having me dropped into their midst;
  • there is a strong sense of the detail of the liturgical year that I’ve really appreciated at college and look forward to becoming much more familiar with at St. Mary’s;
  • there is a strong creative streak in the community. I’m anticipating that this will be a fertile ground for exploring the relationship that can grow between creative skills and the development and celebration of our faith;
  • there is a churchyard conservation group that has stimulated a huge range of wildlife around the church, as well as Old Basing seeming to be laced with open spaces, footpaths and waterways that mean I’ll have ample opportunity to constantly praise God for the wonders of his creation – and that’s before starting to delve deeply into the amazing history of the place;
  • there are schools and other opportunities to work with the younger generations, plus a huge range of local clubs and societies to engage with, something that I’m enthusiastic to do where possible, despite living nearly half an hour away;
  • and there’s a great Bakehouse, a butcher specialising in local meat, we’ve already tried, alongside other local stores and hostelries we’re yet to try including The Crown already recommended to us by the Churchwardens!
The Bolton Chapel, St. Mary's, Old Basing and Lychpit
The Bolton Chapel, St. Mary’s, Old Basing and Lychpit

It’s now just a little less than 6 months till my curacy commences with my ordination as Deacon, which I’ve been advised will be at 10am on Sunday 29th June at Winchester Cathedral. Whilst not a little worried about what lies between now and then, namely much reading, many essays and an interview with the Bishop, I am also excited to actually know the fertile ground in which, God willing, the next four years of my ministry will take place.

As I continue to with my studies, and prepare for ordination, I appreciate the support and prayers of my friends and loved ones, those I already know, and those I am yet to meet.

Resurrect and recycle – can a wedding dress be reborn?

There’s a lot of material in my old wedding dress!

Yesterday we finally attacked a task of such monstrous domestic terror that it has been put off for at least three years. We sorted through our roof space. (Well most of it!)

Among the old lecture notes, text books, guitar magazines, rolled up carpet off-cuts and cast off clothes, was one of the things which had precipitated this unusual behaviour. My wedding dress.

Twenty years ago, and as our son pointed out in a rather slimmer period of my life, I was married in more yards of natural silk (and five net petticoats) than was probably sensible on a warm day in July. Since then, carefully folded into an old florist’s box, my wedding dress has lain hidden away.

Beadwork on the bodice of my wedding dress

Interestingly although it sparked many reminiscences for both of us, my husband has almost more emotional attachment to it than I have. I guess I wasn’t looking at it from the outside, and it wasn’t me that played with pearls on the bodice during the Best Man’s speech when no-one was looking!

It looks in pretty good nick, though it seems a slightly darker shade of ivory than I remember it, and has some minor mould damage near its hem. I don’t have a daughter to hand it on to, and it will only deteriorate more if it returns to the loft, so now, it’s hanging, a little like the ghost of a Tudor lady, from the curtain rail of our spare room, awaiting its fate.

Husband dearest wants to have the bodice panel removed and framed for posterity, whilst I was thinking this would be rather easier with the bow at the back. We may need to compromise and achieve both in one frame, if we had the foggiest who might be able to do such a thing.

For the last few months, in fact since before being recommended for ordination training, I have harboured the idea, inspired by snatches of conversation with others over the last couple of years, of using all that silk for making clerical stoles, or at least a ‘white’ one. White stoles are after all used by priests when taking weddings, and I can’t think of anything more appropriate than using my own wedding dress for that!

The bow at the back – in fact the ‘tails’ are sewn into the waistline, and the ‘bow’ is hooked over to hide the zip that ran below the buttons.

I know I’ve got two years before I get as far as ordination, and there’s no certainty I’ll get there at all, but at least that’s time to work out if the idea is a runner. Could it be cut up to the right shape, or shapes? Is it suitable to be dyed? Is the material of the right sort? Could it be silk painted? What could be used to line and strengthen it? I’m not sure where to start, or even if the silk is pale enough for this to be appropriate, or anything really.

Then there’s all that netting that makes up the five petticoats. If we’re cannibalising the silk itself for various forms of posterity, could someone make use of all that netting?

A lot of net!

If anyone has any experience, wisdom, bright ideas or alternatively wants to give me a sanity check, now would be a great time to share it with me. Please.