‘Who stole your stole ?’
A question which has been put to me (in different words) twice now by young peeps.
For all of us, over the last six months, life has changed in ways too many to keep track of. For many of us work – both the nature of it and how we do it – has changed. New skills have been acquired. It is too soon to say what new patterns and new routines have been settled into.
We stand at the threshold of the second wave really biting and possibly setting us back six months in our “return to normality”, but actually who knows yet.
Many of these changes have invited conversations and personal reflections, not least about what has been hard but also what has been exciting among the many changes, and even some ideas about what work and school and church and public life might look like in the future.
It will therefore not surprise you that clergy have also made time for such reflections. While, as a Priest, everything I do ‘at work’ I do as a Priest, there are many many things I do which do not require a Priest to do them. So, for example yesterday’s Harvest Celebration – it is only the Blessing at the end that required a Priest. Everything else could have been done by any combination of lay people present, including the children (who did read four psalms).
The Stole which changes colour with the church calendar year – so currently green but soon switching to red – is what I wore diagonally for Olivia’s baptism signifying that a Deacon (who wears the stole diagonally) can baptise and do lots of things, but not take weddings and not bless people. When it came to the final blessing I wore my stole straight, as Priests do, to perform that priestly role.
The origin of the Stole can be followed back to John’s gospel in chapter 13 where Jesus at the end of his last meal with his followers and friends gets a bowl of water and ties a towel around himself and then goes on to wash their feet. A Stole therefore is a reminder that essentially all clergy – bishops and priests and deacons – are servants of the people.
I have often worn my stole diagonally if one of our Associate Priests was celebrating our Eucharist – to remind myself that as well as being a Priest, I am still also a Deacon.
In the early church Deacons were the people who served those in need in very practical ways – real service then. Today this is much more of a liturgical role and a training year before becoming a priest, which is sad, we need Deacons still and arguably more than ever.
Two things to draw out of this ‘musing’ then in closing.
- when we finally resume a fuller church life, in church, than we are able to now and people begin to feel safe enough to join in and it is safe for us to move most or at least some of our services back to a Sunday – it will require us all to encourage one another in returning to church going habits, albeit in new ways and it will require us all to make contact or re establish contact with the church family people we have not seen for far too long
- the Return2Church services and the regulars who attend them are mostly not yet eucharists so they don’t require a Priest. This means if any lay people have ever wanted to take a more active role in leading worship, now is the time to do so. (In England the expectation would be that if the Chaplain were off sick, the wardens would take the service – I need to put my wardens through their paces)
It is heart breaking that just as several of our Sunday school youngsters are getting confident enough to read in English, and therefore participate more actively in our liturgies, we are in this crisis urghhh.
Our prayers this week are with and for Amy who has her Confirmation on Saturday. May she be granted grace and courage and faith as she now makes her Baptism vows for herself. May she know God’s presence always, God’s blessing especially on that day, and God’s calling her into service through the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray for her parents and godparents /sponsors whose role it is to help her discern her vocation and may they in turn be blessed in that role, and as they themselves ‘model’ the exercise their vocations.
We pray too for Philippa and Anthoinette and Tracey as they patiently wait for news of a Confirmation date.