Between services at the Muff and St. Peter's churches yesterday, I enjoyed a bracing walk through a much underrated park in Derry, along the river from behind Sainsbury's to the steps under the Foyle Bridge. I couldn't even tell you the name of it!
I don't often blog about walks (food, yes) but this one was spectacular.
The grass was crystalline with frost; the winter sun hung low and searching; the sky looked limitless, big, bright and blue. Perfect morning's weather for a good old think.
So I thought. And prayed.
The thing weighing most on my mind was a course mate who found out recently that she won't be sent to Dublin in the spring time to be considered for ordained ministry. I don't know if she saw it coming, but I sure didn't. I felt pretty floored by her news, so I can barely begin to imagine how she must be feeling.
Because even if we couch plans in very tentative terms, remembering to say all the if's and should's when we share our future dreams with other people, inside I think we can't help but become attached to those plans. I know I have it all mapped out in my imagination.
What if I get bad news, too? What if I get a 'no' and have to reconsider what I do with my life? It'll be painful if the path I end up treading doesn't take me via the place I've imagined.
I'm doing a foundation course with a view to training for ordination in the Church of Ireland. My bishop recently agreed to send me to a selection conference just before Easter. I think I should hear either way within a couple of weeks of that. I suppose I've kept it quiet because there's always the chance I could get a closed door at any stage, and realize I'm going no further in this direction. And because I find it easier to share good news afterwards than risk making myself vulnerable!
Or to put it another way, it's easier to blog about chocolate fondants three years later when they work, than when they don't! (For obscure reference, see previous post!)
I think I'll be OK, eventually, if they say no. Hugely disappointed, because as I continue to journey with others on a similar path, and as my course progresses, I realize I want it more and more. But OK, because there are actually few things I want to do in a dog collar that I can't do without one. Lay people can preach and teach, visit, pray, lead worship, train and equip others, ... I would see it as a great privilege to say the prayer of consecration and declare people husband and wife, but these in themselves are not burning desires of mine.
So, I'm still figuring out why exactly I want to take this next step. Release from paid employment to give more time to the church? Indeed. Chance to do an MTh? Absolutely! But neither of those quite justifies the drastic step of ordination!
If it is a 'no' next year, at least I'll know. And I'll think of other ways I can satisfy my craving for theological study, and other ways of serving.
So, for now, I'll keep wrestling with that little voice. The one that asks more questions than it answers. How annoying! But ultimately very, very satisfying. "What are you called to do? What about ordained ministry? But then, why would you need to? And why would you want to? And if they turn you down, what then?"
More walks required on frosty, clear mornings ...