As Terry Wogan was wont to say, most years as I recall, Nights are drawing in – soon be Christmas. And before we all groan at the use of the ‘c’ word before advent or even autumn has begun. He had a point and was reflecting the solar calendar. That at midsummer we are half way through the year. On 24th June we very often forget to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist the one who came to point the way towards Jesus. They were no fools, those who put the calendar together. Putting our celebrations at the high and low points of the solar year. John the baptist was not born yesterday (in more ways than one) but six months before that other significant date, we mark his birth. The one who was to decrease as the other increased. Yesterday we witnessed a radical thing in Bangor Cathedral and if you didn’t make it, then I would urge you to consider it next year. An ordination service is a radical thing. In the presence of distinguished company and honoured guests, friends and family young and old. Ten people dedicated their life in service to God and to the church. This is not an agenda the world recognises as significant or even particularly important. And that is good. For the moment it does, there will be some financial initiative and the whole radical edge will be lost. Ordination services are particularly important for they set apart those for particular ministries. Those who themselves will decrease that others increase. It is at its heart a service of humility. That ministry will bring many things including the sword that Jesus speaks of. Families will be tested, tensions will run high. Loyalties will be divided. At midsummer it is a good time of year, for more than one reason to be on the beach. The beach is a place on the edge. A meeting point of sea, sky and earth. So to is it a meeting point each year for our ordination services. As the waves on the beach crash in, each one brings with it a new image, sand and stones thrown up and cast down before us. Such is the experience of being at the service of ordination. Memories of past, and the new future to come are brought before us. It is a meeting place of past, present and future. The thoughts of the years of training will crash as waves upon those prepared for this day, the present will manifest itself as a new experience as each moment comes and the future is before them, a new ministry, a new chapter. We are gathered in and sent out. The dioceses across Wales gathered yesterday at their respective cathedrals to be sent out to the parishes. In a similar way we too are gathered in here, to be sent out. The cartoon on the back of the sheet may seem like pointing fun at the training and initial tasks of those called to ministry, but they are called to be humble servants. Dave Walker has captured to essence of ordination. Sometimes our calling is to prepare a way, or even just prepare the chairs. Open the door, put on the lights, create a welcoming place and gather folk in, in order that we send them out into the world. They too will decrease as they offer the gifts and fruits of the spirit to all they encounter. We pray for them in their daily calling.
As we begin the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way…
Take off your shoes and walk a mile in mine.
Walk in step unknowing beside our companions.
Walk slowly alongside those we nurture
Walk with an offer of hospitality and sanctuary to those we meet.
Walk with the inspiration to take a lighter journey
Walk with joy in every season.
Walk on a wide path with those we meet but rarely.
Walk on to catch but a glimpse of those far off.
Walk with kindred spirits from other islands.
Walk with souls connected at the deep down.
Walk on with a shared past, a story of struggle or pain.
Walk offering gifts, or a generous word.
Walk with a conversation picked up from the last journey.
Walk with poets whose words become the path.
Walk with a protest on our lips and a banner in our heart.
Walk with those who hold us in prayer, with those for whom we must pray.
Walk with those who offer a new challenge
Walk close to those who are a challenge.
Walk with a shared chance encounter.
Walk, lives connected, weaving in and out
Walk with those who sing, and with those who we wish would not sing.
Walk as artists gathering the colours of nature
Walk with those we have carried and allow them to carry us in their turn.
Walk with the gentle ones, and those who could learn to be gentle
Walk with a vision to go further than we can go
Walk a woven path with the friends of friends of friends
Walk with those who make us laugh at ourselves
Walk with those whose words will carry us until our walking days are done.
Walk in the company of strangers who at journeys end become friends.
As our eyes are drawn upwards for ascension.
Watching the drift of far off clouds disperse
rising to heights we cannot attain with expectant
dreams of far off lands. How far will our next step
take us as the Earth rises up to meet our foot fall and
we are once again connected? And of coming back
down? Look not to the skies but all around.
read at the end of a walk up a hill for ‘ascension’.