The Pilgrimage is Over (For Now)

Last Sunday evening, my Dearly Beloved and I conducted our last “Pilgrimage Service” at North Ringwood Uniting Church.

 Well, when I say last, I mean the last for 2007.  These services have been held on the third Sunday of every month throughout the course of this year, with the generous support and encouragement of our minister, the Rev. Dr. Ian Hickingbotham.  We’ve also had the great good fortune of working with a terrific team of collaborators, without whom nothing would have been possible – thanks Pete, Liz, Murray, Anne, Nicola, and Barry!

My Dearly Beloved and I conceived the concept of the Pilgrimage Services in late 2006, when conversations with our fellow parishioners convinced us that there was a real desire among folk to have access to a service that was solely and exclusively about worship and worship styles.  Not that this didn’t occur during the regular Sunday service – the Pilgrimage Services were conceived as an adjunct to, not a replacement for, the Sunday service – rather, the Sunday service had to meet a whole range of needs for a whole range of people.  What we wanted – based on our perception of need – the Pilgrimage Service to do was focus on one aspect of the Sunday service: worship and worship style.

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The Reason Why

Recently, a friend asked me: “This ministry thing – it’s a bit of a turnaround for you, isn’t it? I mean, when I first met you, you were kinda anti the whole God thing.”

I knew what she was saying – and I knew why she was saying it. It’s the same question that many people have asked me – that I have asked myself. Why do I want to enter the ordained ministry? What’s it about, this sense of vocation? Is it a sudden thing – or if not, why haven’t we known about it? Why have you been keeping it a secret?

Well, let me state two things right at the beginning: one, I haven’t been keeping anything a secret; and, two, I didn’t receive a visitation: no lights in the sky, no heavenly choirs, no commands from above. What has been happening to me is a process, and for a long part of that process, I didn’t know I had a call to ordained ministry; didn’t know, or didn’t want to know. A call from God is something you can suppress just as easily as an unpleasant memory; but part of the process of response, just as part of the process of confronting our inner demons, involves facing that which we would prefer to deny.
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Where Is God Taking Me?

Some weeks ago, I watched the final installment of the wonderful television series The Abbey, which was featured on the ABC’s Compass program.

One of the things I found fascinating about the show is how the five women who were chosen to live in the Abbey and experience the daily life of the nuns – ordered according to the Rule of St Benedict – adjusted to the discipline of monastic life. Most people, I suspect, believe that living in a monastery is easy, that it involves little more than saying a few prayers, doing a few chores, and basically having a lot of leisure time to laze around and do very little. But the reality is quite different: as the nuns kept reminding the women (and the audience), the rhythm of daily life is governed by the seven daily prayer and worship sessions (which begin at 4:30am!), around which the various jobs of the self-sufficient abbey must be completed. In other words, the life of the nuns is one of work suffused with prayer and contemplation. It amounts to a very full day, seven days a week; and the women discovered for themselves how difficult it actually is.
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My Dearly Beloved Speaks!

A couple of weekends ago, my Dearly Beloved preaced the sermon at our local Uniting Church congregation. And what a fantastic job she did, too! Using multimedia, a sense of humour, and some pecant observations, she turned the familiar tale of Zacchaeus up his tree into a challenging and thoughtful exploration of friendship, and what the friendship of the divine means for humankind.

She’s posted an account on her blog – I urge you to take a look, it will be well worth your while.

Luke 21:5-19

When I was in high school, my year 11 Accounting teacher was a man with whom I got on very well: he was a good teacher, but also had a keen sense of humour, and was able to enter into the give-and-take of friendly banter between students and teacher. He also had an artificial eye; I don’t know how he came to have it, but I do remember that it was his left eye, and that some of the more insensitive students used to call him “Cyclops”. I liked this teacher, so I never referred to him by this disparaging epithet; but I came close on one occasion, when we were having a friendly argument about football, and without thinking I called him a “one-eyed Collingwood supporter”. You can imagine my mortification when I realised what I had done – and my relief when he realised I hadn’t spoken maliciously and so simply laughed off my tactless remark.

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