Saturday, 29 June 2013

Ordination Day

I drove to Brecon this morning to attend the ordination to the priesthood of Chris Bowler, a student who was in my tutor group at St Michael's last year. Apart from the Bishop and principal ministers involved there were about fifty clergy robed and in attendance, and I joined them. Brecon Cathedral is an ancient large Benedictine Priory, with central tower and cruciform shape, so there was plenty of room in the chancel for all to sit. I was quite close to the episcopal throne where the ordinations took place and was able to take a few surreptitious flash-less photos, of the part of the ceremony that follows on from the laying on of hands and priestly consecration prayer, once I'd seen others doing likewise. I used the little Sony W690, as it's small and unobtrusive to use and carry. Nice to have a memento of a special occasion to send to Chris later. But I only took a few, and spent most of the service listening and praying.

The Cathedral was equipped with quality CCTV and monitors to permit people in far flung corners to see the action. Before we began it was announced that a technical glitch meant the video feed and hearing aid induction loop were unable to run at the same time, so the decision had been taken to run the video and not the loop. I found this quite disturbing, as it denies hearing disabled congregation members equal access to services offered - against the law maybe? Modern culture seems to take for granted that if something can be seen it must be shown for people to see. In this context, not all worshippers would be able to view the screens showing the service, so why choose the video over an audio feed provided to ensure inclusiveness for hearing impaired people? Regardless of how much time and energy and good-will was invested in video-tech for the day, it's no justification for a conscious discriminatory act.

The service went on for a full two hours, and I had to leave after receiving Communion, before the rest of the congregation came out and starting making for their cars or coaches. My next destination of the day was St Woolos Cathedral in Newport, for the ordination of another tutee, Rufus Noy, to the diaconate. It was an hour's drive away, for a service in an hour's time. It took me ten minutes to reach the outskirts of Brecon, dead on two o'clock, and I drove to Newport in fifty two minutes, as the roads were fairly clear. Once I got to the town centre, I lost my way to Stow Hill and St Woolos, so it was two minutes past three when I pulled into a providentially empty parking slot right outside the gates. I found a seat tucked away at the front of the north aisle with an unimpeded view of the liturgical action. As I'd suspected that I might be late, I didn't arrange to join robed clergy on this occasion, and it left me freer to take photos without bothering anyone.

For the Bishop of Monmouth, this was the second full ordination service of the day, as there were enough candidates with family members and supporters to fill the Cathedral twice over. For this second ordination the Cathedral choir didn't sing, so the service was less elaborate with more congregational music, giving it more of a homely feel, than the impressive theatrical full choral liturgy in Brecon. The form of service was the same, but readings and hymns were different in both places, making the day's worship seem less of an endurance trial. It was the same service, different context, but differences in the way it was adapted and performed. There's nothing industrial about the way liturgy is done nowadays.

Afterwards, the Bishop and candidates made a photo opportunity in the churchyard. Among Rufus' Italian in-laws is a retired priest who lives in Assisi, who'd travelled here with his sister from Florence. He was able to get a photo of himself and his nephew with the Bishop, which unfortunately I saw but missed. As the Bishop has no Italian I wondered if anyone had told time that this priest, like himself is also a monk - a Benedictine of Monte Cassino in fact. Ah such a rich family life in the household of faith!

In the evening Rufus and his wife Daria gave a dinner to celebrate Rufus' ordination and fiftieith birthday at 'il Canale', an Italian restaurant in Goytre Wharf, eight miles from Abergavenny, a scenic watering hole at a turning place in the Brecon to Newport canal. It was hard to find, tucked up a country lane a couple of miles from the main road, but an enjoyable evening ensued, and the forty minute drive home was in the dark. I got back in time to catch the part of Rolling Stones playing at the Glastonbury Festival. I soon lost interest, as I was tired after 135mile round trip during the day. In fact, there was nothing sufficiently compelling enough about the performance to stop me switching to a stupid movie. Enough said.

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