Monday, 4 April 2016

Appreciating the past

This morning I was asked to visit a shop in the town centre which was closing down, and collect its radio handset equipment. It's a rare change for me to do something for CBS that's isn't back office, but nevertheless interesting. Businesses, great and small have their life cycles. Some die, some get taken over and keep running, some close for a while and then return when trading conditions improve. For the most part, I see this reflected in the history of records we keep, but a visit to the shop floor, meeting the workers in good times or bad, puts faces to the statistics of trading. Thankfully, despite recession and economic uncertainty, numbers of our radio subscribers have gradually grown over seven years.  

In another era, when there were more working clerics, I would have relished the opportunity to visit people in the retail sector and take and interest in their lives as a chaplain to retailers, but this never came my way, even when I was Vicar of the city centre Parish church, because there was always so much else to do.

There's a lot more mission that could be done by voluntary ministers fully embedded in the everyday world of work, the 'worker priest' ideal that was being explored half a century ago when I was training for ministry, was attracted to, but never followed up. There's a certain element of that kind of freedom for me to engage outside the institutional church setting now I'm retired, but it's not the same as actually earning a living, with all the challenges and these days uncertainties of the secular work environment which this entails.

When I reflect, I realise how privileged and protected some aspects of my working were. Nonetheless, I learned a lot, acquired unexpected skills and experiences which University and Theological College didn't prepare me for, and grew to have a confidence I certainly didn't have when I started out. The older me is willing to tackle things the younger me would have shied away from, but there's no way to turn back the clock, only to do was well as I can now, in appreciation of what it once was like, and of all those whose trust, patience and encouragement got me this far.

I've had some calls lately about my availability for services, and funerals for next week, when the Diocesan clergy school will take most of the active work force away to Oxford, throwing a great deal back on to the ranks of the retired. Clergy schools were in my experience a great opportunity for bonding with colleagues through worship and discussion, even if the input from contributors wasn't everybody's cup of tea, so I'd be pleased to support this mass absence, except that next week, we'll be in Sta Pola, out of reach when it comes to plugging the gaps.

Another bereavement visit this evening, for Thursday's funeral. It'll be third in a row for me to officiate at in St Paul's Grangetown, covering for Fr David. By co-incidence, it'll be the second this week of an elderly woman who worked in Freeman's, later Gallagher's cigar factory in Grangetown, having been born into a large family and growing up in the community there during the war. I expect there'll be another big local attendance for this one too, marking the passing of an extraordinary era in the history of the city.

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