This morning, drove into Malaga to celebrate the midweek Eucharist in honour of St Matthew the Apostle, thankful that the traffic was light. I opened the church and got everything ready, welcomed a couple of Spanish visitors as best I could in Spanish, and then waited for a congregation to arrive. just as I was due to start, Rosella came and saved me from disappointment, bless her.
This day is the 46th anniversary of the first time I presided at a celebration of the Eucharist at the Parish Communion in St Andrew's Penyrheol Caerphilly, where I served my first curacy. It's hard to recall that first occasion well. I think my father came along, not sure about my mother. Neither of them were really well at the time and within a couple of years, both would be dead. It was a normal parochial service, rather than a solemn celebration with all attention on cheering on a new priest. That was what I wanted, simply to take my place in the ranks of those who serve God's people as priests to their communities.
For me, beginning priestly ministry at a Parish Eucharist was 'special' enough as an expression of priesthood. Being given the trust of people, inside and outside the church, to help them find a voice for themselves in God's presence, in an era when others were rejecting the church and distrusting its ministers, was a humbling privilege and responsibility. It still is. The older I get, the more I appreciate the privilege granted, in a world where the faith I represent occupies such an uncertain place in the guidance of humankind.
I went for another two hour walk this afternoon, eastwards this time, to Playa del Rubio, the far side of Benagalbón from Rincon. Conservation measures are in place on this stretch of beach to protect the unique plant life that grows at the point where the sand gives way to the footpath. Some sections are fenced off, and contain indigenous flowers and grasses.
Notably along this beach, I saw half a dozen swallows and heard a flock of starlings whistling and chattering in a large tree. There are houses with gardens all along this stretch. More greenery means more insects for food, and additional bird species. I've seen fewer swallows and starlings in Rincon, as it's more built up along the shoreline the habitats are less varied. Gulls, sparrows, pigeons and parakeets, are the most frequently visible species, plus the pair of blackbirds in the garden below, this apartment.