Yesterday morning we welcomed two classes to the midweek Mass at St Germans instead of the usual one. It happened because one of the class teachers was called away without warning on compassionate leave, and recruiting a supply teacher at very short notice proved difficult. For one or other of the classes, this was a change in routine. Thankfully all were in a good mood and sang well. A chill wind defeated the effort of the heating system to make the building comfortably warm, so I got the children doing actions to the Peruvian Gloria and stamping their feet during the Alleluia, hoping that a little movement would be beneficial. I read them the Candlemas Gospel and kept my commentary brief, so they wouldn't have to sit for too long and get cold.
After the service over a cup of coffee in the Day Centre, we started discussing plans and timetabling for Lent. Later in the day, I started to put all the liturgical engagements in my diary for the school and church services up until Easter. There's a lively hope that Fr Phelim will be licensed to the parishes as soon as possible afterwards. At that point, I'll have to shift my attention as a locum priest to my home parish, again, with the hope that the appointment of a replacement for Fr Phelm will be made very soon. It's important, given that three churches and a heavy urban pastoral workload is more than one full time priest on his can bear. If later in the year I go back to locum duties in Spain, if previous experience is anything to go by, it will seem very quiet in comparison.
This morning I celebrated the St John's midweek Eucharist for the Feast of the Presentation, 1984 BCP style, with ten people present. Straight afterwards, people started arriving for a funeral due to take place half an hour after we'd finished. There was just enough time for me to prepare for the service and drink a cup of tea before the hearse arrived. There were about fifty mourners present, a fraction of the attendance at Tuesday funeral in St Catherine's. That's just how it is, no two occasional offices are the same, each has to be prepared for separately and carefully. Doing half a dozen funerals in a week, as is often the case for fully time clergy in a Parish like ours can be very demanding, as well as disruptive of all other activities. I just hope that pastoral reforms now under way in the diocese and Church in Wales generally will address this. I'm not sure the church is as concerned about clergy health as it should be.
I was driven to Thornhill Crematorium in the latest Jaguar XF saloon. The fleet of funeral company cars recently exchanged diesel for petrol models, the diesel ones having proved less than satisfactory for technical reasons. Paul, my driver, proudly showed off the car's state of the art technology. The vehicle has its own internet connection and can receive a wide range of digital radio and TV channels (the latter only when stationary) as well as sat nav and other aids to navigation and parking. The car can be paired via USB and/or Bluetooth to any kind of digital device and even has its own built in web browser. It is, in effect, a three litre V6 supercharged smartphone one wheels!
The car has heated seats with a built in massage mode, something I found quite disconcerting, since it reminded me of having small kids in the car kicking the back of the front seat, bored with containment. These cars do big mileages whether in long trips or a multitude of short ones around town. For those who spend half of their working lives behind the wheel, it must make a difference to drive a vehicle that is designed for creature comfort.
After a late lunch, I walked into town, and took photos to record the progress being made on the Central Square construction work, and to visit the CBS office to have tea and a chat with Julie and Ashley, but Julie had already left by the time I arrived, feeling unwell. Ah well, another time. Discussing current Company affairs, I don't think I'm any longer capable of coping with the worries and responsibilities of running a business, on top of the pastoral duties I get to undertake. I value the experience I had over six years of being a voluntary priest with a day job, something I hoped to do a lot earlier in life, but never got around to. Now I need all my inner resources to respond to the increased flow of duties that has come my way lately to the best of my ability. Who knows what the future holds?