At breakfast aboard ship yesterday morning, a lady with a Mancunian accent told me about the bomb incident at Manchester Arena. It seems she'd been watching late night TV news in her cabin. We had not found a moment of idleness in which either of us wanted to watch TV throughout the week, or listen to the radio, or scan internet news feeds, so we had no idea of what had happened. Sadly, she was quick to lay the blame at the door of 'them foreigners', and my 'what if the bomber was British?' speculation fell on deaf ears. Away from the ship, it was easier to follow the story from the phone, as signal reception in the Dreieckgebeit is strong, no matter the nationality of the service provider, which switches not infrequently as you travel around.
I woke up early this morning, aware that I'd be facing a class of children attending the midweek Mass I was due to celebrate at St Germans's. It was difficult to know how to prepare for this, especially as they could be any age group between seven and eleven, and there's no way of knowing how much the kids would have taken in at home, let alone in school. For once I wasn't looking forward to taking this service. Thankfully the morning's 'Thought for the Day' by Dr Michael Banner, offered me an insight I could work with, about kindness being essential to peacemaking. And I managed to use the story of Beauty and the Beast to illustrate how loving those we fear can change people. Well, I survived. And probably wittered on too long. As I do.
Fr Phelim arrived at the end of Mass, to meet the wardens and discuss his official arrival in the Parish as he finally has a licensing date, 14th June. It's to take place in the Cathedral, Both St German's and St Saviour's will be free to welcome him in their own way. The previous effort made by the diocese to unite these Parishes was a failure which damaged rather than develop relationships between them. There's no certainty every initiative in renewal or reform of the church for mission will succeed. But, there are unlimited possibilities to learn from failure and grow in wisdom and understanding as a result. Fr Phelim is commissioned to build bridges, re-establish trust and heal divisions, as a first step. I feel confident his background ministry experience, working in Belfast will be a blessing to all in the long run. I'll be praying for him and cheering him on from Malaga by then, thankful for the last couple of years I've be privileged to share at St German's.