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Rent asunder

I had a surreal experience today in my last week of not being a priest.

I had the privilege of baptising a little girl this morning in our main morning service, which was great. This afternoon, I was walking down a road in our parish on my way to a funeral visit for a lady for whom I am officiating at the funeral in a couple of days time. What I hadn’t clocked before that moment was that the two families lived just a few doors apart.

As I passed the ‘baptism’ family’s house, there was a party going on in the garden, music and laughter. A big banner over their front door with the words ‘christening’ repeated many times colourfully on shiny paper. A few doors down, I came to my destination. No party here. Quiet, curtains closed, sombre. A family mourning the loss of a dearly loved mother and granny.

It felt odd to be torn in two directions so overtly on the same day. Of course, we ‘hatch’ and ‘dispatch’ on a regular basis but placed next to each other like this, it felt very odd indeed. I felt my heart being torn in two directions for the two families, as if in the middle of a tug-of-war.

It reminded me of something Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop, wrote about being a priest – albeit with a slightly different focus in mind:

‘In the minister’s one person the human spirit speaks to God, and the Holy Spirit speaks to men. No wonder he is often rent asunder. No wonder he snaps in such tension. It broke the heart of Christ. But it let out in the act the heart of God’ (Ramsey, 1985: 4)

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