A reflective interlude

A friend, Matt Breckon, is hesitant to describe himself as a poet; but his reflection on the communion at Noak Farm leads one to think his modesty may be misplaced…

The Priesting

On a hill above Martley in the warm embrace of sun and Son
We sat to modern country feast
of offered loaves and fishes in Galilean vale

The newly priested curate rose and at the hay bale altar tore bread
              and poured a cup of haemic wine.

Broken. Poured out for you.
Remembering
rural healing
An urban death.

Then interrupting introspection Holy Spirit like a duck, emerging
              from the farmhouse pond o’er the communion table sped,
a pointed arrow
an outstretched neck
Fade gleaming city temples for here God’s resplendence is.

Matt Breckon, 2013

One afternoon above Martley (photo by Nick Eden)

Above Martley (photo by Nick Eden; click to enlarge)

Church beyond the walls…

Last Saturday was both intense and enjoyable. I got ordained as a priest in the early afternoon, and then a few hours later celebrated my first communion in the open air, on the hillside above Martley.

It may seem strange to have a second ordination just a year after the first one; it’s an Anglican thing, but this one permits me to celebrate Holy Communion and to be able to take weddings. The service was similar to the one last year, but somehow it had more impact emotionally on all of us involved. This may in large part be due to the wonderful sermon given by Bishop Jack Nicholls, who had also led the retreat in Cropthorne. He has an extraordinary ability to tell stories that have a deep impact emotionally as well as spiritually.

Ordination completed: me with Hazel Charlton and Richard Bubbers, and the Bishop of Worcester, John Inge.

Ordination completed: me with Hazel Charlton and Richard Bubbers, and the Bishop of Worcester, John Inge.

Afterwards, there was a celebratory barbecue at Noak Farm, most generously hosted by Richard and Claire Bray. Their farm is on the hillside just above Martley – it’s a stunning location with amazing views. It was a relaxed gathering, and a great opportunity for the church to meet friends and family from Cheltenham. We were very fortunate to have excellent weather – which had seemed unlikely during Thursday’s downpour!

One main reason for having the event there was to be able to use it to do my first Holy Communion – using a bale of straw for the altar, and with spectacular views of Martley and the surrounding Worcestershire countryside. Although God is present within church buildings, he’s also present outside the walls, in the midst of this rural community, within the countryside which he has ultimately created. I was glad of the opportunity to express that through leading communion in that context.

For me it was an extraordinary day and one that I’ll remember for a very long time.

First communion - at Noak Farm above Martley, with the Malverns in the background.

First communion – at Noak Farm above Martley, with the Malverns in the background. (Click to enlarge) (Photo taken by Nick Eden)

First communion - at Noak Farm above Martley

First communion – at Noak Farm above Martley. (Click to enlarge) (Photo taken by Nick Eden)

Collared

Last Sunday’s ordination service was an amazing occasion – and it was quite extraordinary to be right at the centre of it! After 16 years since I first felt the call to ordination, I had a huge feeling of relief throughout… and as I drove to Wichenford for the lunch afterwards, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow, I’m in! I’ve made it!”

Preparation for the event began with a silent retreat at Holland House, near Pershore. Although I had viewed this with some trepidation it was actually very helpful to be able to get away from the busyness of all the preparations and to reflect on the real reason for being ordained… In fact, it wasn’t entirely silent, as there was a ‘talking space’ which some of us used in the evening, which was a most valuable time for connecting with other curates.  The location, on the banks of the Avon near Pershore, also helped!

A great location for the Riverbank Scribe to go on retreat…

The day of the ordination began with prayer in the crypt, the oldest part of the Cathedral, which goes back before the Norman disaster to the tenth century and the Anglo-Saxon St. Oswald. It was fitting to be able to pray where believers have gathered to worship God for over a thousand years.

The ordination service itself was a most grand occasion, full of pomp and ceremony, which was a real contrast with what I’m used to at Trinity. Nevertheless it was hard not to feel that this event was marking something significant! What struck me afterwards was how many friends said that they had really enjoyed the service and felt it was done well.

Giving the declarations some oomph – with Richard Bubbers and Hazel Charlton

I hugely appreciate the friends and family who came to support me at the ordination. It’s hard to be selective of pictures of the occasion, but as Matt & Jo, Dave S and Dave K have been close friends through the rough times as well as the good I’m including theirs.

With Dave S and Dave K

With Jo and Matt

After the ordination service we all headed over to Wichenford, for the celebration lunch. The churches in the area had provided most generously and it was also an opportunity for friends and family to meet people from my new community.

The week since then has been most enjoyable, as I have begun my new job. But that will have to wait for another post…