This is a strange time to retire from formal cathedral ministry but as it has crept up on me some interesting conversations are helping me to look at the bigger picture.
Across the world the past weeks have brought to us all, almost without exception, unexpected “time out”. We are still reeling from its impact and with it the unknown in daily living has come to centre stage. We have been forced to take stock, press the pause button and let ourselves and the earth take a deep breath.
“Ding, time out!”
I am no sports player but when the opposition call “time out” play stops until the referee calls everyone back on the pitch. Time out can be good for us but it can also take us by surprise. The world has certainly been taken by surprise just now and the round of daily life has suddenly stopped. We are back on the bench with the team trying to work out a strategy for the resume of play.
I remember an ice breaker for group discussions where the leader asks each person to consider where on or off the sports pitch they would put themselves, in terms of their lives and their relationship with God. Are we on the pitch in the team playing our part in God’s world or on the bench waiting our turn? Are we injured and frustrated watching from the side lines or on the terraces cheering our team on? Many of us can put ourselves in one of those places just now.
I found myself negotiating formal retirement as we all went into lockdown and it has sharpened the loss of control. The reality of it is bringing unforeseen surprises, conversations and the space to take stock, recoup, watch for a while and maybe come to be considered for a different position in time. Time out offers respite and renewal to consider perhaps a change of direction and approach.
A “gap year” can be at any age and stage of life.
I have been in church ministry of one sort or another for most of my working life. I felt called by God to leave my job as a statistical researcher at the Bank of England to pioneer social research at the Bible Society alongside tutoring for the Open University. People recognised a call for me to exercise ordained ministry in church life and beyond, which led to my ordination among the early women priests in the Church of England.
That was approaching 25 years ago and it has taken me to parish ministry in the south west, to serving as Head of Research & Statistics and Coordinating Chaplain for the National Church Institutions in London, and back again! I have had great experiences travelling around the country spreading the word about Church Research.
As doors have shut others have opened not least to enjoy cathedral music as a chorister mum, and cathedral ministry which I began at Southwark Cathedral while working in London. One constant might surprise you for I still tutor and examine for the Open University and enjoy my love of all things statistical.
What have I learnt in all this?
Well, when God calls us onto the pitch our position in the team may change over time but He is always talent spotting and looking out for us.
Nothing is wasted with God or as our former archbishop memorably said “God doesn’t do waste”.
As the direction of our lives sometimes unexpectedly changes it can come with a cost. We see that now as some are paying a heavy price in this global lockdown. I may be taking time out on retirement but this is an enforced time out for us all across the world. We have lost control and perhaps sight of God in each other. Through it we can learn something new to restore us to better ways of living. As the earth takes a deep breath and slows down the changes that are unknown but surely ahead remind us that we need each other.
We need to play for the good of the team.
These past years, as part of the Truro Cathedral community, have been very special and whatever the future holds our treasured memories and the friendships made will remain whatever the future holds in God for each one of us.
Canon Lynda Barley