Monthly Archives: May 2014

Things that bite

A jolly fine friend gave me a great phrase last year (pre-BAP): things that bite. I’d just been having lessons in being a lay Eucharistic minister, which involved trying not to giggle as I pretended to administer the chalice. So I was taught how to set up the altar. Standing behind it, flapping a veil around in an unpractised manner I had one of those moments, where things bite. I realised (whilst knocking the paten off the top of the chalice for the third time trying to settle the veil) that this was either going to be learning the practical side of one of the most important things I will ever be able to do – something that will become part and parcel of my being. Or, if I had gotten a No from the BAP, then standing behind the altar, setting it up always for someone else – that would be one of the hardest jobs I would have to do as a server. By the time I got home, I was wobbling all over the place – and in a call to the Jolly Fine Friend, she knew exactly what I meant. “Oh,” she said. “Yes. Things bite, usually when you’re not expecting it.”

This past ten days has seen a lot of unexpected gnashers. On Sunday the new PCC was commissioned. I’m no longer on the PCC, so I didn’t know that this was going to happen. It was, therefore, a bit of an odd feeling to be in the pews on the outside of something I had been in the middle of for three years.

For the last year we’ve been building up to a week of events, the last of which was on Sunday evening. I have the washup meeting to go to – and that’s it. I’ve been assured they still want me to attend after that – I don’t think anyone had noticed I have been to what was technically my last session – but I probably won’t. What is there to contribute? Anything being planned will happen after I’ve left. So as well as feeling a little anti-climactic that the fun stuff has been and gone, it’s another thing that bites.

I’m writing myself out of church life, and being written out by other people. Not consciously and not unkindly – just a realisation that I’ve only got one more servers’ rota… no more PCC… three more housegroup meetings… And it doesn’t matter whether they are thing I’m in control of, or not – they bite all the same. I’ve just been asked for my availability for July & August for the servers’ rota: and there are three Sundays left. That’s all. I nearly cried when I worked that out.

I’m reliably informed by my long-suffering vicar friends that I might as well get used to this, because it’ll be part of life in the future. It is the first hint of the taste of the ministry of the 18th camel. It’s my first taste of transition out of a community that I worked damned hard to get into – that I argued with, fought with, grumped at, laughed at…and eventually came to realise that I loved and was loved as part of it. It’s the latter that is the oddest realisation. I mean, I know some people don’t actively dislike me, and others are completely ambivalent towards me, and there are some people that can’t wait for me to go. But the words of kindness and encouragement I’ve encountered in the past few weeks have shown me what I didn’t know. And I’m about to start blubbing into the laptop, which would be expensive, so I shall stop.

Celebrating 20 Years

Yesterday I was very lucky to have a ticket to the service at St Paul’s Cathedral celebrating 20 years of women priests (or as I call them, ‘priests.’) In 1992 when the vote went through I was at university and I don’t really think it registered with me; I certainly don’t remember the 1994 ordinations. I was probably about as far away from the church as I could get at that point, so that isn’t exactly surprising. 

The walk from Westminster to St Paul’s was lovely – laughter and sunshine along the way. We were some of the last into St Pauls (having been drinking fizz in the pub round the corner for a bit) so the 1994 cohort had already started to process in. We stood amid the applause and cheers watching the women walking in. And I realised then that I wanted to say thank you to all of them. 

I’ve worked in places where being me has been a disadvantage. Imagine having a holiday job as a student – as a delivery assistant – where they wouldn’t let you drive the van because you were a woman… or as an AV technician when they didn’t trust you to lift a telly by yourself. So I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered why my skill was ignored just because I happened not to be a bloke. But only moments.

Their fight, their sacrifices, their banging of head against brick walls – all the arguments that were going on when I wasn’t even a Christmas and Easter attending C of E person – meant that 20 years later, I could walk into the DDO’s office with no questions asked. Well, there were lots of questions, but you know what I mean. My actual gender wasn’t part of the criteria. No-one said ‘no, you can’t do this, you’re not a chap.’ Women as priests are, in many places, unremarkable. And that is something to celebrate.