Here is 'The Messenger' downloable for free: July-August Magazine.
Dear brothers & sisters,
I have spent almost a whole year living in Chorley now and I have already had a number of treasured experiences with you all, as well as some challenging moments, as I’m sure you could imagine. It seemed only right for me to share some of these experiences with you as I look towards my priestly ordination on the 2nd of July. It is my hope that, through sharing a couple of examples of the sort of thing I have done over the past year, you might reflect with me and draw a little closer to God as I feel I have done over the past 12 months.
To pick only one positive moment from the past year does dramatically underplay the importance of the many wonderful people I have got to know – and times spent with you all – yet one event that stands out to me from the last year was the acting out of the passion narrative on Palm Sunday. Perhaps it could be said that I am a little biased towards this event, as I was honoured to be asked to play the part of our Lord during the (albeit, shortened) repeat performance on Good Friday, yet there was something particularly beautiful, to me, about the Palm Sunday.
If I had to explain the beauty of the passion play this year, I think I would point first of all towards community. During the play, we are able to look through the faces of people we know and love, people with whom we’ve laughed and cried, young and (comparatively) old, and in them see the beauty of Easter. I felt that in many ways this epitomised St George’s to me, a loving community seeking to live out Easter in Chorley and, as Peter Wilding was placed upon the cross, I truly felt I was ‘with’ the disciples. It was as though I were looking up at the original cross of Christ, who I had followed as his disciple for years, being nailed there for me.
Yet beyond that, there was a deep reverence, which also is very much typical of St George’s. In all that was done, even though we know it was not all performed by professional actors or singers, it was done prayerfully and with great care. The whole thing pointed, not towards the performers, but towards God and the beauty of the Church. There were a hundred other amazing events over the past year that I thought to mention but that, to me, seems the most “St George’s.”
On the harder side of the year I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention funerals. Funerals have become a big part of my life over the last year. I have buried people I have got to know quite well, people who have died under tragic circumstances, and even children. I don’t quite feel able to go into all of the specifics of my feelings around this ministry except to say a couple of things.
Firstly, the ministry of funerals is an amazing privilege. It is difficult, yes, and yet from the very first moment I sat down next to someone who was grieving I have felt the palpable sense that I am sat not just with the bereaved, but also with God. That in the midst of the pain, God is there, and that I am called to be there too. Holding my heart together has sometimes been almost impossible as I sit with those who are heartbroken, and yet I always come away knowing that God was at work in those places.
Before I was ordained I would have said that the thing I was most afraid of was taking funerals, yet I have been profoundly moved and affected by the people I have spent time with. Perhaps we should all think about the privilege it is to spend time with one another in life and reflect upon God’s closeness to those who mourn. We ought to recognise in our hearts that God is at work in the places of darkness and sorrow around the world.
There are a great many more things I could say but I hope these two reflections will lift your hearts and challenge you over the coming months. Ours is a community that points to the God of Easter, and one in which God is at work, even in the places where there is mourning. So too is God at work in all of our hearts and, I hope, preparing us for whatever is next to come which, for me, is to be ordained priest as I continue to serve you in the year to come.
Blessings, Fr Jordan