This time last year, I went to a Holy Communion service, then went out for lunch and a few drinks with some friends. Nothing all that momentous in that (well, receiving Holy Communion is always momentous, whether we're aware of that fact or not, but that's another post for another day...) However, this was a very special service, and a very special bunch of people to lunch with.
It was my last official day as a seminary student, although I didn't actually leave college until the middle of the following week. It was the official end to three years of study, much 'formation,' fellowship, and two degrees (although I had still to sit my Master's exam, and the first things I unpacked when we arrived at our new home were the kettle and tea things, of course, and five boxes of revision books). It marked, for me, a major staging-post in a journey that had, at that point, taken me six years so far, seven if you count the year I spent arguing with God about why my putting myself forward for ordination in the Church of England was a mad idea. I knew that I wasn't 'there' yet; one student jokingly remarked that I was 'formed' now, but of course being formed into the image of Christ takes rather longer than three years. It was also my children's last day at the village school where they had made good friends and got up to all sorts of high-jinks, and it was just as poignant for them as it was for me as we walked an unruly mob of eight- to ten-year-olds through the city for a goodbye visit to our favourite ice-cream parlour.
Those of you who know me will know that this hasn't been the easiest year of my life (we British aren't bad at understatement, are we?) But then again, those of you who know me will know what a sheer delight and joy my involvement in church ministry is to me, how I wouldn't be doing anything else, anywhere else. This time last year, I moved from one very special community, to another very special community, and I thank God for both. But I couldn't have predicted, this time last year, how my year would go. And as I've reflected today, as I've been driving around as one does in rural parts, if church ministry has taught me anything so far - and it really has - it's that life is unpredictable, and people are fragile, usually more so than they look; but within that fragility is the potential for something wonderful and life-giving and all-embracing: grace. That's been my experience this last year. There's a song by Teenage Fanclub that I've loved since I heard it, and I only realised today that I've always misheard it. It's the song 'Ain't That Enough' and the lyrics go:
Days that found you
Embrace that found you
I've always heard it as 'the grace that found you.' That's what I'd tell myself, if I could teleport myself back to this time last year: grace will find you. 'Ain't That Enough' is not a religious song, but for me at least, it has a spirituality to it. It's about watching a sunrise and knowing that here, now, is enough. Embrace will find you. And grace will find you. Maybe they're the same thing. Maybe I haven't misheard, after all.
Ain't That Enough?