At the moment, I am back to that old metaphor of walking:
occasionally walking behind, cheering from the back as gifts are nurtured and nourished,
sometimes walking ahead, with head turned back, and hand beckoning in encouragement:
'C'mon, it'll be okay, this is a story that has a great ending, which is really a whole new beginning. Don't be afraid.'
I am also back to a favourite word as well: 'story'.
As I walk in my probationer-minister's shoes, I ponder place and time as I minister here and now at 'Seaside Parish', and think about how both weave in and through the lives of the community of folk that I have grown to love and care for.
And as a student of history with a fondness for 'the story', I think of the many stories written into the life of this community, past, present, and future; stories that I have been told, stories being uncovered whilst listening in a living room and drinking tea, stories of hoped-for outcomes or of hope snatched away.
Gathered together, in this specific place, at this specific time, there are many stories held together by that one common story of an unexpected expected child, in a far-away land, at a far-away time, who grew in wisdom and grace, who used stories to point the way to a larger, deeper story...who was crucifed, died, was buried, and who rose again, and who calls us 'friend'.
We are a community of story, and of journey...
sometimes walking together
sometimes walking apart
occassionally walking rather shambolically
every so often walking in ways that surprise and astonish and delight
but always, always
walking in the light of God's loving faithfulness.
Perhaps then, to be a minister, is to acknowledge that this is not a sedentary task we're called to - although knowing that it is good to rest is also important in order to walk more fruitfully.
Perhaps it is to acknowledge that this is not a silent task we're called to -
although knowing the value of wordless waiting is also important in order to hear the story better.
Is the minister, in essence, a wandering story-teller - wandering and yet rooted in the community one is called to:
proclaiming in word, and in symbols, in speech and in gestures, the great story of God's journey to us - and our journey away and towards, away and towards him?
It is exhausting and joyful, life-giving and gut-wrenching, it is littered with the trivial and mundane and shot through with the transcendant, it is inspiring and humbling and a hundred million things in-between...and I wouldn't swap it for the world.