“She’s my vicar”.
Someone introduced me to someone else with this phrase earlier in the week. I was so proud of myself for internalising mysqueal of horror!
Now, aside from the technicality that I am no vicar or even ordained yet. It was moment in a week of events that had thrust upon me the reality that for a group of people I am ‘their vicar’. I feel as though this has somehow snuck up on me, like I have been hoodwinked! I was working in ministry, I didn’t realise that would mean anyone would start thinking I knew what I was doing. Start looking to me for answers. Start seeking me out for help navigating life’s troubled pathways. Why would anyone think I knew how to do that?!
Well, the holy answer of course is that they don’t. I don’t. I point to the one who has the answers. To the Lord who knows them, me and the troubled pathway and in whose infinite mercy and grace wishes to walk alongside us on them.
This is not just the holy answer, its the actual answer. But, the reality is that there is still me, a human being who is involved in that transaction somehow. This week this has hit me in a way I haven’t noticed before.
We don’t live in Manchester. But we aren’t far away.
On Tuesday as the news of the bombings filled TV screens, twitter feeds and everyone’s thoughts, it began to occur to me that I might have to do something.
My supervisor, the actual vicar is off sick you see. Even if she hadn’t been, I was on facebook and she wasn’t and I was aware of the number of people I minister to who were scared, and sad and looking for spiritual guidance. Heck, I was scared and sad and looking for spiritual guidance.
I wanted to pray. I wanted to shout and cry and plead with my friend and Lord Jesus and have him put his arms around me and say he understood. I knew that was going to help me not to make it all ok, but to be safe and loved while I processed it. But I couldn’t shake the thought – what if it would help someone else and they didn’t know that they could do it? What if they hadn’t thought about praying? What if they didn’t know Jesus wanted to put his arms around them? I had to let them know…
I have not felt like this before, and I suppose as we go on I shall continue to reflect on this.
Three things occur immediately: firstly, it is an absolute honour and privilege to be able to point people to my mate Jesus who loves us and will help us process this horror.
Second, an amazing amount of the contact I had with people on Tuesday was online – I think that moving forward in my ministry I will be more aware of this, and ensure that I view the people who I keep in my heart before God as those I am with virtually as well as physically.
And finally, priesthood is something that involves not just who I am and what I do, but who people think I am and what they think I do. I am not his vicar: in technical, hierarchical terms. But maybe I am in some way his ‘priest’ because that is what he thinks I am – a person who points him to Jesus, offers spiritual guidance and challenge, and if so, whatever the technicalities and no matter how much it scares me… I will step up (with the help of God), I am honoured to be counted as such by him.