Debbie our ordinand was not produced by the congregation at Swanvale Halt: she was sent to us by the diocese to experience a different sort of church from her own. It seems absolutely impossible that it’s been three years since she and I had our initial conversations about it, but it is so, and as her training draws to a close the time came this Trinity Sunday for her to move on, to go to the diocese of Bury St Edmunds where she will (barring any exceptionally unusual event) be ordained at the end of this month.
You will remember that there have been certain ups and downs in Debbie’s journey so far – family and health issues, and the questionable behaviour of the powers-that-be that resulted in Debbie’s having to uproot herself and her loved ones from this area and cart her life to East Anglia. She’s certainly a subtly different character from what she was when she started: there’s a little bit of steel in her now, a greater knowledge of the less ideal aspects of the life of the Body of Christ. I’ve seen that happen in others, sometimes before they get ordained, sometimes over the course of their curacy.
The hope, perhaps, is that that awareness, that determination in the face of the rubbish Church life can throw at you, doesn’t harden into cynicism but can develop further into a sort of serenity. At my very best moments I can manage something like that, looking beyond the circumstances of the event and their frustrations and place a foot in eternity which is where, I tell myself, our true home is. ‘Moments’ is all they are, though, for now.
As we are all Church of England, Debbie bought cake and cards and good wishes were exchanged. ‘Thank you for being you!’ she told me, generously, which reminds me that I’ve been very little practical help to her indeed and that when we met for supervision meetings I would flail around to find some illustrative anecdote which she would welcome as some kind of pearl of wisdom. ‘Well’, I said, ‘the trouble is that I can’t really be anyone else’. ‘Yes, but you’re always you with gusto’ she added. I found myself saying ‘I suppose over the years I’ve sort of grown into the part’.