You may be getting fed up with me and my gloomy posts recently, and while I am not going to apologise, I do have some good news to share. Last week I visited a possible new appointment in County Durham, was offered and have accepted the post. It means moving house again, but I am not thinking about that for now, I know where I am going, and part of the lure was quite simply the stunning coastline, I love the sea, I do well by the sea, and for that alone it will be good for me. It will be very different to my current ministry in Sheffield, and in many senses I am reserving judgement, my stance is always to get to know a place over a year before saying much, working alongside folk, allowing them to surprise me, but the whistle stop tour last Tuesday did enough to allow me to take a leap of faith.
That said I realise that I have a lot of letting go to do, I have been in Sheffield for 6 years now, not long really, but I have made many connections here, some of which I will keep up, other I will relinquish and let go. I have come to love the Peak District, but know that County Durham offers equally beautiful scenery, and has the bonus of the coastline I have already mentioned. There is some hard stuff to let go of too, the last few months have been difficult, and the pandemic has interrupted many things, including relationships, some friendships have changed and some priorities have shifted. I will have less responsibility in my new post, which gives me much desired and needed time to give to my family. I have to somewhat soberly reflect that I am 60 next week ( a chorus of that can’t possibly be true may follow…) I want more time for family and the chance to visit friends in different places, I want more time for writing and exploring creativity. I want more time to connect with the divine, to recentre my spiritual life in what feels like a life turned upside down.
We have missed a lot over the last 2 years, gatherings and celebrations have been put on hold or muted, many of us still think twice before doing something, the question is it safe seems to be at the top of our minds. The news is still full of statistics and the ground seems to shift daily. I had a random conversation with a couple in the supermarket car park yesterday, and they spoke of being weary, told me they had been self isolating over Christmas as they had contracted Covid, of how masks are getting them down, they were honest and open about their feelings, honest and open with me a stranger- maybe the dog collar gave them an opening. I guess I had smiled at them, having taken my mask off in the car park.
I wonder how honest we are with ourselves and others, and I am sure that we are all in different places, the question is it safe has different answers for each of us, and I know for me the gloomy January weather really isn’t helping, it is cold and grey, the kind of cold that somehow finds its way deep into your bones, the cold me want to hide away and hibernate, everything seems to need extra energy, energy I don’t really have.
Maybe one of the things I most need to let go of is the thinking that things should be different, that I shouldn’t be exhausted or frustrated, or as Tom Stuckey helpfully pointed out in todays Theology Everywhere article, angry! Angry, that got me thinking, am I angry? He reminds us of the possibility of our anger:
An increasing number of people in Britain are now finding their anger: anger over the death of loved ones; anger at being prevented from being with them at the end; anger at lockdown; anger at those in Government who set the rules but fail to keep them.
Yes I am angry about the fact, I repeat, the fact, that parties have been held at Number 10 while others couldn’t see their loved ones, even as they were dying. I am angry about my own sense of isolation ( I have written about that before) and in some ways I am angry with myself for not doing well during these two years, I didn’t take up jogging or baking sourdough bread, I have struggled, sometimes with the fact of spending too much time inside my own head- always a dangerous place. The anger with myself is something I need to let go, and something I am working with a counsellor on at this time. While I don’t lament not jogging or baking, I do and can lament not being truly kind to myself.
So, this week we can go back to our offices- well mine is at home so no change there- face masks will no longer be mandatory, though they may be wise, and scientists are pointing to cases rising again after they have fallen. In all of this we are still asking what now and what next. Maybe we need the impetus of getting in touch with our anger (believe me as an Enneagram 9, that is a real challenge for me) , but anger is something we as Christians shy away from, because it is not nice! Well I don’t recall being called to be nice! I leave you with more from Tom Stuckeys post:
Most Christians today think anger to be a sin. The writer of Ephesians however tells us to ‘be angry but sin not’ (Eph.4.26). In today’s Church we do not ‘do anger’ but we do not ‘do justice’ either! A.V Campell tells us that in banishing anger we have produced a ‘gospel of niceness which often leads to pettiness’. (. A.V Campell, Gospel of Anger, SPCK, 1986, p.61)
Lament in the Bible is not a tombstone but a launch pad. It opens a door to the future. It is God’s motivating vehicle of transformation. Unless fully expressed theologically, practically and emotionally our anticipated new normal will become even more problematic than the old.
How will we express ourselves, for now I am sticking with lament, and trying to access my anger in appropriate ways!