So: I’ve met (briefly) the other people from this diocese with whom I’ll be spending three days next month in the Shared Conversations. The meeting was a simple dinner, at which we moved so we sat with different people for each course. I’m now working under the St Michael’s House protocols, so won’t say anything about the individuals. In terms of the group, all I’d say is that it seems very clerical, although balanced in terms of gender. There are also a lot of members of diocesan synod on it. Both of these factors affect the dynamics, as they mean that some people already know several members of the group, whereas those of us who are laity and have nothing to do with diocesan synod may have no prior knowledge of the others. Whether that’s an advantage or a disadvantage remains to be seen. As it happened, I found that one of those present has a connection to someone I know, but that’s the normal small world thing.
It was interesting to learn that this diocese selected people to take part according to those people offering to do so – the alternative being to nobble people from specific interest groups and ask them to attend. So, we’re all volunteers. That too can affect the dynamics. The bishop sent a message thanking us and saying how helpful he’d found our stories, as told on our applications to join. But in most cases we’ve said nothing to each other about our stories (yet!) so it’s sheer guesswork as to whether someone who seems very congenial thus far will agree or disagree on the issues we’ll be discussing. And that’s as it should be; first, we need to acknowledge each other as people and fellow Christians.
Not for the first time in my life, I was asked whether I am exploring a vocation to ordained ministry. Before women could be ordained, I’d answer that question (which sometimes seems to be addressed to any woman with a bit of gumption!) by saying I didn’t know; it wasn’t an option, so it was rather like asking me ‘Do you feel a vocation to be a rock?’ After the ordination of women became possible, I found my vocation to be laity steadily firming up. I think there’s something very positive about Doing Church Stuff without ordination; I hope it empowers and inspires others to feel they can too. There was a bit of a blip when I felt very strongly that I was being called to something, but wasn’t sure just what. A long period of discernment with a very fine spiritual director and some excellent quiet days in a local convent ended with the decision to train as an authorized lay preacher, and that feels just fine still. So, although I can never rule anything out, I’m lay, and proud. To adapt the lyrics of the Tom Robinson band,
Sing if you’re glad to be lay
Sing if you’re happy that way…
So, one more month before we all meet together for the big event. I think I’m at least looking forward to finding out more about my fellow Conversationalists.