I suppose I took my first steps in being feral many years ago when I was a curate in my first parish and I took “Oh Sod It” days at times other than my day off just to get away and just BE. It might be going for a picnic or wandering a city centre: I would just get up knowing that I couldn’t face being dutiful that day...
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being a parish priest and I was willing (and glad) to be carer, first for my mother and then for my sister, as they went through lengthy terminal illnesses, but I often felt that the real me wasn’t getting much of a chance.
I had to take early retirement on grounds of ill health but quickly found myself in demand every Sunday. I protected each Saturday as a Sabbath, but all the while that “Oh Sod It” feeling was there, suggesting that there was some other way of being.
Then came covid! I was “vulnerable” so I withdrew far longer than we had formal lockdowns. I have no close family, no-one with whom to “bubble” so it was just me. Or rather, me and God.
And things started to happen. Probably the first thing was deciding to scan all my old photographs. That made me think about the Mary who had been in each one. I rejoiced in the unique path I have travelled. I sorted my stuff and got rid of the things which were only relevant to an old me so that a new Mary could emerge. Both these activities will probably not cease until the day I die. I hope they don’t.
I wasn’t available to lead Sunday worship and for a long time I couldn’t even get to church. In that time something new happened. The Mary who could no longer celebrate the Eucharist most Sundays found herself far more contented just being. Being not doing.
The pandemic restrictions are mostly over but I find myself “no longer at ease in the old dispensation”. I still have permission to officiate but am far more reluctant to do so. The stillness and creativity where I met God so deeply in those long months are still the places I meet him/her today. I value the person I was but I am no longer that woman today. I am an explorer.
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