Friday, September 16, 2011

Have cassock, will travel

When I was first ordained deacon twenty-three years ago, I would never have guessed how life was going to open up before me. I was still working full-time as a librarian back then and my work as an unpaid curate had to be fitted into the gaps. Fast forward almost nine years to my longed-for and long-worked-for ordination to the priesthood in January 1997 and my life was about to take another unexpected turn.

Within a fortnight of that unforgettable day, I had been asked to consider, and had accepted, the offer of voluntary redundancy and early retirement from my post as Area Librarian. Six months later I was officiating at DD’s wedding as a lady of leisure, but that happy state of affairs wasn’t destined to last very long. First I was asked to take on a diocesan responsibility (part-time and unpaid) and a couple of years later, after my first cancer diagnosis and treatment, I finally went into full-time parish ministry and became a vicar.

Six very happy years and two parish posts later, my second encounter with cancer led to my second attempt at retirement and this one finally succeeded. DH and I came back to our house in the hills of Mid-Wales and gradually settled into our unusual roving retirement. However, this doesn’t mean that I have hung up my cassock completely and when asked I still enjoy filling in when local clergy are on holiday. What I could never have anticipated was that being asked to provide cover when a priest needs a holiday might involve me too in packing a suitcase and flying off to foreign climes.

Saint Clement's Church
But that is exactly what has happened, thanks to my former rector and colleague in my final post being appointed as Anglican Chaplain to the English-speaking congregation based at Saint Clement's Church in Prague. His name is Ricky Yates and he writes a very interesting and informative blog about Prague itself and his life and experiences as chaplain there.  He and his wife also like to go on holiday from time to time, and last autumn I was lucky enough to be asked to act as his locum chaplain for two wonderful weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting his amazingly international (and interdenominational) congregation and almost wore my shoes out exploring Prague on foot in my spare time.

Before I came home last year, we arranged that I would return this autumn for another stint as locum chaplain, which is why, next Thursday, I will be flying to Prague, this time for three Sundays. As you can imagine, I’m looking forward to it enormously. Since we got back from Normandy last week, I’ve been busy unpacking and getting the house sorted out.  On top of this I’ve also been up to my eyes in preparation for the work I will be doing as chaplain, hence the continuing absence of new posts for those of you who faithfully pop in to see whether I’ve got round to updating my blog. J

Sadly, I won’t be able to blog properly from Prague, or at least not with photos, but I can promise you more than a glimpse of this most beautiful of cities once I’m safely back in Wales. Saint Francis and Assisi haven’t been forgotten either and will have their turn, now that the beguilingly long, light evenings of summer are only a memory and autumn is truly here.

Prague riverbank
Saint Vitus' Cathedral
Vltava River