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


  1. How exciting, Perpetua! My supply work has taken me to many interesting places, but not to other countries! I look forward to reading about your adventures in Prague!

  2. That's so wonderful, Perpetua! Have a lovely time and I'll look forward to pictures and more stories about your Prague adventure after your return!

  3. Good to know you are safely back in the UK, if only for a short time. Enjoy Prague and remember to take those not quite worn out shoes!
    I look forward to hearing about your latest travels in due course, not forgetting St. Francis of course. We are off on our own travels at the end of the month too.

  4. Have a wonderful time in Prague. There are some rather lovely internatiional Baptists there (at Generalka (sp)) and it is a gorgeous city.

    Ooh, the code word is "priet" ... almost!

  5. I've been lucky enough to visit Prague once and long to return. It is a beautiful and interesting city. I had no idea there was an Anglican church there -- when we lived in Munich I belonged to the American Episcopal church there which had a large English membership as it was the only Anglican church there. Met wonderful life-long friends and gained many happy memories. Have fun and God speed!

  6. Hi Penny. Yes, supply work can open up all kinds of opportunities and I thoroughly enjoy in in the UK, but I had never expected that it would take me overseas. Watch this space....

  7. Thanks, Kathy, and I can hardly believe it myself. If I had a laptop, I could blog about Prague when in Prague, but I'll just have to save it all up to do on these dark autumn evenings.

  8. Hello fellow pilgrim. We got back on the 6th and my feet have barely touched the ground since :-) I've already packed two pairs of shoes for my pavement-pounding - all I need now is some more of the glorious Indian summer weather I was lucky enough to enjoy last year.

    Have a wonderful holiday yourself and see you when we're both back in Wales.

  9. Thanks, Catriona, I intend to :-) One of the many lovely things about ministering, even for a short time, in Prague is the wonderful mixture of nationalities and church backgrounds in the congregation. Very stimulating and broadening.

  10. Hello Perpetua:
    How very, very exciting all of this sounds. And, indeed, we are tempted to jump on a train to Prague and slip into your congregation on one of the Sundays you are there!

    We were most interested to learn of some of the events leading up to your ordination, your battle [for that, as we know, is what it is] with cancer and the wonderfully rich and varied life which you live in retirement. It is possible that you may even know a friend of ours, from our time in Herefordshire, Sylvia Turner who was, possibly still is, vicar of Leintwardine plus, as is the way, about three other parishes.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  11. Hi, Broad. I can quite understand why you long to return to Prague. One visit is nowhere near enough to explore it properly. The English-speaking congregation dates back over 100 years, but with a vary varied history, which you can learn about at:

    They love to have visitors, so next time you're in Prague you must worship there.

  12. Hello Jane and Lance. Yes,it really is exciting and such a wonderful experience. I'll be there for the last Sunday in September and the first two in October, in case you can't resist temptation....!

    You know what they say about life beginning at 40. Well, in many ways that has been so true for me and our retirement is part of the pattern.

    As far as your friend Sylvia is concerned, I've actually heard her name mentioned, but have never met her, as she is in not just a different diocese but a different province.

  13. When do you have time to draw breath! Being retired has certainly meant something very different for you than for most people, hasn't it? I have missed your posts but I had no doubt your time in Prague will supply you with yet more wonderful material...just please make sure you have time to share it when you get back, won't you? Until your return, much love and best wishes. Anniexx

  14. LOL! Thanks so much, Annie, I was never one to follow the crowd too much :-)

    I'm quite sure I will have a lot more time for blogging once I'm back from Prague. With the shorter days our activity levels drop considerably and blogging is so much more fun than watching TV! Meanwhile, when I'm away I'll try to make notes in the evenings, to aid my failing memory when I come to write it up.....

  15. Have a lovely, lovely, albeit busy time. What a wonderful place to go. Stay safe and enjoy every minute. K xxx

  16. Hi Perpetua,

    The congregation of St. Clement's Anglican Episcopal Church, Prague is very much looking forward to welcoming you once again later this week. And many thanks for your kind words about me and especially the link to my blog!

    In case any of your readers & followers think I'm taking too much holiday, I would point out that the first Sunday for which you are providing locum cover is whilst I'm attending the annual residential synod meeting in Bucharest, of the Eastern Archdeaconry of the Anglican Diocese in Europe. Contrary to popular opinion, that is work rather than pleasure! Only after I return from Bucharest on Monday 26th September, will I be on annual leave for two weeks.

    Likewise for the benefit of readers & followers of this blog, I hope 'Perpetua' will allow me to tell you that she has two particular claims to fame. The first is that as Locum Chaplain in October 2010, she was the first ever female priest to celebrate the Eucharist at St. Clement's, Prague. The second is more personal - six years ago, whilst my Assistant Priest in North Oxfordshire, she was the celebrant of my marriage to my wife Sybille. Not many people can claim to have conducted the marriage of their Rector!

    Finally, for the benefit of Catriona who commented earlier, the International Baptist Theological Seminary of the European Baptist Union to which she refers, is located at Jenerálka in the Šárka Valley, which is only a short distance from the Chaplaincy Flat where Perpetua will be staying during her time in Prague.

  17. Thanks so much, Karen, I intend to :-) Prague truly is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited and I'm looking forward enormously to returning there and to meeting again all the lovely people I met last year. I'll have plenty of time for sightseeing between work I enjoy, so the best of both worlds....

  18. Hello Ricky and thank you in turn for your kind words. As one of the first women priests in wales, I did things for the first time in a lot of situations, but certainly never expected to have the privilege of being the first female celebrant at Saint Clement's.

    Gosh, is it six years since your wedding? Where has the time gone? Conducting your marriage is up there with conducting DD's marriage in the memorable weddings of my life stakes :-)

    See you soon.....

  19. Yes Perpetua - 1st October 2005 was our wedding day. There is a wonderful picture that sits in the entrance hall of the Chaplaincy Flat, of the two of us coming out of Church under an archway of cricket bats. The person who took the photo? Your DH!!!

  20. Of course, Ricky! It was 3 days before I went into hospital for my second cancer surgery. Preparing for your wedding certainly helped to distract me at that difficult time:-) I remember the photo, but had forgotten that DH took it.

  21. Where do you get your energy??! I look forward to reading about your travels on your return - once you've had a chance to put your feet up and relax. Though I have a feeling you rarely do that! Thanks also for sharing details of your life and how you came to be where you are. I do find your life inspirational!

  22. Thanks so much, Sian. Not quite as much energy nowadays as you might think, I'm afraid. I almost slept the clock round the first two nights after I arrived here in Prague and now I'm relaxing and doing nothing much after my first service at Saint Clement's this morning. With anno domini creeping up on me, I tend to have to pace myself rather more than I used to :-)

    Still, I've been out for some long walks with the chaplain's wife and her dog since I arrived, so am getting some healthy exercise, even before starting my walks around Prague's historic centre.

    Not sure about my life being inspirational, but it has certainly been interesting and eventful and isn't over yet.....

  23. What an amazing retirement! We visited Prague last October, over half-term. It was cold in the evenings, but we really enjoyed walking those mazy streets during the day. Look out for the little Mucha museum. Lucky you. I would like to visit Prague again!

  24. It is rather, Anita, and nothing like the retirement I envisaged back in middle age :-) Prague is a truly wonderful city for so many reasons, some of which I plan to explore on the blog once I'm back in the UK. I reckon that most people who visit for a short time leave feeling that they would like to return some day. I know I did.


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