It's been a week of placement now and important to reflect back on it.
Belvedere is a foreign place to me. It's a strange context, one that I'm not familiar with. Out of my comfort zone. Part of the reason I chose it for my placement. A parish of about 6,000 which 'stretches' about a mile and a half of South-Thames urban sprawl. It's an interesting mix of run-down looking council flats to 20th Century semi-detached housing as well as having a good amount of green, open space.. The census of 2001 doesn't really reflect accurately the population today as there has been a significant immigrant population taking residence since. But it is a multi-ethnic parish. A richness of diversity.
Looking back on my week, there has been a wide variety of experiences, from the Churches Together meeting, Wednesday experience of a home visit that shocked me (prior blog), a tour of the crematorium, a funeral visit, number of masses and morning and evening prayer.
I have enjoyed immensely the formality of morning and evening prayer in the church. Being next-door to the Vicarage has meant we have popped into the church and said prayer in the Lady Chapel, just the two of us and that has been powerful and important to me - very different from my private devotions that are said at home or work.......also a different format, taking the Catholic rite of prayer. I haven't quite got the hang of where what comes where, but I am sure by the end of next week I'll get the hang of it!
Yesterday's Sunday Mass was a highlight. I acted as Master of Ceremonies and sat beside Fr. Clive. It's a very different view of the church from behind the altar! It took me back to my days growing up in my parent's parish in Essex. A wonderful cloud of incense filled the church and the ceremony really did move me. I can't comment on my preaching, but this again was a new experience. Not the 15 minutes I am used to, but 6. Adapting for this was difficult and I had a moment of having a re-think on Saturday afternoon. not a good time to think about re-thinking a sermon. I preached on Jesus' commission to Peter and his question of Peter loving him. A very moving passage......one that I could picture happening quite clearly in my mind. People commented very positively after, so I was pleased with that.
What I reflected on most and talked over with Fr Clive was how I felt the first time I attended Sunday Mass at St Augustine’s. I came here with the family and found the service and connecting with God difficult due to the nature of the liturgy – it went from one thing to another with nothing announced and as a result found it difficult to see how anyone new to the church would be able to connect as well. However, this last Sunday was different. I could see people connecting and entering into the mass with all their heart and soul and the importance of it to them. It was also the first time I had worn my new alb (photos next week)and felt strangely comfortable in it. The first time I had a sense of getting closer to ordination and being ready for it. The waiting is coming to an end.
The congregation is a mix of people from the area - a rich diversity represented. About 130 for mass, so a full church. I know that in speaking with Fr Clive and a few long standing members of his congregation the congregation has grown significantly from when he first came and there is clearly love for both the church and Fr Clive. There is a broad mix of black and white, young and old.....and it is encouraging. The church is certainly not dead in this neck of the woods! Although it has it's challenges, the main one being one of the mix of cultures and how the church 'is' in serving and providing service for the diversity of its congregation. This was discussed at the APCM that followed Mass.
After the APCM there was a bring and share lunch and a chance for me to get to know some of the parishioners better. They were wonderfully welcoming and I enjoyed chatting to a number of people. One conversation struck me of a young family who had been attending for only a couple of years. What was interesting was the articulation of their faith and what it was they liked about St Augustine's; their connection with God there and that in talking about his faith, people assumed he was evangelical.......but St Augustine's couldn't be more Catholic, really! In talking with the people from the church I was humbled as to what had been done here. As well as sampling an interesting mix of food.....including being told, quite firmly that I was to sample a Caribbean speciality of banana fritters........something I had never had before, along with some very spicy rice! I look forward to the goat curry this week (although I suspect the goat won't be as enthusiastic!).
There was a true community spirit at the lunch and I look forward to continuing to get to know people within the parish over the next couple of weeks.
The rest of Sunday was spent relaxing and reflecting. So....onto another week.