Last night I slept till just after midnight, when I awoke remembering that I hadn’t completed my prayers before falling asleep, so I did so. When I had finished I was fully awake so I went downstairs, made a cup of tea, and sat in Sarah’s chair [a chair we bought recently and which, for me, is in memory of my daughter who died in the spring]. It felt right to sit there rather than outside, although I did go and stand outside briefly and welcomed the fresh cool breeze on my face. Sarah’s chair increasingly feels like a holy place for me. It connects me with her, of course, and thence to our family and beyond to all of humanity, living, dead and yet to be born, and it’s a place where I feel comfortable, at ease and safe. We’ve been looking for a chair that I feel comfortable sitting in for what seems like ages and at last we’ve found one. I lit a candle and sat and mulled:
Its less than two months since I returned my PTO and went feral, and much has happened, as is usually the case when I look back over any period of my life: more than I was aware of while it was happening. The cumulative effect has felt very affirming.
In response to my letter, I received a friendly phone message from the Bishop. I’ve encountered a number of people who have something of the feral about them, so I’m not alone. I had rich fellowship with Roy and Christine in St Albans. I’ve been party to conversations not only at home, but in Lewisham and Lincolnshire. I spent time sitting by the river and sensed the Divine Presence in the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Sylvia’s garden has a been a source of wonder with all the autumnal colours. I was challenged by Grayson Perry’s series of tv programmes on rites of passage. I led a retreat for some Methodists in Ilkley, where I was blessed with deep encounters, and led a silent eucharist. I spent a long weekend with two grandchildren in Surrey, and found pleasure in simple things. I met with two brothers in Ludlow to share our reflections on the spirituality of van Morrison, and was stimulated and nourished by the experience, not least in being aware of the divine activity in a man who “wouldn’t touch religion with a ten foot pole’. I shared in a simple and moving communion service in a friends home in Ely. I was graced with the hospitality of Val and Graham at Stixwould. My times of prayer have been stimulating and challenging.
I’ve been blessed with lots of support and encouragement for my new adventure, including the gift of a carved wooden sign with the designation ‘Feral Priest’, that I’ll hang on my shed door. I’ve read several books, one of theology, one a novel and the third a book of poetry, that have echoed and fed my experience in the way that books I find myself reading often do. Together they have made me aware that feral is very Celtic: a connection that I’d hadn’t explicitly made before. There have been moments of pain, anxiety and sadness too, but overall its been a rich and busy time, and I’m quite tired as a consequence. But I’m loving the sense of freedom. If this is feral priesthood bring it on!
Its often been the case. that when I have followed what I sensed was a prompting from God, and have taken a first step in response, that I experience what l call a ‘following wind’ for a period, which seems to authenticate it. It doesn’t last, but it does provide an initial impetus, which is encouraging. Its often followed by a flat and barren period which can cause me to doubt, but is really a challenge to deepen my trust. I await that to arrive in due course.