Had a great time this week staying at Windsor Castle, or rather at St George's House in Windsor Castle. Yes, that Windsor Castle, where the Queen lives when she isn't at Buckingham Palace or Balmoral or Sandringham or wherever.
Didn't get to see the Queen, but did get a few days of serious thinking about what this Church business is all about. A bit of time out of the Parishes to think about Parishes is quite a good thing from time to time.
This time together was called a 'Parishes Consultation' and whilst ostensibly concerned with reflecting on 'Clergy Spirituality, Lay Spirituality, is there a difference?' actually offered the chance to reflect in some depth on many aspects of the church and her mission and ministry in our present day.
We had some very nice, very traditional services, good food, comfy beds and some excellent talks by various Canons of St George's chapel, as well as the obligatory and enjoyable tours of the Chapel (which is the home of the Knights of the Garter, the Order of St Geoge) and the State Apartments of Her Majesty. More than anything else, though, we had time to talk, to think, to be together and consider the reality of some of what is happening in the life of the church today.
One of the strengths of the consultation was that it wasn't a 'Vicar-fest' but a group of lay people and Clergy talking together, laughing together and tackling issues which are real to us in our everyday lives as church.
Topics were wide ranging and diverse - lay and clergy roles, changing times for society, struggles of churches in small parishes, worship, engaging with the historical demands (ie mainly buildings) of being the Church of England etc etc
What came out of the all the discussions, though - both individual and corporate - was a feeling of excitement about our faith and a desire to be bold and vital in our expression of Christianity. There was a lack of embarrassment when talking about the Good News of our faith - a desire not to 'buy in to' the 'seige mentality' that the church so easily adopts - a heartfelt cry to put joy and faith and love in the centre of our expression of faith.
In my recent deliberations about ministry I have failed to express, perhaps, something of what all this ministry business is all about, in fact what all of this Christian Faith is all about. It is about Jesus Christ, and the great things that come from our relationship with God and with each other because of him.
I am excited about my faith, I am excited about this calling to ministry, I am excited about the calling of the Church to proclaiming Jesus Christ, and I am excited about the love of God which is so great and so awe-inspiring - and well worth shouting about.
Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost, that wonderful festival of the joy giving Spirit who lives in our hearts through faith and fills us with God's love - a good opportunity to remember the gifts of a gracious God, and to resolve to live in that joy and hope in all of our lives. Amen! Hallelujah!