Yes, I know it’s too early. Christmas is 5 weeks today and we’ve still got the whole of Advent to get through but I’m in a mood to celebrate.
Many vicars dread the Christmas season and not without reason, it’s a full on period with lots of extra services. But compared to this time last year: this Christmas should be a doddle.
Last year I had started in my new post, my first incumbency (“vicar job”) lots of extra responsibility and no team of colleagues in the same church with me. The scaffold of all the mentors and trainers I could turn to in my curacy years suddenly felt very absent. It was like being sent up a ladder with a copy of the BIG YELLOW book (“Practical Church Management”) in one hand and the diocesan phone directory in the other. My only safety net a Facebook group called ‘Newbie Vicars’ where no question was too stupid and sympathy and encouragement was palpable.
On top of this we moved into the Vicarage on Dec 10th and moved my mother into her house on Dec 1st. All of November had been spent shuttling between old house, new house, mum’s house, trying to get to grips with the new job, seeing electricians, gas engineers and workmen in three different houses. It was nightmarish. I never ever want to go through such an experience again. (To all curates out there: never agree to be installed in post before moving into vicarage). The rest of December was a blur – we ‘did’ Christmas at church just the way it was always done (no bad thing for my first year there) mostly because I didn’t have a shred of creativity left in me.
So yes, this year feels a whole lot different and tomorrow November 21st we will have a family Christmas meal because Matt will not be with us at Christmas: he will hopefully be busy ‘pot-washing and night-portering’ in Courchevel (as well as fitting in as much snow-boarding as he can).
There are other reasons to celebrate too: Emma our daughter got engaged to Ben and it’s full steam ahead with wedding preparations for next June. Going to look at wedding venues in late October we felt offered us little hope of a 2015 wedding but as we all stood in the grounds of the most beautiful venue we went to, we held our breath when Emma was asked the question ‘when were you thinking about having your wedding?’
‘Err, well June 2015 ideally’ she said tentatively
‘Oh well then, that’s alright’ the lady said, ‘if you’d said June 2016 you’d have been disappointed but we have availability in June 2015!’
Then we found a caterer with only one date to spare in June: yes, the date was the date we wanted. There is a lovely sense of someone going ahead of us.
Other huge reasons for celebrating are that I feel better than I’ve felt for most of the year. After a major crash in March and April, I have only climbed up very slowly out of a pit of exhaustion with all the accompanying loss of self-confidence that feeling constantly drained always brings.
On the Sunday of my first anniversary in post, we welcomed two new recently confirmed members into church. There are other new regular members too, which is fab as well as new heating, new services and a new website. The ‘old’ (ie ‘pre me’) members are also fab, many very hard-working, in small churches everyone needs to do something!
We are also grateful that Matt got safely across Europe into Morocco and back again on a motorbike between August and November. He has had a great time stopping off at lots of animal sanctuaries and farms along the way. In Morocco he helped turn an animal sanctuary into a registered charity with it’s own Facebook page (look up Four Legged Animal Sanctuary) and he’s been invited back there next May to be their Sanctuary manager for six months. Having gained all his Vet qualifications and graduated in July, he’s having a lot of fun before ‘serious’ career effort kicks in.
If you’d like to ride with him on his bike through Europe in under 3 minutes, go and look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUv9GqQVrtE (if the link doesn’t work try searching ‘Big Europe Trip plus Morocco’)
So yes, lots of reasons to celebrate. We like living in the Vicarage particularly now that David has insulated every draught out of existence and Matt painted the front door and garage door a lovely and, oddly, Moroccan blue. We’ve made friends with lovely neighbours and made lots of new connections in the community. My mum also has thoroughly settled in to her new environment.
On Facebook at the moment people are posting up photos that make them smile. Well, here are some more, also all from this year.
David and I enjoying our first cycling holiday together. No bikes in sight and lots of ice-cream – that’s the way to do it.
Mum on her birthday in July.
The joy of getting to the end of five years hard work.
And finally, my four-legged faithful friend who endured much sofa time with me earlier in the year and not enough walks. Thanks to Jim who suggested a caption for this photo ” I hope you know the reverse spell to change David back the way he was’. 🙂
Christmas in November? Well as Christmas is literally a celebration of ‘God with us’ – I’m happy to celebrate the truth of God becoming part of the human race ANY month of the year.