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The Changes and Chances of this world… 5 December 2008

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Ponderings.

The changes and chances of this world…

It’s a well-worn phrase, but it still works, encapsulating just about everything and anything that can occur in life, the expected and the unexpected, the planned and the spontaneous, the joyous and the sorrowful. As I sit here in a quiet Chaplaincy there are so many things which could be reflected upon, so
many things I’ve thought of commenting on and yet haven’t quite got round too (a bit like my ever so good intentions to really work on a consistent ethical framework, rather than a blend of received wisdom and pragmatism).

There are also so many things which could, and should, be done, but given a
60 hour week last week, including the sad death of S, and a worked day-off (for S’s funeral) I think some of things will have to wait… until about 8pm to midnight this evening.

One thing I have been doing is trying to prepare, informally at the moment,
some sort of proposition that the university needs to employ a full-time chaplain (me, please!) I certainly know that the two allegedly half-time jobs I pursue are both open-ended. For example, technically I shouldn’t have gone to the funeral in North London on Wednesday as it was my day off. That’s not an excuse though. It was right that a chaplain was there, and I’d been “heading things up” from our side.

I found myself writing at the time, in fact:

Sitting in a coach on the way to a student funeral – present, but not really connected to the wider group. Trying to be available, but actually feeling detached, presence somewhat irrelevant, and possibly even slightly resented (“what’s he doing here?”) Distinct from the idle chatter of familiarity, possibly the coping mechanism in the face of anticipated sadness.

All this is possibly a quite good metaphor, or parallel, of the ministry of chaplaincy and possibly the wider church. Seeking to be available, being vulnerable – always open to the internalised worries of irrelevance and the question whether this is time “well-invested.”

Maybe the ultimate question is how we can truly judge the value of our actions. If there are no obviously “pastoral” conversations over the next few hours is the time any less well-spent than if there are many?

I hope my presence was useful because it must have been a really hard day for those who were most emotionally involved, while for myself the event was a little more distant, at arm’s length, so to speak. (Isn’t there a novel or a
poem called “A Grief Observed” somewhere?) I, too, couldn’t totally escape, and neither was I trying, because the day before would have been Dad’s
70th Birthday – another life, according to so many, cut short. I’m not totally convinced of the case myself.

So it was a day of grief, although I was very impressed with the vicar’s address, confronting loss and grief head on without denial, and yet ever so
carefully distinguishing between S and “Christian belief”. Offering hope to
all, but skilfully side-stepping unknown faith of S.

And through it all simply trying to be there, not a sentry, nor quite a sheepdog. Just a presence. Snippets of conversation but trying not to push anything. Simply being, overhearing the laughter and swearing, a fragile shell of bravado hiding the rawness.

This afternoon I’ll be meeting with (at least) one of the flatmates to talk though what we’re going to do tomorrow afternoon by way of a memorial, a marker and farewell here on campus. Another challenge on another day when I should be doing something else, if I went “by the book.” So I’ll quietly ignore that…

There was more, and hopefully will be, but after several long chats with visiting students this morning I’ve lost the thread a little. So, till later, maybe…



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