Sunday morning came round and this was the first time I was allowed (and authorised) to preside at a full communion service on my own! Wow!
The service was at Hockley & Hawkwell Methodist church, and I know how supportive they are, so I was not worried about that. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were in the congregation, plus some friends that had come up from Hanham. Not worried too much about that either.
So what was I worried about – the immense privilege of being able to do this, to be there and preside over the Lord’s table, and commune with ‘my’ congregation for the first time, and share Jesus with them. And in my ‘welsh’ way – wanting to do it ‘properly’.
Having been brought up in a semi-high Methodist tradition at Hanham, and Treforest, Mid Glamorgan Mission, all our minister have fully togged up in black cassock for ‘Sacrament’, and so I suppose in my sub-conscience I relate that with ‘properly’. Then I’ve spent 2 years at Wesley College with Jonathan so that’s probably pushed me higher up the candle than some of my friends.
There has been a lot written in the Methodist Recorder recently about what is right and proper for Mr Wesley’s preachers to wear. Mostly since 1st September, for services I’ve been wearing suit & clerical collar, but this didn’t seem right for communion.
At the Christian Resources exhibition I’d tried on a Cassock, and of course my family and those that were there with me all laughed! A great help. On a trip “up north”, I’d even driven past the place where they were made, so I called in a tried it again, and was measured up, but did not place an order. Finally, having received so many gifts when I left the NESB Circuit (Midsomer Norton, Farrington Gurney and Horizon Methodist Churches) and from my long term friends at Hanham Methodist, I plucked up the courage and ordered one. Hoping it would arrive in time for my first communion. It did arrive in time – but in Bristol! We were not sure about consigning £400 of cassock to re-direction so it was hand carried up in time for the welcome service.
My friends insisted that I tried it on. Here is that photo…..
The thing is though, it’s not about what I look like, it’s about doing things properly, and if in my head, for me that’s wearing a cassock, then that is what it has to be. (No criticism intended of my colleagues and friends that don’t, I have no problem – it’s a personal choice).
Funny thing, is that Jesus just said (and I paraphrase badly), ‘whenever you drink of this cup – do this in remembrance of me’, no instructions about cloths, non-alcoholic wine, cassocks, little cups, wafers or anything. Just to remember Him, and the sacrifice of love that he made for us.
Anyway, back to the story, full communion, full service from the Methodist Worship Book, me roasting in my cassock, me stepping on the edge of the material 3 times and nearly tripping up!
But communion went beautifully, and it was wonderful to be able to place the bread into people’s hands and say “The body of our Lord Jesus given for you.”
I even managed a shorter sermon. All done and dusted in 1hr 7minutes. Congregation all smiling, no incidents, no spilled wine on the beautifully laundered cloths. Drank my coffee and ate my biscuits with a huge sense of relief, satisfaction and thankfulness. Praise God from whom all blessings flow…..