This morning I've been preparing for this afternoon's Baptism class, which is such a great privilege and pleasure.
I think what I enjoy most about this kind of group is that it is always bespoke and always has to be flexible... it's only once you start exploring together that the real questions emerge, and all your carefully considered programming must give way to responding to the needs of the group. I find it challenging, not least because my brain is sluggish these days, but I also revel in it... meeting with people who are eager, earnest and excited is infectious.
So I am excited as we count down the remaining Sundays until the big day when no less than five people will be Baptised.
Exercise to reader: what do you understand by 'evangelisation' and how is it lived out in your own walk of faith and discipleship? This is one of the questions on the list for this afternoon!
This morning began with my turn for chapel prayers at the University down the road, and for once I landed an 'OK' story - Jacob wrestling with God at Peniel. My thoughts seemed well received, and, unsually, there were nine people in the chapel (more typically it'll be about three plus me!).
Then I went to give breakfast to a cat whose humans are currently away. I was honoured with snuggles and purrs during the half hour I spent with her.
After that, it was off to the Ministers' Meeting that I coordinate. Unusually, there were only four of us, yet the conversations we shared were, in my view, the best - as in deepest, most open, most authentic/genuine - that have taken place to date. Two main topics struck me, both related to preaching.
The first, from a relatively inexperienced minister, was about the process of preparing a sermon and how long it takes. I think the sharing of experiences was encouraging in normalising their experience, and the challenges that arise trying to fit everything in. The second was someone who rarely preaches successive weeks, who is about to lead a short series, and was curious to discover how others might go about it. Again, normalising and sharing - important elements of support and encouragement.
And now I have my own sermons to write! Not quite sure what's been happening recently, but this is the third successive week where it's Thursday afternoon and not a word written - though lots of mulling has been going on. Two very different services to work on, plus the second Baptism class, so I'd better get concentrating!
Yesterday was my annual trip across the road to see my breast surgeon. All is well, and I am officially a NED for another year. So that makes seven.
A lot has happened since Feb 2011 when I underwent major, life-saving and body-altering surgery. In some ways it feels a life-time ago, in others no time at all.
It's slightly weird reflecting on all that has taken place in those seven years and counting the oodles of blessings I never expected to experience. A baby I blessed just days after my diagnosis is now a seven year old boy... This weekend we had a blessing service for a young boy, and there have been a faire few (boys and girls) in between. There have been three Baptisms (including one in the sea!) and we are excitedly planning for another five. I have shared with couples getting married in a cow shed, a library, a hospital ward, a castle and various churches... with one to look forward to this autumn, and another next year! There have also been farewells, funerals mostly for revered older folk including a minister, a missionary as well as one lady well over 100 years old, though some for women younger than myself affected by cancer or other life-limiting conditions. Granted, some folk have moved on from our church, mostly because they moved away, but some for other reasons... but we have also welcomed all sorts of new and interesting people, several covenanting with us along the way.
It's been a good seven years. Yes, of course there have been disappointments. Yes, I've had to get a couple of sets of symptoms checked out because of "your history". Yes, there has been more (non-cancer) surgery, and more drugs. For all that, life is good, a precious gift which I choose to celebrate every single day.
Today another something like 120-150 more people will join this 'club no-one wants to join' and thousands more will join other similar 'clubs no-one wants to join' whether that is cancer or any other life-threatening, life-limiting or life-changing disease or condition. So forgive me if I end with my customary nag/rant: check you wobbly bits and dangly bits, do the screeening, report any unexpected weight loss, persistent cough or other vague symptoms to your GP... it could save your life, just as it did mine.