An anniversary of “Who am I?”

I wasn’t going to share this but today (19 years ago) I was ordinated to the Anglican priesthood.

I have not functioned as a priest in a long time (since 2007) and since returning to Anglicanism I have no desire to function as one. I miss preaching but I really see myself as a layperson with a past.

I had all these dreams and ideas about what life would be like at my ordination. An “Anglican Catholic” paradise coming with “valid orders”. Parish life would be all daily Mass and rosaries with people joining by the hundreds. Beautiful liturgy would bring the people in the door and they would stay. All to boast my ego as an another great “Anglo-Catholic priest”. But … none worked out as I thought. While I think the priesthood was (is?) a true vocation for me, I now see that it was another way of escaping “me”. The anxiety over my own identity could be replaced by simply adopting a position within the community and expecting people to recognise it. It was their divine duty to listen to me as their priest sent from God. But apart from right liturgy – how to hold my hands during the Eucharistic prayer – I had little insight into parish life. I doubt I connected with any person while I was a parish priest.

Time showed that I have no organisational and very little inter-personal skills. Since then I have become increasingly uncomfortable with some of the ideas I held about God (especially my relationship with Jesus), the Church (as an earthly institution), and especially the priesthood (the purpose of it and the place within the Church). Religion is not magic – my relationship with Jesus is personal and real. I have since met real Anglican priests (and a real deacon) and I know that I am nothing like them – the way they authentically connect with people and reflect Jesus.

So the problem of identity is still with me. Who am I? Yes, I am one loved by Jesus. But apart from that I can honestly say I have little idea. I am not a role assigned to me by the crowd – a persona into which I can escape. To be honest I have gifts that often make me feel ashamed – I see myself as opinionated and arrogant. Sometimes I think I am just a loudmouth with a smile.

I am extremely thankful that the priesthood introduced me to the Anglican tradition of daily prayer. The Office (once I gave up being the judge) has been a great comfort. SO with all of that here is a verse from today’s Morning Prayer reading:

“Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested”

(Hebrews 2:18)

In the end my priesthood (what a horrible term!) was never about Jesus. I saw the signs, and I proclaimed the signs, but I never saw where they were pointing. I argued about Jesus’ presence on the altar, discussed proper reverence and (much to my shame now) modesty for women in church. But I never heard him say to me “for you”. I had reached the position from which I could tell others what to do without every having to look at myself. I escaped “me” for a role and the question that I simply cannot answer.

Today is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I am not sure if I should celebrate or lament.

BTW: I reflected on my priesthood this time last year. So much has changed – lots very painful. I wrote about an “inner priesthood” – I suspect that idea has little meaning for me now.