It wasn't easy deciding to resign my position as the parish priest for the community of St Katharine's that I had cared for over the past (nearly) seven years. Yet when sensing a call from the Divine to step out onto a different path, the one thing that I have learned over the past fifteen years of following God's call is that I shouldn't expect things to be easy. So many people over the past few months have asked me the usual questions: "Exactly what are you going to do?", "How will it work?", "How will you support yourself?". These are good questions, questions that I ask myself too. And the honest answer is that I don't know. The call is simply to take the first step, trusting in the Divine to lead me along the path ahead, wherever it may go and however slowly it (and I) may seem to be progressing.
So, I am here. We have left behind a community and the Vicarage and moved into a new home, in a new part of the country. The unpacking has largely been completed and I need to make a start with whatever it is. So I am beginning, officially, as it were, on Wednesday 22 February. This is no random date but rather, this year, it is Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent in the Church's calendar.
Last Sunday, we were reminded in the Church's readings of Christ's Transfiguration, that moment when Christ was revealed to the watching disciples in all His divine glory. It is a moment in the Church year when we are reminded of God's true power and of Jesus' identity; it is part of our preparation and strengthening for the journey towards Jerusalem that we, with Christ, are about to undertake. Whatever lies ahead, we are to trust in that vision of God's glory; we are to remember always that God is doing this, that God chooses this. So as a church community, we step forward into the solemn season of Lent; as a full-time iconographer, I also take my first, uncertain steps forward.
In previous years, in my previous role, it would have been me who invites the community into a season of self-discipline, of self-reflection and repentance. This year, I shall hear the words spoken by another over me: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ." Setting out on a new path, moving forward into the world of an empty diary, will indeed require great discipline from me. I must be focussed on the tasks in hand, actively seek opportunities to challenge my abilities, and try new techniques. Yet, however much there may be for me to learn about the day-to-day tasks of being an artist and iconographer, this Lenten season reminds me of my real focus. Ultimately, Christ is my Teacher and it is to Christ I am called to be faithful in all that I do.