It’s been a while since I’ve had a proper fortnight’s holiday.
You could, of course, argue that I had a whole three months off on sabbatical last year, but as that was pretty much filled up with a course, a placement, planning a wedding and clearing Niall’s flat, there was probably about a week in the middle where we actually had proper time off.
So a fortnight now is very welcome. And these are Kingfisher Days.
On the first day of the holiday (a Monday – clergy types should never go Sat to Sat…) we went to Bath and before wallowing decadently in the Thermae Spa, booked a boat trip on the River Avon. (My Gran always used to say a holiday’s not a holiday without a boat trip).
As we made our way under Pulteney Bridge and down the river, I spotted a kingfisher, a flash of colour in the corner of my eye, then a quick sighting of a small, elusive bird flitting away downstream to a branch where it was unlikely to be disturbed by pesky tourists.
I had been thinking about kingfishers since we had first talked about booking the trip. I had in my head a half remembered analogy of God being like a kingfisher – a glimpse of colour, a flash of light in the corner of your eye, beautiful when spotted, or when choosing to appear, but also elusive. I was later directed to a story – God and the Kingfisher by Trevor Dennis – which I’ve not read yet but it’s on order.(thanks Wendy T for the link).
Last year on my sabbatical I learned that it was OK to worship in a different shape. I went to church on a Sunday some weeks, but also found it incredibly refreshing to actually have a choice about what to do on Sundays….more often than not I found myself worshipping in different ways – structured daily prayer at a friary, midweek communion on placement, morning prayer on a course. It took me a while to realise that this was “allowed”. I know that sounds strange but as a local preacher, and then more frequently as a minister, taking weekly Sunday services, as well as others in the week, is very much the “accepted norm’. That’s the structure and you don’t mess with it, unless you’re starting something very new and different.
So I’m not dissing Sunday worship. It’s important for a church community to meet together (although I definitely think there’s always room for a bit more imagination in when and where we meet). I think what I’m trying to say is that there should be times when we experience God in different shapes and places.
Before this holiday started, my feeling was that I had run out of words. In my evening service last Sunday I quoted Barbara Brown Taylor and her chapter in “An Altar in the World” which references Jacob and his ladder dream – encountering God in an unexpected places and marking that spot, then moving on. How sometimes we think that God is only ever “in the building” like Elvis, when in fact God can be glimpsed in many different places, inside and outside the church.
So this fortnight is about spotting those Kingfisher moments – glimpses of God inside and outside churches, in worship and outside of it. That moment on the River Avon was the first. More soon….