A colleague of mine once told me of a conversation he’d had with a pastoral advisor who asked: “How does it feel when you are walking towards the altar for the beginning of the Liturgy”.
My friend related that as he walked down the aisle it “felt” as if his vestments were covered in velcro, on to which the congregants placed their hopes, dreams, fears, angers, frustrations, disappointments, unrealistic expectations etc. - so that by the
time he reached the altar he was carrying a very heavy burden. But he was not able to divest himself of the burden at the end of the Liturgy.
That conversation “came back to me” this morning as I remembered the dream I’d had last night.
In that dream I was present in some big service or other, and the bishop asked for a bible.
I went to a table on which there were three beautifully bound but unused copies of the Scriptures. I carried all three to the bishop, and he announced “I’ll take the Maynooth version”
(There is no “Maynooth” version of the bible, but the national seminary for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is in a small town called Maynooth. It’s odd how things get a bit jumbled in dreams).
But then, in the dream, the bishop disappeared and I was left to carry three heavy bibles.
Not just bibles. Now I was also carrying all manner of church paraphernalia, on my shoulders, on my back, and on my head. I kept calling out “please someone; take all this stuff away from me”.
My friends who are ordained ministers will recognise and understand the dream. (I suspect that parents will also “get it” as they consider their relationships with their children).
I retired early because I was carrying a ministerial burden which I never should have accepted, a burden which was making me angry and tired.
Now that in the absence of a rector in my local parish I am doing a bit more church stuff than usual, the dream was a warning.
It runs as this:
“God help my soul if I willingly take up the burdens of unhealthy ministry, especially the burden of wanting to perform well”.
I must remind myself that “if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly”.