TWELVE MONTHS have flown by since Patches Chabala was made Deacon (above), thirty years since I was! Time flies by at the same alarming rate for both of us – but it slowed down for a couple of hours this evening when Chester Cathedral hosted a huge gathering for the Ordination of Priests, our beloved Patches amongst them.
There’s something very, very powerful in the sacrament and sign of the receiving of Holy Orders through the laying on of hands. I remember the sensation of Bishop Michael Baughen’s slender hands laid gently upon my head as though thirty years ago were really just yesterday. And at many an ordination since I’ve been immensely moved by the sight and the prayerfulness of bishops and presbyters together, connected in a quite extra-ordinary sort of a way, laying hands upon the heads of Deacons as the bishop prays
Send down the Holy Spirit on your servant [Patches] for the office and work of a priest in your Church.
As I laid my hand directly upon the back of the head of this dear brother I felt a connection for which I blessed the Source of both of our lives and loves. Patches touches lives wherever he goes – with the gentle simplicity with which he receives people just exactly as they are, assuring them of the love and compassion of the same Jesus of Nazareth whose own gentle simplicity called forth a following, a journeying, a lifetime’s response from both this newly ordained priest, far from the land of his birth, and from me. And many, many, many others. The “connection”, in the Cathedral tonight, extended out in waves, to hundreds present therein, and to countless hearts and souls without its walls.
A rainy Saturday touched by God’s Spirit. And though worshipping in my own “mother church” within my own Christian tradition, I was “connected” at the same time with hundreds of young people nearer my own parish, meeting in Manchester, for a wonderful gathering with – and encouragement from – the Dalai Lama. Rachael Elizabeth, one of our ordinands, was there and has blogged about the event here – describing the presence of hundreds and hundreds of young people – some of whom faced a ten hour coach journey to return to their homes – bound and “connected” by their enthusiastic reception of a message of encouragement from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and from the Dalai Lama himself.
What turns a grey, rainy day in NW England into something very, very special? Hope. Hope does. As we lay hands gently upon another, and open the doors of our hearts wider and wider, then hope cheers grey days, together with faith in the future, and love.