Saturday, 3 October 2009

Spinning Saints and Pointless Pirouettes

I love the story of St Francis, standing at the crossroads, accompanied by his brother friars, and not knowing which way to turn. Francis instructed them to stand on the spot and spin and spin until he shouted, 'Stop!' The direction in which they faced was the direction in which they were to travel to share the gospel. It's a pertinent story for me at the moment because at St Saviour's tomorrow we will celebrate St Francis of Assisi - there was once a church dedicated to the spinning saint in the parish - closed forty years ago next Sunday (and next Sunday we shall remember the church that stood at the lower end of Splott. Not just in a melancholic manner but in order, too, to value the present and, of course, move on). However, the story is personally pertinent for another reason. For some time now I have felt a bit like those confused friars, standing at the crossroads, not knowing which to turn. Spinning, spinning, listening for the 'Stop' of a saint to break their seemingly pointless pirouette.

For more than a year I have been thinking about where to go next. Surely I can't remain as Youth Chaplain indefinitely. Where can I go? What shall I do? Since reducing my Youth Chaplaincy duties to half-time and adopting (or rather being adopted by) the people of St Saviour's Splott for another half-time post I thought, perhaps, I should return to parish ministry full-time and leave someone else to do what they can do for Youth Ministry in the diocese. Things appear to be going well at St Saviour's and there is so much to do and (accompanied by my 'Diocesan' naivety and my commitment to the parish) I thought perhaps it would be possible to stay there. Alas, the process hasn't been as easy or as quick as I thought. Spinning, spinning. Four months after attempting to arrange a meeting with the diocesan bishops I have finally received an answer to my very straightforward suggestion: the answer was quite easy to understand once I spelt it out! 'Stay as you are with the two half-time posts or apply for a job elsewhere.' I have paraphrased, of course. All along I have been dancing a pointless pirouette.

Here I was, after much spinning and standing still, not so much at a crossroads but at a T-junction. I even had a little list suggested by one of the bishops as to why it's really not so bad to leave your home diocese. I felt frustrated, overlooked, undermined and undervalued and, most importantly, as though I was going nowhere (apart from spinning on the spot). However, since the only two options available were to stay as I am or leave altogether, I have now reached my own turning point (as opposed to a 'spinning point' - the 'spinning' has stopped). So I have decided to stay as I am, in a manner of speaking of course. My decision doesn't mean that I'm not moving on - it means making the most of the few options available to me, looking at things differently, and taking things in a different direction. I have heard the 'Stop' of a saint and closed my ears, for now, to the bureaucratic banalities and parsonic perambulations. This is the turning point. There is no more spinning. I just have to cope with the dizziness now.

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