Thursday, 22 March 2012

The process of discernment - 31 hours on the Isle of Man

What next? This must be the question all curates have to ask as they approach the end of their curacy. What direction should they go? What route should they follow? Where does God want them to serve? And these are the questions The Curate and I have been asking ourselves over the last forty eight hours. I just hope I feel 'called' to the same place as The Curate!

We have spent the last 31 hours on the Isle Of Man with a group of people with varying anglican experiences, exploring the possibilities for ministry .  It was amazing! The warmth of welcome, the hospitality, the scenery and the variety of churches we visited was incredible.
I have never been to the Isle of Man before. I knew it to be famous for the TT motorbike racing and that it was located somewhere in the sea between Liverpool and Belfast! The Curate had called into Douglas on several occasions while serving in the Royal Navy. He recalls it for a particularly infamous event between seawalls and boats which I will not embarrass anyone by retelling here. The Curate had been invited to explore ministry in the Diocese of Sodor and Man. It was not somewhere we had been considering but as we researched the Island, we both felt  that we needed to explore further. The rural parishes, the proximity of the sea and the vision of the Diocese for the future, all seemed a little too exciting to ignore - despite the location of being 'up North'!

Living 'down south' meant that we had to fly to the Isle of Man. For those of you who questioned whether there really is an airport at Gloucester - I can assure you there is (and it has free parking).  It must have one of the fastest, friendliest check-ins in the UK, we were boarding the plane within 40 minutes of arriving. The flight took about 45 minutes, the skies were clear  and  the views spectacular.

And so the process of discernment began. While The Curate engaged with everyone, I suddenly understood that I really was a curate's wife. I was surrounded with a variety of vicars and spouses. I visited numerous churches. I listened to discussions on churchmanship, congregation numbers, faculties and liturgy. I tried to imagine living in the vicarages we were shown. I tried to engage in the vision for the parishes and with the members of the various churches we visited.

What churches! What coffee and cakes! What countryside! The Curate and I were very impressed and excited by so much of  what we saw. The  rural churches were particularly memorable and stirring - maybe this was because of their simplicity or because they were such ancient Christian sites. We saw collections of ancient celtic stone crosses, I learned about keeills which were very ancient Christian chapels. I was reminded of the stone crosses and ancient sites that we pass on our walks on Dartmoor. In fact much of the Isle of Man reminded me of Devon and it felt unexpectedly comfortable.
Come unto Me and I will give you rest.
remains of a keeill
superb coastlines
We attended evening prayer in a rural setting and morning prayer in more urban surroundings. We were driven over the mountain road and enjoyed the far reaching views across the island. We drove the roads that made up parts of the TT course and heard how the island was transformed by the vast number of visitors that come to see the racing. We visited The Sound, watched the seals and looked across to The Calf of Man. We saw so much and have so much to think about.

 Island living offers different experiences and The Lord Bishop and Archdeacon were keen that everyone appreciated how separation from 'the other coast' might cause island fever! Bad weather could mean we couldn't race back for a family emergency. Bad weather could mean that some supplies on the Island could run short at times (stock up on toilet paper!).

We flew from the Isle of Man with so many thoughts turning over in our minds. We flew over the sunlit evening clouds trying to make sense of all we had seen and our feelings about this unexpected experience. Is this a door that The Curate should push open a little further? Or have we been reminded that we live in a very beautiful place already?


  1. Harriet, I do not envy you. you and the Curate indeed have a lot of serious thinking and discussion ahead of you.

  2. Harriet, thank you for your comment, much appreciated. What a wonderful adventure you're both having. A serious one but adventure still. I can tell you are trying earnestly to do right and be following the Spirit and I wish you well. Your photography, again, is beautiful and you had me laughing at stocking up on toilet paper :) I'm big on having a good reserve of basics for any unexpected emergency. Bye for now.

  3. That does sound like a most interesting and worthwhile weekend, Harriet. I've never visited the Isle of Man though I do know the Bishop, as I worked with him on a provincial committee when he was in Wales. :-) All good wishes for the way ahead, wherever it may lead.