Pause for thought: We can rely on God, our strength, our hope
As I write this I am in the middle of packing, and worrying, about what to take with me for a week’s stint as a chaplain on Enlli (Bardsey Island). For those of you who don’t know much about the island, it is off the tip of Pen Llŷn (the Lleyn Peninsula), you can only get there by boat, across quite a dangerous stretch of water, we won’t have a bathroom or a flushing toilet or electricity. We have to take all of our supplies with us, though thankfully there is a small café and shop there and I have already been able to put in an order of Cwrw Llŷn beer and a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
You will know that it is one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Wales, and that three trips to Enlli was considered to be equal to one trip to Rome. Reputedly 20,000 saints have been buried there, and there has been a Christian presence there since Christianity came to these islands.
I am nervous because as I am packing I am realising how much I rely on my home comforts – my mobile phone, wi-fi signal, online shopping….. inside toilet! Nearly everything I have, from my kindle to my toothbrush needs regular charging. How will I manage?
In this season of Easter, I always think that we start off too triumphalistically. After all, the original Easter, like so much in life, was a process rather than an event. Mary Magdalen and the other disciples were only slowly realising that Jesus was in fact alive and they took some time really to come to terms with this. Our hymns though would suggest otherwise. But we know even in our lives it takes time to come to terms with any kind of change, even if it is good news. Any kind of a shock needs processing.
As I’ve been packing for a week which feels very unknown and strange, I’ve been thinking about how the disciples must have felt as they were transformed from ordinary Galilean men and women with ordinary work and lives, to leaders in the Church. Sometimes in life there is nothing we can do to prepare for what is ahead of us, we just have to jump in and enjoy the ride. This is what I’ve decided to do as I approach my chaplaincy on Enlli – I will have nothing of my usual props that help me be effective in ministry. This is also what I encourage our candidates for ministry to do too – don’t overthink, just engage with the training process. We can try and control how God will form us over the coming years, but we can’t. We have to continually allow ourselves to be open…..
If you are facing a new season in life where everything feels strange and new, remember the disciples. God equipped them with the Holy Spirit to do his work in the world. He will guide and strengthen us too with the same Spirit for our ministry and mission in our own context. We can’t control or plan for what will happen, but we can rely on God, our strength, our hope.
I am fully expecting my time on Enlli to be transformational. I will learn how to be still, to really listen to God without all the distractions in my life. It will help me understand myself better. I am excited and nervous about that.
And I’m sure the experience will also help me be thankful for what I have in my life. Especially inside bathrooms.
Canon Dr Manon Ceridwen James