Rector's Letter - November 2016
When I was a child, I was once summoned to the staff room, and told I'd been selected to have some violin lessons. I was duly presented with a violin and allowed to take it home. To this day, I am not sure why! I assume a peripatetic teacher offered some free lessons to a school to encourage interest in taking up a musical instrument - or perhaps funding had come in and I was lucky enough to be chosen. I thought it the most beautiful instrument. I immediately loved its shape, its feel. I remember fingering the bow to feel the texture and stroking the body of the violin, hardly daring to believe I had been trusted with such a thing of beauty.
Each week I went to the staff room for a lesson, and took the violin home to practise. I am not sure if you have ever had 'the privilege' of living in the same house as a nine-year-old who has just been given her first violin. If you have, you will know there is a pain barrier to get through - certainly in the playing, but perhaps more immediately for those subjected to the playing. I knew that that this instrument was capable of producing the most beautiful sounds - and I squeaked my way through a term, hoping for a miracle. I think it is fair to say I was probably not encouraged to continue too much!
<p>At the end of term, the violin and the peripatetic music teacher both disappeared as mysteriously as they had arrived in my life. As a shy child who at that age wasn't terribly good at saying what I wanted to grown-ups, it didn't occur to me I could ask why it had disappeared, or why I hadn't been asked if I wanted to continue. I simply accepted I was never going to play the violin and make those beautiful sounds that I heard others making.
I write this because at our recent benefice retreat, we were led in many beautiful reflections by the Revd Alison Guy, and in one she asked us to think about what song God had for us to play. She encouraged us to think about ourselves as an instrument, and to consider what kind of song we were playing right now: something joyful? A dirge? A song of lament?
I knew instinctively I wanted to think of myself as a violin. And having felt a little tired over this summer through extra activity across the benefice, I was conscious I didn't feel I was quite playing the song I wanted to play. I thought back to the child making those squeaking noises and not getting terribly far with it. I thought about as human beings we are also capable of making such music in our lives, which has the divine about it. Often though, we can feel out of tune, out of sorts. We hear the music in our heads of how we would like to be, and then we find ourselves responding or speaking out of turn, feeling somewhat irritable with ourselves or sometimes others.
During that retreat, I felt I was being re-tuned: being returned into the presence of our loving God and listening to his notes. His Holy Spirit is perhaps like a tuning fork, reminding us, helping us to hear again the sound we wish to be. Helping us remember what response the music of divine love calls from us; with what delight God beckons us to participate. Yet at the same time, how important it is to accept that we are merely human beings in our weakness and failure. I do believe there is a way of transformation in our spiritual journey, but just as in the learning of an instrument there is a 'pain barrier' to break through, so the way of transformation is not easy. It takes practice, patience, encouragement from others. Beyond that, however, we also need to learn to be ourselves, to be real. To accept ourselves as we are now, as God does. Such self-acceptance nearly always involves painful recognition about the 'less than' we often feel ourselves to be. We find ourselves 'squeaking' and wonder if we shall ever achieve great music. Importantly, we must learn to walk the tension between knowing we are loved as we are, and recognising the creative Spirit of God encourages us to keep dreaming and keep believing that inside each of us there is indeed a unique and beautiful song.
With best wishes