What a difference a year makes

R ather to my astonishment, cards from kind friends alert me to the fact that I have been in post at the Cathedral here in the city for exactly a year (see photo). Where did that year go!?, writes Sarah Brown, Canon Missioner at Peterborough Cathedral

Saturday, 26th January 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:09 pm
Installation of Revd Canon Sarah Brown as Residentiary Canon at Peterborough Cathedral pictured with The Very Revd. Christopher Dalliston, Dean of Peterborough Cathedral and Bishop of Peterborough Rt Revd. Donald Allister EMN-180121-174431009

I’ve always suspected that, in some mysterious way, Church Time (CT) runs faster than normal time.

It is something to do with marking every step of the way, every day, every week, every month, every season of the year with acts that invest them with meaning. It may also be something to do with busy-ness, which is unceasing, even if it is willingly embraced. The poor are always with us; people’s problems are not conveniently bounded by the hours of 9 and 5; worship is an everyday duty and joy; people who serve the church while also having a day job are only available at weekends and evenings which makes for long days all round. Death and crises are no respecters of statutory working hours or minimum wages and the need for a day off can occasionally seem to be the least important of multiple competing desires and priorities. CT often seems to be set to warp speed.

So pressing the pause button in order to reflect and take stock is essential, not just at New Year but all the time. When I reflect on the last year I am amazed.

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Personally speaking, I have learned to wear strange, some might say, ridiculous garments (I couldn’t possibly comment). Mostly I now get them on the right way up first time although the infamous reverse-hood malfunction still happens occasionally! I can now walk in a straight line and sing at the same time without falling over. I have sung the responses at Evensong, albeit wonkily, and my kicked-kneeler tally is statistically insignificant these days. I have met many wonderful people and some whose flaws, like my own, are quite apparent. I have painfully discovered how beastly I can be under pressure and just how much I need God’s grace to improve. I used to believe in my own niceness. Now I’m far from sure.

I’ve learned a lot about the Tudors and ancient saints and what cathedrals might be for. I’ve stood under the moon in a darkened building, watched with astonishment as all Peterborough filed past a space kettle, and had great fun doing things I never thought I’d do in a church!

More seriously, the cathedral has vastly improved its finances, welcomed thousands of visitors and pilgrims and entered into partnerships to benefit the city, with the Garden House Day Project for the Homeless and a Church Urban Fund Community cohesion project being highlights.

What a difference a year makes. And yet it is just a year. One year in the long life of Peterborough Abbey and Cathedral and a mere speck in God’s eternity.

However hard we work, whatever success and failure we meet, whatever seems dangerous and alarming politically, and in our lives, it is part of God’s bigger picture; realising that sometimes is a healthy thing!

Last year I was full of blissful ignorance. This year, the Cathedral’s 901 st year, I’m still full of blissful ignorance but feeling better about it. Because God holds it, and us, always.