“I am now a Priest” feels like a strange and complicated sentence to say despite its short nature. Nevertheless, after a long journey, one which I can assure you is not yet over, it is now a statement of truth. It feels like a peculiar thing to say and responses vary. Some ask why that wasn’t the case when I was ordained Deacon in 2021, others want to know the difference between a Priest and a Vicar, and some just want to know more.
In the last weeks since July 2nd I have been asked if I feel different, and I can honestly say, “Yes I do”. It has been a surprise to me, I thought that being ordained Deacon last year might have had more of an impact upon me personally but I’m now really pleased to dwell in this new phase and enjoy the slight tingling feeling I get if I concentrate too hard on the word ‘Priest’.
Revd Peter explains the nuances of the threefold order much better than I: “The Church of England has three stages of ordination – or three orders of ministry – deacons, priests and bishops; in practice the newly ordained have a sort-of probationary year in which they preach and lead and do, but they do not preside at Communion and there are some other things they are not able to do. After a year as a deacon they are usually ordained as priests. Last year Hannah was ordained as a deacon and she does not stop being a deacon but she takes on the added roles of a priest.”
Although this is true and an accurate explanation, there are further subtleties that I have come to appreciate.
Last year, I was surrounded by a small number of family and my Godparents at the cathedral. These were people who have supported me throughout my journey from the beginning, and indeed my entire life. I had only met Revd Peter on a few occasions and I was essentially stepping into a whole new life: new home, new ‘job’ and new people to meet. However this year, I was surrounded by representatives from each of the parishes in our team. Surrounded by faces that now all know me, that have contributed to my formation over the last 12 month, people who have prayed for me, helped me learn about each of our parishes, new colleagues, new friends. People who recognise me as being one of their own. It was like having a hugely extended set of family with me and I think this is what contributed to the different feelings. I didn’t head into ordination as a Deacon last year alone by any means, but this year it felt like it wasn’t just about me and the point I’d reached on the journey; rather it was about all of you in the parishes that I serve, about having those additional priestly elements added to what I am able to offer to the churches and people of our team.
So when it came to presiding at the Eucharist for the first time on Sunday 3rd July just what that ‘serving’ means came into a much sharper focus. Being a Priest is not about me, although it now forms part of who I am, rather it is about being able to more fully serve the people in the places where I have been called. The three actions that are reserved for a priest (the pronouncing of the absolution, the pronouncing of blessing and presiding at the Eucharist) are all actions that draw us together as a community of worshippers and it is such a privilege to be one of the people able to do this for our congregations.
What this occasion represents overall is a waypoint on the journey. It marks the beginning of a new season, it marks an ending to some parts, it signifies a next step, it opens up new horizons and it leaves some things behind. This new added priestly ‘sparkle’ that I have will take some time to grow into and become more familiar as a part of who I am. But as I continue to grow I’ll be formed and changed and encouraged and learn new things and it won’t ever be just me doing the work. “I am now a Priest” is true, but a better one is “I am now a Priest in the Turton Moorland Team”. It does a better job of filling out the reality. I am a Priest in, for, learning from, being formed by, and serving the parishes and people in our team.
Thank you for all your continued prayers, kind words (and cards and cake!).
Rev’d Hannah Lane