Clergy Corner

A Life in the Day of…

REV KATE WILSON

Hello I am Kate Wilson and I am one of the associate priests serving the seven churches in the Benefice of Avon Valley Churches on the north western edge of the beautiful New Forest.

On this Boxing Day 2020 I do hope that your Christmas Day was as good as it could be. It was very different from our normal Christmases during the past few where we all tried to meet as a family. But over the years for us as a family, we celebrated Christmas Day on whatever day it was that we could all get together. That may be Christmas Eve; Boxing day or even later.

When our daughters were younger I used to work as a night sister in a hospital in Wexham Park Slough. I was responsible for overseeing the Medical and Elderly Care Wards which were always very busy so we couldn’t really do any celebrating during the night. In those days (over 35 years ago now) the lights were put on at 6.00am and I would gather a group of people together from some of the quieter wards and we would visit wards and sing Christmas Carols to the patients. The carols we sang were jolly ones like Ding Dong merrily on High and we always finished up with Silent Night. Later on in my career, I was the Manager of 2 Elderly Care Wards and as a family Andy would dress up as Santa clause and the children would be Santa’s little helpers.

When I was the manager of the Community Hospital in Wallingford in Oxfordshire, our whole family would go in to the hospital and help serve Christmas Lunch, with Andy carving the Turkey and our children being waitresses.

So in the Wilson family there is no such thing as a normal Christmas. However this year it was the most abnormal with us not being with our daughters, their husbands and our amazing grandchildren.

The variety of our Christmases are very much a reflection of our lives during the pandemic. No two days are the same. The routine we have is very much around our diaries and I am always amazed at how quickly the time goes!! Having nice meals have been very important. We always have lunch about 1pm and watch the news; we have dinner about 7pm after we have watched the news.

My days are very full with Zoom calls as, apart from August and September, most of this year we have been self-isolating. However I continue volunteering as a Bereavement Counsellor, getting referrals from the GP practice, the schools and word of mouth and I find that very rewarding.

I am also a trained Spiritual Director. I did a lovely course a few years ago at Sarum College which was wonderful. I prefer to call myself a Spiritual Companion rather than Director. The word Director smacks to me of telling people what they should do, rather than accompanying them on a journey. Spiritual Companionship is all about listening to peoples stories; listening for glimpses of grace and hints of the Holy. Listening for the breakthrough presence of God in the midst of ordinary life.

So what is Spiritual Companionship? What I try to do (with varying degrees of success I have to say) is to prayerfully support and encourage another person to attend and respond to God. I try to accompany people on their journey of faith. However the real ‘Companion’ is God the Holy Spirit, who initiates and inspires the person’s deepening relationship with the Trinity .

I do this in many ways. It could be that I help my companion to dive deeper into prayer and closer to God in everyday life. It could be that I help them discover God’s care in the midst of difficulties; or become aware of the sacred within the ordinary events of life. Sometimes people find it hard to express their emotions to God but there is something so powerful about doing just that. Getting people to express their anger with God about the situation they may find themselves is very liberating.

One of the things that I take special notice of is my companions’ religious experiences. I may ask them if they have ever felt close to God or have they had a wow moment.

There are many religious experiences in the Bible such as Moses and the burning bush and the voice of God. In our Bible readings during Advent we heard about the angelic visitation to Zachariah and Mary; and of course Paul’s road to Damascus experience where he was struck blind and heard the voice of Jesus.

Firstly , all these experiences were totally unexpected and in our examples they were on their own. However that is not necessarily requirement. Some of my most profound religious experiences have been when there is a group of us praying for healing for another person. However what is obvious is that the person is changed in someway and agrees to follow God’s will in whatever way is right. The outcome of the encounter brings good or growth for them and for others. Moses went onto lead Israel out of Egypt. Mary went on to be the wonderful mother to Jesus. Elizabeth went on despite her old age gave birth to John the Baptist and Paul went onto spread the Gospel far and wide.

I think what I try to do with my companions is to help them find God in every day life. We become aware of the unexpected moments through which the Holy Spirit may touch and teach us. Using the most common symbols or the simplest of events. This is what Jesus helped his followers to do; he used pieces of everyday experiences and familiar objects to help people connect with God and discover more about themselves – old and new wineskins; houses built on rock or sand; a fallen sparrow; light hidden or revealed; oil saved or squandered; seeds scattered on paths , or rocky ground; among thorns or in good soil – the stuff of everyday experiences became the symbols Jesus used to reveal more about the reality of God’s invitation to abundant life.

It is a great privilege and honour to be able to offer this to others. I will finish my reflection today with a piece of prose called The Bridge, written by Joy Cowley from New Zealand:

There are times in life when we are called to be bridges, not a great monument spanning a distance and carrying loads of heavy traffic, but a simple bridge to help one person from here to there over some difficulty such as pain, grief, fear, loneliness – a bridge that opens the way for ongoing journey.”

When I become a bridge for another, I bring upon myself a blessing, for I escape from the small person of self and exist for a wider world, breaking out to be a larger being who can enter another’s pain and rejoice in another’s triumph.

I know of only one greater blessing in this life and that is to allow someone else to be a bridge for me.

Goodbye – may the rest of your day be blessed

A video of Kate’s ‘Life in the Day of…’ can be seen here: https://youtu.be/T1IbCWlubXc