The show must go on

The monastic sojourn has ended and I’m back in London with a new appreciation of myself and the amazing group of people I’m privileged to be training with. I also have a speaking voice that’s an octave lower than usual – not thanks to over zealous singing, chanting or Bible reading, but thanks to some kind of autumnal virus.

The dome of the rather lovely Merville chapel.

This virus emerged on our first day in Merville. By Monday morning I was croaking out the words of BCP morning prayer. Normally this would have been a mild inconvenience – I’m a person who does not appreciate their ability to talk being compromised. However, as I mentioned in my pre-Merville post, I was preaching my first ever college sermon on Tuesday morning. A lack of speaking voice would be a major issue.

So, I did the sensible thing of taking to my bed for Monday afternoon; not talking too much; drinking sloe gin to ease my throat; and asking Twitter (& the St George’s faithful) to pray. [Actually, my fellow ordinands prayed lots too. I was stunned that so many of them – when they heard my voice – immediately prayed for me. I’m not sure why this surprised me.] Twitter did pray, but it also suggested a back-up plan:

If my voice completely failed me, I could always do my sermon via mime or, even better, interpretative dance. Hmmm. [As it happens, someone in my year at college is a mime artiste – I think I’ll leave miming sermons up to him…]

On Tuesday morning, I awoke early and tested my voice. There was noise, it was crackly and croaky, but it was something to work with. I got through the sermon, it received positive feedback, and with the pressure over, I took to my bed for most of the rest of the day.

As I commented to a fellow ordinand & fellow child of clergy, it was a valuable lesson in the show must go on. Sometimes, no matter how rubbish you feel, or how little voice you have left, you have to get on with what you’re called to do. Services need to be conducted, sermons have to be preached and pastoral care needs to be provided. Not that I’m suggesting that vicars never get a break, it’s just that sick days aren’t always as easy to take as they might be in an office job.

Also, sometimes you’ll discover two days before you preach that someone else had the same passage as you, and was going to use your main theme just 36 hours prior to your own sermon. By some ridiculous quirk of the worship rota, Daniel 2 was the Old Testament reading for Sunday night’s service, as well as being the designated lectionary reading for both Tuesday (verses 1 – 24) and Wednesday’s (25 – end) morning worship. That’s three sermons on Daniel interpreting Nubuchadnezzar’s dream. Needless to say, the ordinands are now very au fait with Daniel…

But in such circumstances, one cannot simply get up and say “sorry, I had a sermon when we got here on Saturday, but unfortunately Ashley made most of my points on Sunday night”. One has to instead re-write one’s sermon, trying not to think about the poor person who’s preaching 24 hours later. [That person was slightly miffed that I’d used her Brueggemann quote, but she made a good joke out of it.] Fortunately, it seems that there is a lot to be said regarding the interpretation of dreams – which makes me wonder if interpretative dance/mime would have been a good way to go had my voice escaped me entirely.

The vaulted ceiling of the chapel gives it a marvellous acoustic.
This makes singing sound wonderful, but makes coughs highly conspicuous.

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